Day 1: Arrive Bamako, Mali
. After our International flight arrives in Bamako, capital of Mali
, we are met by our local representatives and have an airport-to-hotel transfer. The rest of the day is free. Overnight: Le Grand Hotel, Bamako (2 nights), (dinner).
Day 2: Bamako. Capital city of Mali
, Bamako is situated on the Niger, one of Africa's great rivers. Mali
is a country of many tribal peoples, each with its own exuberant style of clothing and jewelry. There is nowhere better to see this colorful diversity than in the streets and markets of Bamako. After a refreshing night-rest and breakfast at our hotel we start with a leisurely Bamako city tour and visit the Point G for the panoramic overview of the city, the National Museum, the city market, the antiquary’s village and the artisan’s village.
The city has a large art and craft cent re where sculptors, weavers, leather workers, jewelers and metal workers exhibit their wares and skills. You can spend hours exploring the hundreds of stalls. From carvings and cassettes, to fabrics, beads, brass and gold, the variety of goods is staggering. One area of the market is devoted entirely for traditional African medicines. Here you'll find the freshly shrunken heads of birds, monkeys and crocodiles, along with lizard skins and other gruesome treatments. (breakfast, dinner).
Day 3: Bamako - Segou (drive). After breakfast, we leave Bamako and drive northeast to Segou, Mali's second largest city and former colonial administrative center. At Segou we will observe the city’s old, beautiful Sudanese-style colonial architecture, then visit the lively port on the Niger, the pottery makers, the traditional weavers and mud cloth artisans. Later we drive to the nearby village of Sekoro, former capital of the Bambara Kingdom and see the tomb of King Biton Coulibaly. Overnight: Independence Hotel, Segou (1 night), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 4: Segou - Mopti (drive). We’ll continue today Mali’s exploration and after breakfast we drive along the banks of the Niger River to Mopti, known as the Venice of Mali
. Nestled between the Niger and the Bani Rivers, Mopti is a major fishing port and has a bustling market, where we can spot many of Mali's ethnic groups, an effervescent amalgam of cultural diversity like: Bambara, Bobo, Bozo, Dogon, Fulani, Tuareg and Songhay. Here we can shop gold or silver jewelry, Tuareg leather work, or Fulani blankets of cotton or wool. Spend some time cruising on the Bani and Niger rivers by visiting the fisher man’s village. After we visit the city’s beautiful mosque, we’ll enjoy a sunset sail on the Niger River in a traditional pirogue. Overnight: Kanaga Hotel, Mopti (1 night)(breakfast, dinner).
Day 5: Mopti - Sangha - Dogon Country (drive). After breakfast, drive to Mali's fascinating Dogon country. Being among of the most enigmatic people of Africa
, the Dogons are living in stones and mud houses and granaries built up high on the narrow edges of the cliffs. The Dogons are animists, worshiping their ancestors and the spirits of nature. Having preserved their traditions through the centuries, the Dogon architecture is certainly the most well known element by external world, along with other practices such as mask dances (to request to a deceased spirit to leave the village and then rejoin the ancestors) or the fox divine game. The Dogons are farmers cultivating their fields either high on the cliff, in the plain or down of the cliff.
The Dogons fled the advancing of Arabs coming from the north, and found shelter in one of West
Africa's most inhospitable areas difficult to reach. This difficulty contributes to Dogon’s isolation even between them, and in time each village developed its own dialect, un-comprehended by the neighbors. Today, there are about fifty of idioms in spoken Dogon language. First we’ll visit the Dogon village Songo, renowned for its rock paintings and circumcision grotto, and then continue to Sangha, on the edge of the Bandiagara escarpment, where we stay overnight. Overnight: Campement Hotel Guina, Sangha (2 nights), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 6: Dogon Country. This morning we descend the Bandiagara escarpment to visit the village of Banani, where the ancient Tellem Cave dwellings in the cliff face, further the Ireli Village. Then Amani, where we visit the sacred crocodile sanctuary, and Tireli, where we may witness a traditional Dogon mask dance. See the caves of Deguimbere and other small but interesting villages on the escarpment edge, before returning to Sangha, (breakfast, dinner).
Day 7: Sangha - Djenne (drive). We’ll spend another morning exploring Dogon country, before our early afternoon drive to Djenne. Djenne, Timbuktu’s ancient sister city when they were at their glory time, has been preserving the atmosphere for centuries with its mud buildings along the old narrow streets. The city was an important port for caravans selling the salt coming from the desert to the south areas.
Presently, Djenne is well known for its interesting weekly market and the big mosque, the biggest mud architecture in the world, built in the 13th century and declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Even now, Djenne is continuing to be an important trade center. Here we can spot all of Mali’s ethnic groups: Bambara, Malinké, Peul, Bobo, bozo, Dogon Songhaï, Tuareg, Haussa, all coming to exhibit their wares in the bustling market. Overnight: Hotel Campement Djenné (2 nights), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 8: Djenne. As we have set the departure with this event in our mind, today we will experience Djenne on its weekly market day, when Djenne is at its colorful best. The atmosphere on the streets "teleports" you back to medieval times. We will visit the magnificent Grand Mosque, the largest mud brick architecture in the world and wander around all day long (breakfast, dinner).
Day 9: Djenne - Sikasso (drive). After breakfast we drive to Sikasso. Sikasso is considered to be the green belt of Mali
. The city portrays the remnants of the Tata, an ancient palisade that encircled the city and for a time held off the French colonial army, the Mamelon, residence of the kings of Sikasso and sacred site that housed the city’s protector spirits. Later we visit the Missirikoro Mosque, some 15 km from Sikasso, the Mansa Daoula Tomb (founder of Kenedougou Kingdom) and the Farako Falls. Overnight: Hotel Zanga, Sikasso (1 night), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 10: Sikasso - Bobo Dioulasso (Burkina Faso) (drive). This morning we leave Sikasso and cross the border from Mali
to Burkina Faso. After a smooth ride we arrive to Bobo, where we check into our hotel first, then have a brief tour of Bobo. The city of Bobo Dioulasso is a very relaxed place and a pleasure to spend a day. It has boulevards and interesting market places with a chilled-out feel and very little hassle even in the Grand Marché. There are a few interesting sights here. Among the major highlights to see is the Musée Provincial du Houet, but without a doubt the most interesting sight is the Grande Mosquée (the old great mosque). Overnight: Hotel Auberge, Bobo (1 night), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 11: Bobo Dioulasso - Gaoua (drive). Today we complete our tour of Bobo Dioulasso, ("house of the Bobo merchants"), Burkina Faso's second largest city and visit the old mosque and visit the old Kibidwe artisans' district. The old Kibidwé district is a great area to stroll around and it's well worth the experience to see how this side of the city live, and if we're lucky we may be treated to a performance by some of the musicians who live in the part of the town.
In the afternoon we leave Bobo and continue drive to Gaoua. En route we stop in Banforo to visit the Karfiguela waterfalls and Lac Tengrela. We also stop at the mysterious stone ruins of Loropeni whose origins are unknown, but the local Gan people call them the "house of refusal". Arrive in the evening at Gaoua for an overnight stay. Overnight: Hala Hotel, Gaoua (1 night), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 12: Gaoua - Ouagadougou (drive). Gaoua is the capital of the Lobi country. It is one of the ethnic groups having succeeded in preserving all its particularities and habits. Former warriors reconverted today into farmers and hunters, but resisted savagely to all the invaders, who were African or European. After breakfast we visit the Poni Museum, dedicated to the Lobi culture. The museum is spectacular, amazing, and well worth going to Gaoua for. It displays constructed homes of the two traditional ethnic groups who live in the area, see the distinctive, fortress-like Lobi architecture and the pictures are also impressive. Later we drive to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. Overnight: Hotel Mercure Silmande, Ouagadougou (2 nights), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 13: Ouagadougou. We spend our day exploring Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital city. Ouaga, as the capital of Burkina Faso is generally known is the home to the Mossi, the largest ethnic group in the nation. All the sights can be easily reached on foot. The city’s atmosphere is relaxed and the Burkinabés are known to be very hospitable and friendly people. We’ll visit the Grand Market and the National Museum, with its interesting collection of regional clothing, masks, household utensils and ancestral statues; also visit the crafts markets at the Artisans Center, where we will find basketry, batik fabrics, wooden statues and masks, jewelry, leather work and bronze castings. In the evening we can explore the city on our own. Unlike many other Western African - Sahelian cities, Ouagadougou is not predominantly Muslim so it's also got a lively nightclub scene. (breakfast, dinner).
Day 14: Ouagadougou - Natitingou (Benin) (drive). We depart Ouagadougou after breakfast and drive to Fada N'Gourma, where we cross the Burkina Faso - Benin border and continue to Natitingou, in Somba country. It is said that if some want to see the traditional way of life in the authentic villages of Benin, the best place to start is this little town of Natitingou. Overnight: Hotel Tata Somba, Natitingou (1 night), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 15: Natitingou - Abomey (drive). In the morning we visit the Natitingou Museum for an interesting overview of the Somba culture. From the city it is possible to reach some nearby villages that are completely made of mud and branches and dung. These are original and un-commercial because they simply don't know the concept of tourism over there. It is even possible that we meet the chief of the village (or the medicine man). The medicine man is the one that practices voodoo and we’ll see plenty of voodoo signs when we walk through any authentic village, best recognizable by the chicken bones. The chief usually doesn't want us to enter his village, but if we present him with a small gift we'll probably be able to get a guided tour. Later we drive to Abomey, the birthplace of voodoo. Overnight: Hotel Daco, Abomey (1 night)(breakfast, dinner).
Day 16: Abomey - Cotonou (drive). The city of Abomey is widely considered the historic capital of Benin. It was the center of the Dahomey kingdom that controlled the area before colonization by the French, and the ruins of the royal palaces, one of which has been restored and houses Abomey's history museum, are the city's most popular attractions. This morning we’ll start with the Royal Palace Museum (listed WHS), site of these ancient palaces of the twelve kings of Abomey, who reigned from 1620 through 1900. This museum tells the story of the kingdom of Dahomey before the French colonization. Abomey was once one of the most important sites in West Africa
, as important as Kano and Benin City in Nigeria and the Dogon Country in Mali
This museum explains how the area evolved from a tribal kingdom to what it is today. UNESCO as a World Heritage Site classifies it. After a short visit to the artisans' center, we depart for Cotonou. Upon arrival, we proceed with a city tour of Cotonou, including the fish market and the international Dan Tokpa market and handicraft center. Ganvie, "the Venice of Africa" is a village build on stakes in the lake and is a few kilometers north of Cotonou, where we may take a "pirogue" excursion over the lagoon. Overnight: Hotel Du Lac, Cotonou (1 night), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 17: Cotonou - Ouidah - Lome (Togo) (drive). Once we leave Cotonou and travel 40 km West
, we enter Ouidah, an important traditional-religious center and ancient slave depot, which has sent thousands of slaves to the new world. Here we visit the Museum in the Old Portuguese Fort. The Portuguese began trading African slaves in Europe in the 1440s, and by the early 1500’s ships filled with slaves captured in Africa
began sailing across the Atlantic to the New World. During the four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, an estimated 12 million Africans were taken from their continent and brought to the New World and Europe.
We continue with the Temple of Pythons, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Kpasse sacred forest. According to legend, centuries ago King Kpasse fled his enemies by escaping into the forest and turned himself into a tree. The tree still exists growing up amidst ruins of a house that was once built around it. Perhaps we will witness here a traditional voodoo ceremony, featuring the spirits of departed ancestors. This afternoon we depart Benin and enter Togo, as we drive toward our last West-African destination, Lome. Overnight: Corinthia Hotel, Lome (2 nights), (breakfast, dinner).
Day 18: Lome. Togo seems to be squashed in between neighboring Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin. Yet this tiny sliver of a country manages to squeeze in dense forests, savannah, coastal lagoons, long sandy beaches and swampy plains. Togo formed part of the Slave Coast, from where captives were shipped abroad by European slavers during the 17th century. Its capital city Lome is the country's administrative, communications, and industrial center, and the chief port, handling such items as coffee, cocoa, copra, and palm nuts.
We’ll visit here the National Museum, the market and the artisans' village. Afterwards, we return to our hotel for checkout and also have some last minute shopping. In the evening we are taken to the International Airport for our flight back home. After an unparalleled Cultural experience, we leave this pure part of the African continent with soul-enchanting and mind-bending memories, (breakfast, dinner).
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