Benin is found in West Africa, and it shares its national borders with Nigeria to the east; Niger and Burkina Faso to the north and Togo to the west and then the Atlantic in the south. If you are taking a holiday in West Africa, make it a point to visit Benin as the country offers so much to see and do. Below we have highlighted some of the top 15 things to do and see in Benin during your visit
Enjoy a dive at Kota waterfall
The Kota is a 20 meter or 65 feet high waterfall that is located in an isolated area and offers a private and relaxed pool where you can enjoy a refreshing dip. it’s seren ambience offers a wonderful setting to enjoy an afternoon picnic. for those who wish to spend a couple of nights in this romantic environment there is accommodation where you can book you overnight stay.
Visit Ganvie the ‘Venice of Africa’
Ganvie is the largest city in Africa that was constructed entirely on water and it is found on Lake Nokoue’s northern shore. Also referred to as a floating city by many travel bloggers Ganvie was established several centuries ago between the 16th century and 17th century as a safe home for the local delfino people to protect them from the local slave traders. It is one of the best places to visit in Benin to learn about the historical, touristic and cultural wealth of Benin.
Take a wildlife safari
Benin has two main national parks and these are Pendjari National Park and w National Park which is listed as one of the UNESCO wildlife sanctuaries. W National Park is mainly visited for its rich diversity of bird life although it is also home to various wild animals including a large number of elephants. Pendjari National Park on the other hand is the best place to see various animals such as crocodiles, cheetahs and hippos. There are guided wildlife tours conducted in both of these national parks.
Explorer the slave trade route in Ouidah
Ouidah was a main hub for slave trade and slaves wear lead in queues all the way from Portuguese Fort which is currently a museum and they followed the route that covers a distance of about four kilometers or two and a half miles all the way to the ships that would take them to the other side of the Atlantic. Currently this trail is lined with various memorials including a ‘tree of forgetfulness’ and at the end of this route is a memorial arch dabbed as the door of no return.
Explore the vibrant streets of Cotonou
Cotonou is the largest as well as the most significant City in Benin and it is located between Lake Nokoue and the Atlantic Ocean. The Dantokpa market which is the largest open- air market in the whole of West Africa is found here. It covers nearly 20 hectares with different vendors trading in nearly everything ranging from fresh fruit to basic toothbrushes. You can also visit the Foundation Zinsou where modern art is well promoted and is a good place to buy a souvenir.
Visit the eponymous Abomey Museum
Within Abomey one of the dusty cities in Benin is this historical museum where you will get a chance to learn about the history of the once great Abomey kingdom whose throne has a human skull. You will also visit the Royal palaces, the central artisanal to see the local wares as well as visit the fetish temple.
Learn about the Somba culture
Found Dean in the northwestern part of Benin is the Natitigou regional Museum which offers a very fascinating impression of the lifestyle of the Somba communities who mainly lived in the northeastern part of this country. The museum is housed in a beautiful colonial structure that was formerly used by the local government, and the various exhibits here relate to the art, archaeology and history of the Somba people. Unique about the museum is that you will also find exhibits of the ancient traditional homes of the samba
Explorer Porto Novo
Most holidaymakers visiting Benin arrive through Porto Novo which is the country’s laid-back capital city and home to several colonial as well as pre-colonial architecture including a huge mosque constructed in the Brazilian architectural style. Some of the other attractions found in this capital city include the port Nova Museum ethnography the electric musee da silva when Benin’s history is well exhibited and also a visit to King tafas Palace to discover the secrets of Benin’s local royalty.
Go Surfing Safari in Benin
Although most Benin is inland, adventurous holidaymakers can head south to the coastal areas were you will find idyllic getaways here surfers will surely enjoy a very memorable experience. The road trip to the southern coast in is an adventure in itself so during your holiday in Benin, a surfing tour is worth planning.
Hike the Atakora Mountain Ranges
Hike up the 658 meter high Atakora Mountain ranges and enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding country side. These vast mountain ranges extend across two different countries along the northwestern national border of Benin and Togo. Hikers can enjoy a thrilling adventure as make their way to the top.
Bird watching in Benin
Benini has a bird list of about 568 different species and it offers a very remarkable bird watching experience not only for advanced birders, or enthusiastic but also for beginners and nature lovers. These include owls, rollers, more than fifty raptor species, hornbills, bee eaters, the kingfishers, barbets, African skimmers, the standard nightjar, Baumann’s Greenbul and about 18 different sunbirds among many others.
Visit the Stilt Villages
Benin as a country is also known for its houses that are built in lagoons as well as lakes. When you visit the country during the dry season which is from December to April, you will be able to see some of the huge fishing villages where the people who work do not have to commune to their workplaces or but rather catch the nearest boat to their next destination. During the rainy / wet season, most of the Stilt villages are submerged under the high levels of rain waters.
Visit the Temple of Pythons
Located within Ouidah, the Temple of Pythons is a site of modern symbolism as well as rich history and receives a large number of people who also go for spiritual practice. The small temple is home to fifty (50) adult royal pythons, and this ‘sacred’ shrine was established under the inspiration of the legends of King-Kpasse. Visitors can take photos with these pythons during their visit.
Go Souvenir Shopping at Grand Marché Azeke
Located in Parakou, the Grand Marché Azeke is a large international market that covers an en tire block where several venders have numerous stalls that extend onto the streets. you will get an opportunity to put your negotiating and bargaining skills to test as you buy some souvenirs to take back home.
Visit the Villa Karo
Located within Grand Popo, the Villa Karo is a cultural centre as well as a residence for artists and it is a Finish-African project whose primary aim is to increase better understanding of the various cultures. there are various events conducted here among which are art exhibitions, concerts and film screening which events involve the nearby local communities that greatly depend of its humble fishing sector.
Frequently asked Questions on Benin
Do I need a Visa to go to Benin?
Whether you need or not a Visa on your entry into Benin will depend on the citizenship of our passport. Visas can be received at the different points of entry into the country such as at the airport r border crossings. You should ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum of six (6) months from your intended date of departure from Benin.
Do in need travel insurance while visiting Benin?
Similar to any other safari destination, all travelers visiting Benin are advised to obtain a good insurance package that not only covers your medical needs but also covers loss and theft of your personal items. if possible opt for one that also covers the various outdoor activities that you will be engaging in such as hiking and surfing.
Is Benin a Safe country to visit?
Generally Benin is regarded as a peaceful country with very welcoming people. However, instances of petty theft cannot be overlooked especially when in the major cities like the capita. For that reason, holidaymakers are advised to be cautious of their personal property especially wallet, phones, laptops when moving in these busy centers. It’s recommended to leave your valuable personal belongings well locked up in your hotel room when going on city tours.
What is the local currency for Benin?
The CFA (Communaute Finaanciere Africaine), Franc (XOF) is the local currency used in Benin and comes in notes and coins. The coins are in the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 and 500. The notes come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000.
Are Credit cards accepted in Benin?
Cards like the Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club are all accepted in Benin though minimally used. Major hotels, airports and ATMs accept these cards. Exchange of currency can be done at banks and in major hotels.
Are there currency restrictions when entering or exiting Benin?
The importation of local currency into Benin is unlimited though it should be declared. Residents of EU as well as those of other nationalities (who must declare the currency) have unlimited restrictions for export of local currency.
Do I need vaccination when visiting Benin?
There are a number of vaccines that are recommended for persons visits Benin as highlighted below. All travelers visiting the country of one year of age and over are required to present a yellow fever vaccination certificate as proof of receiving the vaccine shot. High risk areas for yellow fever in Benin are mainly the rural areas. Typhoid, Tetanus, Malaria, Diptheria and Hepatitis A are also recommended for vaccinations. In case you are going to be in direct contact with animals on your Safari in Benin, you are advised to take a Rabbies shot as well.
Is it safe to swim in the natural water sources?
Bilharzia is present in Benin, for that reason you are advised against swimming in fresh or natural water sources.
Is tap water safe to drink?
No, tap water should generally be regarded as unsafe for consumption and for that reason, ensure that the water you drink, use to make ice cubes or even for brushing is well boiled or sterilized. Ensure that you only consume bottled drinking water whose seal should be intact at the time of being served.
What is the main Festival in Benin?
The greatest event celebrated in Benin is the Vodoun Festival which takes place every 10th of January each year and celebrations are held in Ouidah. This is the best way to understand the practices of the Vodoun religion which is misunderstood by many people. The participants dress up as the voodoo gods in colorful spinning costumes with masks and dance to the sounding drum beats. Chicken and goats are sacrificed.
What is the best time to visit Benin?
Most tourists that visit Benin mainly explore the southern part of the country which experiences an equatorial tropical climate. The rains normally begin in the month of April to en of the month of October, and there is a short dry season that comes in July and August. Due to the high humidity experienced in this part of the country this implies that even the wetter months from June to September remain warm.
the northern part on the country on the other hand which experiences a desert-like climate has extreme temperatures and from November to June it is extremely hot while from Mid-June to October the area is wet with rain and experiencing cooler temperatures.
Therefore the best and most recommended time to visit Benin is during the dry season from the month of November to February. This will also you enable you see the great Vodoun Festival in January.
Why take a Tour in Benin?
Even though the Angélique Kidjo Benin’s musical ambassador is the topic of something nearing hero worship within this tiny West African country, to discover the wonderful music scene of the country is simply to provide simple facts of its diverse culture. Noticeable by impacts from America, Europe as well as other parts of Africa, together with indigenous voodoo practices, the country is not like any other vacation spot on the planet. In fact, although visitors usually arrive for the northern parts with plenty of wildlife, such as lions, elephants and cheetahs, plus over 500 bird species, they usually leave contentedly mesmerized by the country’s unspoiled beaches, amazing native traditions, as well as the excitement and mayhem of the major city – Cotonou.
What to see on a Tour in Benin?
Go to the museum found in Abomey, located approximately 100 kilometers / 60 miles northeast of Porto Novo the capital. This museum covers the great history of Abomey kingdoms and possesses a throne crafted from human skulls. Additionally you can visit the Fetish Temple as well as the close by Centre Artisanal in which local craft items are sold at good prices.
An additional market well worth visiting is the market found at Boukombe that opens weekly in the northwestern part of the country, in which tourists can purchase the items made by the people of Somba that stay in that area.
In Cotonou, visit the market – Dan Tokpa, that is usually open each four days in a week. The museum here are also worth visiting.
Ganvie a lake village found 18km / 11miles northwest of Cotonou, features houses constructed on stilts plus a water-market.
Ouidah town is noteworthy for its ancient Portuguese fort as well as the Temple of the Sacred Python.
Porto Novo which is the capital as well as the administrative hub of Benin, offers amazing examples of the ancient colonial plus pre-colonial architecture plus art. The Ethnological Museum is perhaps the most well known place of interest worth visiting.
Sail on the Yacht Club found in Cotonou, or perhaps hire a canoe or a motorboat on the Nakoue Lagoon.
Watersports in Benin
Despite the fact that facilities for water-sports along the coast are minimal, there are nice beaches at Ouidah as well as Grand Popo however visitors must remember that the tides plus currents can make the sea extremely dangerous and just the best swimmers ought to venture into particular certain places.
View a wide variety of wildlife such as crocodiles, cheetahs and hippos in the two national parks of Benin. Pendjari is generally open from December to June, and Accommodation is also available. The ‘W’ National Park covers the frontier area between Niger, Burkina Faso plus Benin and it is less developed.
Which Tour Company or Tour Operator?
Benin is regarded among the nice tourist holiday destinations within Africa and for lomng has received countless guests traveling from different countries. The great news is that Benin has plenty of tour operators and companies who organize nice tours to a number of tourist sites in the different areas of the country. One can actually contact them and they assists you organize your tour in Benin.
Where to Stay On a Benin Tour?
When planning a holiday, one of the important things you should think about importantly is where you will stay. Fortunately, Benin offers a wide range of accommodation that are categorized from the luxurious 5 star expensive hotels that offer top notch services, good food and top quality facilities, the mid-range facilities ideal for an average travel and then the basic budget facilities that also offer standard services and amenities.
When to Go on a Tour in Benin?
It is advisable to visit in the dry seasons, which starts in the month of December up to February and also from July up to September, when the temperatures are much higher and for overland travel it’s usually less difficult. Benin’s Weather is mainly temperate and enjoyable in the months of August and September. Traveling in mid-January will enable you to see the Voodoo Festival. A number of tourist facilities, especially found in the south, shut down throughout the rainy season.
Are Benin’s people Friendly?
The people of Benin are extremely warm and welcoming and the state language of Benin is French. But, several ethnic groups possess their very unique languages: Bariba plus Fulani are used in the northern area whereas; Fon plus Yoruba are used in the south. Also some English is spoken.
Standard courtesies are treasured; it is traditional to shake hands on meeting or when parting ways. But, religious beliefs play a big role in society which must be respected. Voodoo is probably the most stunning and most popular practice, and has obtained significant social plus political power. Just the priests can contact voodoos and the spirits of the deceased. In the event that you are travelling, it is recommended to clear itineraries having district or even provincial authorities. In the majority of places, Casual wear is appropriate.
What is the Weather like in Benin?
Benin is situated close to the equator. Its geographical position allows Benin to enjoy a tropical climate. The average temperatures vary around 27° Centigrade.
Benin weather is described as being humid and hot. There’s a noticeable alteration in the climate experienced in Benin in various areas of the country. Benin’s southern area experiences very hot weather in some months of the year. There is a long dry season that starts in December to the March. the southern part of Benin experiences a dry wind throughout these months. The temperatures range from 22° C to 35° C.
The rainy season in Benin commences in March. It goes on until July. Then the dry season takes place in the months of July, August and September. Within the northern area of Benin the weather consists of just one single rainy season. Temperatures may rise to a maximum of 40° C throughout the summer months. The maximum volume of rainfall happens in the central area of Benin. Vacationers to Benin are encouraged to put on lightweight cottons. in addition Linen trousers are suitable. i recommend that during the rainy months you should carry an umbrella or raincoat when visiting the countries in Western Africa.