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.