WHAT TO DO, SEE AND TRY IN BENIN
The national beauty of Benin also has a lot to tempt tourists. From the paradise Atlantic beaches fringed with palm trees to the national parks teeming with exotic beasts such as lions, cheetahs and elephants as well as rare bird species.
A trip to Benin will feel like a true adventure as there is still so much to discover and the country is only just beginning its life as a tourist destination. Benin is a good introduction to Africa as it has it all: great wildlife, great beaches, great people and culture and it caters well for tourists without felling like a tourist destination.
t may not be the true capital city of Benin but Cotonou sure does feel like it. The city is an intense blast of urban energy combined with African charm. If it is your first time in Africa, the city can be a little bit daunting and full on but for those willing to risk the adventure, Cotonou has plenty of rewards These rewards include a number of stunning paradise beaches with golden sand and palm trees.The Pendjari National Park is also a must see in Cotonou and is seen as one of the leading animal reserves in Africa.
Ouidah is a city that has a mix of influence from the French and the Portuguese due to various events in history. The city is located about 40km away from Cotonou and in contrast is more relaxed. If you are interested in African history (and you should be) then this city should be top of your itinerary. It has fantastic museums exploring slavery and voodoo. If all the history gets too much for you, there are more stunning beaches to laze on in Ouidah too.
Located a convenient 50km away from the Pendjari National Park, the city of Natitingou also has some of its own attractions that make it a worth stop off on a tour of Benin. The city has its own museum which is based in a French colonel building and documents the lifestyle of the Somba people. In fact the city of Natitingou is one of the best places to see the Somba people’s way of life and methods of building. Natitingou is also a great place to see Shea butter being made.
Bohicon is more of a place to pass through than to actually spend an extended period of time visiting. The town is an almost entirely modern place but it is well worth visiting the market, which is arguably the biggest and the best in Benin. The difference between the bustling market and the relative calm of nearby Abomey is startling. The busiest times for the market are in the mornings, so these should be avoided if possible (unless of course you thrive on the chaos).
This charming town is a great place to see colonial French buildings in Benin. The population of the town is small: only about 20,000 people call Tanguieta their home. Tanguieta also has a lively market, although it is nowhere near as lively as Bohicon’s, and is a great place from which to visit the Tonogou Waterfalls or the Pendjari National Park which is home to some of the most majestic beats in Africa including lions, hyenas and elephants to name only a few.
The second largest city in Benin, Parakou has an estimated population of 200,000 people. Despite its size, the city does not feel as lively and crowded as Porto Novo or Cotonou due to more open spaces and wider streets. The city is industrious with most of its economy focusing on cotton, textiles and peanut oil. There are a number of worthwhile things to see in Parakou including the open-air museum which shows traditional Bariba architecture and the market specialising in a traditional kind of beer.
10. Lake Nokoue
This lake and small village is a great place for birdwatching. The species that call this 16,000 hectare lake there home include the African Openbill and the white crested heron. The lake is under threat from several environmental and biological issues such as logging, pollution and hunting of the wildlife. Conservation efforts are being made but the threat level is classified as high, so view this amazing area while you still can.