Bénin: tourism profile of a unique west African country

Bénin, a former French Colony in the Central West of Africa lies east of Togo, west of Nigeria and south of Burkina Faso and Niger. It is one of the smallest countries in West Africa, and is a place of unusual beauty. This destination is home to rich natural and cultural heritages, interesting architecture and UNESCO World Heritage historic sites in its capital city Porto Novo. Bénin is easily accessible by air with flights to the city of Cotonou departing from Belgium, France, and a number of African countries.

Markets

Bénin has markets which can be found all over its various towns. For example the Marché Dantokpa street market, in Cotonou, sells traditional items to fetish/voodoo ornaments and handicrafts.
Ganvié, another makeshift market is Africa’s largest lake village. It is in actual fact a fishing village with wood and thatched houses built on stilts over a lake. Visitors use pirogues (small wooden boats) as transport over the lake. At Ganvié, women sell their goods from their boats.

Nature and Wildlife

Bénin’s landscape that is mostly flat with hills and low mountains. There are rivers for fishing, terrain for trekking, and in the north, Bénin has some of the best wildlife areas in West Africa - The Pendjari National Park, one of our partners, is home to leopards, elephants, lions, hippopotamuses, buffalos, antelopes, monkeys and hundreds of bird species.

National Parks and Reserves
The Pendjari National Park is known for its varied wildlife is a hotspot for birdwatchers. The W National Park also offers a good experience. This park is located in the far north of the country and stretches into Bénin’s next door neighbours, Niger and Burkina Faso.


Beaches and Islands

Bénin has a selection of palm-fringed beaches, lakes and lagoons waiting to be explored. Also located in Cotonou is Fidjrosse Beach which is known for being a hub for water sports enthusiasts. Also located in the Southwest of the country is the beach resort of Grand Popo.

Historical and Heritage Sites
Porto Novo, the capital city of Bénin lies between Cotonou, its largest city and Nigeria. It includes a variety of museums, historical attractions and local markets.


Another interesting place to visit is Ouidah, known for the practice of Voodoo, Bénin’s traditional religion. In addition to the history of the religion, Ouidah also offers an insight into the history of the slave trade.

In terms of museums, the Abomey Historical Museum houses the palaces of the ancient Kings of Bénin including King Guézo and King Glèlè. The abundance of ruins and temples in the area are a testimony of the presence of a previously spectacular Empire. The Porto-Novo Musée Honme (Palais Royal), located in the capital, is a castle that was once the former home of King Toffa. Not far from the castle is the Da Silva Museum. This museum displays the history of the Dahomey kingdom to its current democracy.

Also present in Porto Novo is the Ethnographique Museum, which is Porto Novo’s first museum. It currently holds a collection of historical artefacts.


The Door of No Return (Slave Trade Memorial), located in Ouidah is another important historical sight. Slaves were said to circle a sacred tree three times which was believed to help in the process of them forgetting about their past.


There are many more unique and exciting things waiting for you to discover in Bénin. For more information, visit the Bénin Tourism website.


Visit the West Africa Discovery website to see our selection of Responsible Tourism trips based in West Africa.


By Iyaniwura Adewunmi

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