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Benin

Looking for an extraordinary destination? Benin! Meet a king, visit a voodoo festival, travel by wooden boat to a stilt village, go wildlife spotting and integrate all impressions at the beach? Let us turn your dream into an appealing itinerary!

 

General information

Capital Porto Novo
Population circa 9.5 million
Surface 112,622 km2
Form of government republic
National slogan Fraternité - Justice - Travail (Fellowship - Justice - Work)
National anthem L'Aube Nouvelle (The New Dawn)
Neighboring countries    Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger and Nigeria
Cities Porto Novo, Cotonou, Godomey, Parakou, Bohicon, Djougou, Abomey, Natitingou
Time zone GMT+1
Religions Voodoo, Christianity and Islam
Languages French and several local languages
Currency Franc CFA, 1,000 FCFA is about € 1.50
Voltage 220V, two-pins plugs (as in Europe)
Travel documents passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival, visum obliged
Health yellow fever vaccination obliged
Mobile coverage in large parts of the country
Internet available in the cities

 
A rich and doubtful history

Who dives into Benin’s history, stumbles upon slave trading, colonization, military coups and voodoo kingdoms. Not exactly a land to put high on your travel wish list? Maybe you should! The different aspects of the country’s history, its geographical location and the mix of cultures make Benin a destination worth to discover. And who makes to Benin, will experience that the country is very tourist friendly in terms of infrastructure, public transport and the development of responsible tourism!

Population
Benin’s populations consists of about 40 ethnic groups. About 40% belongs to the Fon, part of the Ewe, located mainly in South Benin. A few of the other ethnic groups are: Joruba, living in East and Central Benin, Adja, Bariba, Denji, Somba and Fulani in North Benin.

Geography
Benin is – just like several other West African countries – relatively flat, with little variation in altitudes.
The country can roughly be divided in four geographical areas from the South to the North, starting with the sea level coastal area. This area is swampy, with lots of lakes and lagoons, communicating with the ocean.
Following the coastal area is a an area with forests and savannah with immense baobabs. Traveling further North you’ll arrive in an area with rocky hills, the highest of them hardly ever reaching 400 meters.
The Atacora mountain range is located in the Northeast, the border area with Togo. It is home to Mount Sokbaro, Benin highests point with 658 meters.
The Northern border area is the area where you’ll find the national parks with decent populations of elephants and other species.

Climate
Benin’s South and North have different seasons.
South Benin’s rainy seasons are from April till mid July and from mid September till late October. In the North you can expect rainfall from June till early October.
While temperatures in the North can go as high as 45 degrees Celsius, the temperatures in the South are milder with 18 till 35 degrees Celsius. February till April is the hottest time of year in Benin. From December till March the harmattan winds can blow, carrying in the desert sands. The coolest and driest time of year is November till February, for those reasons often related to as the best travel season.
During the Northern rainy season unpaved roads (especially in the national parks) can be inaccessible due to rainfall.

Voodoo

Unknown unloved. Little is less true for the voodoo religion, also known as vodun. Benin is often mentioned as the birthplace of voodoo, a religion, in which the Creator, gods, goddesses, ancestors and spirits are being honoured. Rich in rituals and offer ceremonies, the religion, officially recognized in Benin, has voodoo monastries, voodoo kingdoms and even an official voodoo day. On January 10th believers gather for the annual festival with lots of rituals and (trance) dances.

Route des Pêches

The name of this sandy road, which literally translates as ‘Way of the Fishes’, is not totally unfounded. A trip on the Route des Pêches – from Cotonou to Ouidah in the West – takes you along a countless number of beaches and fishermen villages, away from the bustle of the city to the serenity of the coast. Lagoons, palm trees and huts dominate the landscape. Sunday afternoon is the moment for the Beninese to gather at the beach to exchange the latest rumours, to parade, to show the latest (hair) fashion and to drink a beer.

The route of slaves

With its route of slaves Ouidah honours the many Africans, that have embarked its harbour for an uncertain future abroad. The tree of forgetfulness, the point of no return, fetishes and monuments mark the four kilometers long sandy road that nowadays is the main road to the beach.

Elephants and more
The North of Benin is home to several National Parks, where the traveler can indulge in wildlife spotting. A range of wildlife species, such as elephants, lions, baboons and leopards, make that Benin’s National Parks belong to the best of West Africa.

Flights to Benin
KLM-Air France - via Paris, Royal Air Maroc – via Casablanca, Ethiopian Airlines via Parijs and Brussels Airlines – direct from Brussels, have flights to Cotonou. Ticket prices vary per airline and season.

Last but not least…
Traveling in Benin asks for an adventurous, open and flexible attitude. Comfort and sanitary facilities do not always meet western standards. Running water and electricity may not always be available. Unforeseen circumstances can lead to necessary alterations of the itinerary.

Take a look at the travel calendar for an overview of our small-scale theme-based group journeys. Or ask us for a tailor-made journey to Benin.

 

 

It’s surprising that Benin barely registers in people’s awareness when its role in history is so significant. But Benin will also wow visitors with its natural beauty.

 

Lonely Planet, 2009