Togo

One of Africa’s smallest countries, Togo is a land of quite staggering diversity, with its palm-fringed beaches and lush, dense rainforests playing host to a wonderfully rich mix of colonial architecture, indigenous traditions, colourful festivals and voodoo ritual.

Once part of the old trading routes that played such a large part in the Atlantic slave trade of the 16th-19th centuries, the country later fell under the colonial yoke of the Germans, the French and the British.

Covering just 57,000 square kilometres Togo extends from the Bight of Benin in the south, to the borders of Burkina Faso in the north and lies sandwiched between Ghana and Benin. Home to some 40 different ethnic groups, each with their own distinct language, Togo’s cultural traditions follow a dazzling fusion of Christian, Muslim and animistic practices and beliefs.

The grand boulevards and fading colonial grandeur of its once elegant capital, Lome, hide a wealth of treasures; from the facades of its German Gothic cathedral, to the bizarre contents of its famous fetish market. Amongst the highlands of the Atakora Mountains meanwhile you can find the time-honoured traditions of the Kabye and the Tamberma, whose fortified settlements still tell of a time in ages past when conflict and slavers were a part of daily life.

Unpolished and unfettered, this is West Africa at its most colourful and charismatic.