Bandiagara

Overview

Introduction

This dusty village located 340 mi/550 km northeast of Bamako is the gateway to the Bandiagara Escarpment, a rocky cliff 125 mi/200 km long that provides shelter to the fascinating Dogon people. The Dogon built a string of villages along the ridge and up high into the face of the cliff that can be seen on one- to eight-day hikes (guides are recommended). Because of the difficulty in getting to the region, few tourists bother to go there, so the Dogons' culture, with its unique religious ceremonies, fabulous masks and hypnotic dances, has changed little over the centuries.

Visitors to Dogon country may want to try their strong homemade beer, brewed from millet (be prepared to slurp it out of a shared, not-very-clean gourd). Do not take photos of the people without asking first. They are particularly wary of outsiders—some have been known to cast spells on people who shoot photos without asking. Be aware that hikes to the region can be strenuous and the weather dangerously hot, so make sure you are in good shape before heading out, and carry along plenty of water.

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