Saga Tours of Mali — West Africa Adventure Travel
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West Africa Grand Loop Tour : 25 days
Mali–Burkina Faso–Niger–Benin–Togo–Ghana–Burkina Faso–Mali
An unforgettable overland journey !
24 nights hotel; no camping
Every tour is private, scheduled on dates of your choice, beginning on a Saturday and ending on a Tuesday in Bamako, MALI; there are no fixed-date group departures.
Contact us for prices. Groups of any size are welcome. Be sure to specify the month/year of travel, and how many persons are in your partyprices are digressive, so a better value per person for a party of four than a party of two, etc.
*** Alternatively, Mali can be omitted; tour can start and end in Ouagadougou for a total of 17-18 days.
Day 1 Saturday: Arrival in Bamako, MALI
International flight arrives in Bamako in the evening; our staff will meet you in the Arrivals hall of Bamako airport, and provide your hotel transfer; overnight in Bamako (Grand Hotel, or similar).
Day 2 Sunday: Bamako - Segou (235 km; ~3hrs)
Welcome to West Africa! Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, then we will drive through the heartland of Mali to Segou, Mali's former colonial capital. Check into your Segou hotel, then we will visit Segou, with its interesting mix of traditional and colonial architecture. Visit the market and the Kasobane boutique with its high-end traditional and contemporary textile art. We will stop by the Nieleni cooperative, which makes hand-woven high-quality wool rugs; then visit another women's cooperative that makes traditional millet beer. We end the day with stroll through the traditional pottery market on the waterfront. Overnight in Segou (Hotel Independance, or similar).
Day 3 Monday: Segou - Djenne - Mopti (465 km; ~6½hrs)
8h00 AM departure (or earlier) for our onward drive to Djenne, ancient sister-city of Timbuktu, arriving in time to see the large and colorful weekly market. Djenne was one of the first commercial centers of the Sahel region: it was the meeting place of the nomads from the Sahara, the local farmers and cattle herders, and the fishermen from the inland delta of the Niger.
After exploring the market, we will stroll the ancient alleys and narrow streets, and see the oldest house in Djenne, dating from the XIIth century. Also see the magnificent Great Mosque, the world's largest mud brick architecture, originally constructed in the XIIIth century, this is one of Unesco's World Heritage sites. We will visit the Djenne museum as we depart Djenne, driving onward to Mopti for overnight (Hotel Kanaga, or similar).
Day 4 Tuesday: Mopti / Niger River
City tour of Mopti, the "melting pot" of Mali, also called the Venice of Mali because it is surrounded by the waters of the Niger and the Bani rivers. We will visit the Komoguel mosque, the fishing port (see pirogues being made by hand), and the bustling market where many of Mali's ethnic groups come to trade: Bambara, Bobo, Bozo, Dogon, Fulani, Tuareg and Songhay—shop for gold or silver jewelry, hand-made cotton or wool blankets, or some of Mali's beautiful wood carvings (masks, statues, etc.). In the aftermoon we will enjoy a relaxing sunset sail on the Niger River in a traditional pirogue (river boat). Overnight in Mopti (Hotel Kanaga, or similar).
Day 5 Wednesday: Mopti - Dogon country (120 km; ~2hrs)
This morning we will depart Mopti for Mali's fascinating Dogon country. The Dogon tribe originated in the south of Mali, which they fled to preserve their animist religion from the spread of Islam. When they arrived at the Bandiagara cliffs, they found the Tellem people occupying grottos carved in the face of the cliff. They eventually displaced the Tellem people, and used the grottos to bury their dead—funerary rites are an important part of the Dogon culture.
We will visit Songo village, renowned for its rock paintings and circumcision grotto. Traditional circumcision ceremonies are held here every three years; the rock paintings are historical representations of noble Dogon families. Then onward to Sangha, a large agglomeration of 10 distinct Dogon villages–some animist, some Islamic; on our walking tour we will see some beautiful examples of the unique Dogon architecture and fetishes. Overnight in Sangha (Hotel Campement Guina, or similar).
Day 6 Thursday: Dogon country
7h00 AM breakfast, then we head for the escarpment; today we will visit the architectural wonders that are Dogon villages along the Bandiagara cliffs: Banani (note the ancient Tellem cave dwellings in the cliff face), Ireli, Amani (visit the sanctuary of sacred crocodiles, totem animal of the Dogon people); and Tireli village, where we may (optionally) witness a fascinating traditional Dogon mask dance, part of the Dogon people's funerary rites. Overnight in Sangha (Hotel Campement Guina, or similar).
Day 7 Friday: Dogon country - Ouahigouya, BURKINA FASO (180 km; ~4hrs)
This morning we will visit Madougou village on the Senou plain, then depart Dogon country and Mali, driving through picturesque villages and cross into Burkina Faso; we arrive in Ouahigouya and check into our hotel. Then tour Ouahigouya, capital of the old Yatenga kingdom; we will visit the historic Yatenga Naba's compound (Naba = "King") and Naba Kango's tomb—Naba Kango was one of the most fearsome of the Mossi rulers; he died violently in 1787. Overnight in Ouahigouya (Hotel Amitie, or similar).
Day 8 Saturday: Ouahigouya - Ouagadougou (180 km; ~2½hrs)
Onward drive to Ouagadougou; check into our hotel, then we explore Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital city: we will visit the Grand Market and the National Museum, with its interesting collection of regional clothing, masks, household utensils and ancestral statues; then the crafts markets at the Artisans' Center, where we will find basketry, batik fabrics, wooden statues and masks, jewelry, leatherwork and bronze castings. Overnight in Ouagadougou (Hotel Silmande, or similar).
Day 9 Sunday: Ouagadougou - Niamey, NIGER (500 km; ~6½hrs)
After breakfast, we will depart Burkina Faso for Niger—observe the Sahelian countryside and rural villages as we drive northeastward. We cross the border and continue to Niamey for overnight (Grand Hotel, or similar).
Day 10 Monday: Niamey
City tour of Niamey, including the National Museum (if open) and exhibits of dinosaur skeletons, as well as the infamous Arbre de Ténéré, the large city market, and the artisans' village Wadata. We will visit the Grand Mosque with its massive minaret and tiled dome. In the afternoon we take an excursion to Koure to see one the last remaining herds of giraffes in West Africa. REturn to Niamey for overnight (Grand Hotel, or similar).
NB: due to security concerns we do not go into the desert.
Day 11 Tuesday: Niamey - Parakou, BENIN (620 km; ~8½hrs)
We will depart the Sahel today, for the greener tropics; see the countryside begin to change as we cross into Benin and continue south, for overnight in Parakou (Hotel Majestic, or similar).
Day 12 Wednesday: Parakou - Abomey (300 km; ~4hrs)
Today we continue onward to Abomey, former capital of the Danhomey kingdom. We will visit the Royal Palace and Museum, site of the the ancient palaces of the twelve kings of Abomey (Unesco World Heritage site), who reigned from 1620 through 1900. We will also visit the artisans' center, renowned for traditional tapestries and bronze castings, formerly reserved for the royal court only. Overnight in Abomey (Motel d'Abomey, or similar).
Day 13 Thursday: Abomey - Cotonou (135 km; ~3hrs)
And onward to Cotonou, capital city of Benin. We will have a city tour of Cotonou, including the fish market and the international Dantokpa market (the second largest in West Africa), with its fetish market and handcraft center. Then enjoy a pirogue excursion to Ganvie fishing village, built on stilts over the lagoon waters of Lake Nokoue. This village was created in the 18th century by the Tofinu people, to escape the slave-raids of their neighbors; women sell fish, fruits and vegetables from their canoes, and fish-farming is practiced within enclosures of trees and branches that surround the village. Return to Cotonou for overnight (Hotel du Lac, or similar).
Day 14 Friday: Cotonou - Ouidah (40 km; ~¾hr)
Onward to Ouidah, the vodou capital of West Africa, and an important traditional religious center and ancient slave depot, which sent thousands of slaves to the new world. We will visit the Museum in the old Portuguese fort, the Temple of Pythons, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Kpasse sacred forest; we will trace the route of the famous "Slave Road" which leads to the slavery memorial of Zoungbodji. Overnight in Ouidah (Hotel DK, or similar).
Day 15 Saturday: Ouidah - Lome, TOGO (110 km; ~1½hr)
Breakfast, the we will drive to the Togo border and continue to Lome. City tour of Lome: we will visit the National Museum, the Lome central market, the artisans' village and the Akodessewa fetish market, with its skulls, bones, feathers and shells, everything needed to make your own fetish ! If it is open, we will also visit the outstanding Musée International du Golfe de Guinée (closed for renovations, until 01July). Overnight in Lome (Hotel Ibis Centre, or similar).
Day 16 Sunday: Lome - Accra, GHANA (200 km; ~2½hrs)
And onward to Ghana ! We will cross the Ghana border, and continue to Accra. City tour of Accra, including the National Cultural Center, the National Museum, and the Nkrumah Mausoleum. In the afternoon we have a walking tour of James Town with its colorful local markets and colonial-era shops, and crafts shopping at the Trade Faire Centre. Overnight in Accra (Novotel Accra, or similar).
Day 17 Monday: Accra - Cape Coast / Elmina (165 km; ~2hrs)
Onward to Cape Coast, which was the first capital of Britain's Gold Coast colony. By the late 17th century, Cape Coast had grown from a small fishing village to one of the most important trading ports along the coast; and through the 18th century, the local economy was driven by its role as the heart of the transatlantic slave trade.
We will visit the historic old town section, and the notorious Cape Coast Castle, former bastion of the Atlantic slave trade, with three large slave dungeons accessible only from the seaward side of the fort, and the Door of no Return.
We continue to Elmina, where we enjoy a walking tour of St. George's Castle and a stroll to St. Jago Hill for a panoramic overview of historic Elmina. Overnight in Elmina (Elmina Beach Resort, or similar).
Day 18 Tuesday: Elmina - Kakum National Park - Kumasi (240 km; ~3½hrs)
Today we will drive to and visit Kakum National Park, a rainforest preserve inhabited by some 100 different species of mammals, including forest elephants and giant forest hogs, as well as many types of antelopes, monkeys and birds. The main attraction at Kakum is the 350 meter long canopy walk, varying between 28-40 meters high—this is not recommended for the acrophobic! And onward to Kumasi, capital of Ghana's Ashanti country for overnight (Hotel Georgia, or similar).
Day 19 Wednesday: Kumasi / Ashanti country
This morning we begin at the National Cultural Center, then the Manhyia Palace, and the Kejetia market, the largest market in West Africa–a kaleidescope of sight and sound.
In the afternoon as time permits, we will visit we will visit Ashanti villages on the outskirts of Kumasi: Bonwire village, to see authentic kente cloth being made; Pankronu village and its traditional pottery; wood carvings in Ahwiaa village; Ntonso village, for its adinkra cloth. Overnight in Kumasi (Hotel Georgia, or similar).
Day 20 Thursday: Kumasi - Tamale (390 km; ~5hrs)
The morning is available to continue village visits around Kumasi, or depart for Tamale and visit the Baobeng-Fiema monkey sanctuary en-route. Overnight in Tamale (Gariba Lodge, or similar).
Day 21 Friday: Tamale - Tiebele - Ouagadougou, BURKINA FASO (495 km; ~7hrs)
This morning we will visit the large central market in Tamale to see the gonja cloth weavers at work, then onward drive to Burkina Faso. En-route we will visit Tiebele village in Gourounsi country: we will visit the Royal Court of Tiebele, and see the interesting fortress-like houses of the Kassena people. The houses are of various shapes and sizes depending on the status of the occupants, and they are beautifully decorated with geometric patterns on the walls. They are constructed of mud and feature flat roofs for sleeping in the hot weather; the houses are painted by the women, with local red, blue, white and black pigments. Onward to Ouagadougou for overnight (Hotel Silmande, or similar).
Day 22 Saturday: Ouagadougou - Deux Bale parc - Bobo Dioulasso (356 km; ~4½hr)
We depart Ouagadougou and drive southwest towards Bobo Dioulasso. En-route, we will visit Sabou village with its 'tame' totem crocodiles, and Deux Bales National Parc in the hopes of spotting elephants. Deux Bale park is the smallest of Burkina's national reserves, and it boasts three large herds of elephants that roam the 81,000 hectares and are regular visitors of the creeks and shallows of the Mohoun river. Continue to and overnight in Bobo Dioulasso (Hotel Auberge, or similar).
Day 23 Sunday: Bobo Dioulasso - Sikasso, MALI (170 km; ~3hrs)
Today we will visit Bobo Dioulasso, the "house of the Bobo merchants", Burkina's second largest city. We will visit old mosque, the Houet Museum, and the old Kibidwe artisans' district where we will see traditional blacksmiths, potters, and dyers at work. In the afternoon we depart Bobo Dioulasso, cross the Mali border, and continue to Sikasso for overnight (Hotel Kaaky, or similar).
Day 24 Monday: Sikasso - Bamako (375 km; ~5hrs)
Today we visit historic Sikasso, former capital of the Kenedougou empire, in the heart of Senoufo country, and Mali's green belt. We will visit the Mamelon, residence of the former kings of Sikasso; and the Tata, remnants of a large palisade that encircled the city and for a time held off the French colonial army. We will also visit Misiri Koro, the sacred grotto that housed the city's protector spirits. Then return drive to Bamako for overnight (Grand Hotel, or similar).
Day 25 Tuesday: Bamako - final departure
And today we visit Bamako: over-view of this sprawling city from Point G, with a visit of the ancient grottos and rock paintings. Then on to the National Museum (see www.mnm-mali.org), with its impressive collections of textiles from the 11th to the 20th century; ancient Bamanan, Dogon and Senoufo sculptures; terracotta objects from archeological sites; and contemporary African paintings and sculptures. In the afternoon we will visit the city market, the artisans' village, and the fetish market for traditional medicine. In the evening, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
1 km ~ 0.6 mile; distances are approximate
Driving times are approximate, depending on local conditions, stops, and border crossings
NB: Hotels subject to availability; see
proposed hotels description.
The tour with these hotels is our default "Better" standard (3-4* hotels where available).
Upgrade to "Best" standard (4-5* hotels where available) is also possible.
NB: in rural areas there is little choice of accommodations, and we utilize the same "best available" hotels for all tour standards.
Grand Loop Tour package includes:
- 24 nights hotel, double occupancy, with breakfast
- day-room in Bamako on the final day
- private ground transportation by air-conditioned 4x4 vehicle, with driver and fuel
- sunset sail on the Niger River by private river boat
- excursion in Koure in Niger, to see the wild giraffes
- pirogue excursion to Ganvie village in Benin
- experienced English-speaking guide throughout
- airport transfers upon arrival and departure in Bamako
- all hotel taxes and local tourism taxes
- all site visit, excursion and entry fees as per tour program
Tour package does not include: international flights to/from Bamako, MALI; tourism visas (Mali: double-entry; Burkina Faso: double-entry; Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana); lunches, dinners, drinks/bottled water; optional Dogon mask dance; tips and personal expenses.
Optional traditional Dogon mask dance in a village — upon request
Hotel upgrades in the capital cities are available, upon request.
NB: Posted itineraries are subject to change, and quoted prices are accordingly subject to change; itineraries and prices are locked-in when a tour is booked.
Please note: Saga Tours does not handle international air reservations and ticketing.
Before reserving, please see our Terms and Conditions.