The small West African nation of Benin was originally a French colony called Dahomey. This magical destination became an independent nation in 1975 and celebrates an ethnic and religious diversity that makes it unique to visitors from abroad. The landscape of Benin is as unique as its people - from coconut palms in the south to wooded Savannah and the Atakora mountains in the northwest. Visitors to Benin would be remiss in taking photos of the residents without permission, as the country’s official religion is Voodoo, and there is a common belief that photography steals a bit of the soul. You might not be taking many pictures during your stay in Benin, but the people and the vistas will leave you breathless.


1. Route d'Esclaves

Benin’s southern coastline is home to the Route d’Esclaves or Slave Route. A 2.5-mile stretch that was the final piece of African soil slaves would stand on before being transported across the Atlantic. Luckily those days are over, and the last ship carrying slaves left Benin in 1885 bound for Brazil. Today you can retrace the steps of the slaves who would never see their homeland or families ever again. Step through the Gate of No Return, take shelter under the tree of forgetfulness and explore this area steeped in history.

slave route gate no return alantobey / Getty Images

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