Discover the top fun things to do in Benin Republic and make the most of your visit. When it comes to travel destinations, Benin Republic is often overlooked and not on many people’s wish lists.
However, this small West African country offers much to those willing to explore its cultural heritage, natural beauty, and vibrant atmosphere. From the bustling markets of Cotonou to the historical sites of Abomey and the breathtaking landscapes of Pendjari National Park, Benin Republic has something for everyone.
With its rich history, diverse cultures, and warm hospitality, it’s no wonder many visitors who come to Benin Republic fall in love with this hidden gem of a country. So if you’re looking for an authentic African travel experience, don’t hesitate to add Benin Republic to your list of must-visit destinations.
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What Do People Do for a Living in Benin?
The majority of the population in Benin works in the agriculture sector, which accounts for a significant portion of the country’s GDP. Cotton is the main cash crop, followed by palm oil, cocoa, and yams. Many people in rural areas also engage in subsistence farming and fishing. The country’s small industrial sector includes textile production, food processing, and construction. The services sector, which includes trade, transportation, and tourism, is also growing in importance.
What is Unique About Benin?
Benin Republic stands out as a unique African country for being the first one to transition from a dictatorship to a democracy successfully. Benin made history in the early 1990s by becoming the first-ever African country to transition into a democracy after decades of dictators successfully. It was also one of the first African countries to hold multi-party elections.
Besides the history, Benin Republic is also best known for its rich cultural heritage and history.
1. Explore Ganvié Lake Village
Ganvié Lake Village, located on Lake Nokoué, is the largest floating village in Africa. Visitors can have fun on a boat tour of the village and discover the residents’ daily lives. The people perform all their daily tasks on the water. Markets, going to school, fetching drinking water, all of these are done on the water. Go fishing with the villagers using the traditional fishing techniques that offers a unique cultural experience unlike anything else in the world.
2. Visit the Royal Palace of Abomey
Visiting the Royal Palace of Abomey is another fun thing to do in Benin Republic. This UNESCO World Heritage site was once the seat of the Dahomey Kingdom. The palace complex comprises several buildings and courtyards that offer a glimpse into the history and culture of the kingdom. Visitors can explore the museum and discover about the kingdom’s customs and traditions.
3. Visit Pendjari National Park
Are you planning to do some sightseeing in Cotonou for a few days? If so, take a safari trip with your loved ones to Pendjari National Park. This park is located in the northwest region and spans over 4,800 square kilometers. While there, explore one of the Atakora valleys surrounded by breathtaking red and green scenery and home to many Beninese farmers.
Pendjari National Park boasts an incredible diversity of plants and animals and was nominated by UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2017 as one of the few remaining natural areas in Western Africa. The park boasts over 60 mammal species, 360 types of birds, 50 kinds of reptiles, and 800 varieties of plants. Pendjari National Park offers the chance to see wildlife up close and learn about their habitat. Don’t forget to bring your hats and cameras to capture the park’s beauty.
4. Agongointo-Zoungoudo Archaeological Park (Bohicon)
Did you know that there is an underground city with over 50 residences located 30 feet beneath the land’s surface in the Agongointo-Zoungoudo Archaeological Park, across from Abomey? This underground town was discovered during a building operation in Bohicon in 1998 and is thought to have been built by Dahomey’s second ruler, King Dakodonou, in the late 16th or early 17th century. Over 17 acres of underground homes have separate living areas, bedrooms, and kitchens.
Some underground homes have multiple levels and are connected to wells. The area was designated as a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site and has since become an archaeological park for visitors. There’s also a butterfly conservatory, exhibitions, and other popular attractions to explore.
5. Visit the Slave Route
The Slave Route is a UNESCO World Heritage site that traces the history of the transatlantic slave trade in Benin Republic. The Gate of No Return is where enslaved people from all over Benin were loaded into ships. Visitors can visit the Door of No Return, a memorial to the millions of Africans enslaved and shipped to the Americas. There are a lot of strange-looking statutes on the way to the door of no return (Porte du non Retour), so be ready. I wonder why though, my guess is, it’s all related to voodoo. Guides walk up to you to offer their services, be sure to tip them after.
6. Cotonou City Tour
Cotonou is the largest city in Benin Republic, known for its vibrant markets and cultural attractions. Some fun things to do in Benin Republic-Cotonou include touring the Daktoba market, a huge open-air market that can get pretty chaotic. From there, head to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the most recognisable place in the city. The city also has several museums and art galleries that offer insight into Benin Republic’s cultural heritage.
7. Learn to Ride A Zemidjan
The main and fastest mode of transport in Benin among the locals is Zemidjan/motorbikes. I do no not kid you; there are more Zemidjans than cars in Benin Republic. Everyone rides them, old, young, male, female, locals and foreigners. You probably have been on a motor bike before, but it would be more fun to learn to ride, move, or pose for a photo while there.
8. Artisanal Center (Cotonou)
If you’re looking for some fun things to do in Benin Republic, consider visiting the Artisanal Center. This is the perfect place to discover all kinds of amazing Beninese handicrafts. From colorful clothing and textiles to intricate wood carvings and pottery, there is so much to see and appreciate here. This marketplace has a diverse range of stalls and stores selling handmade products.
The buildings have a charming historical appearance with tiled rooftops and pastel walls. You can find handcrafted puppets, carved wood figures, cotton fabrics, and other authentic Beninese items there. Visit the studios of artists, sculptors, craftsmen, and seamstresses and observe how they work. You can even spend a couple of hours listening to their stories about how they started.
9. The Temple of Pythons, Ouidah
The Temple of Pythons, located in Benin’s Ouidah, houses numerous snakes revered and honored by the locals. During your temple tour, you will witness how people treat pythons with the utmost respect, even placing them in the African shrine, despite their intimidating presence.
The temple holds great significance in both ancient and modern symbolism and spirituality. This temple features a concrete structure with a clay roof and a large pool that houses more than 60 tame snakes of the Royal Python species. One of the fun activities is to go and hold the pythons and wrap them around your neck if you are that brave. It’s safe to be near these pythons, and you can even take photos with them for an extra fee.