Benin

Bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Benin’s cultural complexity and rich heritage has long been shackled to the slavers who haunted this corner of West Africa for nearly three centuries.

The spiritual birth place of voodoo, Benin is a land of fetishes and spirits, whose palm-fringed beaches and rugged northern landscapes play host to a colourful Afro-Brazilian culture and one of the finest wildlife parks in West Africa. Home to nearly 11 million people, the country was dominated for nearly three hundred years by the kings of Dahomey, whose power and prestige came from a flourishing slave trade that saw the area become know as the Slave Coast.

Today the country is home to over 40 different ethnic groups, including Yoruba, Somba, Fon and Dendi. A predominantly Muslim and Christian population, traditional religions nevertheless still have a firm hold in the country, with animistic beliefs still strong amongst the people of the Atakora region, whilst Ouidah is very much considered the heartland of voodoo.

Blessed with a reputation for exotic and flavourful food, Benin cuisine is a fusion of African and European styles, with rich sauces accompanying fish, shellfish, stews and fried foods. Its landscapes too will come as a pleasant surprise to many, with its mountains and mangroves, forest-covered savannahs and coastal plains, whilst in the Pendjari National Park you can find some of the largest remaining populations of lions and elephants left in West Africa.