Benin in West Africa is a great ecotourism destination with its lively cultural scene, deep history and rich wildlife. Though it is often overshadowed by more popular African destinations, Benin is, in fact, one of the best tourist-friendly countries in this region. Benin is also considered as the birthplace of voodoo (also known as Vodun) religion and culture.
You would expect a capital to be a hubbub of crowded streets and traffic, but that is not the case with Benin’s capital Porto-Novo, on the shores of Lake Nokoue. It possesses a laid back vibe and offers impressive French-era architecture and a few musuems like Musée da Silva and the Ethnographic Museum.
Cotonou is Benin’s largest city, main port and de facto capital, serving as its economic hub. The vast Dantokpa Market selling a wide assortment of products, Cotonou Cathedral, Grande Mosquée de Zongo and a few structures from the Soviet era are the highlights of Cotonou.
Ganvie is known for its stilt village – where around 20,000 Tofinu people live in their floating bamboo huts on Lake Nokoue. The beach town of Ouidah, located near Ganvie, is home to the Door of No Return, a memorial arch dedicated to the dark history of slave trading in the country. The nearby Grand Popo is another beach town with mangrove forests and it exhibits a strong voodoo culture. You can visit the small fishing villages along its shores and observe their traditional fishing style.
Abomey, the capital of the historical Kingdom of Dahomey is a great place to learn the history of Benin and its culture. The highlight of Abomey is the UNESCO listed Royal Palaces of Abomey, which contains 12 royal palaces built by the Fon ethnic group. The ‘palaces’ are simple earthen structures, and not the elaborate massive structures you are familiar with. You can also visit its historical museum and know more about the kingdom that once thrived here.
Despite being a small nation without the usual large scale attractions, Benin is a great destination to explore. It offers a change of pace from the typical African destinations with its exciting culture, rich history and serene vibe.
Benin is the birthplace of voodoo religion and culture.