The small state of Benin is the birthplace of voodoo, it is rich in history and has a vast cultural heritage that comes from the many ethnic groups living here.
Benin holds the remains of the ancient kingdom of Dahomey, its powerful slave rulers built a rich capital, Abomey, where today you can visit the decorated Royal Palaces complex that is also home to an interesting museum.
On the coast, in addition to the wide, sandy beaches, there are interesting places to visit like the village of Ganvie, built on stilts by the Tofinou ethnicity, or the world capital of voodoo, Ouidah.
At Ouidah every year, on January 10, it is held the voodoo festival; for the occasion numerous followers and schools of voodoo gather here to celebrate a day of party and propitiatory ceremonies.
The festival comes to life on the beach where stands the Door of No Return, a memorial wanted not to forget the atrocities of the slaves trade and built in the place from where departed the ships that transported millions of men and women in chains to the Americas.
For a week the city hosts a number of events, in the streets you may encounter bizarre masks, hear the sound of drums coming from the courtyards where there are ceremonies and you can visit the sacred places of voodoo, as the temple of pythons, or walk the way of slaves, so named because it was the last stretch that slaves were making on native soil before being loaded onto slave ships.
The voodoo in Benin has been recognized as the state religion, here is one of the most important fetishes, not only for the country, but for the whole of West Africa, it is the Dankoli fetish; the faithful flock here to celebrate propitiatory rites and to celebrate thanksgiving rituals.
In the region of the Atakora Mountains live the Somba, a population famous for the Somba tata, fortified houses reminiscent, in form, the fairy-tale castles.
Visiting a Somba tata is an experience that allows you to learn a lot about this population of architects and builders, to know their way of life and enjoy the surrounding landscape where these clay castles, are set as if they were jewels.
The Atakora chain is also the homeland of the Taneka, a population that retains many traditions of the past and is a prime example of multiethnic civilization; their villages were built on the slope of the hills; in the highest part of the village are the feticheurs, ie the religious dignitaries, while political power is represented by the king of the village.
The Northern region on the border with Niger and Burkina Faso, is the area of great natural parks, here are the Transfrontier W Park and the Pendjari National Park.
In the two natural parks photographic safaris can be made accompanied by very prepared local guides, you have the chance to spot several species of antelopes, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, hippos, crocodiles, forest elephants, forest buffalos and an incredible variety of species of birds.
Even the leopard is present in the two parks but its sighting is very difficult because of the elusive nature of this cat and because of the vegetation in some areas quite dense.
The parks are well controlled to prevent poaching and the facilities are good, they are also never particularly crowded and this allows you to fully enjoy nature.