Your browser does not support the HTML5 video element.
A diverse journey through Benin and Togo offering traditional ceremonies, remote villages, varied landscapes, elaborate costumes, and an insight into two countries rarely visited by tourists and where the arrival of strangers is a event. Two dedicated voodoo departure festivals are offered in January marking the start of Benin's vibrant festival season.
Explore Tour Leader
2 nights simple guesthouse
2 nights basic guesthouse
9 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Lome, the lively capital of Togo.
For those arriving on time our tour leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner.
There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Lome at any time. If you would like to receive a airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Lome Tokoim International Airport (LFW), which is about 15 minutes' drive from the airport. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you have free time on arrival then you may choose to walk through the bustling streets, relax or visit the Museum of the Arts 'Palais de Lome'. Dating back over 100 years, the building has been used as the French governors residence, the seat of Togolese presidency and also the residence of the Prime Minister before being abandoned. The 11 hectare park surrounding the palace is now home to a number of gardens and sculptures. We would suggest speaking to the hotel reception if you would like to visit so that they can assist with arranging a taxi.
Hotel Napoleon Lagune (or similar)
After breakfast and our welcome meeting, we will kick off our West African adventure with a guided tour of the capital city of Togo. Once an important landmark within West Africa's notorious slave trade, Togo was colonised in the 15th century and this can still be seen today in the faded European architecture and tree-lined boulevards. We'll visit the colourful market and Togo's famed fetish market where locals and voodoo priests alike can source anything from good luck charms to animal skulls to aid their pursuit of bringing themselves good fortune and health. The market can be extremely busy, on most departures we visit on a Sunday so its a little quieter. Time permitting we will also make a stop at one of Lome's craft markets and its imposing gothic cathedral building.
Bidding the capital farewell, we will drive north to Kpalime, Togo's fourth largest city which is surrounded by tropical forest. This area is Togo's biggest producer of artisanal items including pottery, weaved items and wood sculpture, and we'll visit the Centre of Artisans to see their work (if the day is running late we can visit the Centre of Artisans the following day).
Tonight we stay in a simple guesthouse thirty minutes from Kpalime. The guesthouse has en-suite bathrooms (cold water only) and fans but no air conditioning. It has a terrace with great views over the forest. Our friendly hosts generally offer a choice of two options for dinner, the food is locally sourced its often possible to drop into the kitchen to see what is being prepared. Drift off to sleep with the sounds of the forest around you.
Auberge JP Nectar (or similar)
Set off after breakfast for a guided hike through the countryside. Following well-marked tracks we will hike for around two hours guided by a butterfly expert. Along the trails we will learn about the important and delicate eco-system in the surrounding adjacent forest, where over 500 species of butterfly can be found. The walk is mainly flat terrain but will be humid and warm, so insect repellent and sun protection is recommended.
This afternoon we drive north to Sokode for approximately five hours. As we travel we get a good insight into the country's culture as we stop to visit local villages, experiencing the smells and sounds of the colourful markets; one such market is found at Atakpame, a cross roads town and our lunch stop. The settlement has a lively market where we can usually stumble on elaborate weaving demonstrations.
In the evening we witness a traditional Fire Dance. Dancing to the hypnotic beat of the drum, the dancers eventually leap into the glowing embers. They then pick up burning coals and pass them over their body and mouth without showing any pain or injury. Whether it is a matter of courage or magic, witnessing these rituals is a real privilege and a truly interesting experience.
Hotel La Mirell (or similar)
Today we travel towards Kara with stops along the way to meet the Bassar people. The Bassar live in traditional large clay houses with conical roofs and produce iron following an old traditional procedure. Strict rules have to be followed: only old women should provide the coal needed, which they collect from the mountains surrounding the villages. According to their belief, the iron would only melt under particular circumstances and if a strict code of conduct is observed.
Our tour leader will also see if it's possible to meet a traditional Chief who will talk to us about their role in the society and leading their village, it is traditional for the chief to welcome new guest to the village and give a blessing however it should be noted this is not a touristic activity and the chief may not be available on the day of our visit.
We'll arrive in Kara in the early evening. The hotel features a swimming pool and has a good restaurant, although there are also several dining options in Kara as well.
Hotel Kara (or similar)
This morning will be an early start to be begin our journey into Benin. The first part of our drive is through a mountainous region where the Kabye people reside. The Kabye are excellent blacksmiths who still work with traditional methods that have been lost in the Western world. After visiting the communities here, we reach the Atakora Mountains, a chain of mountains that starts in south east Ghana and cuts through Togo and Benin and have offered a refuge for the Tamberma people for generations. We'll join the track through this region, offering opportunities for us to see the fortified dwellings of the Tamberma; their clay castles are revered throughout Africa. With phallic shaped fetishes adorning the entrance to their houses and surrounding wall representing the spirits of their ancestors, these isolated homesteads could feasibly hold out in a siege situation and offer a great base from which to protect themselves against enemies.
We'll cross into Benin near Ketao in the early afternoon. Continuing to Djougou we drive North to Natitingou, from there we enter the Somba land, heading to Boukoumbe. The road condition varies, this is one of the most remote parts of the trip. We plan to stop at a Somba village and viewpoints to catch a great photo over the Benin landscape.
Our accommodation for the next two nights is basic, reflecting the remote environment we are visiting. The property has two floors, the rooms are very basic but do have air conditioning and mosquito nets. The owners are very friendly and all meals are produced by the hotel team.
Tata Koubetti (or similar)
An early start this morning, ahead of a day walking in this remarkable region, discovering some of the villages in the Atakora Mountains. We'll be walking for around two hours over undulating hills along visible trails with stops along the route. We will have the chance to meet the Somba people (this word means nude in the traditional language) whose traditions have not yet been changed by outsiders, due to their geographic isolation. Similar to the Tamberma architecture, the Somba architecture is characterised by dwellings that resemble a three storey castle. These beautiful fortifications are separated from the others depending on the ownership of fertile land.
Returning to our guesthouse to escape the heat of the day, there is the option to head out again in the afternoon for further walks accompanied by a fetish priest. Walking shoes and walking poles are recommended for today. The terrain can be rocky in places with some ascents and descents. With warm temperatures sun protection and insect repellent are essential.
This evening there is the opportunity to take part in an impromptu cooking experience, joining the kitchen in preparing tonight's dinner, all sourced from local produce.
We'll have a more relaxing morning today, setting off around 8.30 on the one hour drive to Natitingou. Arriving in time for lunch, our leader will give us some information about the town before a free afternoon.
There will be time to discover the town or relax by the pool in the hotel. The town hosts a market and an interesting museum about the people living in the Atakora Mountains. The museum is located in a French colonial house built in 1915. In comparison to the previous two nights our hotel this evening is more modern, built in the style of the Tamberma people, with a central terrace garden and swimming pool.
Hotel Tata Somba (or similar)
Today is a travelling day, with several stops en-route. Departing early, we drive to the village of Taneka Beri at the base of the Taneka Plateau, where we will start our walk to a fetish shrine. We'll be walking for two to three hours throughout the morning, ascending the plateau along a rocky track to discover the ancient villages of the Yom who reside here. The Yom People live in round huts covered with conical roofs and decorated with terracotta vases. The upper part of each village is inhabited by fetish priests, dressed in a goatskin and their young initiates.
In the afternoon we drive south for around five hours to Dassa where we'll spend the night.
Hotel Jeko (or similar)
We start our day exploring Dassa, which used to be the capital of an ancient kingdom in 1385, by visiting Sacred Hill where funerals for the royal family take place accompanied by Voodoo practices. The town is full of history, our tour leader will share the story of the infamous wooden horse which dates back from the middle ages and is still preserved to this day.
Drive three hours to the town of Abomey. After checking into our hotel, we head out for a guided tour of this ancient town. Whilst the Royal Palace is closed for the rest of 2023 due to renovations, there is still plenty to see. Abomey was the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to 19th centuries, well known for its skilled blacksmiths. During our tour we will ask permission to visit one of the traditional workshops to learn more about their skills and hear about the history of this once powerful capital. We will still be able to see the Royal Palaces of Abomey from the outside. Our base for the next two nights is a comfortable hotel in Abomey.
Bis Hotel (or similar)
This morning we are lucky enough to witness an Egun mask performance in nearby Cove. According to the local tradition, people perform the rituals not only to represent but also to embody the spirits of the ancestors. Dressed in bright, colourful costumes, they emerge from the forest and form a procession through the village streets. We'll have lunch in Cove.
This afternoon we also have the opportunity to visit a Gelede mask ceremony back in Abomey. A cult to the great divinity Oudua, the earth mother, Gelede is a cult, a secret society and a type of mask all at the same time. The brightly coloured masks represent the bridge between the society and the ordinary villagers and are comprised of a head with large eyes and sensual lips over which are an animated collection of characters and objects that tell stories, to the accompaniment of a choir and an excited audience.
This is a really special day as we encounter contrasting ceremonies, both very different and yet equally memorable, please note that the exact timings of the day may be amended and some flexibility is required, we may see the second mask ceremony on the morning of day 11.
Our departure time will depend on mask ceremony the day before. We spend this morning travelling by bus and boat to Ganvie, the largest stilt village in Africa. Settled by the Tofinou people, fleeing the slave traders of the 16th century, the village today is an atmospheric setting of thatched huts, balanced on stilts of teak, where daily life is still very much conducted on the waters of the lake.
Fishing is still the principal activity for the inhabitants and every day the men go about their business, whilst women deliver their goods to the floating market and children go to school and play from the backs of open pirogues. But even amidst this tranquil aquatic idyll voodoo plays its part; after a relaxing afternoon we'll meet a local Bokono oracle, a village soothsayer, this evening. We'll learn how these traditional people are guided through life by the drums and dancing of voodoos haunting rhythm.
Tonight we stay in a very basic stilt house which we get to by sailing accross the lake. Its the most basic accommodation of the trip, with no air conditioning and only limited running water; the experience provides a great insight into how the community of Ganvie live their daily lives.
Auberge Carrefour Ganvie Chez M (or similar)
We'll depart Ganvie after breakfast, and travel by boat and bus on to the town of Ouidah, considered to be the spiritual home of voodoo. Once an infamous part of the old slave route, Ouidah was the site of one of the largest trading posts, supplying slaves to Europe and its outlying colonies. The echoes and ghosts of those infamous days still reverberate today, in its Afro-Portuguese architecture.
We aim to spend some of our time here visiting the museum at the Old Portuguese Fort and taking a walk along the slave route to the beach, where the unfortunate victims were loaded aboard the slave ships. We will also visit the remarkable Python Temple, where Ouidah's ancient snake cult is still very much in evidence. Snakes are still an important feature of many voodoo rituals, believed to be able to imbue vitality and protection. We stay the night in Ouidah, in preparation for the voodoo festival the following day.
Hotel Djegba (or similar)
Arguably West Africa's most colourful and vibrant celebration, on the 10th January each year hundreds of people including Chiefs and fetish Priests travel to Ouidah to be part of the dozens of ceremonies taking place during this national day of celebration; the Benin Voodoo Festival.
Most of the festivities take place in the morning, we will be able to watch an lively long procession of people, motorbikes and traditional 'taxi-brousse' making their way down to the Door of No Return, a memorial arch commemorating those enslaved Africans who left from Ouidah's shoreline. The many Beninese are joined by voodoo worshipers from around the world commonly including Haiti, New Orleans and Brazil, many wearing jaw-dropping traditional costumes and dress. The festival reaches its peak with the arrival of the Dagbo Houno, the chief Voodoo priest, who can be seen to slaughter a goat in honour of the spirits, a sacrifice that is followed by masked dancing, singing, speeches and the continuous beat of the drums. After the formal ceremony comes to an end the crowds disperse and more informal celebrations continue in courtyard and streets where the local inhabitants sell food and drinks.
We will aim to spend as much time in Ouidah as possible, aiming to leave by 5pm to cross the border back into Togo, staying at Agbodrafo, a small fishing town on the Gulf of Guinea; due to the timings of this day we will arrive at our guesthouse late.
Auberge du Lac (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Agbodrafo.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Lome at any time. If your flight is departing early in the morning, breakfast will be served very early. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. There may be the option to pay for a day room at €35, which is subject to availability at the hotel.
If you would like to receive a complimentary transfer today, you need to depart from Lome Tokoim International Airport (LFW), which is about 1 hours drive from the airport.
The climates in Togo and Benin are mostly tropical with two main rainy seasons in the central and southern regions - May to June and September to November. This should not adversely affect the trip as the tour operates outside the main seasons. Average temperatures range from the mid to high 20s Centigrade, with little change at night. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
2 Pin Round
Christian, Roman Catholic, Celestial Church of Christ, Methodist,
The climates in Togo are mostly tropical with two main rainy seasons in the central and southern regions - May to June and September to November. This should not adversely affect the trip as the tour operates outside the main seasons. Average temperatures range from the mid to high 20s Centigrade, with little change at night.
The majority of the Togolese Republic have indigenous beliefs.
Clothing should be lightweight but a warm jumper is also advisable, as nights can be cool. Don't forget your swim gear. Although we strongly advise against swimming in the ocean, some of the hotels have a swimming pool. A scarf is also recommended as protection against dust whilst driving in the drier areas. Please note: Some areas we travel through have strong Muslim influences and people may be offended by shorts or revealing dresses, which can attract unwelcome attention. Therefore you should dress with respect for local sensibilities. Women should also cover their heads when entering a sanctuary, though in general, mosques are forbidden to non-Muslim.
Lightweight walking/hiking boots with good ankle support, plus trainers or sandals for relaxing and travelling in.
Take a tough soft bag or holdall (or rucksack with detachable frame) suitable to be carried by 4WD vehicle. Total allowance: 33lbs/ 15kg maximum (due to weight restrictions on our vehicle). Also take a day sack for items needed during any walks (20- 30 litre). The limit does not include your camera equipment.
Bring as a minimum a sleeping sheet or lightweight sleeping bag. The Stilted village and simple huts provide mosquito nets (additional tents if required at the simple huts have sewn-in mosquito screens) so nets are not required. A torch, sunhat, sun cream and insect repellent are essential. Binoculars are useful for bird watching. Foam sleeping mats and eating utensils are provided. You may consider bringing swimwear for the occasional hotel pool. Water in both Benin and Togo is not safe to drink so we reccommend taking a filter bottle, such as a Water-to-Go bottle which can filter tap water anywhere in the world - https://www.watertogo.eu/explore
Togo and Benin's tourism infrastructure is far less developed than other areas of the world. Hot water and electricity are unreliable. Standards of service can vary greatly and waiting times for simple requests can be lengthy but staff are often welcoming and friendly. During the trip, accommodation varies in style and quality. Electricity is sometimes only available between set hours and can be temperamental, and hot water can also be unreliable. Wifi is not common. As well as comfortable hotels, the trip features stays in simple huts and traditional auberge style accommodation which are small local inns. The properties have been chosen for their location, authenticity and in some cases because they are the only option in the more rural areas. Hot water and air-conditioning will not be available, and bathroom facilities are often basic and may be shared. The choice of accommodation is limited in this part of Africa but in most cases their off-the-beaten-path locations allow for human interaction with the communities and self-exploration.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Benin: A single entry visa is required by UK citizens and must be obtained prior to departure by applying via the e-visa website: https://evisa.gouv.bj/en. You will need to print a copy of your e-visa approval letter and present this with your passport and final documents at the border crossing. The approval letter can take 48 hours to approve if there are no queries on the application. We therefore advise for you to apply at least 7 workings days prior to travelling. UK passports must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of exit from Benin. Please note the closest Benin Embassy for UK residents is Paris, contactable on +33 145 009882 or +33 142 223191 Togo: A multiple entry visa is required by UK, New Zealand, Australian, US and Canadian citizens and must be obtained prior to departure, from your embassy of residence or online at https://voyage.gouv.tg Your letter of invitation is included as part of your Visa Information Pack. Your passport should be valid for six months from the date you arrive. In addition since June 2022 all travellers landing at Eyadema International Airport (Lome) are required to complete a health declaration form online at https://voyage.gouv.tg Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Although rarely checked, a Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate is a compulsory requirement for entry into Togo and Benin. We recommend protection against malaria, hepatitis A, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid and polio. You may also want to take immunisation against meningococcal meningitis and cholera. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Take all your vaccination certificates with you as they may be requested on entry to any of the countries visited. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Although rarely checked, a Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate is a compulsory requirement for entry into Togo and Benin. We recommend protection against malaria, hepatitis A, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid and polio. You may also want to take immunisation against meningococcal meningitis. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Take all your vaccination certificates with you as they may be requested on entry to any of the countries visited. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.