Mali occupies the heart of a territory that once supported Africa's greatest empires and is rich with historical resonance. This history bequeathed to Mali some of its most dramatic attractions – the legendary city of Timbuktu (Tombouctou), whose name has never lost its allure for travelers, the gloriously improbable mosque at Djenné and the bustling river port of Mopti are simply three among many.

Mali's history has always been a story of its deserts and rivers. The lucrative trade routes of the Sahara once made the region among the world's richest, and the Niger, one of the grand old rivers of Africa, is still the lifeblood of the country; to journey along the Niger River route is one of the continent's great adventures. But all of Mali is alive with a fascinating cultural mix of peoples, from the nomadic Tuareg people of the Sahara to the Niger fishing societies of the Bozo to the Dogon people clinging to the cliffs of the Falaise de Bandiagara. As a result, everywhere you go there are fascinating ceremonies, world-famous musical traditions with strong roots in the local soil, and traditional cultures as accessible to travelers as any you'll find in Africa.