Highlights of Togo's different regions: Maritime
Togo is a small West African country with a population of almost 9 million people bordered by Ghana, Benin, and Burkina Faso. Togo has 5 regions: Maritime, Plateaux, Centrale, Kara, and Savane (listing them from the South to the North). We have created different blog posts to showcase that even though Togo is not amongst the well-known destinations in Africa, all its regions have something unique to offer with distinct cultures, traditions, and natural beauty. In this blog post, we introduce the first and most visited region, Maritime.
Palm-fringed street in Lomé, Photograph: Francisco Anzola/Flickr
The Maritime region stretches along the coast, mainly characterized by fishing villages, sandy beaches, and interesting and hectic food and voodoo markets. It is the region most travelers visit, as the country's charming capital, Lomé, home to around a million people is located here as well.
View over Lomé, Photograph: The EITI/Flickr
For sea lovers, there are many palm-fringed beach options around Lomé, like Baguida, Avepozo or Coco Beach. Moving outside of the capital, Aného, a picturesque fishing village and Agbodrafo, a town carrying a tragic history of the slave trade, are excellent places to engage more with the coastal atmosphere and with local fishing villages.
Beach at Aného, Photograph: Jeff Attaway/Flickr
Besides beaches, the most interesting attraction in Maritime is the voodoo culture and the markets. One of the greatest places for a market experience is the Vogan Fridays Market in Aného, which is the spiritual center of the Guin-Mina people. This market is an excellent place to just slow down and watch the locals do their shopping and embrace their culture.
Lady selling vegetables at Vogan Fridays Market, Photograph: willemston/Flickr
If you miss the Friday Market, Lomé is also home to several interesting markets, such as Togo's largest market, the Grand Marché, which is located near the Lomé Cathedral and occupies an entire city block. It has a very unique atmosphere, often live African music is playing somewhere in the background. This colorful market mainly features local goods, but also a great place to buy some souvenirs or arts and crafts. As the market especially serves as a food market, it is a great place to take a look into Togo's cuisine. Another opportunity to get familiar with Togolese food is to eat at one of the maquis, which are street eateries selling delicious food.
Lady selling fish at the Grand Marché in Lomé, Photograph: IFPRI/Flickr
Another fascinating market in Lomé is the Akodessewa Fetish Market, which is one of the world’s largest voodoo and fetish markets and is an excellent place to learn more about Voodoo (or Vodun) that is practiced by a very significant portion of the population in Togo. The market features skulls of different animals, dead birds, as well as skins and other products of dead animals, so if you are sensitive to this you might consider not visiting the market. If you decide to do so, go with an open mind, respect the culture and remember that you are the visitor now!
Akodessewa Fetish Market, Photograph: Dan Sloan/Flickr
Finally, besides the coastal areas and the interesting markets, Lake Togo (Lac Togo) is a remarkable destination in Maritime. There are several activities that can be done on this beautiful lake, including water sports and pierogi trips on the lake, where you can have the chance to see crocodiles, hippos, and different species of birds. Moreover, it is also possible to do canoe trips on the backwaters of the Mono River.
Canoe on Lake Togo at sunset, Photograph: David Bacon /Flickr
Agbodrafo is also lying on the shore of Lake Togo, however, a better place to stay at is Togoville. Togoville is the historical center of voodoo in Togo, and most of its inhabitants practice voodoo, however, it has a big Cathedral, that was built in 1910. The Togoville Cathedral is significant because Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in the early 1970s in Togoville, hence Pope John Paul II visited Togoville in 1985. This is considered to be the only time when the pope prayed together with animists, and he even paid homage to the sacred snakes!
Statues at Akodessewa Fetish Market, Photograph: Dan Sloan/Flickr