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

Overview

Traditional cultures, renowned art forms, flamboyant festivals, mask dances, and a dazzling ethnic mosaic are the golden gems of West Africa. Our cultural odyssey brings us across Ghana, Togo, and Benin to discover lost tribal worlds guided by ancient spirits. Along the way, we meet unforgettable tribes 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. Our journeys witness the Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi, honoring the Ashanti king, and the exuberant mask dances of an Egun Mask Festival in Benin.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Accra, Ghana / Elmina Castle

After a visit to the Kwame Nkrukmah Park and Mausoleum, which honors the first post-independence leader of Ghana, and a visit to the old James Town section and the Accra seafront, we head along the palm-fringed coast to the 15th century Portuguese fortress of Elmina, entering its eerie slave dungeons and peeking through the “Door of No Return,” where captives were taken to awaiting ships.

Days 4-5
Kumasi / the Ashanti

The Ashanti Kingdom was once one of the most powerful nations in Africa. In Kumasi, the Ashanti “capital,” we explore the lively market and enjoy the pageantry of the traditional Akwasidae Festival.

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

In a baobab-dotted landscape that was once a caravan route between Ghana’s Gold Coast and the Sahara, we call at traditional villages that rarely see outsiders. We meet northern Benin’s Dagomba people, with their round clay huts, and the isolated Tamberma and Somba, famous for their defensive architecture of fortified adobe castles, complete with turrets. We also visit a very remote Taneka village of fetish priests and the encampments of Fulani herders.

Days 10-15
Voodoo Priests and Fetish Markets of the Coast

On Benin’s coast, we explore Abomey and its eerie Royal Palace of the Dahomey king. Near Lomé, Togo’s capital, we meet traditional healers at a “voodoo hospital,” visit a fetish market, and head out to a village to witness a real voodoo ceremony accompanied by the hypnotic rhythm of chanting and drums. Depart on Day 15 via Accra.

Highlights

Highlights

Traditional Ashanti culture, with its kente cloth, bead-makers, and elaborate funerary rites
The surreal voodoo world of the Togo and Benin coasts
Elmina Castle, fetish priests of Taneka, the Tamberma people and their castles of clay
Vibrant Akwasidae and Egun Mask festivals on every departure

Details

Length: 15 days
Cost From: $6195  
Arrive: Accra, Ghana
Depart: Accra, Ghana
Lodging: 14 nights hotels and guesthouses
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Walking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Rugged road travel, cultural exploration, easy walks