Centrally located within the region of West Africa, the continents seventh largest country embraces two of Africa’s most distinctive and alluring geographical features, the Sahara Desert and the Niger River. It also offers some stunning arid scenery, a host of fascinating people and cultures, and an ancient history that has spanned three of the region’s most powerful empires.

Besides the desert and river options, Mali is home to the impressive Djenné Mosque, the world’s largest mud structure, the Dogon people, and the ancient Taureg city of Timbuctou. These are all best experienced by doing a cross-county road trip, which should end with another highlight, the annual Festival in the Desert, a colourful and eventful three-day feast of live West African music that takes place in the Sahara.