Expedition to Voodoo festival and tribes of Benin and Togo
with professional ethnologist


January 3 to 13, 2025
Benin and Togo

tour to Benin Togo expedition to Voodoo festival Ouidah Fulani tour to West Africa travel Africa Tata Somba

The times of slavery in Africa sank into oblivion, and at the time it created and left a legacy of amazing cultures and even religions. Every year, Voodoo worshipers gather in southern Benin for a large and colorful festival to invoke their ancestral spirits and celebrate their deities.

Our expedition heads to the annual Voodoo festival attends numerous rites and ceremonies, as well as explores the tribes of southern and northern Benin and Togo, where the Tamberma build their famous fortress houses.

The expedition is led by professional ethnologist.

The times of slavery in Africa sank into oblivion, and at the time it created and left a legacy of amazing cultures and even religions. Every year, Voodoo worshipers gather in southern Benin for a large and colorful festival to invoke their ancestral spirits and celebrate their deities.
Our expedition heads to the Voodoo festival, as well as explores the tribes of southern and northern Benin and Togo, where the Tamberma build their famous fortress houses.

Dates: January 3 to 13, 2025

Duration: 11 days / 10 nights

Number of participants: 7 – 12

Cost per person:
• 2 390 EUR subject to 11 – 12 participants,
• 2 590 EUR subject to 9 – 10 participants, or
• 2 790 EUR subject to 7 – 8 participants.

10% early booking discount (in case you book before August 3, 2024)

Everything is included, except for international flight to Cotonou, medical insurance, Benin and Togo visas and dinners.

Estimated cost of flight Moscow – Cotonou – Moscow: 1300 - 1600 EUR (bought on your own).
Estimated cost of flight Istanbul – Cotonou – Istanbul: 1000 EUR (bought on your own).

Benin visa cab be obtained as e-visa on the following website https://evisa.gouv.bj/en/ or in your Consulate in advance (Visa upon arrival is not available for Russian citizens). Visa fee: 75 EUR for 2-entry e-visa or EUR 100 for visa issued by Consulate.
Togo visa obtained upon arrival while crossing the border. Visa fee is USD 20 to 50.

Single supplement: 680 EUR (provided throughout the entire itinerary)

TRAVEL PROGRAM: tour Benin and Togo

Day 1. January 3, 2025. Arrival in Cotonou (Benin)

Arrival in Cotonou by international flight. Meeting the guide, transfer and accommodation at the Hotel du Lac or similar. Meet the guide again to discuss about the trip and short briefing.

Recommended flights:
– with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, departure from Moscow at 7:15 am on January 3, stopover in Istanbul 7 hours, arrival in Cotonou at 23:35 on January 3,
– with Ethioipian Airlines via Addis Ababa, departure from Moscow at 22:00 on January 2, stopover in Addis Ababa 2 hours 25 minutes, arrival in Cotonou at 12:30 pm on January 3,
– with Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca, departure from Moscow at 7:35 am on January 3, stopover in Casablanca 11 hours, arrival in Cotonou at 3:45 am on January 4,
– any other flight with arrival in Cotonou any time on January 3 or in the night from January 3 to 4.

Accommodation: Hotel du Lac
Meals: no

Day 2. January 4, 2025. Cotonou – Ketou – Cove. 195 km

Breakfast and departure towards Kétou, an important center of the civilization Yoruba. Yoruba are the main group in this part of Africa and possess a millenary culture that transmit through dance and music. We will have the chance to meet in the vicinity a famous people, the Holi (Yoruba subgroup) in Issaba near Onigbolo, eminent farmers and animists, they are also unstoppable by tattooing their bodies and faces. They have many villages in the bush.
Road to Ketou. Here we will attend the dance of Idawe performed by Nago tribe. It is performed with a long bamboo stilts. That is the own of a great family called "adjagbodjou", a Nago ethnical group. The ceremony is used for 3 different occasions, including for the funeral ceremony. People dance not only on the surface, but also on the super long poles. These are the real miracles of aerial gymnastics, without any safety ropes! Nago people believe that it shows how the death's spirit could float in the air.
Drive to Cove. Accommodation at TG hotel in Cove. This day we may proceed driving up to Dassa Zoume and stay overnight in Jeco hotel in Dassa Zoume.

Accommodation: TG hotel in Cove or Jeco hotel in Dassa Zoume or similar.
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 3. January 5, 2025. Cove – Guelede dance of Yoruba – Dassa Zoume – Circumcision dance of Pila Pila – Natitingou. 420 km

In the morning, before heading to the North, we will witness Guelede dance of Yoruba people in Cove. Guelede in Benin is a mask it is recognized by UNESCO as intangibal heritage of humanity. The legend tells that Guelede mask was born when the society retired from the matriarcat to patriarcat. Throught Guelede, the angry mothers tempt to recover a part of powers exercised by men. "Guelede is for women, us men we are only their slaves" – say Yoruba. Mask Guelede is sacred and is carried exclusively on the top of the skull by the men disguised for the circumstance in women.
Driving towards Natitingou. In the area of Dassa, we stop at the nomadic camp of Peul people who keep their traditional tattoos and make complex hairstyles. Talking and photo session with Peul people.
Nestled at 440m altitude in the Atakora massif, Natitingou is also the most dynamic city in northern Benin thanks to the funding granted by President Kérékou who originates from this region. Natitingou is the back base for visiting the countries of Tata Somba people. This tradition is a reflection of their strong individuality that seems to have resisted both Dahomean slave hunters and the advance of Christianity and Islam.
After passing Djougou we will also visit Taneka village and meet Wom or Pila Pila tribe. We will also attend the dance of circumcision.
In the afternoon we visit art museum of popular traditions in Natitingou. Overnight at the Kaba Hotel.

Accommodation: Kaba Hotel.
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 4. January 6, 2025. Natitingou – Somba – Kara (Togo). 150 km

After breakfast we explore Tata Somba villages in Benin. Commonly called Somba the Betamaribe people, animists, they live mainly south-west of Natitingou in the plains of Boukoumbé near the Togolese border. The Somba live isolated in the middle of their crop fields rather than clustered in villages. Their dwellings, the Tata Somba are a typical constructions which resemble miniature fortresses. There are more than 10 kinds among which Otchaou which resemble the constructions of Tamberma, their Togolese neighbors. The uniqueness and sophistication of this architecture has been recognized since 2004 by UNESCO as a world heritage site, with the statement, "it is an outstanding example of territorial occupation by a people in constant search of harmony between man and the surrounding nature".
We will pass border formalities and also customs to cross the border and arrive in Togo. Drive to Kara. Upon arrival in Kara, we will arrange Togolese visas. Check-in and overnight in Meka Hotel.

Accommodation: Meka Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 5. January 7, 2025. Kara – Tamberma – Djougou (Benin). 190 km

After breakfast we drive to the north to explore Tamberma valley. The Tamberma valley is home to fortified villages, unique in their kind which were founded in the 17th century by a people fleeing the raids of the kings of Dahomey in Benin who captured the slaves.
There are several villages, among the most important is Nadoba village that we visit.
Here we meet the tribes of Tamberma. The Tamberma people, as well as Somba people in Benin, are known for their traditional body scarring rituals, starting between the age of two and three. These special marks are a form of lifelong identification marks (tattoo ID), which identify a person as belonging to one's tribe as well as more coded personal information. Additional marks are added at puberty, readiness for marriage, post-child birth as a form of visible communication. These scars range from some on the face, to belly and back.
Drive to Djougou, pass border formalities and cross to Benin again. Check-in and overnight in Donga hotel in Djougou.

Accommodation: Hotel Donga
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 6. January 8, 2025. Djougu – Savalou – Abomey. 330 km

After breakfast we will take the road to Savalou to visit Dankoly Voodoo temple. The Fa museum and pottery village near Abomey. From here we will drive directly to Abomey. Abomey is a remarkable city, with its winding streets with mud houses (mud brick and dried), as well as temples and palisades erected by the kings of Dahomey. The kingdom of Dahomey is the most important kingdom in the south of Benin. The role of the kings of Abomey in the slavery trade was very important. It is that kingdom who gave his name to the country before changed it to Benin. Overnight stay in Nifur Hotel Abomey.

Accommodation: Nifur Hotel Abomey
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 7. January 9, 2025. Abomey – Ouidah. 115 km

In the morning we visit the restored Royal Palace which now houses the museum, UNESCO heritage site. In former times it used to be the kingdom of the 12 kings of Abomey.
Drive to the mythical city of Ouidah, capital of the African Voodoo. Visit the History Museum, former Portuguese fortress, the Python Temple, the sacred forest Kpassè with its innumerable convents and shrines. Experience the Slave Route to the Gate of No Return by the Sea. In the night we will take part of the ceremony of purification in the sacred forest. Overnight stay in Casa Del Papa Hotel on the Ocean's beach. In the evening we can swim in the swimming pool or in the ocean.

Accommodation: Casa Del Papa Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 8. January 10, 2025. Ouidah. Voodoo Festival

Morning swim in the warm Atlantic ocean playing with huge waves. Late breakfast at the hotel. Here comes the big day of the Voodoo Festival where come people from all over the world from Africa to America and the Caribbean. The Voodoo religion, very unknown and misinterpreted by some theorists is a religion with more than 60 million followers around the world. Every person who attends to this celebration will discover that Voodoo and Evil are different things. In the collective imagination, Voodoo is the mutation of the ancient African beliefs of those persons who were reduced to slavery and taken to Brazil and the Caribbean. But that has nothing to do with evil, quite the opposite. Voodoo believes that the ancestors and natural forces decide life of its believers. At that time thousands of devotees go to Ouidah, the main center of this cult to receive the blessing of the Voodoo leader of the city. Today, the great priests and their faithful from all over Benin and even neighboring countries meet to magnify the deities through songs, dances, drums, animal sacrifices, libations and prayers. Attend this important festival with high dignitaries and other crowned heads.
The main ceremony starts at 10 a.m. on the beach and it lasts half day. Then we will follow the Voodoo priest in their different sacrifices and «private» ceremonies and come back to hotel late in the evening. Overnight stay in Casa del papa Hotel in Ouidah on the ocean shore.

Accommodation: Casa del papa Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 9. January 11, 2025. Ouidah – Lokossa – Lake Aheme – Grand Popo. 155 km

In the morning, after swim on the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, we will drive to Lokossa for a private Zangbeto ceremony («haystack dance»), also visit some Voodoo convent. Visit Lake Ahémé – Benin's Voodoo sacred lake. Lake Ahemé – beautiful lake inhabited by communities that have kept the animistic traditions that slavery brought to Brazil, the Caribbean and south USA. Boat trip on Lake Ahémé to discover the different fishing techniques. From here we will go to Grand Popo Grand Popo, situated between the Mono River and the Atlantic ocean. Swim in the Atlantic ocean. Overnight stay in Millenium Popo Beach Hotel.

Accommodation: Millenium Popo Beach Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 10. January 12, 2025. Grand Popo – Porto-Novo – (Ketou). 125 km

Early in the morning, after last swimming on the huge waves of the Atlantic Ocean, we have breakfast.
visit "La bouche du roi", salt island and Heve voodoo village. We will also experience African Oracle called Fa.
Head for Porto-Novo, the administrative capital of Benin via Cotonou. This city is an incredible fusion of the original Yoruba culture with the Portuguese legacy and the French and English colonial influences of the 19th century. Walk through the Afro-Brazilian neighborhood, visit Honmè, former palace of King Toffa and ethnographic museum arranged around important themes of the Birth, Life and Death without forgetting an important collection of mask Gelede, a wealth Yoruba inscribed Intangible Heritage of UNESCO.
We drive to Adjarra to witness Egungun dance performance which is a part of Voodoo culture deriving from veneration of the dead ancestors.
Check-in at the Songhai hotel Porto Novo or Freedom Palace Hotel or similar. Overnight in Porto-Novo. This night, depending on the program we may stay overnight in Ketou in Residence Celine hotel or City Hotel.

Accommodation: Porto Novo Songhai hotel or Freedom Palace Hotel in Porto Novo or Residence Celine hotel or City Hotel in Ketou or similar.
Meals: breakfast, lunch

Day 11. January 13, 2025. Porto-Novo – Ganvie – Cotonou. 120 km

Breakfast and private audience at King Toffa's palace. Departure from Porto-Novo for Ganvie, the biggest lake village in Africa, where live more than 37,000 Tofinu people doing their activities aboard small pirogues. Ganvie is also known as the "African Venice", appears a great concentration of Tofín fishermen families who used to hide in Lake Nokoué escaping from slavery in the 18th century. Tour along the 'water channels', meet the people, learn about Tofín culture.
Drive to Cotonou where we visit the arts market to buy souvenirs. If we have time we will also visit the Dantokpa market, the biggest market in Benin.
In the evening transfer to Cotonou airport and flight back home.

Recommended flights:
– with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, departure from Cotonou at 0:25 am on January 14, stopover in Istanbul 2 hours 50 minutes, arrival in Moscow at 18:40 on January 14,
– with Ethioipian Airlines via Addis Ababa, departure from Cotonou at 13:30 am on January 15, stopover in Addis Ababa 2 hours 20 minutes, arrival in Moscow at 7:25 am on January 16 (2 extra nights in Cotonou needed and to be paid),
– any other flight with departure from Cotonou not earlier than at 21:00 on January 13.

Accommodation: no
Meals: breakfast, lunch

* The order of visits and excursions can be modified according to local conditions, i.e. state of roads, festival days, rituals/ceremonies' days, location of tribes, security situation etc. If some visits and/or tours could not be done due to external conditions, they will be replaced when possible.

** The participant of expedition to Benin and Togo must be motivated to be respectful to the culture of local tribes and respective rituals, be aware of the objectives of the trip and possible program changes, as well as be able to adapt to the new environment and culture.
Cost includes:

• Accommodation in hotels on TWIN/DBL basis
• breakfasts and lunches as indicated in the program
• 2 liter of drinking water daily and water during lunch
• all airport transfers
• all transportations: comfortable minivan in good condition with working a/c
• all boats with experienced pilots
• all tickets, visits and entrance fees,
• all participations in all festivals and private ceremonies/rituals, dances, camera fees at the festivals
• contribution to local communities
• service of a professional English-speaking tour guide and Russian and English speaking team leader throughout the trip

Cost excludes (to be additionally paid):

• International flight to Cotonou (roundtrip)
• travel medical insurance
• dinners
• alcohol and soft drinks
• Benin visa with 2 entries
• Togo visa 1-entry
• Individual photographing fees for tribal people
• Camera fees in museums
• single supplement
• tips
• personal expenses

To take with:

• Clothes sets fitting weather conditions, set of clothes for hot weather and one warm set
• long sleeve wear set,
• repellents (is a must!),
• mosquito net for sleeping place (is a must!),
• comfortable closed shoes and open shoes,
• forehead torch,
• big backpack for luggage,
• small backpack for personal items and camera,
• sunblock set (cream, sunglasses, cap),
• personal hygiene items,
• personal medical kit (analgesics, sanitizers, antibiotics, your personal medicine),
• certificate on vaccination from yellow fever (mandatory),
• certificate on vaccination from meningitis and cholera (not mandatory, up to you to decide),
• anti-malaria prevention pills (up to you but recommended),
• all COVID-19 requirements lifted (the requirement may change),
• photo and video camera
Benin and Togo

Best season: January

The annual Voodoo Festival in Ouidah, where people from all over the world come, from Africa to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Private Voodoo ceremonies and rituals, such as Zangbeto, Egungun and others.

Tata Somba villages in Benin and the Tamberma Valley in Togo – famous fortified villages recognized by UNESCO, and the Betamaribe tribes, known as the best architects.

The cultures of Yoruba (Holi) and Peul tribes, great masters of scarification.

"African Venice" Ganvier – the African largest lake village, with 37 thousand of Tofin fishermen.

Ouidah – the world capital of Voodoo with its famous Slave Route, the Gate of No Return and the warm Atlantic Ocean.

Audiences with kings, the Royal Palace in Abomey, a UNESCO heritage city – the most significant in the history of the slavery.
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