The Adrar des Ifoghas is a large plateau in the eastern Kidal region of Mali covering roughly 250 000 km². Adrar is the Tamasheq word for mountain while Ifoghas is the name of a Tuareg clan which lives in the region, the French so named it to differentiate from their (long-held) Adrar in Mauritania. The area is home to a surprising number of animals, including gazelles, antelopes, hyenas, jackals, snakes, & lizards. It contains some very scenic desert landscapes, including granite outcrops, eroded sandstone, gueltas (similar to an oasis, but less "green" around them), rock paintings, petrified wood, and even an ancient river valley.
The Adrar des Ifoghas is a remote part of the Sahara with plenty of remnants to evoke its ancient, non-desert past.
- Abeibara —
- Aguelhok —
- Essouk — called by some the "cradle of the Tuareg" this tiny town was once a prospering town along trans-Saharan trade routes from the 9th to 12th centuries CE; rock painting dating to 8000 BCE can be found, although little remains of its ancient past. Legend holds that Boctou, founder of Timbuktu, was born here.
- Tessalit, [dead link], a town of a couple thousand Tuareg which serves as the border post for the small amount of traffic between Mali & Algeria; the town has some gypsum and ancient salt mines.
- Tin-Essako —
Get in and around
The only way into the region is via 4x4 (although Tessalit has a rarely used airstrip). Given the remoteness of the region, it is best to hire a guide who has an understanding of the region and knows where all the main sights are. Trips can be organized out of Kidal, you best bet to find one is inquiring at the hotels: Mount Krutel (285 00 90), Hotel Campement les Dattiers, or Chez Catharine. Two Tuareg-run travel agencies can be found in Kidal:
- Tilemsi Valley —
- Rock paintings —
- Camel treks —
Bring all the food you will need, as food cannot be purchased outside Kidal. If you stay in a settlement for a night, you may be offered (or can possibly pay for) a meal with a Tuareg family.
The Tuareg are Muslim and it would be very insulting of you to bring alcohol! Having three cups of tea with a Tuareg is a classic experience and not to be missed. As for water, bring all the water you will need! The settlements have wells and there are some large gueltas to replenish your water supply, though.
Do not underestimate the remoteness! You must have proper supplies for an extended trip into the desert, about a week is necessary to travel from Kidal and spend a few days exploring. Bring two weeks' worth of supplies in case you get lost or caught in a dust storm. Independent travel is highly discouraged and a guide and 4x4 is absolutely essential.
When camping (and sleeping) be sure your tent is entirely sealed as most animals, including venomous snakes and scorpions along with hyenas & jackals, are nocturnal. Be very careful when climbing around rocks and any place that is shady and cool, as these are the places snakes, scorpions, and other animals stay cool during the day. The sand viper buries itself entirely so that only the eyes appear above the sand, while there is a species of scorpion whose venom is more deadly than a cobra! Try to tread carefully to avoid stepping on a viper.
- Anefis, picturesque town on the edge of the Adrar.
- Gao, the closest thing to a city anywhere near the Adrar.
- Kidal, the region's capital