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Bamako, Mali

Bamako Travel Guide

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Guide to Bamako, Mali's capital city. Information about Bamako, getting there, where to stay, what to see and more, below.
Bamako, Mali's Capital City

Bamako, women washing clothes in Niger River overlooking the capital city of Mali

© Paul Smith

Basic Facts about Bamako

Bamako is the capital city of Mali in West Africa. Bamako is Mali's biggest city with a population of around 1.7 million. Bamako was a small fishing village in 1806 when the famous Scottish explorer Mungo Park stopped by. By 1908 the French had colonized much of West Africa and made Bamako a regional capital. Mali gained independence in 1960 and kept Bamako as the capital city, now one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Bamako lies on the banks of the Niger river. It's a sprawling city, filled with life, outdoor markets, music, pollution, dust and mud (depending on the season). The name Bamako means "crocodile river" in the local language, Bambara. Besides Bambara, you'll hear plenty of French spoken in Bamako.

Travel to Bamako

Most tourists arrive in Bamako by air; Air France, Royal Air Moroc, Ethiopian Airlines, and Kenya Airways (and other regional airlines) land at the Senou International Airport. A railway line connects Bamako to Dakar (Senegal) as well, but it's slow .

Taxis are the best way to get around Bamako. Shared taxis are cheaper, they have the sign "taxi" on them. Dourounis are also commonly available (green minibuses with set routes).

What to see in Bamako

Bamako is usually a transit point for visitors heading to Mopti, Timbuktu, Djenne or Bandiagara (some of Mali's magnificent attractions). But do check out:
  • Markets -- fetish markets, clothing markets and food markets all make for a colorful scene in Bamako. Ask a local to direct you to where they shop for the least hassle.
  • Musee National -- Carvings, masks and textiles fro around Mali can be seen in this small museum.
  • Bamako Grand Mosque -- Lively market around this large mosque.
  • Banks of the Niger -- lots of beautiful gardens and you can get great shots of women washing their clothes (see photo above).

Where to Stay, Eat and Go Out in Bamako

A good luxury hotel is the Radisson Blu Hotel; for mid-range, try Hôtel Mandé; low-end, try Tounga Bed and Breakfast

Good restaurants in Bamako include: Le San Toro, Malian cuisine; Sukhothai, Thai cuisine; and the African Grill. Baguettes and pastries are readily available in Bamako for a quick snack.

Live music in Bamako is a real treat. Don't be surprised to see blonde Russian ladies working it. Listen to music at: Club Djembe; Hippo d'Or, Le Hogon, and L'Exodus.

Sources and More

Travbuddy on Bamako
Wikipedia - Bamako
Lonely Planet - Bamako
Bamako Travel Blogs
Tripadvisor - Bamako Hotels
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