West Africa's Voodoo Trail

by , SmarterTravel Staff
The Voodoo Trail (Photo: GAP Adventures)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 8, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: adventure travel, Alaska, Albania, arts and culture, Benin, British Columbia, Chihuahua, Colombia, diving, eco travel, family travel, hiking, India, Laos, Molly Feltner, mountain, Philippines, Scotland, sports, Togo, trekking, wildlife.

Provider: G.A.P Adventures
Length: 16 days
Price: $2,399

In West Africa's Gulf of Guinea Coast, the spirits of the dead inhabit the living, true love can be made from ingredients purchased at the market, and battles are fought with riddles. Here, voodoo isn't a black art practiced in back alleys—it's a way of life for millions of people. On a unique cultural tour run by G.A.P Adventures in Benin, Togo, and Burkina Faso, you'll immerse yourself in the animistic beliefs and practices of Western Africa for a travel experience unlike any other.

On G.A.P's two-week "Voodoo Trail," you'll experience things few Westerners get the chance to, including divination ceremonies, visits with tribal royalty, and animal sacrifices. Starting in Togo's capital of Lome, tour a voodoo market and watch merchants selling ingredients to make love potions and other elixirs. In Ganvie, a Beninese village built on stilts in the middle of a lake, the local soothsayer demonstrates how he prophesizes the future. While in the Yoruba kingdom of Ketou, meet His Majesty the Oba (king) and his royal court, and witness the Dancing Masks of Egun, a ceremony in which cult members believe themselves to transform into their dead ancestors. At the fetish of Dankoli in the north of Benin, watch pilgrims pray and make sacrifices of goats and chickens to their god.


In the country of Burkina Faso, attend a storytelling competition in a Gurunsi village and watch elders test the young with riddles. Later, meet the shy Lobi people, whose men still carry bows and arrows and women wear lip disks. The trip ends in the rural capital of Ouagadougou, where locals perform a kind of street theater involving wooden masks and mythic themes.

Trip Planning

In 2009, this trip departs September 26, November 14, and December 26. Prices include accommodations, some meals, activities, ground transportation, and guides. Some meals and airfare are extra. Late-September airfare from New York to Lome, Togo, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, back to New York starts at $1,491, including taxes, through Orbitz.

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