Timbuktu Travel Guide

  • Timbuktu
    by hannette
  • Things to Do
    by hannette
  • Things to Do
    by hannette

Timbuktu Highlights

  • Pro
    zrim profile photo

    zrim says…

     it is just one of those must sees on the lifelong list 

  • Con
    F_Meignant profile photo

    F_Meignant says…

     Sewage, rubbish... 

  • In a nutshell
    F_Meignant profile photo

    F_Meignant says…

     Dig hard... 

Timbuktu Things to Do

  • Strolling through town

    Best way to get to know the local life is just strolling through town, going to the markets, have your eyes, ears, noses, ... open for everything coming in... :-)There are plenty of alleyways, there is the old and new town.

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  • A trip into the desert

    Guides will for sure offer you a trip with Tuareg people in the desert... If you like to mingle with local people I would recommend it although it stays a bit 'touristic'...You can choose to go for one day only or to sleep 1 or more nights in the desert.Beware: although you are in the desert, it gets cold in the night .. !

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  • The Djingereber or Great Mosque

    The Djingereber or Great Mosque is the oldest mosque of the three major mosques of Timbuktu. The mosque is built in1327 by Mansa Musa. The architect Al-Saheli came from Andalusia. Musa met him in Cairo on his way to Mekka. This mosque is a good example of the Sudanic architecture style. The building is made of mud, stray and wood. Every year the...

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  • Street stalls

    In the dusty area close to the Sankoré mosque and the Grand Marché I saw lots of streetstalls. In most of the stall they sell firewood and charcoal. I wonder which one the trees in this area could be the 100 years old wild date tree of which is told that the former slaves who were brought to the market were tied by their feet to.

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  • Ecole pour talibes, koranic school

    On our way from the Djingereber Great Mosque to the explorer house of Gorden Laing we saw some boys sitting in the street with the wooden tablets with Quran verses (picture 1 & 2).They sat in front of a building signposted as Ecole pour Talibes (picture 3, 4 & 5). This Ecole pour Talibes is a Koranic school or Madrasa. Talibes are young boys, who...

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  • Lively streetlife

    The area around the Grand Marché has a lively streetlife. Ther are a lot of local women in their colourfull dresses, selling and buying vegetables and spices in the streetstalls and meeting each other. For transport you see lot of donkey carts.Because of the liveliness I enjoyed more my walk in the streets than my visit to building of the the Grand...

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Timbuktu Restaurants

  • Grand Marché rooftop

    At the rooftop of the Grand Marché I saw a terrace sheltered against the sun. This is a nice place to have a drink and a overview of the town at the same time. There are a few restaurants at the rooftop too, like 'le Souvenir' (picture 2), mentioned in the lonely planet and Essakane Nord' (picture 3). I didn't try the food, but I saw they serve...

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  • Restaurant of hotel Colombe

    Because I only stayed shortly in Timbuktu before and after visiting the Festival au Desert in Essakane, I only had meals in the restaurant of my hotel Colombe.The loveliest place was the restaurant at the first floor at the streetside (picture 1). From here you can get a glimpse of the streetlife (picture 2 & 4), while you sit yourself protected...

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  • Good view

    The best thing about this place is that it sits on top of the main market building so you can get a good view of the city during the day or night. When I was there in late Oct there were few flying creatures in the air compared to Mopti. Ha Ha......don't go to Mali if you are looking for a good meal. Outside of Bamako you are more or less limited...

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Timbuktu Nightlife

  • African sunsets, full moon and thousand...

    African sunsets, full moon and thousand stars, what more do you need? Sunsets in Africa and in the desert are often spectacular. The sanddunes and the camels in Essakane were the perfect setting for the sunset (picture 2 & 3). The full moon (picture 4) made it even more special. Listening to the African music and dancing under the stars made the...

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  • Go clubbing

    it's a hole in the wall type joint near Flamme au PaixAt first it seemed very dodgy and I was glad to be in the company of 2 male travellers. The music coming through the door made you think the whole of TB2 + 1/2/ of Mali was inside.The oversized bouncer at the door supported this initial impression...yet, once inside it was a totally different...

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  • Timbuktu Hotels

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Timbuktu Transportation

  • Leave by plane

    Reaching Timbuktu is sometimes hard and it's part of its charm. But once you are there, the way back can be a little hard and have lost its charm once you have done it before.So I thought it would be a good idea to reserve a flight back to Bamako with MAE. I don't regret, believe me. Reaching Bamako could be 3-4 days minimum overland, by plane is...

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  • To Timbuktu by pinasse

    One way to reach Timbuktu is to take a pinasse from Mopti to Timbuktu. The journey will take about 3 days. A pinasse or pirogue is a shallow canoe like boat. The smaller ones can be paddled or punted. Sometimes a sail or motor is added. The bigger boats have always a motor.Mostly you go by pinasse in the direction of Timbuktu downstream, because of...

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  • To Timbuktu by road

    We came to Timbuctu by road. We travelled in a closed truck with busseats. We left from Mopti/Sévaré early morning for the trip of 325 km. The first part from Sévaré to Douentza was by tarred road and rather comfrotable. It took us three and half hour. From Douentza we took the piste northbound in the direction of Timbuctu. The track was ok, not...

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Timbuktu Shopping

  • Visit the market of Timbuktu

    Not as much as for buying, as just for strolling around and getting an impression of daily life here, the market is an interesting place.The central market building, a storage high building, is a good starting point for your discovery. Much of the market spreads out from this building onwards.

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  • Silver in Timbuktu

    There is no shope so to speak as the Taureg will come to you or set up at your hotel. They will bargain and their first price is a joke. Be prepared to walk away and you will get the best deals. Some of the silver pieces will have the makers name stamped in the back or you can watch them make it in the city. Some will have ebony wood inlays in...

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  • Tailors

    I had some problems with my pants, so I decided to go and fix them. Around the central market there are a lot of "on-the-fly" tailors that fix you anything while you wait. So in 10 minutes I had my pants fixed, all for 1-2 euros!

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Timbuktu Local Customs

  • Using donkeys as a carrier of goods and...

    People heavily use donkeys as a means of transport. It probably is cheaper than a motorbike and can carry more goods.

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  • Fenced dwellings for livestock in the...

    Strolling around in the backstreets of Tmbuktu, I saw at several places that inhabitants kept their livestock, mainly goats in front of their houses.They just took a small part of the street and fencec and sheltered it for the goats. And doesn't look like a problem for anybody that they do so.

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  • Baking bread in the streets

    Strolling in the alleyways of Timbuktu we saw several clay ovens in the street (picture 1 & 2). The ovens are made of mudbricks and clay (picture 3). Baba our guide explained us that here the women bake the local bread in the morning. We didn't see any oven in use, but some looked like they were used recently. Baba showed us how they put the dough...

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Timbuktu Warnings and Dangers

  • Buried under the blowing desert sands

    In some older parts of the old town you can see that the doors of the old houses are below street level. Sometimes almost one meter. The desert sands started to bury the houses under the sand here. To reach the groundlevel of the houses from the street, you have to take two or more steps down to reach the threshold of the door. And beware, when you...

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  • Skinned cats

    Strolling in the alleyways of Timbuktu after we visited the house of the explorer René Cailié, I looked up and saw something I never saw before at any of my trips in the about 120 countries I visited. On the electric wires aboce my head I saw something what looked like a head of a cat. It was not easy to see clearly because of the bright sunlight....

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  • Guides

    As you walk around Timbuktu many young guys will come to you and offer to be your guides. Many of them are just children that don't like school much ("I am on holidays" they say).They might pay a good service if you just want someone to take you here or there, tell you where a restaurant is and so on.BUT if you want a real authorized guide, they...

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Timbuktu Tourist Traps

  • Ethnological Museum

    Some might find it interesting, but I found it a little OVERPRICED. This museum is just a room with a few old B/W photos and a courtyard with a well that is, supossedly, the original place around which the cuty was founded. I doubt it very much that THAT was the original dwell, but even then, 7 EUROS for the entrance seems a bit too much!! (El...

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  • The blue scarf

    If you join one of those desert trips, the guys at the start will offer you the touareg blue scarfs for the trip. You can buy them or hire them (for about 1-2 euros). They might be useful IF THERE IS A SUDDEN SAND STORM, but that is very rare, so it's more a tourist trap than a useful thing.Anyway, it makes a good souvenir photo, so maybe you don't...

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  • Leaving Timbuktu...

    Timbuktu is in the middle of nowhere. It's not easy to reach. It's even more difficult to leave... It's reknown as a "cul de sac". A gap... a trap...Very often, independant tourists have to pay incredible amounts (I heard up to 150 € but I don't know if it's true!) to get a simple place in an uncomfortable and overcrowded "taxi brousse" (bush taxi:...

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Timbuktu What to Pack

  • flynboxes's Profile Photo

    by flynboxes Written Nov 8, 2008

    Luggage and bags: I try to travel as light a possible so a backpack is what I take

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Bring a jacket in the dry season as it can get cold at night from Nov-Mar.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: If you are going to overnight in the desert bring some toilet paper or you can wipe/wash Islamic style with water and your left hand.

    Photo Equipment: Most hotels will have an outlet to charge you camera batteries. You might want to bring a cover for your camera since the red dust can get just about anywhere.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Most places has mosquito nets and foam pads to sleep on

    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • Budget Travel
    • Historical Travel

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Timbuktu Off The Beaten Path

  • Festival au Desert in Essakane: desert...

    The reason why I came to Timbuktu in January 2009 was to attend the Festival au Desert 70 km north west of Timbuktu. The mix of desert, camels, Tuareg and African music was very tempting for me. We camped in the dunes in front of the main stage behind a dune ridge used as gallery for the main stage.In the evening from 8 pm till about 2 am yu could...

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  • Festival au Desert: afternoon program

    During the day you could rest after the late nigth, walk around the festival area, enjoy the white sanddunes and the camels, visit the artisan market, have a chat or Tuareg tea. Sometimes there were small performances and conferences. In the afternoon from 5 pm till about 7 pm the performances of local and traditional groups ( picture 1 & 3)...

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  • Salt Caravans

    If you have done any reading on Timbuktu you know the city was founded on the salt/gold trade. The salt came by camel caravan from the North and was traded for gold from the South in Timbuktu. If you are the adventurous type you can still trek with a camel caravan into the desert. The trip takes about two weeks (give or take a few extra days) and...

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Timbuktu Favorites

  • Beautiful doors of Timbuktu

    Everywhere in Timbuktu you find beautiful wooden doors with metal handles and decoration, a souvenir of Timbuktu's glorious past....

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  • Taureg conflict

    I hate warnings so I chose to post this here. The Tauregs are the local indigenous people in the region. The are a nomadic people but like in other parts of the world they are not happy with the way the land has been divided up and want their own land/country. The land they want stretches from upper Mail to lower Algeria and from Mauritania in the...

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  • The hospital

    Not my favorite so to speak but after my Hemorroid swelled up to the size of an orange wedge, walking became a bit fun not to mention sleeping and sitting. I am not slouching in my pics due to being lazy. Anyway there is a decent hosiptal in town. While I would not want to visit for an extended stay you can find French speaking doctors who can help...

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Explore Deeper into Timbuktu
Rooftop of the Grand Marché
Things to Do
Grand Marché
Things to Do
Masters of the desert
Local Customs
Tagelmust: veiled Tuareg men
Local Customs
Bella dwellings
Local Customs
Ethnological Museum
Things to Do
Doors of Timbuktu
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Manuscripts of Timbuktu
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Libraries of manuscripts
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Ferry to Timbuktu
Transportation
Drinking tea
Local Customs
From Timbuktu to Essakane by 4x4
Transportation
Ferry to Timbuktu: traffic jam
Transportation
Explorers: Heinrich Barth
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Explorers: René Caillié
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Explorers: Alexander Gordon Laing
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Explorers: Ibn Battuta
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Sidi Yahya mosque and madrassa
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Sankoré mosque
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To Timbuktu
Transportation
With camper to Timbuktu
Transportation
The Mosque
Things to Do
Walk the city
Things to Do
Explorer houses
Things to Do
View of the city
Things to Do
4x4 to Timbuktu
Transportation
The market
Things to Do
Tea with the Tauregs
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Flying
Transportation
Timbuktu by COMANAV
Transportation
Timbuktu by pinasse
Transportation
Timbuktu by 4x4
Transportation
Transport to the airport
Transportation
The explorers houses
Things to Do
The desert
Favorites
Poulet d'or
Restaurants
Camel rides
Things to Do
Sleep with touaregs
Things to Do
Touareg jewelery
Shopping
Manuscripts Libraries
Things to Do
Map of Timbuktu

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