Akwabaa, Weezo to Ghana! Welcome to Ghana!
Upon your arrival at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, you will be welcomed by a Rahhalah representative and will be driven to your hotel, downtown.
Accra, Ghana’s capital, is a bustling metropolis, home to an interesting mix of old colonial neighborhoods, crowded suburbs, fishing communities and spacious green affluent areas. Like in most African capital cities, urban planning can hardly keep up with the growing population. However, despite its size and busy traffic, the city is friendly, relatively hassle-free, and welcoming to all visitors. The mix of an affluent elite, fancy residences, numerous street vendors and dusty alleys gives the city a distinct feel. Each area has its unique atmosphere, and the combination of contrasts makes Accra an impressive destination.
Note: if the arrival time is between 8pm and 6am (ie, during the evening/night hours), additional transfer arrangements should be made at an extra cost.
Accommodation: Villa Boutique Hotel or similar.
Villa Boutique hotel is a peaceful oasis in the busy center of Osu, Accra. The nearby Oxford Street connects the modern business district of Cantonments with the old Osu town that started as a settlement next to the Danish fort of Christiansburg in the 17th century. The neighborhood is a beautiful blend of past and present, with many trendy eateries and clubs as well as local chop bars and typical street joints.
Day 2 (22nd April 2023): The Dipo Festival of the Krobo people / Traditional glass-beads workshop / Senchi (B)
After breakfast, you will head to Odumase, where you will hopefully become acquainted with “Dipo”: the coming-of-age (puberty) rituals for the Krobo girls. Dipo is the heartbeat of the Krobo people: the force that unifies them, a turning-point experience, especially for the Krobo women. Every year between April and June, young Krobo girls are initiated into womanhood, getting cleansed spiritually and preparing for marriage, following the Dipo rituals. The girls are adorned with precious glass beads, clothes and ornaments of numerous patterns and colors that have symbolic meanings.
The most important ceremony of the Dipo festival and the climax of the Dipo rite is ‘The Sacred Rock Ritual Ceremony’ (Tɛgbɛtɛ yami/ TɛkwↃmi). As a prelude to this climax, the Dipo girls are ceremoniously sent to the sanctuary of the Dipo priestess (WↃyo we yami), where the priestess invokes the blessing and protection of both gods and ancestors on the Dipo initiates. Upon their return at the main Dipo grounds, the ‘Dipo yihi’ (The Dipo girls) follow a few more rituals and libations are poured.
You will complement this experience with a glass beading workshop. Beads play a key role in Ghana’s culture, and the tradition of glass-bead making dates several centuries. Besides being used as personal adornments, beads in Ghana have an important cultural, religious, and social meaning. Originally, they were used primarily by kings, queens and queen mothers to display their social status and wealth during ceremonies, rites and rituals. Today, the use has been extended well beyond ancestral usage, becoming part of the overall Ghanaian identity. The Krobo people have always been the most important glass-bead makers. As such, you will stop at a local family glass-bead factory and learn about the century-old process of bead making from start to finish. Even though the factory is a big one, exporting its products far across the continent's borders, it still uses traditional production methods that include recycled glass bottles, termite clay and water. You will have the opportunity to create your own beads during a 3-hours workshop.
You can then relax by the river bank, before continuing to Senchi.
Senchi, a town nestled at the Volta Riverbank, is part of a line of several small towns and villages along the west bank of the Volta River. It is near the Adomi bridge, which is regarded as the gateway to the Volta Region.
Accommodation: Royal Senchi or similar.
Driving distance from Accra to Senchi: 130 km (around a 3-3.5-hour drive).
The Royal Senchi is an oasis of luxury situated on the Volta Riverbank. The hotel offers various amenities including a swimming pool, a fitness room, a tennis court and a spa. It also contributes to the preservation of the biodiversity in the Volta area, and, as such, it gets involved in several local conservational projects like the ecofriendly nature park, where one can enjoy gentle hiking trails and a blend of rare flora and fauna.
After breakfast, you will enjoy a hiking exploration of the area before embarking on a kayaking activity on Volta River.
Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, swimming, playing tennis, or merely soaking in the ambience of the area.
Accommodation: Royal Senchi or similar.
Today, after breakfast, you will leave Senchi, heading towards Liati Wote (a total distance of 200 km, a 4-4.5-hour drive). The journey will take you through the green rolling hills of the Avatime Mountains, while you will also stop at Amedzofe to enjoy the canopy walkway: the newest attraction in the Volta region. Similar to the Kakum National Park, the walkway offers magnificent views of the landscape around the Ote waterfalls.
Later, you will stop at Tafi Atome village, where you will experience how the local people live in harmony with the Lowe’s Mona monkeys. Numerous endemic monkeys roam safe and free the surrounding forests and it is a taboo to kill them or harm them (for health-safety reasons, it is highly recommended that you do not feed the monkeys).
Later, you will arrive at Liati Wote: a popular community-based tourism destination situated at the foot of Ghana’s highest peak Mt Afadjato and at walking distance from the Tagbo Falls. Once there, you can enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, strolling through to the village, relaxing on a hammock at the lodge’s garden, listening to the sounds of nature, or having a 'sun-downer' at the terrace of 'Melcome', the drinking spot in the center of the community.
Accommodation: Tagbo Falls Lodge or similar (Homey guesthouse).
This brick-stone lodge is a home-away-from-home, adding value to the destination while creating employment opportunities for the locals. Its five rooms are nicely decorated, and have a private bathroom with warm water showers. Delicious meals are served by Philo, the chef and caretaker, and her team.
After breakfast, you will enjoy a hiking activity on Mount Afajda and/or the Tagbo falls.
From the Tagbo Falls Lodge, you will follow the Classical Trails leading to Ghana's highest peak Mount Afadjato (2-3h) and the Tagbo Falls (1.5-2h). You will also have the option to climb or descend from the other side of the mountain via the neighboring village of Gbledi. The hike to Mount Afadjato offers stunning views, and on a clear day, you can even see Volta Lake. The hike to the falls is relatively easy through tropical farmlands and cocoa plantations. Walk alongside the meandering river and refresh at the pool. Make sure you bring enough water, sun protection and bug spray.
After lunch, you will leave Ghana behind, crossing the border to Togo at Niyve near Ho, and from there you will continue to Kpalime: a pretty town amidst Togo's green rolling hills. Kpalimé is a beloved destination in Togo, since it is surrounded by the country’s finest nature. The area around Kpalimé is known for its mountain range which offers some of the country's best scenery and hiking opportunities. It's the country's most fertile area, and you will find many cocoa and coffee plantations, fresh fruit and vegetables. The town of Kpalimé itself is a lively place with numerous nice restaurants, bars, and a gorgeous craft center.
Once at Kpalimé, you can relax at your own pace, enjoying a cup of locally-grown organically-certified coffee, relaxing by the hotel’s pool or visiting the local craft market.
Driving distance Liate Wote to Kpalime: 70 km, a 1-2-hr drive.
Accommodation: Hotel Parc Residence or similar.
The hotel is a little gem set in Missahohe with views on Mount Klouto, Togo’s highest mountain. It has a beautiful flowering garden and a pool. The rooms are comfortable, stylish, and spacious.
Day 6 (26th April 2023): Exploring Togo / Transfer to Benin / Exploring Abomey, the ancient capital of the Dahomey Empire (B)
After breakfast, you will hike towards the village of Kouma-Konda, walking through the forest. During the first part of the hike, your guide will explain the medicinal properties of some of the tropical plants. He will also show you the flowers and herbs that supply natural pigments for the decoration of window covers and for artwork. Kouma-Konda is home to numerous artists who are famous for working with these plant-based colors from the woods. The trail (a 2-hour forest hike) takes you also through villages that are known for their coffee plantations.
At the end of the hike, you will descend by foot towards Tomegbe Falls. The path offers lovely panoramic views and there is a small natural pool at the base of the falls where you can take a refreshing dive before starting your ascent.
You will then leave Togo behind, heading towards Benin (distance from Kpalime to Abomey: 183 km, a 4-4.5-hour drive). You will cross through the Tohoun-Aplahoue border (note that a visa is required and that Benin has a different time zone). From there, you will head to Abomey, the capital of the ancient Dahomey Empire.
Between 1695 and 1900, twelve kings ruled over the powerful empire of the Fon people. The empire played an essential role during the era of the slave trade, since it acquired its wealth by trading war prisoners as slaves to European merchants. The Kings were feared by the locals as well as by the French colonizers; they were fearless warlords on a mission to expand their Kingdom. Your visit to the Royal Palace Museum will offer further insights into the evolution of the empire and the myths, customs and rituals of the Fon people.
During your visit to Abomey, you will also see many temples and shrines scattered throughout the city, as the city is known for its strong voodoo culture and its mighty sorcerers. If you are lucky, your visit may coincide with a planned ceremony (it is best to avoid the touristic ceremonies which are not an authentic experience). In terms of timing and costs, attendance of a ceremony is quite unpredictable. However, you can definitely visit the authentic Abomey fetish market. This is not for the fainthearted though; fresh monkey and dog skulls (and their corresponding smells) are popular items there.
Accommodation: Chez Sabine or similar (Homey guesthouse)
This simple yet popular accommodation in Abomey is set amidst the garden of the friendly owners. The rooms are standard with AC and WIFI. You will certainly enjoy the welcoming ambience created by lovely Sabine and her children.
After breakfast, you will delve deeper into the local culture by visiting the Royal Palace Museum (Abomey’s UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Benhazin Monument. Decorative bas-reliefs were applied to the walls of the palaces and temples, and they illustrate the most significant events in the evolution of the empire, including military victories and myths, customs, and rituals of the Fon people.
You will then head to Porto Novo (around 160 km, a 3.5-4-hour drive). When the Portuguese established a slave-trading port in the 16th century, they named it Porto Novo, after the town of Porto in their home country. The tranquil city of Porto Novo is the former capital of the French Dahomey colony, which existed in the first half of the 20th century. Porto Novo is the administrative capital of Benin, although much smaller and less fast-paced than nearby Cotonou. Still, the history and culture that is somehow lacking in Benin’s largest city Cotonou, can be found in Porto Novo. Together with Ouidah, Porto Novo was one of the main ports of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and many former slaves returned to their city after they were given their freedom.
A walking guided tour (around 3 hours) will help you understand the myths and magic of this historical town. The tour focuses on three neighborhoods or themes: the traditional, the Afro-Brazilian, and the colonial one. You will visit colorful colonial buildings, like the Brazilian-style church, which is an exact replica of the de Salavador de Bahia. The church is now used as a mosque. Also very inspiring is the Voodoo places of d'Adjina. Porto-Novo has taken it upon itself to renovate and preserve the historical voodoo places, such as temples, shrines and secret trees in various neighborhoods in the city. The tour will end with a short visit and refreshments at Le Jardin des Plantes et de la Nature: a beautiful cooling oasis in the city.
Accommodation: Les Residences Ouadada or similar (Homey guesthouse)
This friendly and simple accommodation set in a beautiful flowering garden in the heart of Porto-Nov. It is part of the Cultural Centre of Ouadada and one can feel the artistic and historical inspiration of the area, further reinforced by Gerard and Helene Bassale, the proud and passionate owners. Expect clean self-contained rooms with fan or AC and natural, mostly home-grown ingredients on the breakfast menu. Your stay might coincide with an exhibition or performance.
After breakfast, you will head to Aguegue: a town built entirely on stilts in the middle of Lac Noukoué, accessible only by motorised canoes.
Similar to the people of Ganvier, the people of Aguegue built the town in the lake to escape Dahomey slave hunters who were banned from venturing into the water by religious customs. Fishing is the main activity of the people, and it is fascinating to experience their unique daily life. Part of Aguegue is on the land during the dry season and entirely in the water during the rainy season.
Optional: instead of driving to Aguegue, it is possible to take the boat from Porto Novo; it takes 2.5-3.00 hours, so it is a bit long but it is special. It can be coordinated with the group.
After Aguegue, you will head to Ouidah, the voodoo capital of Benin with a thought-provoking history (distance from Porto Novo: around 110 km, a 2.5-drive in total). For many people, Ouidah is the main reason to visit Benin. The town has a rich traditional and colonial history, and, as the capital city of the Atlantique department, Ouidah has an intriguing history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. At the same time, the city is seen as Benin's spiritual capital. It offers a unique insight into the world of voodoo with its magical sites, temples and the annual Vodoun Festival. It is a beautiful place to relax at one of the beautiful palms fringed beaches or enjoy and good food in one of the eateries.
Accommodation: Casa del Papa or similar.
Situated between the sea and the lagoon, Casa del Papa is the perfect place to relax and unwind. This modern and comfortable beach resort has a great swimming pool, a luxurious spa, a breezy seaside restaurant and a beautiful stretch of private beach. Spend the night in one of the bungalows scattered among the coconut trees on the beach, or enjoy your night in a spacious, comfortable room by the lagoon. The resort is situated about 30 minutes’ drive from Ouidah town, the last stretch is a sandy beach road.
In the morning, you will explore Ouidah, immersing in traditional African beliefs and the voodoo religion which is deeply rooted in the country’s culture. It is not merely a belief system, but a way of life in which animals play an important part. You will visit the Python Temple, home to harmless python snakes, which are regarded as sacred and protected by the original people of Ouidah. At the Sacred Forest of Kpassé, you will listen to great stories about the sacred trees. The forest houses many sculptures that symbolize voodoo, animist deities and beliefs.
Later, you will explore the 'Route des Esclaves', one of the historical highlights that commemorate the thought-provoking history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The 3.5 km sandy road formed the final stage of the route before the slaves were shipped to the Americas. It leads from the historical slave auction square to the Point of No Return Memorial on Ouidah beach. It is incredible to imagine that the captives had reached this final part of their journey on the African continent, coming from as far up north as Mali and Burkina Faso on foot. There are many historically important points along the Route des Esclaves, and a knowledgeable guide will explain the meaning of each site in detail. You can either walk the Route des Enclave or drive part of it.
Enjoy the rest of the day, relaxing by the beach.
Accommodation: Casa del Papa or similar.
After breakfast and a final relaxing walk by the beach, you will drive to the airport of Cotonou (around 38 km, a 1-hour drive) for your departure flights back home.
Note: Only one group transfer to the airport has been included in the price. Additional arrangements can be made at an extra cost.