Maybe the best bargain in Africa, Mali is full of natural beauty, historical sights, oversize mud structures and the famous Timbuktu. Just don't try to go on safari.

Mali, a large, landlocked country in West Africa, is one of the poorest nations in the world. But you know what they say, poor in pocket, wealthy in UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are four attractions that have been selected as part of the UNESCO program and although few people come to see them, they are some of the most spectacular in West Africa.

What to do

The four UNESCO sites of Timbuktu, the Cliffs of Bandiagara, Djenne and the Tomb of Askia should top any Mali travel itinerary. Timbuktu is a trading post in Mali that became synonymous for exotic, distant lands when European traders started bringing their wares to sell. Located in central Mali, Timbuktu is the country's most popular tourist attraction.

The rest of the UNESCO sites are beautiful, but without the fame of Timbuktu. The Cliffs of Bandiagara are sandstone rock walls that extend over 200 km through the country and are inhabited by the Dogon people. Djenne is the oldest city in sub-Saharan Africa and consists of surreal mud architecture.

Getting there

Mali's non-affluent citizenry doesn't stop a multitude of international flights from landing in Bamako every day. Flights come in from Europe, New York, and various places around Africa and drop off a flood of tourists to see the famous sights, but for some reason, the tourists don't stick around long enough to spend enough money to pull this country out of poverty.

Where to stay

There are hotels from five stars to no stars in the capital city of Bamako and you shouldn't have any trouble finding accommodation there. If you plan on staying exclusively in Mali or can tailor your trip to fit another itinerary, you might try booking a tour with a guide through the country and they will be able to put you up in local houses or find you places to stay.

Mali is one of the largest countries in West Africa with more attractions than most other countries in the area. If you need more information on the country, check out the message boards or one of the weird and wild travel stories that have come out of someone else's trip to Mali.