AIA Tours: land

Ghana & Benin: Exploring West Africa

Tour Dates: August 3-19, 2021 (17 days)

Tour Leader(s): Trevor Marchand ,

Join us as we learn about the effects of the former Atlantic slave trade on West Africa and the resilience of the people, towns, and cultures forever changed by it. Explore the dramatic landscapes that helped shape the different tribes and kingdoms of West Africa, from the rugged coastline of Ghana and Benin to the southern forests of Ghana. Discover the architecture of towns, monuments, and mosques in Sahelian, traditional Sudanese mud-brick, and Portuguese Baroque styles. Ghana and Benin are rich in culture and history, and their people are warm and enthusiastic about sharing their histories, cultures, and traditions.

Highlights:

  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Cape Coast Castle, one of about 40 “slave castles” built on the Gold Coast of West Africa by European traders; and the Royal Palaces of Abomey, the palaces of 11 of the 12 kings who ruled the Kingdom of Abomey.
  • See neighborhoods, towns, and monuments that played an important role during the former Atlantic slave trade; Jamestown quarter in Accra, whose colonial history can still be seen; Elmina, a fishing port town known for its role in the slave trade; and Gwollu, where a mud defensive wall was built to defend against slave raiders.
  • Experience the Akwasidae Festival, held every 42 days by the Ashanti King; as well as Vodun ceremonies in both Grand Popo and Ouidah, Benin.
  • Explore the best game park in Ghana, Mole National Park, by participating in two game drives with the opportunity to encounter elephants and other wildlife up close.
  • See mosques built in Sahelian style mud with protruding timber armature; and Portuguese Baroque style, which travelled back to West Africa with freed former slaves from Brazil.
  • In addition to your knowledgeable and congenial AIA study leader, who is an anthropologist and architectural historian, you will be accompanied by excellent local guides and an expert tour manager who will handle all of the logistics so you can relax, enjoy, and learn.

Pricing per person (15 nights) double occupancy

15-16 participants $9,595
10-14 participants $10,445
Single Supplement $2,495

Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability). With fewer than 10 participants, a small group surcharge may be added.

Itinerary Map - Ghana & Benin, AIA Tours - travel with the Archaeological Institute of America

Fishing boat in Ghana - Ghana & Benin, AIA Tours - travel with the Archaeological Institute of America

Elephants at Mole National Park - Ghana & Benin, AIA Tours - travel with the Archaeological Institute of America

Larabanga Mosque -Ghana & Benin, AIA Tours - travel with the Archaeological Institute of America

Vodum ceremony -Ghana & Benin, AIA Tours - travel with the Archaeological Institute of America

Accra, Ghana & Benin - AIA Tours - travel with the Archaeological Institute of America

Itinerary


Tuesday, August 3, 2021: Depart Home
Wednesday, August 4: Arrive Accra, Ghana | Transfer to hotel
Thursday, August 5: Accra – University of Ghana, driving tour of Jamestown Quarter, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum | Welcome dinner
Friday, August 6: Coffin-making workshop | Fort Amsterdam | Anomabu | Cape Coast: Cape Coast Castle
Saturday, August 7: Elmina walking tour | Drive to Kumasi
Sunday, August 8: Kumasi – Akwasidae Festival, Manhyia Palace Museum, Prempeh II Jubilee Museum
Monday, August 9: Kumasi – Kejetia Market | Pankrono | Ntonso | Adanwomase | Ahwia | Kumasi
Tuesday, August 10: Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary | Mole National Park
Wednesday, August 11: Mole National Park – AM and PM Game Drives
Thursday, August 12: Larabanga | Bole | Wa – WaNaa’s Palace, Nakore Mosque
Friday, August 13: Lawra | Gwollu | Bolgatanga
Saturday, August 14: Sirigu | Navrongo | Paga | Bolgatanga
Sunday, August 15: Tongo | Wulugu | Tamale | Fly to Accra
Monday, August 16: Drive to Grand Popo, BENIN | Cotonou
Tuesday, August 17: Porto Novo | Ganvie | Cotonou
Wednesday, August 18: Abomey | Cotonou | Farewell dinner
Thursday, August 19: Ouidah | Fly home

View Detailed Itinerary

B= Breakfast • L= Lunch • D= Dinner

 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021: Depart Home
Depart the U.S. for Accra, Ghana.

Wednesday, August 4: Arrive Accra, Ghana | Transfer to hotel
Arrive today at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport (ACC), where you will be met for individual transfers to our hotel, which overlooks one of Ghana’s most beautiful beaches. Dinner is at leisure. Overnight at the 5-star Labadi Beach Hotel for two nights.

Thursday, August 5: AccraUniversity of Ghana, driving tour of Jamestown Quarter, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum | Welcome dinner
This morning visit the University of Ghana at Legon, a suburb of Accra. We will have a guest lecture by a staff member from the archaeology department, followed by a visit to the small but beautifully displayed university archaeology museum. Afterward, on our way to visit the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and adjacent museum, we will take a short driving tour of the historic Jamestown quarter of Accra, whose colonial history can still be seen in its forts that line the High Street and the decaying yet beautiful colonial timber houses. After a group lunch, the balance of the afternoon is at leisure. This evening we gather for an opening lecture and welcome dinner at our hotel. (B,L,D)

Friday, August 6: Coffin-making workshop | Fort Amsterdam | Anomabu | Cape Coast: Cape Coast Castle
Depart Accra early this morning for Cape Coast, a port town that was a center for Asante traders and the British commercial and administrative capital of the Gold Coast for more than 200 years. Along the way, we visit a coffin-making workshop. Funerals are one of Ghana’s most important social gatherings, and the deceased among the coastal Ga people are sent off in great style with wonderful coffins carved to represent their lives. Stop briefly to view Fort Amsterdam, the center for British slave trade until it was destroyed by the local population in 1811. Continue on to Anomabu where we see Asafo Posuban, elaborately decorated shrines made by patrilineal military companies that are traditionally responsible for the defense of their towns. After lunch in Cape Coast, visit the expansive Cape Coast Castle, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Check-in to our hotel, get settled, and gather for dinner at our hotel this evening. Overnight at the 3-star Ridge Royal Hotel. (B,L,D)

Saturday, August 7: Elmina walking tour | Drive to Kumasi
This morning we set out on an extensive walking tour of Elmina, traversing the narrow streets and visiting Dutch merchant houses, Asafo Posuban, the Dutch cemetery, the bustling market, and the fishing harbor, ending in front of Elmina Fort. After lunch we take a scenic, 4-hour drive north through southern forests to Kumasi. Gather for dinner at our hotel this evening. Overnight at the 4-star Golden Tulip Kumasi City hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Sunday, August 8: Kumasi – Akwasidae Festival, Manhyia Palace Museum, Prempeh II Jubilee Museum
Experience the Akwasidae Festival, which occurs every 42 days. The Asantehene (Ashanti king), subject to availability, holds audience for his subjects in the great courtyard of the Manhyia Palace. Everyone in attendance wears colorful traditional dress. This vibrant ceremony honors the ancestors and involves drumming and dancing. After lunch we visit the Manhyia Palace Museum and the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum, which offer a good understanding of Ashanti history. Gather for dinner this evening (B,L,D)

Monday, August 9: Kumasi – Kejetia Market | Pankrono | Ntonso | Adanwomase | Ahwia | Kumasi
We begin our day by visiting the sprawling, bustling Kejetia market, one of the largest urban markets in Africa. From there we will continue to the villages around Kumasi to visit two Ashanti Shrines: Besease and AtiaKusia Kwame. After lunch we spend the remainder of the afternoon visiting several specialized craft villages, including Pankrono, renowned for pottery; Ntonso, where Adinkra cloth is made using stamps carved from calabash gourds; Adanwomase, where we will learn about Kente weaving; and Ahwia, known for its wood carvers. Return to Kumasi, where we enjoy dinner this evening. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, August 10: Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary | Mole National Park
Depart Kumasi early this morning for a long day of travel (approx. an 8-hour drive) to Mole National Park. Along the way visit the Boabeng Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, where the traditional beliefs of the Ashanti people protect the monkeys. Continue our journey north and stop for lunch along the way. Arrive at our beautiful safari lodge in Mole National Park in time to view sunset over the watering hole, and enjoy dinner together. Overnight at the 3-star Zaina Lodge for two nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, August 11: Mole National Park – AM and PM Game Drives
Spend the day exploring Mole National Park, known as the best game park in Ghana and, quite possibly, in West Africa. Game drives, with expert driver/guides, provide great opportunities to encounter and photograph elephant and other wildlife up close. Wake early for a morning game drive, and return to the lodge for breakfast. The rest of the morning is at leisure to relax and enjoy the property. Gather again in the late afternoon for another game drive, and then enjoy dinner at the lodge this evening. (B,L,D)

Thursday, August 12: Larabanga | Bole | Wa – WaNaa’s Palace, Nakore Mosque
Depart Mole National Park this morning for Larabanga, and see the oldest mosque in Ghana, built in Sahelian style in mud with protruding timber armature. Continue our drive with a small detour west to Bole, to see another of Ghana’s historic mud mosques, before driving north to Wa. After a break for lunch we arrive in Wa and visit WaNaa’s Palace, an extraordinary example of traditional Sudanese mud-brick architecture and a monument of political, religious, and social significance for local residents. We finish the day at the historic Nakore Mosque, built from mud in the ancient Sudanic style, just outside of Wa. Dinner this evening is at our quaint hotel in Wa. Overnight at the 2-star Dellagio Hotel. (B,L,D)

Friday, August 13: Lawra | Gwollu | Bolgatanga
Departing Wa this morning, we drive east to the small village of Lawra, famous for its handcrafted xylophones and the teaching of “gyil” music. We will tour a xylophone workshop and hear a short recital. Next continue on to Gwollu to see a mud defensive wall built in the 19th century by the Gwollu Koro Limann to defend the residents against slave raiders. Afterward, visit the traditional “bone setters” to see how the tradition has been passed down within the Najiriwia clan and is still practiced today. Enjoy a packed lunch as we continue on to Bolgatanga, arriving in the late afternoon. Check-in to our hotel and freshen up before dinner at a local restaurant known for its pizza. Overnight at the 3-star Akayet Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

Saturday, August 14: Sirigu | Navrongo | Paga | Bolgatanga
Today we begin touring at the village of Sirigu, renowned for its mud compounds painted by the village women with elaborate symbols and designs in red, white, and black. After lunch we continue to the town of Navrongo to visit the mud-brick Cathedral of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. The interior is painted with biblical scenes and traditional symbols by women from Sirigu using their soil-based pigments. We finish the day with a visit to Paga Pia’s Palace, built in the traditional Sahelian style. This compound is a labyrinth of round and square huts with conical thatched roofs and storage buildings, some with paintings of crocodile. Return to Bolgatanga, where dinner is at leisure. (B,L)

Sunday, August 15: Tongo | Wulugu | Tamale | Fly to Accra
Drive south to Tongo, home to the Tallensi people known for their resistance to British rule and strong cultural traditions. Visit the chief’s sprawling extended-family compound, with honeycomb-like configurations of tightly interconnected dwellings and ancestral shrines. The rocky outcrops that surround the village house caves, sanctuaries, and shrines that are still in use. Travelling south, stop in Wulugu to see Zayaa “Mosque,” a unique, fantastical 20th-century hermitage built in mud. Enjoy a packed lunch along the way, arrive in Tamale in the early afternoon, and depart from Tamale Airport on our flight to Accra. Upon arrival we check-in to the very first hotel at which we stayed on this tour. Gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 5-star Labadi Beach Hotel. (B,L,D)

Monday, August 16: Drive to Grand Popo, BENIN | Cotonou
After breakfast, we depart our Accra hotel early to drive (approx. 6 hours) east along the coast to Grand Popo, Benin, crossing through the small, narrow country of Togo along the way. Benin is often considered the birthplace of voodoo (locally known as Vodun, an official religion since 1996) and, upon arrival in Grand Popo we attend a spectacular Vodun ceremony. Continue on to Cotonou and check-in to our hotel, where we gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 4-star Maison Rouge Hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, August 17: Porto Novo | Ganvie | Cotonou
This morning we drive to Porto Novo, the administrative capital of Benin, where we visit the Museum of Ethnography and see some of the town’s colonial buildings, including the old mosque built in Portuguese Baroque style, which travelled back to West Africa with freed former slaves from Brazil. After lunch continue on to Ganvie, a lake village in Lake Nokoué that is sometimes called the “Venice of Africa,” for a boat tour among houses that have stood for centuries on wooden stilts. Return to Cotonou and have dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, August 18: Abomey | Cotonou | Farewell dinner
This morning we set out for a drive Abomey, about three hours north of Cotonou. After lunch we visit the Royal Palaces of Abomey, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where the palaces of 11 of the 12 kings who ruled the Kingdom of Abomey between 1625 and 1900 are built within the same enclosure. The kingdom was one of the most powerful of the West African coast. These palaces were both the political centers of the kingdom and places where remarkable arts and crafts were developed and treasures stored. The palaces of King Ghézo and King Glélé are now the Historical Museum of Abomey. Drive back to Cotonou and freshen up for our farewell dinner this evening. (B,L,D)

Thursday, August 19: Ouidah | Fly home
On our final touring day we drive to the colonial town of Ouidah, a historic stronghold of Portuguese trade and a thriving center of Vodun. Visit the Sacred Forest; the Temple of the Pythons, a Vodun temple that houses dozens of worshipped snakes; and then make a stop at the “Door of No Return,” a monument to enslaved people (more than a million over 200 years) who were forced to depart on boats bound for European colonies across the Atlantic. After an independent lunch near the seaside, we watch a final Vodun ceremony. Transfer this evening to Cardinal Bernadin Gantin de Cotonou International Airport (COO) to catch flights homeward. (B)


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