The moment we did our research trip to Mali, we fell deeply in love with the country. It is filled with opportunities for moments befitting a YPT tour. Mali has been abandoned altogether by mainstream tourism, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with encounters with lovely people, a fascinating history and cultural context.
Mali and Burkina Faso do not have much touristic infrastructures anymore. As such, a group tour there truly make sense, as our expert local partners will organize our own 4WD cars and camping sites where accommodation isn’t readily available. It is, without a doubt, one of the most sensible ways to see these countries and make the most of it!
During this trip, we will visit Segou, the sleepy river town where we will mingle with the locals and learn more about the everyday Malian life. We then head to Djenne. While Timbuktu isn’t safe enough at the moment for us to confidently offer tours there, Djenne offers a great alternative, with the same kind of architectural wonders made of mud. This town, a UNESCO site, will be completely ours to visit and has a plethora of sites of interest.
Leaving Djenne behind, we will then move to Mopti, which is right by the line of control by the UN forces, giving us an idea of the conflict that happens in the north but also giving us access to a very busy city of Mali. The boat ride we will be on in this city is one of YPT’s definite favourite.
A trip to Mali wouldn’t be complete without a visit of the Dogon Tribe. Using our great relationship with one of the tribes, we will stay and visit one of the isolated village of the rocky plains. The scenery alone would be enough to justify a visit, but we will also get the chance to see an authentic mask ceremony, where, in the ancestral animist beliefs, the elders of the village chase bad spirits and bring the good ones.
Those who follow us on part B will make their entrance in the second country of this trip: Burkina Faso. For the first time, YPT will visit the country which was the scene of some of the most interesting development in the history of the idea of Pan-Africanism and anti-colonial struggle. It’s also the birthplace of Africa’s Che Guevara: Thomas Sankara.
On our first day in Burkina Faso, we will visit Yako, the town where Sankara was born. There, we will get to meet some of his relatives and learn more about his history.
In Bobo Dioulasso, we live the proper Burkina village life, going around mosques and fetish/sorcery sites on horseback.
We will get to witness life there up close, visiting many villages and spectating the different ethnic traditions of each of them. We can also expect breathtaking sceneries and abundant fauna with unique rock formations surrounding them. If this didn’t get wild enough, we’ll visit a village were people coexist peacefully with hippopotamuses!
Our trip will end in Ouagadougou, where will we do a full city tour accompanied by friends and relatives of Sankara and a party to be remembered in the maquis, the open-air bars the Burkinabe swear by!
This trip involves a fair bit of camping and might not be as comfortable as our other trips, but it is sure to offer an off-the-beaten-path experience. We will be staying in accommodation we vouch for, with extraordinary people.
Due to the logistical and infrastructural limitations that come with a trip to Mali and Burkina Faso, this trip is capped at 12 participants, with priority being given to people booking Group B. Make sure not to be left out! Join early!
For those who arrive early, we will arrange a city tour of Bamako
We will visit the Rose Market of Bamako which will give you an idea of the hustle and bustle of the Malian capital, where many come to reach their dreams, very rarely successfully.
We visit the tower of Africa, the highest tower in Mali.
We ascend the Point G hill to get a view of the whole of Bamako
By this time, everyone should have arrive and so we meet for our greeting dinner as well as a short orientation about the do’s and don’ts of Mali.
Bamako and Segou being the only two towns of Mali with somewhat of a nightlife, we will indulge!
Overnight in Bamako at Hotel Les Colibris
Wednesday 29th January – Segou
Up nice and early to hit the road to Segou.
We will stop on the way to grab breakfast near a plantation and then stop again at the entrance of the city, to the monument to the kings that have ruled Segou where our guide will introduce us to the history of Segou.
For those who will go to Burkina Faso, we stop by the consulate in the city so that our visas are processed during the day. We will leave our passport there and they will be prepared while we are touring.
Lunch at our favourite local restaurant in Segou. Options aren’t plentiful but everything here is absolutely delicious!
We head to the market of Segou for people watching but also to buy ingredients. Today we will be cooking. Helped by local ladies, of course!
We share our dinner with the host family
We have the chance to have our own crib in Segou, so we`ll make sure to make the best of it by organizing our own little house party, with an optional visit of the town’s best bars.
Overnight in our own crib, Residence Djiguigombo with some of us camping and some of us having rooms.
Thursday 30th January – Segou
After our breakfast, we head to the Somono neighbourhood, which has some of the oldest adobe buildings around, the traditional architectural style of Segou, meant to keep the house cool in the intense summer
There, we participate in a traditional Malian tea ceremony
Lunch back in Segou
This afternoon, we head on a pinasse, the Malian boat of choice, to go on a cruise along the Niger river, the third biggest river of Africa. We can expect to see the lifestyle of the people of the banks, most of them being from tribes of nomadic fishermen
On the way, we stop in one of those fishermen village to interact with them and then stop again in a village of potters
In the late afternoon, we will drop the anchor and find a place to camp for the night!
Our local team organizes the tent and a cook prepare a meal for us
Tonight, we’re partying under the stars, along the wild banks of the Niger river
Overnight in our camp
Friday 31st January – Segou’s surroundings, Djenne
After breakfast, we continue our boat trip to Segoukoro. In the old days, Segoukoro was the capital of the Bambara kingdom
There, we have an appointment with non-other than the village chief, who is a direct descendant of the kings of the old day. We have tea with him, with him available to answer all of our questions about the history of Segou and the royalty
The King’s descendant show us the rebuilt vestibule, where the king used to receive his guests
We tour the village, home to four mosques, the most famous being the waterfront one which the very famous king Biton Coulibaly built for his mother.
We stop on the way for lunch
In the late afternoon, we will reach Djenne. Djenne, or the capital of mud, is a one of a kind city made of narrow streets and buildings made of mud. While it used to be one of the jewel of tourism in Africa, it has been completely left alone in the recent years due to fears of most tourism company. We will thus get the whole town for ourselves to explore
We climb a nearby building to get a view of Djenne’s Great Mosque, the world’s biggest mud building. Truly a sight to behold. The inside of the Mosque can only be visited by Muslims.
While we head out for dinner in a restaurant specially opened for us as the local economy has collapsed and restaurants aren’t opened daily, our team installs our tents in a local family’s compound
Overnight camping in our host family’s compound
Saturday 1st February – Djenne
Up in the morning for our city tour of world-heritage Djenne with our local guide who can answer all of your questions about the city and its history
We visit koranic schools as well as the museum of Djenne’s manuscripts, where a single man is trying to protect documents of the old days
We stop by the sacred well, where it is said the ancestors of the town were consulting the spirits to plan their next moves
We visit the shrine of Tapama, a young virgin who was sacrificed to appease the bad spirits
For lunch, we try the local speciality of Djenne, the Tion Tion, a delicious fish fried rice
In the afternoon, we head out of the walled city and into the different surrounding villages. Each village is profoundly different from the others, as they were built by different tribes, such as Bozo, Fulani, Bambara and Sonrhai, with their own cultures and way of life
We head back for dinner with our host family
Overnight in Djenne camping in our host family’s compound
Sunday 2nd February – Mopti
Today we head north, to Mopti
Mopti is right under the security corridor established by the UN Forces and an interesting city full of life
We grab lunch on the way to Mopti
Our afternoon will be dedicated to exploring Mopti and its bustling streetlife. It has a magnificent mud mosque similar to the one we saw in Djenne as well as a women’s market.
In the late afternoon, we head for a boat ride around the busy port of Mopti. Here, the Bani River and Niger river meet. It is a important hub of transportation in Mali, with people here embarking on the dodgiest 3-day trip, aboard a shabby penasse, to Timbuktu of all places! This boat ride is one of YPT’s favourite, around the world!
Dinner at our hotel
Overnight in hotel Y’a Pas de Probleme
Monday 3rd February – Mopti & Dogon Country
After breakfast, we do one last thing in Mopti: the Monday market! It is a wonderful place to stop and people watch as people from the surrounding region all gather to sell and trade their wares
We make our way to the Dogon Country, probably Mali’s wildest and most interesting part
Our first stop within Dogon Country is the town of Songo. From here, we’ll get to see a traditional Dogon village. The people here used to live up the rocks to keep their animistic beliefs and flee persecution from the muslims. Now, they have come down
We get to the place where this village organize the circumcision ceremony for the whole of the surrounding villages. Here, we find a big rock painting retelling the stories of the villages as well as the circumcision ceremony. It is here that boys have their foreskins cut on a rock. Our guide will explain us all about the ceremony, which lasts more than a week
From there, we’ll climb up the mountain for an impressive view of the town
We stop for lunch in Bandiagara, the biggest town in the area
Our 4WD drops us in Aindelou, from here, we’re heading to an isolated Dogon village which we can only reach by a short 4 km trek through a rocky scenery like nowhere else. Don’t worry, we have porters to carry luggage for those of us who have too much luggage
On our way, we’ll stop through typical Dogon villages, our guide, from here, will be there to explain all of our questions about the local culture
We arrive in Begnimatu, YPT’s favourite Dogon village, where we introduce you to the most kind people and pillars of the society
Begnimatu is three villages into one, with a muslim, Catholic and a Christian neighbourhood. The village is perched on the mountains, in a canyon. Sunsets here are really a sight to behold
The locals prepare a feast for us
Since we’re in the Christian neighbourhood, we can have a party with the locals. It is also our last night with those doing only the Mali part of this trip so a farewell party is in order!
We sleep in Begnimatu, camping on the houses’ rooftop under a very starry sky
Tuesday 4th February – Dogon Country & Ouahigouya
TRIP HIGHLIGHT – After breakfast, we are invited to a traditional Dogon mask ceremony. Here, the elders of the village chant in order to chase bad spirits while the very sacred Dogon masks are taken out of their hiding place to be worn for a dance. All members of the community, muslims, catholics and animists alike, unite to reenact ancestral dances
After the ceremony, it is time for us to trek down the rocks, stopping by the villages of Doundiourou and Bagourou, where we can see traditional Dogon Justice Halls. Those justice halls, with ceilings too low for people to stand, are where family elders meet to discuss and solve issues peacefully
We arrive in Ende and eat lunch there, meeting our drivers
It is here that we part way with those heading back to Bamako
GROUP A starts a 4 hour road trip to the town of San
Dinner and overnight in San
GROUP B starts making its way toward Burkina Faso. We cross the border and go through the necessary car and immigration formalities
GROUP C in the morning, a pickup is organised from Ouagadougou to bring you to the members of Group A. From then, Group C and Group A follow the same itinerary.
Arrival in Ouahigouya, where we have dinner and overnight at Pension La Colombe
Wednesday 5th February
Group A wakes up in San, where after breakfast, we visit the outside of the adobe mosque as well as the rest of the village
Drive back to Bamako, stopping in Segou for lunch
Arrival in Bamako, where we stop to at a hotel to refresh and have dinner
Airport drop-off according to your flights
End of tour
Group B wakes up in Ouahigouya.
After a good breakfast we head down toward Bobo Dioulasso but it wouldn’t be a YPT trip if we didn’t stop in Yako.
Yako is the birthplace of Thomas Sankara, the Che Guevara of Africa. While his time in power was very short and abruptly ended by the treason of his best friend and subsequent murder, Thomas Sankara is a very important figure of Africa. While he was ruthless, Sankara did a lot concerning education and empowerment of women and, as he didn’t last long enough to terrorize most people, is mostly remembered fondly
Our guide explains the history of Sankara
We arrive in Bobo Dioulasso in the late afternoon
We head out for dinner and then visit the maquis, typical Burkinabe open-air bars which turn into nightclubs when the time is right!
Overnight at hotel Teriya in Bobo Dioulasso
Thursday 6th February – Bobo Dioulasso
Today, we spend the morning visiting the second largest city in the country.
We visit the old neighbourhood to get a feeling of what life used to be like in old Burkina Faso, or, as it was called in colonial times, the Upper Volta
We stop by the Sudanese-style mosque Bobo Dioulasso is known for
In the afternoon, we head out for nothing less than horseback riding to Dafra. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a horse, you can also get there in our 4WD.
Dafra is known as a famous pilgrimage site in Burkina Faso and people come from very far to make offerings to the local fetishes, which are greatly renowned, in order to get good fortune. There are also sacred fish people pray to, which we will get the chance to see
Tonight, we will be bush camping! Our dinner is arranged here in the wild
Overnight camping in the wild
Friday 7th February – Niansogoni
After our bush breakfast, we ride the horses back into town where we leave them and jump back in our 4WD to head to Niansogoni
Back in the days, Niansogoni, often referred to as Little Dogon, was hidden on the mountainside. Due to its location, the buildings of days far gone are still well preserved. We can have a good look at what life used to be like and some parts of the village are still used for animist ceremonies
We have dinner in Niansogoni, mingling with the locals
Overnight in huts in Niansogoni
Saturday 8th February – Sindou
After a good breakfast, we leave Niansogoni to head to our next destination
On our way, we stop in Kawara – a village of potters. It will take a bit of convincing but with luck and using the great contacts we have, we’ll try and convince the locals of organizing their traditional pottery dance for us
We continue to Sindou, one of the most well-known village of the Senoufo region
In the afternoon, we visit the village as well as check out the impressive rock formations for which it is renowned. It is the highest point of Burkina Faso
Each rock formation has a story, and our local guide is sure to tell us some of them!
Dinner in Sindou, arranged by the locals.
Overnight in huts in the village of Sindou
Sunday 9th February – Banfora
Early wake-up call this morning! We wouldn’t want to miss an epic sunrise boat trip. On the way, we are sure to spot some hippos. Here, hippos are seen as sacred animals and the beasts live in harmony with the locals. You can often see kids swimming right next to those animals, despite their reputation as the deadliest creatures in Africa!
After breakfast on the lakeside, we continue to the Fabedougou Domes, natural rock formations which have to be seen to be believed!
From there, we take a short hike of a kilometer and a half to the Karfiguela falls
Picnic and a dip in the refreshing basins next to the falls
We’ll reach Banfora in the afternoon just in time for the weekly market there. It is quite different from the one we’ve seen in Mopti but again reunites the people of the whole region who come here for some essential bartering
Dinner in Banfora
Overnight in Hotel Calypso, Banfora
Monday 10th February – Ouagadougou
Today is our last bit of road and quite a bit of road (480 KMs) so we have to wake up early
We make a few scenic stops on the way to stretch our legs
Arrival in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso
TRIP HIGHLIGHT – While its successors have tried to erase any trace of him, the memory of Thomas Sankara is still very much alive in the people of the city, this is why we’ll spend the day touring the city along with friends and relatives of Thomas Sankara, who will be there to explain us how the man was during his life
We visit the roundabout of the second of October, commemorating the day Sankara announced the revolution
Dinner in Ouagadougou
It wouldn’t be right to leave Burkina Faso without a proper sendoff in the cities busiest maquis!
Tuesday 11th February – Ouagadougou
Airport drop-offs are organized depending on your time of departure, after lunch
For those leaving later, visits of the National Museum, Music Museum and handcraft market of Ouagadougou are on the menu!
End of tour with YPT able to organize your connection to your next destination or organize other individual trips in West Africa such as in Togo, Benin or Senegal
• Accommodation in twin share basis
• Letter of Invitation and visa support
• All transport by 4WD to complete the tour
• Breakfast and lunch
• Dinners when camping
• Entrance Fees and tributes/gifts to communities
• English Speaking local guide and YPT Western Guide