Not everyone heard of Benin, a country in West Africa bordered by well-known Nigeria and the less-traveled Togo, Burkina Faso, and Niger. This strip of land is a place of wonder, and those who dared to check it out went home in awe.
Benin has more than 70 miles of beaches, and the Niger River passes through some parts of the country, making it a place of sun and sand. Its natural features include lagoons, lakes, plateaus, marshlands, flatlands, and Mont Sokbaro, the nation’s highest point. Aside from its natural spots, Benin is also home to equally stunning man-made attractions that make the country beyond beautiful.
The capital Porto-Novo is a charming place known for its rich culture. It is one of the country’s oldest cities, and many buildings share stories of its colonial past.
The city is proud of and protects its artisans, that’s why there are more than 40 guilds in town. Aside from visiting cultural spots, tourists should also drop by other points of interest like religious sites; the Royal Palace Musée Honmé, which features ancient Benin; the ethnographic museum; the bustling market of Grand Marché; and an Afro-Brazilian museum.
Porto-Novo never gets old.
9 W National Park
W National Park is shaped like a W, hence its name. This destination by the Niger River straddles Benin, Niger, and Burkina Faso. As such, it’s a major West African landmark where rocky hills work with the river to deliver satisfying moments with Mother Nature.
Botanists will love recording the over 450 plants species in the park, while wildlife watchers will have the best day of their life as they observe elephants, hyenas, leopards, buffalo, lions, hippopotamuses, cheetahs, monkeys, birds, and many more. W might as well mean wow.
Abomey is another popular tourist city in Benin, thanks to its rich culture and heritage. It is known for its crafts, which travelers can check out, and, when lucky, they can even score a unique item. What should not be missed are the Royal Palaces of Abomey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This museum is composed of 12 palaces of ancient kings. It features exhibits on tapestries, thrones, fetish items, and even human skulls.
The area has courtyards, burial places, ceremonial rooms, and other spots that exude royalty. Abomey aims to impress.
7 Pendjari National Park
The tropical savanna climate of Benin makes it a welcoming host for many wildlife species. Together with W and Arli National Park, Pendjari forms the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex, home to the largest elephant population in West Africa.
This World Heritage Site straddles Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger, an important area where the wildlife is not just well-protected but teeming.
Aside from big-game animals, the WAP Complex is also home to many birds, an enticing prospect for birdwatchers. Pendjari National Park is one proud Benin destination.
6 Dantokpa Market
As they say, traveling is also about mingling with locals, gaining new friends, and learning new things along the way. Doing so is easy in Benin because, aside from the hospitality, it is home to a place where the local vibe is strong: Dantokpa Market, one of the largest open-air markets in the region.
Located in the city of Cotonou, this thriving destination is the perfect spot to check out crafts, souvenirs, tasty treats, and even fetish items. Expedia said that shopping in Dantokpa is “like no other,” something that should excite those who want to spend their days spending.
5 Cotonou Cathedral
Another must-see spot in Benin is Cotonou Cathedral, a uniquely colored landmark in the city. It is known for its red and white stripes, which is unlikely for a Catholic Church.
Though its facade is not typical for a religious building, this landmark is a place of peace in the bustling Cotonou.
Beyond the stripes, the church offers rest not just for weary travelers but lost souls. It has a bookstore where tourists can score local titles, but its main offer is refuge and relaxation.
Those who can’t get enough of the Beninese vibe must head to the coastal city of Ouidah. Aside from its shores, this charming town is home to many spots that make for a perfect sightseeing journey.
For starters, tourists should visit the historic São João Baptista de Ajudá before heading to a mansion that once housed slavers. Afterward, they should trace the Route des Esclaves to learn about the slave trade through monuments and markers.
Aside from the church, curious travelers should not miss checking out a voodoo temple, too. Add the market and museums into the mix, and a trip to Ouidah is a win.
3 Ganvie Stilt Village
Tourists often flock to Ganvie, a lake village nicknamed the “Venice of Africa.” The residents, called watermen, warmly welcome visitors who want to take a peek at their lifestyle, learn about their history, and gain new insights.
The area was populated by those escaping from slave traders, so it was like an oasis. Ganvie Stilt Village puts unity in the community, and eager tourists should not miss being in the presence of this fishing town. Enjoying the best things in life has never been this good.
2 Kota Falls
Tourists who want to dip in cool waters are in for a treat if they visit Natitingou. This city is home to Kota Falls, a humbling nature spot that’s easy to reach and easy to admire. The almost one-mile hike to the cascades will let trekkers appreciate scenic views of the trails.
After a 17-minute hike, tourists will be welcomed by the roaring falls, tempting them to play with its waters. For a day of nature, swimming, and relaxation, Kota Falls is the place to be.
1 Villa Karo
Creative souls should not miss exploring the wonderful Villa Karo in the town of Grand-Popo. This destination is home to a cultural center, cinema, library, concert stage, artist residency, research center, museum, and a multipurpose space. Basically, it’s a paradise for lovers of culture and the arts.
Traveling, after all, is about enriching the soul and having enlivening experiences. In the beautiful and blessed Benin, voodoo is a thing, and maybe the magic comes within after a worthwhile trip to this charming country.