On West Africa lies Benin, a wedge between Togo on the west and the far bigger Nigeria on the east. This club-shaped nation is a fascinating destination with its voodoo culture and national parks that invite one to go and check out the wildlife. The natural beauty of the landscape, from the idyllic Atlantic coast to the rugged scenery of the north, beckons to those eager for a hiking adventure across the country.
Those out to learn more about Benin will find it full of fascinating facts from its past as the Kingdom of Dahomey to being one of the countries whose ports used to practice the slave trade. It is also one of the most stable democracies in the region, but has a high poverty index despite its growing economy. This contradiction sets the country back, which is a shame as Benin is a fascinating place to be from its natural scenery to intriguing culture.
What to see & do
Those out to see Benin will find it pleasing to explore due to its wealth of attractions. One can start with the northern part of the country where hikers can explore the mountainous landscape and check out various nature spots. The Parc National de la Pendjari can be found here which lies amid the Atakora's rugged cliffs and woodlands where lions, cheetahs, elephants, baboons, and different types of birdlife live. The thriving wildlife and natural sceneries make it one of the best national parks in West Africa to visit. From here, one can move on to the mountain village of Koussoukoingou, a place known for its breathtaking views. From here, one can venture to Boukombé, where one can view the Atakora mountains and look at different part of the city from the cornfields to the huge baobab trees.
Ouidah, one of the relatively prosperous parts of Benin should also be part of the itinerary. Those who want to learn more about the voodoo can visit the Python Temple, where guides can explore some of the beliefs of this native tradition. From here, tourists can view the displays on the Musée d'Histore of Ouidah, which can be seen inside a beautiful structure called the Fortaleza São João Batista. One will find here various artefacts and exhibits on the slave-trading history within Benin, Brazil, and other countries involved. Those who want to visit one of the major trading points can then visit the Rue des Enclaves, where millions of people were deported into the ships going back to other countries in the Western hemisphere.
Those who want to check out the colonial past of Benin can transfer to Porto Novo. Travellers can walk in its leafy streets to look at the colonial architecture. A laidback way of life can also be seen here, which invites tourists to relax and take it slow. One of the places to visit here is the Centre Songhai, a farming institution involved in major research, teaching, and production using sustainable techniques. Guided tours are available here, where one can visit the plantations and workshops before buying some of the produce offered for sale. Tourists can then head to the Musée Ethnographique de Porto Novo, which features costumes, carved drums, ceremonial masks, and other artefacts.
How to get around
Those visiting Benin can find their way via minibuses and bush taxis that serve as the main modes of transport between towns. Daily buses between Cotonou and Natitingou via Savalou can also be found here. Travellers also have the option to ride trains with the main railway lines linking Cotonou with Parakou via towns. One can additionally find zemi-johns or scooter taxis that makes the fastest option, although they are not as safe as bush taxis. Those who want to drive around on their own can also do so, as long as they have an international driver's licence ready. The roads are paved well throughout Benin, making driving a convenient way to get around.
How to get there
Travellers out to visit Benin can schedule connecting flights to Cadjehoun Airport in Cotonou. Airlines serving here include Air Burkina, Air Côte d'Ivoire, Air France, Arik Air, ASKY Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Camair-Co, Ceiba Intercontinental Airlines, Cronos Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Equatorial Congo Airlines, Kenya Airways, Mauritania Airlines International, Royal Air Maroc, Sénégal Airlines, South African Airways, Trans Air Congo, Turkish Airlines, and Westair Benin.