Royal Festivals, Mask Dances, Voodoo Spirits, Castles of Clay

Overview

Thriving traditional cultures, renowned art forms, flamboyantly colorful festivals, mask dances, and a dazzling ethnic mosaic are the golden gems of tribal West Africa. Our fantastic cultural odyssey brings us across remote reaches of Ghana, Togo, and Benin to discover lost tribal worlds guided by ancient spirits.  Along the way, we meet unforgettable people including the Tamberma, whose fairytale clay castles are spectacular examples of uniquely African architecture. We finish on the coast, the heart of voodoo country, visiting practitioners, watching trance-dances, and learning about the awesome power the voodoo spirits still hold over people. We attend the colorful Ashanti Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi honoring the Ashanti king, and witness the exuberant mask dances of an Egun Mask Festival in the Yoruba and Fon villages of southern Benin.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Accra, Ghana / Elmina Castle

We visit Ghana’s National Museum, with its striking ethnographic collection, then head along the palm-fringed coast to the 15th century Portuguese fortress of Elmina, entering its evocative slave dungeons and peeking through the “Door of No Return,” where captives were taken to awaiting ships.

Days 4-5
Kumasi and the Ashanti

The Ashanti Kingdom was once one of the most powerful nations in Africa. In Kumasi, the Ashanti “capital,” our explorations include the market as well as the fascinating Ashanti Cultural Center.

Days 6-9
Traditional Tribes of the Savanna / Castles of Clay

Traversing a baobab-dotted landscape that was once a caravan route between Ghana’s Gold Coast and the vast Sahara, we visit the tiny villages of the Gondja tribe. Entering northern Benin, we meet the Dagomba people, with their round clay huts with thatched roofs, and the isolated Tamberma and Somba, famous for their spectacular defensive architecture of fortified adobe castles complete with turrets. We also visit an ancient Taneka village inhabited by fetish priests and the encampments of Fulani herders.

Days 10-14
Voodoo Priests and Fetish Markets of the Coast

As we head south through Benin toward the coast, we visit Abomey, with its eerie Royal Palace of the Dahomey king. Near Lome, Togo’s capital, we meet traditional healers at a “voodoo hospital,” visit a fetish market, and watch a real voodoo ceremony accompanied by hypnotic rhythm of chanting and drums.

Day 15
Accra, Ghana / Depart

The Krobo region near Accra is world famous for its glass beads, long used as trade goods. This morning we visit a bead workshop to see how these complex multi-colored glass beads are made. Evening departure on homeward-bound flights.

Reverse Itinerary-in-Brief
February 2016 Departure Only

Days 1-5 Voodoo Priests and Fetish Markets of the Coast
Days 6-9 Traditional Tribes of the Savanna / Castles of Clay
Days 10-11 Kumasi and the Ashanti
Days 12-14 Accra, Ghana / El Mina Castle
Day 15 Depart

Highlights

Highlights

Kumasi, the heart of the vibrant Ashanti culture, known for their colorful handicrafts and elaborate funerary rites
The surreal voodoo world of the Togo and Benin coasts
Elmina Castle, fetish priests of Taneka, the Tamberma and Somba people with their castles of clay
Each departure features the vibrant Akwasidae and Egun Mask festivals

Details

Length: 15 days
Cost From: $6195  
Arrive: Accra, Ghana
Depart: Accra, Ghana
Lodging: 14 nights in hotels & guesthouses
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Rugged road travel, cultural exploration, easy walks

Other Trips You Might be Interested in: