While the countries of Togo and Benin are
small and not very well-known, they are packed with unique experiences which
can’t be found anywhere else! As the birthplace of voodoo traditions, which
have been kept very much alive, Togo and Benin are lands that are completely
impregnated with mysterious beliefs and wild rituals. A place where people
whisper to altars hoping for wishes to be granted and where fetishes are
grinded into salvas to cure the effects of witchcraft.
In Togo, you’ll be getting right into
village life, visiting the town of Aveve with its own sacrificial trees, altars
and palm industry. You’ll be trekking in the jungle and driving up to the
border with Benin where you can find the Tata-Somba mud houses which act as
incredible fortresses for their inhabitants.
In Benin, you’ll be hunting more local
traditions and beliefs such as the Snake-King of Dassa and witnessing voodoo
supplications in Abomey. Benin was also the sinister stage of the colonial
slave trade. And, it wouldn’t be a YPT tour if we didn’t go looking out for the
remnants of what was once known as the socialist country of the People’s
Republic of Benin.
After grabbing lunch around town, we head to the Monument to Independence for some snaps of this impressive monument.
Lomé is a capital city bordering another country, so you’ll catch a glimpse of the Ghana border.
You then head to Africa’s largest fetish market where you will be given your first lesson in Voodoo. Here, people come to purchase animal carcasses and charms to obtain favours from the spirits!
Go out for some local food in Lomé where you can try the famous pâte and fufu with a range of sauces
Lomé, a city by the beach is packed with nice bars to relax and get to know each other, so we head out to explore!
Overnight in Lomé at Hotel Le Galion, or similar
Friday 12th February – Lomé/Avévé
Today you’re leaving the big smoke of the capital and heading out deep into the countryside and jungle of Togo.
We’ll be driving two hours right next to the border of Benin but, along the way, you’ll stop by Agbodrafo’s secret slave house. After slavery was outlawed, Togolese slavers continued their business by operating from a house with hidden passages leading to cells where they would keep their captives.
Stop for lunch at a delicious pork barbeque local restaurant ‘’Moins cher’’.
Arrive in Aveve, a town where everything is dedicated to the Palm industry. Led by the villagers, you’ll be seeing how the ladies here collect palm and produce palm oil from it, using every single bit of the tree for different functions.
During your tour of the town, you’ll visit a sodabi refinery and bump into different voodoo guardians, totems and sacrificial altars.
Hop into a carved palm tree trunk for a short and thrilling boat ride.
Stop for refreshments at Tanti-Ayoko’s drinking hole for refreshments. Here, you can try the mythical sodabi, the local homebrew made from palm as well as beers. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available.
You then head into the jungle to visit the voodoo tree. This massive tree allegedly grants people with jobs and promotions. It is rumoured that even presidents from other countries come here (under the cover of night) to pray for their re-election!
Dinner is arranged by the villagers at our hotel.
In the evening, you are invited for a dance party and introduced to the local moves and music.
Overnight at Hotel Akpedze
Saturday 13th February – Kpalimé
After breakfast you set out to Kpalimé, on the other side of the country, along the road leading up north.
The drive should take about 4 hours, with a stop in Lomé for lunch and plenty of stops along the way for rests or photos!
Arriving in Kpalimé, you visit the craft school where students are learning to sculpt, weave and paint.
You then head out for a trek in the jungle of Kpalimé. Our guide here will introduce you to the strange plants and trees that grow in this jungle and the multiple uses locals have for them. Along this trek, you’ll also see some buildings dating from the German colonial times as well as local villages up the hill.
Dinner is prepared for you in Kouma Kunda, a village on top of the mountain chain.
Overnight at Auberge Villageoise, or similar.
Sunday 14th February – Kara
After breakfast you head out early as we have a long day of driving ahead of us! Today, you will reach the north of Togo.
On the way, you stop by a bat forest. Here, thousands of bats are living in the trees and can be summoned by making sounds. You’ll be able to get great shots as they start flying around in massive flocks!
Lunch along the way in a local restaurant.
Stop to the bafilo weavers, specialists of a very interesting craft.
Nearby Kara, you visit the Death Rock of Aledjo, an interesting rock formation.
Arrival in Kara, called the second capital of Togo, it is the hometown of Gnassinbé Eyadema. The strongman of Togo, who led the country from 1967 until his death in 2005, was then succeeded by…. his son, who is still in power today. Here, you visit the Mansudae-hill like statue which was erected in his honour and have a look at the presidential palace.
Dinner in Kara where our hotel has very nice options.
Overnight in Kara, hotel La Douceur or similar.
Monday 15th February – Somba Country
In the morning you head to the neighbouring villages for a short trek amongst intriguing vegetation and villages. Here, you’ll witness some of the local trade, the most impressive being the blacksmiths which use stones instead of hammers and anvils.
Lunch in a local millet beer bar.
You then head to Tamberma country where you will start spotting the Tata-Sombas, the impressive UNESCO mudhouses which act like fortresses to protect herders and their livestocks.
At this point you will leave Togo, crossing into Benin. Don’t expect much in the way of formalities though. The Togo border is manned by one old man sitting on a bench and the Benin border doesn’t even have immigration!
Since the Benin border doesn’t even have a guard post, we all head to the nearest police station to get stamped in.
You are shown around the first Beninois village and given a tour of the local community but also a tour of a Tata-somba, along with full explanations of how these wonders are built and their functions.
Head to another Tata-somba where you will have dinner on top, and where we will bunker down for a night under the stars.
Tuesday 16th February – Natitingou/Taneka/Dassa
In the morning you start heading south.
Our morning will be dedicated to an introduction to the Taneka people. You first stop at the regional museum of Natitingou where you will be introduced to the culture of the multiple tribes populating the north of Togo and Benin.
You then head to the cultural bank of the Taneka. This site, also a museum, is packed with artefacts of the Taneka and we are given multiple explanations about their lifestyle, war skills and magic.
Visit the Taneka headquarters of Taneka-Beri. Here, you will not only find important sacred spirit houses and trial grounds but will also meet dignitaries of the tribe. Those dignitaries are guardians of the tradition and still dress in animal skins.
We then have a long 6 hour drive all the way to Dassa. On the way, we’ll have stop for photo opportunities as well as stretching our legs.
Tonight, you are staying on an eco-farm where fresh food which is raised and cultivated here is prepared for you.
Overnight at Eco-Farm Maktub
Wednesday 17th February – Dassa/Abomey
After breakfast head out on a tour of Dassa.
Dassa is famous for its fourth king. The fourth king of Dassa came from Nigeria with his people in his later days. He was 155 years old when he forced himself to die (so strong was his magic that he couldn’t die even when he wanted) and then transformed into a human-headed snake. To this day, the princes and kings of Dassa climb up the hill where the fourth king transcended this world for numerous rituals.
Visit the cathedral of Dassa, nearby the hill where a stone was brought from Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes in France. The cathedral receives believers from all around West Africa.
On the way to Abomey, you stop by the underground warrior shelters of Bohican. Here, warriors of the Dahomey kingdom, the fiercest in the region, would hide in impressive man-made caves to prowl on unsuspecting locals and turn them into slaves.
In the afternoon, you head on a voodoo tour of Abomey. Along with a local guide expert in Voodoo, we visit a priest at his home and shrine and witness a voodoo ceremony where all our questions will be answered. You’ll witness the priest making offerings to ancient idols covered in grime.
We then head to the fetish market of Abomey. While the fetish market of Lomé is a great place for an introduction to voodoo and photos, it can be a bit touristy. The fetish market of Abomey is smaller but is truly the real deal, with locals purchasing live animals for their sacrifices.
Stop by the massive voodoo church, shaped like a chameleon!
Dinner at restaurant La Palmeraie, where we can treat ourselves to amazing woodfire pizza.
Overnight in hotel Le Tennessee, or similar.
Thursday 18th February – Ganvié/Cotonou/Ouidah
After breakfast you drive to Abomey-Calavy, right by the suburbs of Cotonou.
Here, you’ll be on the banks of Lake Noukoué where you’ll board a boat to visit the incredible Ganvié village. Ganvié is a village which is fully built on stilts and has been nicknamed the Venice of Africa.
Head to Cotonou. While Porto-Novo is the capital of Benin and the seat of the National Assembly, Cotonou is truly the seat of power, with all the rest of the government and embassies located there.
Lunch of local fare, pounded igname with curry.
Cotonou was, from the 70s until the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the place from which General Mathieu Kerekou ran his socialist regime. As such, multiple artefacts of the socialist times can be found.
You’ll visit the Red Star monument. This monument depicts a man holding a sickle and is the symbol of Cotonou. The monument promotes green socialism, the idea which promoted self-sufficiency through agriculture.
YPT absolutely couldn’t do a tour of Benin without a stop by the Monument du Souvenir. Previously, this monument was called the Martyrs’ monument. It was built with the help of North Korean artists and commemorates the sacrifice of soldiers, helped by none-other than DPRK soldiers who happened to be there, who pushed back a putsch attempt orchestrated by anti-socialist countries.
Stop by the monument to Georgi Dimitrov, who was the first leader of the International and leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Government.
Drive to Ouidah.
We go for dinner at Momo’s cooking school. This venture, is a school which provide a handful of local pupils full culinary training for free. You’ll be sampling delicious African-European fusion meals.
Ouidah has quite the nightlife so for those with the stamina or interest you’re going on a pub crawl!
Overnight in Ouidah, Hotel le Dauphin, or similar.
Friday 19th February – Ouidah
After breakfast, head out on a walking tour of Ouidah.
Your first stop is the Python Temple. Here, sacred pythons are kept and venerated. Once a month, the pythons are freed and allowed to roam around town to feed themselves. Those brave enough can get into the python cell and play with them!
You then head on the 4km slave trail of Ouidah. Ouidah was an important hub of the slave trade orchestrated by Europeans colonists and the Dahomey kingdom. Along our walk, you’ll see the different stations around which the slaves were pushed as well as the rituals the slaver kings used to ward off revengeful ghosts. The trek will lead us all the way to the beach where the captured Africans of all tribes where pushed onto galleons, never to come back.
Head back to Momo’s school for one more delicious meal while we can get them.
In the late afternoon, we head to a nearby village where the local trade is salt extraction. You’ll be introduced to the process but also to the different fetishes and guardians of the village.
Before you leave the village, the people there arrange a mask ceremony, where they will show you their ritual dances.
Dinner in one of the varied restaurants of Ouidah.
Overnight in Ouidah
Saturday 20th February
After breakfast we’ll drive out, this time along the scenic way by the sea, back to Cotonou.
Arrival in Cotonou where you can visit more of the city according to your interest.
There will be a possibility to take a shower before you are driven to the airport to catch your flight out of Benin.
End of tour, with YPT able to organise post-tour accommodation and transportation for other adventures!
• International flights to Lomé and from Cotonou
• Visa if required (Togo on arrival, Benin e-visa)
• Travel insurance
• Single supplement (€140)
• Dinners and personal spending
• Tips for the local guides and drivers
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.