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Like many sub-Saharan cities, the seething mass of Cotonou, the capital in all but name, is not a place that can be touted as overly attractive. Most visitors only pause here long enough to recover from their journey and complete essential business before moving on to the richer pickings elsewhere in Benin. However, there are a handful of sights worth a bit of time. In the city center, the sprawling Marché de Dantokpa (Dantokpa market), with its gory fetish section, could entertain for hours. To cool off afterwards head to the beach, but not one in the city center, which are covered in rubbish and have a crime problem. Instead, head a few ...

Like many sub-Saharan cities, the seething mass of Cotonou, the capital in all but name, is not a place that can be touted as overly attractive. Most visitors only pause here long enough to recover from their journey and complete essential business before moving on to the richer pickings elsewhere in Benin. However, there are a handful of sights worth a bit of time. In the city center, the sprawling Marché de Dantokpa (Dantokpa market), with its gory fetish section, could entertain for hours. To cool off afterwards head to the beach, but not one in the city center, which are covered in rubbish and have a crime problem. Instead, head a few miles west where you'll find more classic palm-backed sands. Also out of town a short way, and literally floating in the waters of Lac Nakoué is Ganvié, a village built completely on stilts in the middle of the lake. Puttering around the village in a small boat watching the locals eating, sleeping, shopping and living out their lives entirely on, in and above the lake waters is one of the most interesting things that can be done in Benin. Finally, Cotonou makes a great base for day trips to the former slaving port of Ouidah and the laid-back town of Porto Novo, and also has a restaurant and nightlife scene that is unsurpassed in Benin.

Stuart Butler
About the Expert

Based in the French Basque Country, Stuart Butler writes guidebooks for Lonely Planet and Bradt on France, Spain, Norway and large parts of Africa and South Asia. He also works with numerous international surf magazines exploring the remoter coastlines of the world.

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Stuart Butler for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Southeast part of Benin, between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Nokoué.
  • Language: Fon language, Aja language, Yoruba language and French
  • Currency: CFA Franc
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    October to March