The Republic of Benin and When to visit

The Republic of Benin, a French-speaking West African nation, is a birthplace of the vodun (or “voodoo”) religion and home to the former Dahomey Kingdom from circa 1600–1900. In Abomey, Dahomey's former capital, the Historical Museum occupies two royal palaces with bas-reliefs recounting the kingdom’s past and a throne mounted on human skulls. To the north, Pendjari National Park offers safaris with elephants, hippos and lions.

Cotonou City in Benin

Cotonou is a large port city on the south coast of Benin, in West Africa. At the eastern end of central Boulevard St. Michel is the huge Dantokpa Market, which features religious items and spices alongside everyday objects. To the southwest, the 19th-century Cotonou Cathedral has a striking red-and-white striped facade. Nearby, in the Haie Vive district, the Fondation Zinsou museum shows contemporary African art.

The city is divided by the Lagune de Cotonou canal, crossed in the south by the 1920s bridge, the Ancien Pont. In the west, the Stade de l'Amitie is a stadium that hosts major music and sporting events. Along the coast to the west, the Routes des Pêches road runs adjacent to a long sandy beach, lined with palm trees and small villages. To the north of the city is Lake Nokoué, with the large fishing village of Ganvié on its northern shore. The village, home to local Tofinu people, is renowned for the bamboo stilt houses built out above the water, and its floating market.

When to visit Cotonou City

Cotonou is a year-round destination, with a hot and humid tropical climate. There are two rainy seasons, May–Jul and Sep–Oct. The Vodoun Festival (Jan) is a national religious celebration that involves voodoo ceremonies, singing and dancing. The Cotonou Couleurs jazz festival (Nov/Dec) brings together many international musicians.

Ouidah City in Benin

Ouidah is a city in southern Benin, in West Africa. It’s known for its role in the 17th- to 19th-century Atlantic slave trade. The Slave Route, a track down which slaves were taken to the ships, is lined with monuments and leads to the Door of No Return, an memorial arch on the waterfront. The Ouidah Museum of History, based in an 18th-century Portuguese fort, chronicles the city’s slave-trading past.

Ouidah is also known as a center for voodoo. The Temple of Pythons is dedicated to the serpent deity Dangbé and has a room containing snakes. Opposite the temple is the 20th-century Roman Catholic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. West is the Maison de Brésil, the former residence of the Brazilian governor, which now showcases African art and has exhibits on voodoo culture. In the east, the Sacred Forest of Kpassé is a small woodland with sculptures and woodcarvings representing voodoo deities.

When to visit Ouidah City

Ouidah has a generally hot and humid climate. A popular time to visit is during the dry season (Nov–Mar), though the temperatures are hot. There are 2 rainy seasons: May–Jul and Sep–Oct. Voodoo Day (Jan) is a national religious celebration that involves voodoo ceremonies, singing and dancing.

3. Porto-Novo Capital of Benin

Porto-Novo is a port city and the capital of Benin, in West Africa. It’s known for colonial buildings like the Brazilian-style Great Mosque, formerly a church. The Ethnographic Museum displays ceremonial masks, musical instruments and costumes. The Musée da Silva recounts Benin’s history and celebrates Afro-Brazilian culture. Just east, the Honmé Museum was King Toffa’s 19th-century royal palace.

Nearby, Jardin Place Jean Bayol is a large plaza with a statue of the first king of Porto-Novo. In the north, Centre Songhai is a non-profit research and training center offering workshops on sustainable farming and waste management. Northeast of Porto-Novo, the village of Adjara is known for its large handicraft market selling pottery, cloth, voodoo ornaments and musical instruments. Boat trips are possible from Porto-Novo Lagoon, of the city.

When to visit Porto-Novo

The weather in Porto-Novo is hot year-round. The dry season (Nov–Mar) sees the highest temperatures. The peak times for visiting are Jul–Sep, when it's slightly cooler, and during the driest months (Dec–Jan). There are 2 rainy seasons (May–Jul and Sep–Oct).

4. Ganvie Village in Benin

Ganvie is a lake village in Benin, Africa, lying in Lake Nokoué, near Cotonou. With a population of around 20,000 people, it is probably the largest lake village in Africa and is very popular with tourists. The village was created in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries by the Tofinu people who took to the lake to avoid Fon warriors who were capturing slaves for sale to European traders.

Making the shallow waters and islands of Lake Nokoue a haven, the Ganvie villagers are often referred to as "water men" and the area itself is often called the "Venice of Africa." Originally based on farming, the village's main industries other than tourism are now fishing and fish farming. The only means of transportation to and from the village is through wooden boats.