West Africa's 5 must-visit destinations
Explore West Africa's most hidden treasures.
From the crazy Lagos, Nigeria to Ghana's castles these places will give you some real adventure vibe.
1. Ouidah, Benin
The port of Ouidah was home to one of the most notorious slave markets in West Africa. It is also known as 'the cradle of voodoo'.
Explore the imposing Catholic Basilica and the Voodoo Python Temple standing face to face.
From the Portuguese Fort (now the Ouidah Museum of History) stands The Tree of Forgetting, which slaves would once walk around to erase forever the slave's culture, identity and real names. Closer to the shore, the shackled would stumble around another tree three times, to ensure that their souls would remember their identity and return after death.
Along Ouidah's long, sandy beach now stands the monumental 'Gate of No Return'.
2. Paga, Ghana
Close to the Burkina Faso border, Paga is home to sacred crocodiles – each of which represents the soul of one of the people of Kassena.
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The Paga Crocodiles are very friendly and even allow visitors to sit on their backs, provided that an appropriate sacrifice is made. This offering takes the form of a terrified guinea fowl, attached to a string on a stick by a small boy, and then lowered, flapping, into the beast's gaping jaws.
It is best to avoid the bigger crocodile in the middle of the lake as these ones aren't always so friendly.
3. Lagos, Nigeria
Yes! Lagos should be at the top of your list. It won't give you that silence you crave but expect crazy.
Take a trip to Lagos' many private beaches or resort and be marvelled. From jet skiing to zip lining, all those activities are readily available in this tiny coastal state if you know your way.
4. Dogon Country, Mali
The land of the Dogon is undoubtedly the greatest attraction in all of West Africa. The Dogon live in around 700 villages dotted along a 125-mile stretch of the Bandiagara escarpment (huge sandstone cliffs that can rise up to about 600 metres above the villages, providing protection from the harsh sun and any potential invaders, as well as a spectacular setting).
Dogon villages are divided into twin parts, signifying the original twin ancestors, and often further divided into quarters for Muslims and Christians. They are also theoretically laid out to represent different parts of the body, with the elders meeting place, or forge, being at the head; the heads of the guinna (extended family) in the chest; the houses for menstruating women in the hands; and the sacrificial altars at the feet.
Tiny little Togo is a West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea known for its palm-lined beaches and hilltop villages.
Visit Koutammakou, inhabited by the Batammariba people, a traditional settlement of fortresslike clay huts dating to the 17th century.
In the capital, Lomé, are the multistory Grand Marché bazaar and the Fetish Market, offering traditional talismans and remedies relating to the voodoo religion.
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