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GHANA TOGO BENIN TRAVEL ITINERARY
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WEST AFRICA TRAVEL GUIDE: ABOUT GHANA, TOGO AND BENIN
WHY GO TO WEST AFRICA? WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE IN GHANA, TOGO AND BENIN?
A trip to West Africa, and in particular to Ghana, Togo and Benin, offers the opportunity to get in touch with remote ethnic populations and minorities, learning more about their culture and ancestral traditions. A trip to Ghana, Togo and Benin is therefore recommended to who is looking for ethnic-cultural tours, although occasionally, especially in Ghana, it is also possible to travel among luxuriant nature and beautiful landscapes. Since the population of West Africa is still particularly linked to traditions, there are a number of festivals and ceremonies of various kinds throughout the year, for which it would be worthwhile to plan the departure date and the itinerary to meet such events, which often see spectacular masked dances in colorful costumes and mysterious voodoo rituals. Visitors traveling to West Africa will also have many opportunities to visit remote villages showing an interesting and unique architecture where farmers and craftsmen still work with traditional methods, while museums and places of historical interest tell more about sad chapter of the slave trade. But let's see in more detail what are the main attractions in Ghana, Togo and Benin:
IS WEST AFRICA SUITABLE FOR INDEPENDENT TRAVEL OR IS IT BEST TO GO WITH A TOUR OPERATOR?
We advise against independent travel in West Africa and Ghana, Togo and Benin is not an exception. This is because without a professional guide who well know where to go and how to get permits to visit remote villages and communities, visitors will not see and will not learn anything. It is also very important to know the calendar for festivals and other events, which typically change every year, reason for which visitors should seek the advice of an expert guide even for just deciding the departure date and the itinerary to follow. If you are looking for a local tour operator in West Africa, specialized in Ghana, Togo, Benin and other countries, we suggest Afrikavera company.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO GHANA, TOGO AND BENIN?
As we have already said, a trip to Ghana, Togo and Benin, is generally done to learn more about the people and the ethnic minorities, trying to understand more about their culture and their traditions. As there aren't locations particularly important for the nature and for the landscape (except for a couple of spots in Ghana), having the sky always clear is not a decisive aspect for the success of the expedition. However, as lot of time will spend outdoors, visitors will want to avoid the worst rainy season, not underestimating also the possible closure of some roads as a result of flooding. In consideration of these aspects, the best season to visit Ghana, Togo and Benin corresponds to the drier period from late October to early April, when there is much less rain, although from December to February the Harmattan wind brings sand from Sahara desert, limiting the visibility and producing a gray sky (but still with very little or no rain). The wettest period runs from late April to late July, while August is known to be the "short dry season" before some rains resume in September lasting some weeks. The maximum and minimum temperature is for the whole year above respectively 30 and 20 degrees Celsius, with particularly high humidity along the coastal areas even during the dry season. In any case, don't forget that the best time to go to West Africa is actually when there are more festivals and ceremonies among the various communities, with a calendar that changes from year to year (you will have to check for best departure date with the local tour operator, based on what you like to see more).
MORE WEST AFRICA TRAVEL TIPS - WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO BENIN, TOGO AND GHANA
The travel tips below apply for Togo, Ghana and Benin, but are also valid for most West Africa countries
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PICTURES OF GHANA TOGO AND BENIN | TRAVELOGUE AND DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
|<<-- GO Accra is a large African metropolis that has experienced exponential growth in recent decades. Starting or end point for many tours in West Africa, the city offers an interesting mix of modernity and traditions, with craftsmen and traders busy in their everyday life.|
|<<-- GO Elmina, not far from Accra, is home to an ancient castle from colonial times, which in recent history has been known for the sad chapter on the slave trade, while Kakum National Park was established to protect a forest with huge secular trees, which can be seen from the top thanks to one of the longest suspended rope bridges in the world.|
|<<-- GO Capital of the Ashanti kingdom, Kumasi, in the heart of central Ghana, offers a glimpse into the culture of this interesting people, among large open-air markets, luxury royal palaces, festivals and funeral ceremonies rather unusual for visitors coming from western countries.|
|<<-- GO The Akwasidae festival takes place at the beginning of each Ashanti month, which lasts approximately 6 weeks, to honor their ancestors and the king. The Akwasidae ceremony which took place on December 3rd, 2017 (the day of my visit) was combined with the commemoration of the queen passed away a year before and was a very special event.|
|<<-- GO Excursion in the sacred forest populated by Mona and Colobus monkeys, venerated by the local population as they believe the monkeys are a reincarnation of their ancestors. The trip continues along the dusty roads in central Ghana, finally crossing the Volta river aboard a barge.|
|<<-- GO The Dagomba and Konkoba people are known for the particular architecture of their villages, made of round-shaped clay houses if they are inhabited by a woman. We will visit a village where women accused of being witches are forced into an exile for life, to avoid being killed.|
|<<-- GO Sokode is a city in Togo known for the particular confidence that some people have with fire. Will it be magic or resistance to pain? The fact is that the fire is handled, rubbed on the body and even put in the mouth with an incredible naturalness, a tradition that comes from the need to be able to provide assistance during fires, in a place where there are no firefighters and very little water.|
|<<-- GO Because of the isolation, the Kabye people of northern Togo had to organize themselves to be totally self-sufficient, so, in small villages made of clay houses, it is not uncommon to find craftsmen producing iron tools, pottery, beer and anything else necessary for the community.|
|<<-- GO The fortified houses were built during the slave trade, to hide and defend people from soldiers looking for men and women to be captured and sold on behalf of powerful royal families who reigned in West Africa. A fortified house looks like a miniature castle and functioned as an hut, a warehouse, and a fortress.|
|<<-- GO Similarly to Togo, also in Benin there are clay castles, real miniature fortresses used as homes and warehouses. However, the Somba people of Benin who still live in these structures, are particularly known for the scarification of several parts of the body, an initiatory practice that allows them to show courage, as well as the tribe to which they belong.|
|<<-- GO The remote villages of Taneka, in northern Benin, are an opportunity to discover more about the culture and traditions of this interesting people, composed of a mix of ethnic groups living peacefully together and recognizable on the basis of body scarification.|
|<<-- GO In Dassa visitors cannot miss the Hill of the Princes with its voodoo altars, a place where the funeral of the members of the royal families are carried out. With a little luck, or by programming the trip accordingly to precise dates, tourists can come across the Egun masks, spirits of dead people who have returned to Earth to solve the problems of the community.|
|<<-- GO The Gelede mask festival in Benin celebrates the spirits of Mother Earth and wish good fertility of fields and people. The ceremony takes place in a riot of sounds and colors, with costumes that cover completely who wear them.|
|<<-- GO Ganvie is one of the largest and most populous cities on stilts in the world, where life takes place entirely on the water and where people moves around only by boat. Not far away, Ouidah is the world capital of the voodoo religion, but also offers a sad glimpse on the slave trade of past times.|
|<<-- GO How does a voodoo ritual take place? This is what we will try to understand by visiting a remote village in Benin, attending a voodoo ceremony combined with a funeral. The sacrifice of a chicken, the preparation of the offer to the divinity, the dances and the subsequent rituals, trying to understand more about these mysterious ceremonies.|
|<<-- GO In a village of Togo not far from the capital Lome, but not marked on maps, we will witness a voodoo ritual where people fall into trance possessed by spirits. We will also meet the village healer who bases his therapies on the care of the spirit first, making amulets and fetishes consecrated through specific voodoo rituals.|
|<<-- GO Lome, the populous capital of Togo, offers a mix of tradition and modernity, where the recent Independence Square contrasts with the fetish market where the faithful can purchase all that is needed to prepare voodoo rituals and to make amulets.|
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