Have you ever wondered where Timbuktu actually is? Or if it’s just a made-up name for anything that’s over an hour away, kinda like BFE? Well, Timbuktu is a very real place, in the northern region of Mali in West Africa. Its legend came as it was the center of salt- and gold-trading centuries ago — now it’s a major Islamic educational center with a distinctly Arabic feel.

It’s not the only city worth visiting in Mali though, and you’ll definitely want to spend some time in the “Jewel of the Niger,” Djenne. It’s got the best collection of adobe architecture in Africa, including the world’s largest mud-brick building at the Great Mosque. Mali also has villages with unique designs, most notably along the Bandiagara escarpment where the Dogon people have buildings so unusual they’ve been collectively deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.