Dogon – Do it: Dogon County, Mali

It’s a place most have probably never heard of and it’s a place with an unforgettable name which is fitting as it’s a place you’ll never forget.

What is it?
Dogon Country – once you make it to Mali, it’s all the hype and deservedly so, it’s incredible. This is a stretch of villages lining a 150km escarpment in southern Mali and it’s something else. It’s a must do in Mali, it’s a must do in West Africa and what’s best is you can do it all by foot.

What can you do?
Stand in awe of the traditional villages built into and along the sides of the mountains, mingle with the locals like nowhere else and step back in time to listen to the sounds of the lively villages from amongst the mud huts scattered across massive cliff faces – it’s a feeling like no other in this special part of the world.

What’s amazing about Dogon?
It’s like that place you imagined existed in your mind but it’s like the place you’ve never actually seen.

The Dogon people have lived in the area for 1200 years, and some of their old villages – mud huts made by hand, are nested under the overhanging cliff face halfway up the rock mountain. What is perhaps even more incredible are the Pygmy villages that remain even higher in the escarpment.

Climb through the cliffs and from the summit overlook the picturesque savannah, towards the villages below to experience the sights – the traditional way of life, the sounds of women and children crushing millet, the chaos of animals roaming the narrow walkways and the feel the life of Dogon.

The mud huts, the smiles and the greetings will welcome you in every village and if you stay longer you’ll get the opportunity to sleep on a mud hut rooftop in a small village under the stars which in reality, is one of the coolest things you could ever do. If like us you have all the luck, you’ll even be rained on by the survival rains in the middle of the night – adding further more to an unbelievable experience.

Is Dogon country too ‘touristy’?
As a backpacker it has many of the things that you’ll do anything to avoid like having to take a guide and a tour, but for this part of the world we’ll, it’s a must. They’ll get you up close and personal and they’ll ensure everything’s above board on the responsibility front.

If you’re like us and go in low season, you’ll barely see any one else travelling the area – which for us made it a more intimate and memorable experience. You will however battle the temperatures climbing well above 40 degrees every day, so take a towel. Don’t worry, when its 40 degrees, in baking sun and you’ve just hiked 4km across rock and plain there is relief in reaching the next village and knowing the hospitality and water that awaits.

What do we say?

If you’re in Africa get there. Leave your big backpack behind, take the essentials, make some new friends to bring along, find a reputable guide and you’re set for Dogon country. It’s one of the only remaining places in the world that we know of where you can get an insight into traditional lifestyles in Africa and you can also see first hand the challenges and opportunities that tourism brings to these fascinating communities.

Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t – check out what we filmed along the way.

This is another guest post from the legends over at Amateurs in Africa – check them out!

White Sands and Giant Snails – Ilha Grande, Brazil

Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking: 8.5/10

ihla grande brazil

I’ve written a lot about backpacking in paradise islands in recent weeks and this is another one. Ilha Grande is a perfect place to get away from the stresses of the city and top up your tan. It’s a few hours south of Rio and after some time living the hectic city life it’s a real breath of fresh air.

Ilha Grande is characterised by beautiful white sands, crystal clear water and laid back island life. It’s a relatively short bus journey (for South America!) and then a quick boat ride to get there from Rio and once arrived all you have to do is put your feet up, order a caipirinha and soak up the sun. Come nightfall you can entertain yourself with the armies of giant snails and crabs that come out to play under the cover of darkness!

There are various tours you can do during your stay which are all based around visits to other parts of the island in a boat whilst throwing some snorkelling in there for good measure. One of the most popular trips is to Lopes Mendes beach, famous across Brazil and a site to behold. This is the plum spot on the island and if you’re feeling energetic (and a bit thrifty) you can hike there in a couple of hours which will likely lead to you discovering hidden beauties along the way.

This is a very special place with simple pleasures and the perfect escape from the busy Brazilian cities. It’s no surprise that so many locals choose to spend their holidays here – you should too.

If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Ilha Grande let me know your experiences in the comments or check out some of the other fantastic places to go backpacking in South America here.

Backpacking Photo of the Week – Huaraz, Peru

Peru offers backpackers stunning views around every corner as you move between different environments from day to day. Take in the sand dunes of Huacachina, the iconic Machu Picchu or the glaciers of Huaraz. This photo was taken in the hills surrounding Huaraz after a day long hike up into the mountains. Ice capped mountains, bright blue water and views for miles around, it doesn’t get much better!

huaraz peru

Click here to check out more of the beautiful destinations around the world in the Backpacking Photo of the Week series.