9 Terrific Activities to do in Benin Republic, West Africa

Benin Republic is probably not on many travel wish lists. In fact, few people have actually heard of its commercial capital, Cotonou. And if I am being honest, I only learned about the city while researching West African countries a few weeks before my trip. However, this tiny West African country has its charms.

Benin Republic is a Francophone country and French is their main language together with several local languages. Most people you meet will speak little to no English but they will try to help you as much as they can.

Here are a few things you can do while in Benin.

1. Visit the floating Island of Ganvie

Ganvie is a lake village in Benin Republic, West Africa. It is located in Lake Nokoué, near Cotonou. The villagers perform all their daily tasks on the water. Markets, going to school, fetching drinking water, all of these are done on the water.

2. Enjoy the Atlantic Ocean Beach

The Atlantic Ocean Beach is notorious for having mad waves. You can go for a walk that will definitely warm your heart and if you want to swim, please only swim where locals are swimming.

3. Cotonou City Tour

Of course, you have to tour the city, while there aren’t many tourist hot spots, you will get to know the city and what it has to offer. Some of the highlights include the Daktoba market, which is a very large open-air market which can get pretty chaotic. Then there is the Notre Dame Cathedral which is pretty much the most recognisable place in the city. You can cross three bridges and get a good view of the city.

The main mode of transport among locals is motorbikes. They are used both by commuters as public transport and for commercial services. In Cotonou, the commercial moto bike riders wear yellow shirts and you can easily spot them.

4. The Town of Ouidah and the Gate of no Return

The town of Ouidah is known as the centre of Voodoo and it holds the temple of Pythons. You can go and hold the pythons and wrap them around your neck if you are that brave. When it comes to snakes, I am not brave and I did not do that.

Ouidah Benin

The Gate of No Return is the point where enslaved people from all over Benin were loaded into ships. It serves as a reminder and caution. When I visited it was under renovation.

5. Learn about Voudon in Benin

Voudon practice is recognised as a national religion in Benin and there is a national holiday to back it up. It involves the sacrifices of animals to invoke spirits. I attended both the festival and actual ritual practice. The festival was full of dance and songs and a lot of international tourists had come just for the same.

The ritual practice was bloody and gory in some cases as the participants danced and performed. It was a unique experience to witness and if you are curious you could too. However, be prepared for anything.

6. Venture to the north and visit some small towns

Get out of the city and visit the small towns. To get there you can either charter a private car or use public buses, beware though that some small towns are not serviced by major companies and public buses only pick up and drops off people on their way to other major towns. Also, have cash with you as there are no ATMs in most places and where there are, they may not accept your card.

In this picture, I had just learned that my plans were foiled and I was stranded in the small town of Save with no Cash

I went to Natitingou where I visited 2 museums and saw a traditional hut. From there I went to Save where I wanted to go for a hike but the time did not work out.

7. Visit the Magnificent Kota Falls in Natitingou

Kota Falls are beautiful falls in the north of Benin. They are a must-visit if you are in the north.

Kota Falls

8. Enjoy Street foods in Cotonou

There is a lot of street food on the streets of Cotonou. The video below highlights some of the ones I tried. Make sure you go to the fresh foods market for some very fresh veggies.

9. Eat out at a restaurant

There are many restaurants in Cotonou that serve different types of cuisines.


This is a list of things you can do that I didn’t get to.

  1. Visit Porto Novo. It is the official capital but there isn’t much to do there.
  2. Visit Abomey Museum to learn bout the massive Abomey kingdom and their traditions.
  3. Hiking in Save and some other places.

Africa has a lot to offer, here is a list of things to do in Namibia as well.

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