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Benin: Holidays, Events, Climate, Voodoo

Public holidays

Date Holiday
January 1 New Year
10. January National Vodoo Day, The holiday was introduced in 1998 by then President Mathieu Kérékou (1933-2015).
January Day of the Martyrs
February Tabaski (Festival of Sacrifice)
March April Easter
1st of May Labor Day
May Mouloud (birth of the Prophet Mohammed)
May Ascension of Christ
May June Pentecost
August 1 Independence Day/National Day
15th of August Assumption Day
November 1 All Saints Day
30th of November National holiday
November December Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)
25 December Christmas
December 31 Harvest day

Source: Countryaah - Benin Holidays

Benin Holidays

The dates for the Islamic holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and therefore shift every year. During the fasting month of Ramadan, which precedes the festival day Eid al-Fitr, Muslims are forbidden to eat during the day, this is only allowed after sunset, so many restaurants are closed during the day. The festivals Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha last 2-10 days depending on the region.

Cultural events

In the village of Nikki in the Borgou department, the colorful La Gani festival is celebrated every December with lots of music. Similar festivities take place between November and February in Abomey, Porto Novo and Allada, among others.


Until a few years ago, female genital mutilation was carried out on young girls in some parts of the country. In 2005, however, Benin became the first African state to publicly and officially prohibit this cruel practice.

Voodoo Festival in Ouidah

Voodoo is recognized as the state religion in Benin. To this end, ceremonies are held annually on January 10th across the country, with the center in Ouidah. The different groups can be recognized by their costumes, for example, there are groups that are powdered white or painted yellow. You can also admire groups with large red balls on their heads. During the ceremonies, people dance in a trance and drink plenty of alcohol - mostly gin - with them.


In Benin there is not the four seasons known to us, but an alternation of rainy and dry periods.

Rainy periods

The rainy periods last in the south of the country, i.e. on the coast, from May to June and from the end of September to November. Average daytime temperatures stay around 30 °C all year round. At night they also stay constant at around 23 °C. In the course of a year, precipitation falls in the south around 2030 mm. In the north, The rainy season lasts from the end of March to November, with a steady increase and peak in September. However, only about 1015 mm of precipitation falls here each year. Average daytime temperatures vary from 29-38 °C within a year, with the coldest during the rainy season. During the night they fluctuate between 16 and 26 °C. It is coldest here from November to February and the warmest in April. During the rainy periods the humidity can rise to values of up to 90%.

Dry periods

In the south of the country, dry periods occur from July to August and from December to April. In the north it lasts from December to March. During this time the Harmattan, a dusty desert wind blows from the northeast and brings large temperature differences between day and night, especially in the north. The desert wind mitigates the high humidity.

National customs


Voodoo, an original West African religion in which dances are central, is particularly widespread in Benin. The voodoo cult has always remained a bit mysterious and scary to people in the West. What seems so scary to an observer from the West are the ritual animal sacrifices and the consumption of intoxicating substances such as alcohol and tobacco. One still thinks of dolls pierced with needles, cock-swinging dancers and mindless, soulless undead. But if you want to get back to reality, you should approach the voodoo religion with a little more benevolence and interest. The voodoo cult has nothing to do with black magic, but rather with a form of dance and song ritual that is based on traditions.

Benin: sightseeing

UNESCO World Heritage Site


Palaces of Abomey When one speaks of palaces one must of course not think of the splendor and beauty of European castles and palaces. The buildings were relatively modest and mostly made of clay. Originally there were 14 palaces in Abomey (Dahomey), of which only two have largely been preserved. These buildings are of cultural and historical interest because they reflect the tradition of the kingdom of the Fon. The area around the palaces is surrounded by 6 m high walls. A cruel rarity is a throne standing on silver skulls.

The Kingdom of Fon was founded around 1620 - with Abomey as its capital - with Dako as the first king, followed by King Ouegbadja from 1645 to 1685. The kings took an active part in the slave trade by selling their subjects to the white slave traders and becoming very rich in the process. But slavery existed here before too. During the heyday of the slave trade between 1728-1818, the kings Tegbesu, Kengala, Agongolo and Adandozan ruled. The cruel deeds of these kings did not end until 1894 with the colonization and exile of King Béhanzin by the French. King Béhanzin died in exile in Algiers in 1906. Voodoo priests, who used to help consolidate the power of kings, now offer their arts to tourists.

The Royal Palaces of Abomey have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.



Abomey with approx. 390,000 residents and is centrally located in the province of Zou. Abomey impresses with its temples, palaces and the voodoo cult.


Djougou has approx. 85,000 residents and is located near the border with Togo.


Around 200,000 residents make Parakou, at an altitude of 320 meters, the fourth largest city in Benin. Parakou is known as an important market and trading center for the rural area and also has an airport. The city's landmark is the Roman Catholic Cathédrale Saints Pierre et Paul.


Cotonou is the economic center, largest city as well as the seat of government of Benin, the capital of the country and seat of the parliament is however Porto Novo. About 691,000 people live in Cotonou. The city has an airport and is well connected to Benin's road and rail system. Interesting for tourists in the city are the clay buildings typical of the country, the many buildings dating back to the colonial times and the numerous attractive markets.


The Natitingou, inhabited by 35,000 people, is located near the Atakora mountain range and is so worth seeing because of the residential castles (Tata-Somba) of the Somba. If you decide to visit the city, you should do so outside of the Harmattanzeit, when the desert wind turns the city into a cauldron.

Porto Novo

About 235,000 people live in the capital of Benin, which is also the seat of parliament and the president, which makes it the second largest city in the country after Cotonou. Worth seeing in Porto Novo are the large market, the Museum of Ethnology, the Palace of King Toffa and the Colorful Mosque. About 10 kilometers from Porto Novo you can visit the Adjarra drum market. Another institution in the city that is worth mentioning is the École du Patrimoine Africain, which also has a branch in another 25 countries and is committed to the preservation of cultural heritage.


The trading town of Ouidah, which was so important in the 18th century, was once the place from which thousands of slaves were shipped to America. The slave trading centers and the ruins of the Comptaire are still a reminder of this today. But Quidah is best known as the center and cradle of the voodoo cult. This is also reflected in the voodoo festival that takes place every January 10th when voodoo followers from all parts of the world come to Quidah. Other attractions of Quidah include the Temple of the Rainbow Serpent Dangbé, the Kpassezoumé Sculpture Park, Fort Saint Jean-Baptiste d'Ajuda and the Maison de Brazil. Then there are the city's numerous fetish temples.

Special structures

Ganvie stilt-dwelling village near Cotonou

The village on a lagoon has a floating market.

Palais Royal du Roi Toffa in Porto Nova

The former palace of King Toffa is located in Benin's capital, Porto Novo. Nowadays there are some exhibits that go back to the early history of the African country.

Portuguese Fort in Quidah

The 18th century building now houses a history museum.

Tata-Somba in Natitingou

The Tata-Somba are the traditional residential castles of the Somba, who have thus protected themselves from attacks by wild animals. The Tata-Somba are built on two floors, with the warehouse, the kitchen and the animals below and the family room above. In addition, an altar is set up in front of each tata, which is dedicated to the voodoo spirits and is supposed to keep evil.


Honmé Museum in Porto Novo

This museum, housed in the former governor's palace, documents the history of the Xogbonou kingdom.

Museé Ethnographique de Porto Novo

The very interesting ethnographic museum of Porto Novo, which can be found near Place Jean Bayol, was Benin's first museum. On display are exhibits that represent the culture and history of the country.

Museum of the History of the Kingdom in Abomey

The museum is located in the old Royal Palace.

Sacred buildings and sacred institutions

Notre Dame des Apôtres in Cotonou

The Catholic Notre Dame in Cotonou is one of the most striking, but at the same time one of the ugliest buildings in the city. You can find them on the old bridge.


The trading town of Ouidah, which was so important in the 18th century, was once the place from which thousands of slaves were shipped to America. The slave trading centers and the ruins of the Comptaire are still a reminder of this today. But Quidah is best known as the center and cradle of the voodoo cult. This is also reflected in the voodoo festival that takes place every January 10th when voodoo followers from all parts of the world come to Quidah. Other attractions of Quidah include the Temple of the Rainbow Serpent Dangbé, the Kpassezoumé Sculpture Park, Fort Saint Jean-Baptiste d'Ajuda and the Maison de Brazil. Then there are the city's numerous fetish temples.

More Attractions


The water town of Ganvié extends on Lake Nokoué and is characterized by the interesting stilt houses that were built by the Tofino ethnic group. You can visit Ganvié with the help of boats and watch the Tofino fishing in the lagoon.

Markets of Cotonou

If there is one main attraction in Cotonou, it is the numerous very attractive markets, including the international market in the Dantokpa district. This market is the largest in all of West Africa. The fish market also opens its doors every morning, and if you go to the Ganhi district, you will find the well-attended fruit market there.

Nikki Nikki,

near Parakou, is known as the center of the Bariba, who hold their equestrian festival in the city every December. The impressive horse race is accompanied by dance and drum music.

Natural beauties

Atakora mountain range (French: Chaîne de l'Atakora)

Benin is also part of the Atakora mountain range, which stretches from Ghana via Togo to Burkina Faso. The high-precipitation region reaches its greatest height with the 986 meter high Mont Agou (also called Mont Baumann). The highest mountain in the Benin area is the 658 meter high Mont Sokbaro.

Botanical Garden of Papatia (French: Jardin Botanique)

The Botanical Garden of Papatia extends about 30 kilometers south of the city of Natitingou. It is very advisable to join one of the expert tours there and get to know the 5.5 hectare park in this way. A highlight of the park is the pharmacy, where you can buy and taste medicines made from plants.

Dassa Zoume

Close to the town of Dassa Zoume, you have the opportunity to experience majestic rock formations and fascinating grottos.

National Park W (French: Parc national du W)

The National Park W has existed since 1954 and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to Benin, the park also belongs to the states of Niger and Burkina Faso and got its strange name because the course of the Niger River reminds of the letter "W". A total of more than 500 different plant and 420 animal species should be found in the W National Park. The animal species include baboons, hippos, cheetahs, antelopes, gazelles and various reptiles.

Pendjari National Park

The park is located and covers an area of around 5,000 km². It is located in the far north-west of the country and borders Burkina Faso. The park was founded in 1954 as a sanctuary for members of the colonial administration's hunt and declared a national park in 1961 - it is part of the 50,000 km² transnational biosphere reserve established in 1986, of which approx. 12,000 km² are in Benin. In the park you can see antelopes, buffalo, elephants, hippos, cheetahs, hyenas, crocodiles, lions, Nile monitors or even pythons in the wild. The cheetah is considered the park's landmark. Unfortunately, paid hunting trips are offered in certain regions.


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