Bandiagara Escarpment Cliff Dwellings – Bandiagara, Mali - Atlas Obscura

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Bandiagara Escarpment Cliff Dwellings

Bandiagara, Mali

These homes carved into the mountains seem to defy the laws of nature. 


The Bandiagara Escarpment slices across the hot and dusty lands of the Sahel in Mali for over 100 miles. In itself, Bandiagara is a wonder of nature. The cliffs rise over 1,500 feet in the air in places and range in geographic diversity from desert to cascading waterfalls plummeting onto the plains below.

However, almost more impressive than the landscape are the Dogon homes carved into the escarpment. Although a range of people lived in the area, for over 600 years the Dogon people have made Southern Mali their home, carving everything from simple rectangular homes into the cliff walls to detailed Mosque’s made out of mud and stick. The Dogon’s contribution to the region is immense.

The entire concept of their village is stunning, as homes hang from the cliffs defying all natural bounds of the traditional city. Some of the villages can hardly even be seen as they blend seamlessly with the rocky cliffs that surround them. Others are only noticeable from their thatched roofs, protruding from the sand and rock.

Every aspect of the Bandiagara is strongly punctuated. The escarpment itself rises dustily from the sparse Sahel vegetation below and the homes of the Dogon villages dot the cliffs for miles until the escarpment terminates at the highest peak in Mali, Hombori Tondo.

There are thirty Dogon villages in total across the escarpment and a multitude of Dogon sites aside from the houses. The dramatic landscape has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989.

Much of the Dogon’s original cultural traditions still exist, including mask rituals and cave shrines. Visitors to the region can also stay directly in the Dogon villages along the escarpment, allowing for a truly unique hostel experience.

Know Before You Go

The main bases for organizing your trek are Mopti-Sévaré, Douentza or Bakass. Within the Dogon country, Bandiagara and Sanga can also be used as starting points. Most people opt by a three-day trek starting from Bandiagara. It is important to know that much of Dogon country is very rough, and you will be rock scrambling and climbing to the cliffs under intense heat. Guides are essential in the Dogon country and you can make arrangements in any of the villages mentioned above.

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