Burkina/Benin/Togo: Mud Palaces and Voodoo Ceremonies

 

They   are   West   Africa's   most   exciting,   ambitious   buildings.   The   decoratred   houses   of   the   Kassena,   the   fortress-like   compounds   of   the Somba,   the   royal   palaces   of   Dahomey   and   the   sugarloaf   minarets   of   Bobo   Dioulasso’s   Great   Mosque.   Every   single   structure   is   unique in   style,   its   colours   reflecting   the   brown,   ochre   and   red   of   the   African   soil.   From   the   inland   Sahel   to   the   former   Slave   Coast,   from grassland   to   cocos   groves,   from   ancient   mosques   to   colonial   churches   and   voodoo   ceremonies   -   following   old   trading   troutes,   this tour reveals the diversity, sounds and sights of the “Real Africa”!
Day 1: Arrival at Ouagadougou Airport Meet and greet with your tour leader and transfer to the hotel (5 km). (-/-), Overnight at Ouagadougou, Hotel Le Grand Calao or similar Day 2: Ouagadougou In the morning, your tour leader will brief you about the trip. Next, embark on a sightseeing tour of Ouagadougou, Burkina’s modern and vibrant capital. Visits include the 1930s cathedral, a traditional bronze workshop and the Village Artisanal, an artisan centre on the outskirts of the city, dedicated to the skill and artistry of hundreds of local craftsmen. (B/D) Overnight at Ouagadougou, Hotel Le Grand Calao or similar Day 3: Ouagadougou - Bobo Dioulasso Today we leave Ouagadougou and its friendly people behind and carry on towards Bobo Dioulasso. En route, you’ll get your first glimpse of strange-looking baobabs, huge mango trees and traditional village life. Arrive at Bobo Dioulasso in the afternoon, in time to explore the famous Sudanese-stype mosque, the atmospheric central market, the Catholic cathedral and the train station, which is a splendid example of French colonial architecture (370 km). (B/D), Overnight at Bobo Dioulasso, Hotel Auberge or similar Day 4 - Bobo Dioulasso - Banfora Today we continue into the lush forest savanna of Southwestern Burkina Faso. After one and a half hours we reach Banfora, the pleasant capital of this region. Upon arrival, explore the stunning surroundings of this town set in beautiful scenery of sugar-cane fields and tree-lined hills. The highlight of this day are the magnificent rock formations of the Dômes de Fabédougou and the picturesque Karfiguela waterfalls (100 km). (B/D), Overnight at Banfora, Hotel Canne à Sucre or similar Day 5: Banfora Day excursion to the village of Sindou, reached by a newly improved road, which we follow from Banfora for about 50 km. The area is known for its craggy chain of castle-like rock formations, left behind when the surrounding softer rocks eroded away. Spend three to four hours walking through this tranquil wonderland of rocks. In the afternoon boatmen take us out on to the lake Tengrela, a great location for hippo-spotting and bird watching (100 km). (B/D), Overnight at Banfora, Hotel Canne à Sucre or similar Day 6: Banfora - Gaoua Heading east to Gaoua, we reach the land of the Lobi and spend the day with a local guide to learn more about the animist culture of these people. En route, explore the mysterious ruins of Loropeni, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2009. You will also spend some time in a Lobi settlement to meet the locals and explore their fortress-like houses. At the small village of Kouekouera we experience the secret and sacred world of a féticheur, a traditional healer. Before check-in at the hotel, get a final glimpse of Lobi artifacts and historical photographs at the well- kept museum of Gaoua, set up by French anthropologist Madeleine Père (250 km). (B/D), Overnight at Gaoua, Hotel Hâla or similar Day 7: Gaoua - Nazinga Ranch After breakfast, depart Lobi country heading north-east to Nazinga Ranch, which offers great opportunitíes to see elephants up close. This small park contains 39 mammals including buffalo, different kinds of antelope, warthogs and primates such as red monkeys and baboons. Cautious walking in the park is allowed, and late afternoon is the best time to track the wildlife and take great photo shots (260 km). (B/D), Overnight at Nazinga Ranch Day 8: Nazinga - Tiebélé - Ouagadougou Wake up early for a morning game drive to view elephants and other animals, and return for a solid breakfast at the ranch. Refreshed, embark on a new journey through farmland and protected forests to reach Tiebéle, a Kassena village famous for its fortress-like, windowless houses. Visit the Royal Court decorated in geometrical patterns of red, black and white by the Kassena women. Arrive at Ouagadougou in the afternoon (250 km). (B/D), Hotel OK Inn or similar Day 9: Ouagadougou - Pendjari National Park Next, your journey takes you to the sparsely populated plains of eastern Burkina, a sweeping Sahel landscape with scattered mud hut villages mainly of the Gourmantché ethnic group. If time allows, we visit one of their large family compounds. Just south of the Benin border lies the Pendjari National Park, known to be the best spot in West Africa to see big game including lions, leopards, buffalos, baboons, hippos and elephants (450 km). (B/D), Overnight at Hotel Pendjari or Pendjari Lodge inside the park,
Day 10: Pendjari National Park Spend the whole day exploring this splendid, isolated wildlife park. The morning and the afternoon are dedicated to game viewing near the water holes and gallery forests along the Pendjari River. (B/D), Overnight at Hotel Pendjari or Pendjari Lodge inside the park Day 11: Pendjari - Natitingou After breakfast, leave Pendjari at at leisurely pace, stopping to watch any wildlife that you see along the way. Continue along the scenic Atacora mountains to explore the famous land of the Somba people and visit a number of their two-story fortified houses, which are often flanked by small altars (120 km). (B/D), Overnight at Hotel Tata Somba or similar Day 12: Natitingou - Abomey Heading towards Abomey, take a stroll through Tanéka, one of the fascinating Yom villages spread around the scenic landscapes near Djougou. The Yom are closely related to the Somba and, like them, have kept their tribal traditions alive. Further south, stop off to visit Dankoli, considered to be the most important fetish in West Africa. Arrive in Abomey by afternoon, where we have an audience with a local leader, King Agoli Agbo. (350 km). (B/D) Overnight at Abomey, Hotel Guedevy or similar Day 13: Abomey - Ganvié - Ouidah This morning visit the Royal Palaces of the pre-colonial kingdom of Dahomey. This UNESCO World Heritage site houses a historical museum and a craft centre. From Abomey continue to the stilt village of Ganvié which – for obvious reasons - has been called the “Venice of Africa”. Enjoy the exotic sight of busy waterways, floating markets and thatched-roofed houses perched over the water. Towards evening arrive at Ouidah, Benin´s capital of voodoo (150 km). (B/D) Overnight at Ouidah, Hotel Jardin Brésilien or similar Day 14: Ouidah - Grand Popo At Ouidah learn more about the history of slavery and the mysterious rituals of voodoo. Take a walk along the slave route, from the slave market to the beach where the unfortunate victims were loaded aboard the ships, and visualize their last trek on African soil. Stop also by the Python Temple dedicated to the ancient snake cult and, in the Sacred Forest, get acquainted with the concepts of voodoo. For a first-hand voodoo experience, we continue to Grand Popo to witness a spectacular dancing ceremony of the Zangbeto, the  “Guardians of the Night”. (50 km). (B/D), Overnight at Grand Popo, Hotel Awale Plage or simillar Day 15: Grand Popo You have a day at your leisure to relax on the beach or at the swimming pool of your hotel. You may join an optional pirogue ride on the Mono River, leading you to the King’s Mouth (“Bouches du Roi”) estuary where the river meets the ocean. Its banks are lined with sand dunes, palm trees, patches of mangroves and little fishing villages constructed with the branches of palm trees. (B/D), Overnight at Grand Popo, Hotel Awale Plage or similar Day 16: Grand Popo - Lomé Today we head west crossing into Togo. Via Aneho we reach Lake Togo where we take a pirogue trip to Togoville. Explore the town’s impressive cathedral built under German colonial rule and the animist quarter, where you will be met by a famous voodoo priestess. Later in the afternoon we continue to Lomé, Togo’s coastal capital (60 km). (B/D), Overnight at Lomé, Hotel Novela Star or similar Day 17: Lomé - Return flight This morning we explore Togo’s charming capital. We visit the small National Museum and the famous Grand Marché, one of West Africa’s largest markets. At the fetish market, find traditional medicine, voodoo dolls and other items used in Voodoo ceremonies - mostly animal parts like crocodile bones, antelope horns, monkey skulls, dried chameleons and birds. The afternoon is left free at your leisure. Our tour ends this evening. Day rooms will be at your disposal until the transfer to the airport. . (F), Day-use room at Hotel Novela Star until departure Please note that from time to time our itineraries may be amended.
Tour Highlights
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Ouagadougou: Africa’s film capital Bobo Dioulasso: Sudanese-style mosque,             central market, colonial architecture Banfora: Rocks, waterfalls and hippos Sindou Peaks: Splendid rock formations Loropeni: Pre-European stone ruin Gaoua: Animistic Lobi culture Nazinga Ranch: Elephant viewing Tiébélé: Decorated, fortress-like houses Pendjari: National park rich in wildlife Natitingou: Mud dwellings of the Somba Abomey: Legendary capital of Dahomey Ganvie: Africa’s largest stilt village Ouidah: History of slavery, voodoo Grand Popo: Zangbeto ceremony Togoville: Voodoo capital of Togo Lomé: Fetish market and beach