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Togo stretches inland for over 500 kilometres, but it is its 100-kilometre-long coastline that attracts the vast majority of tourists. And on this coast, it is Lomé, the country's capital and once the region's most popular city, that tops the charts. While business has been tough over the past decade (with civil strife scaring most travellers away), the city's attraction is picking up. Its beaches are as good as ever and it has a nice African flair that is instantly appealing.
But while it's easy to get stuck along the coast, we recommend exploring the country's inland for some variety. The diverse cultures of the 40-some ethnic groups are fascinating. Visit a couple villages and immerse yourself in their customs and way of life. Then return to the beach for an evening dip.
During the period from the 11th century to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions: the Ewé from Nigeria and Benin; and the Mina and Guin from Ghana. Most settled in coastal areas. When the slave trade began in the 16th century, the Mina were the most serious of victims. For the next two hundred years, the coastal region was a major raiding centre for Europeans in search of slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name "The Slave Coast".
In 1854 Germany declared a protectorate over a stretch of territory along the coast and gradually extended its control inland. In 1905, this became the German colony of Togoland. After the German defeat during World War I in August 1914 at the hands of British troops and French troops, Togoland became two League of Nations mandates, administered by Britain and France. After World War II, these mandates became UN Trust Territories. The residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part of the new independent nation of Ghana, and French Togoland became an autonomous republic within the French Union.
Independence came in 1960 under Sylvanus Olympio. He was assassinated in a military coup on 13 January 1963 by a group of soldiers under the direction of Sergeant Etienne Eyadema Gnassingbe. Opposition leader Nicolas Grunitzky was appointed president by the "Insurrection Committee", headed by Emmanuel Bodjollé. However, on 13 January 1967, Eyadema Gnassingbe overthrew Grunitzky in a bloodless coup and assumed the presidency. Eyadema Gnassingbe died in early 2005 after 38 years in power, as Africa's longest-sitting dictator. The military's immediate but short-lived installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbé, as president provoked widespread international condemnation, except from France. However, some democratically elected African leaders such as Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, supported that move, thereby creating a rift within the African Union.
Faure Gnassingbé stood down and called elections which he won two months later. The opposition claimed that the election was fraudulent. Up to 400 people were killed in the political violence surrounding the presidential poll, according to the United Nations. Around 40,000 Togolese fled to neighbouring countries.
Togo is a small black Sub-Saharan nation comprising a long strip of land in West Africa. Togo's geographic coordinates are a latitude of 8° north and a longitude of 1°10′ east. It is bordered by three countries: Benin to the east, with 644 kilometres of border; Burkina Faso to the north, with 126 kilometres of border; and Ghana, with 877 kilometres of border. To the south Togo has 56 kilometres of coastline along the Bight of Benin of the Gulf of Guinea in the North Atlantic Ocean. Togo has an area of 56,785 km2, of which 54,385 km2 is land and 2,400 km2 is water. The country consists primarily of two savanna plains regions separated by a southwest–northeast range of hills (the Chaîne du Togo). In the south are low-lying sandy beaches. The coastal region is narrow and followed by tidal flats and shallow lagoons. There are also a number of lakes, the largest of which is Lake Togo. Further north lies the Ouatchi Plateau. This plateau is about 30 kilometres wide and located at an altitude of 60 to 90 metres above sea level. Northeast of the Ouatchi Plateau lies a tableland. At its highest this region is about 500 metres above sea level. The area is drained by the Mono River and its tributaries, including the Ogou River.
To the west and the southwest of the tableland lie the Togo Mountains. These mountains run across the central region of Togo, ranging from the southwest to the northeast. The mountain range reaches into Benin where it is known as the Atakora Mountains and Ghana where it is known as the Akwapim Hills. The highest mountain in Togo is Mount Agou with a height of 986 metres. North of the Togo Mountains lies a sandstone plateau through which the Oti River flows. The vegetation is characterized by savanna. The River Oti which drains the plateau is one of the main tributaries of the River Volta. In the far northwest of Togo lies a higher region which is characterized by its rocks: granite and gneiss. The cliffs of Dapaong (Dapango) are located in this part of Togo.
Togo consists of 5 regions.
The Lomé Grand Market is a huge market in the capital. Located near the Lomé Cathedral in the city centre and this market can give a great glimpse into Togo culture. The market often has live African music. The market is a three story building occupying an entire block in the capital.
Lake Togo is the largest lake in a lagoon in Southern Togo. The lake is separated from the ocean by a narrow piece of land. The lake is shallow making it very popular for water sports, such as water skiing. Agbodrafo and Togoville are the two largest towns on the lake.
With over half of the country still following native animistic beliefs this country is rich in traditional culture. In addition to a diverse religious system many of the cultures make great wooden sculptures and with hunting trophies are used instead of masks. Among the Kloto people check out the traditional batiks, which show scenes of everyday life. Then go see traditional taberma home made of adobe and earth. Make sure to check out some traditional music at the many different villages.
Celebrated in the central city of Sokode, this three-day festival is usually held in March. Each day, different ceremonies take place: the purpose of the first day is to thank ancestors for their harvests; the second day is known as the “Feast of Knives” and is a show of might dating back to the days of Semassi warriors; the final day is called ‘Kosso’ and is when women come to celebrate the role of warriors.
Held in July every year in Togo, this festival of initiation for young ladies is held in Kabye land. Locals dress in traditional costume and there are several dancing ceremonies.
Held every August in the Kpalime region, this multi-day festival has three purposes: firstly, to worship the animist deities; secondly, to signal the end of the farming cycle with the harvest; and thirdly, to celebrate the beginning of the rest period. There are many songs and dances performed, all with an undercurrent of traditional African drumming.
This Togo event is held in the village of Glidji every September and celebrates the indigenous beliefs and the start of the new year. The highlight of the festival is a sacred stone, the color of which predicts fortunes of the coming year. Blue indicates abundant harvests, red means it will be a year of war, black means famine and floods, while white means the year will be blessed with luck. The festival is held 30 miles from Lome and is a time of year which many families use to reunite.
As Togo stretches from the Atlantic coastline towards the edges of the Sahara desert, the climate, although being hot almost anywhere anytime, has some variety.
The coastal area is hot and humid year-round, with temperatures around 30 °C on most days. February to May is a bit hotter, when even nights are very warm at 26 °C on average. Although the rainy season lasts from May to October, there generally is a peak in May/June and another in October, while in between it is relatively dry.
What is rather strange, is that rainfall along the coast is less than immediately inland. There are two reason for this:
First, the heaviest rainfall in Togo coincides with waters offshore being unusually cool for near-equatorial latitudes; a cool current appears on the ocean surface. Second, the coast follows a direction from west/southwest to east/northeast and is parallel with the prevailing winds.
In the north of the country, there is single rainy season from May to September and a long and hot dry season from October to April. The total amount of rain is much less compared to the southern and coastal zones. Temperatures during the hot season can reach well over 40 °C during the days. From December to February the hot, dry and dusty Harmattan wind blows over most of the country as well, reaching almost to the coast although here with prevailing southwestern winds, the Harmattan only affects life for several days a year.
Lomé-Tokoin Airport (LFW) near the capital Lomé receives all international flights and destinations with Air Horizon are limited to several cities in Africa and the Middle East. Other airlines flying here are Afriqiyah Airways (Cotonou, Lagos and Tripoli), Air France to Paris, Toumaï Air Chad (Douala, Brazzaville, Bangui, N'Djamena) and a few others mainly in the region and to Ethiopia and Casablanca.
Like many countries in Africa, travelling by train is not possible.
If you are travelling overland through Africa, you can use most border crossings used by buses and minibuses as well. Border crossings to Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso are pretty straightforward, but have your car papers and insurance in order.
There are many possibilities to travel overland from Togo to neighbouring countries.
Buses and bush taxi's ply the route between Lomé and Cotonou in Benin, taking around 3 hours.
Buses travel from Lomé to Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso, 18 hours) and Niamey (Niger, 23 hours) as well. Minibuses and bush taxi's take a lot longer and stop in more places. It's also possible mostly to cross border with bush taxi's between the closest towns on both sites of the border.
Currently, there are no passenger services to and from Togo.
Sokodé, Mango, Dapango, Lama-Kara, Lomé and Niamtougou all have airports, but domestic services are limited, if they do exist at all.
There are rail services between Atakpamé, Blitta and Lomé, between Kpalimé and Lomé, and between Aného and Lomé. Trains run at least daily on these routes.
Tarred roads run along the coast and there is one central tarred road to the north. Many other roads are gravel and can be impassable during the wet season. Cars can be rented, but rates are extremely high, and it is even cheaper to get a taxi anywhere in the country. Also, highway robberies are not unheard of, especially when it's dark. If you insist on renting a car, you will drive on the right side of the road and you need an international driving permit.
Buses, minibuses and bush taxis all ply the main routes between the cities and towns along the coast and into the northern interior. Buses are scheduled, but minibuses and bush taxis leave when full and are usually a bit more expensive though faster. You pay a surcharge for luggage.
Togo is a great country to get around by bike and you can rent bikes at many towns. By bike you can go anywhere and roads are usually flat and even during the wet season passable. You will also spend less time at police checkpoints.
There are a few ferries along the coast, but services are infrequent. Try to contact the local port authorities for more information.
All visitors require a visa for Togo, but most nationals can get one upon arrival valid for just one week. These can be extended once in Togo. Check the nearest embassy or consulate of Togo for more information.
See also Money matters
Togo uses the CFA Franc as a currency. The CFA Franc is divided into 100 centimes. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500 francs while banknotes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 francs
The exchange range is fixed at aproximately 656 CFA Francs for one Euro.
In Togo the West African CFA Franc (XOF) is used which has the same vallue as the Central African CFA Franc (XAF), but it's not possible to use both currencies in the same country.
Fourteen countries in Africa use this currency, eight in West Africa and six in Central Africa. The West African CFA Franc can only be used in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, while the Central African CFA Franc can only be used in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
West Africa Advanced School of Theology (WAAST) in Lomé, Togo, trains ministers to pursue excellence in the knowledge and skills needed to enable them to carry out God’s mission (missio Dei) to the nations of the world as Pentecostal servants in the roles of pastor, evangelist, missionary, administrator, and Bible school teacher.
French is the national language and the lingua franca. Virtually no English is spoken in the whole of the country, aside from business offices and major banks in the capital.
Ewe is far and away the most widely spoken native language, with the Ewe people populating the southern half of the country. You may also come across the related Mina language in the area around Aneho. Kabiyè is the predominant language of the north.
Akume is made from corn flour. The "national" dish of West-Africa is Fufu. In Togo, it consists of white yams pounded into a doughy consistency. You will find plenty of Fufu Restaurants in the cities as well as roadside stands. Akume and Fufu are usually eaten with your hands and come with different sauces (from smoked fish to spicy tomato to peanut). Plantains can also be found in various forms; grilled, cooked, mashed or fried. In the season, Mangos, Papayas, and Pineapples are for sale everywhere.
Lemonade and Bissap juice are the most popular drinks. There are many bars almost around all corners in Lomé where you will be able to have a beer.
The most popular drinks you will find in common bars are beers and soda's.
See also Travel Health
Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is required upon entering Togo. Also you have to have a cholera stamp (proof of the fact you don't have the disease) when entering Togo overland.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Togo. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people.
Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue is present as well, especially in urban areas, but there is no vaccination.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
As a rule, stay away from public beaches, where tourists find themselves mugged any time of day or night. Most of the country has little crime, but Lomé is a clear exception, and is a good deal more dangerous than any city in Ghana or Benin. If going somewhere at night, take a car taxi, and get the numbers of a few trusted taxi drivers if you plan to stay for a while.
Driving is atrocious in Togo, with fatalistic overloaded speed demons chancing it on curves and hills, capital streets swarming with motorcycles throughout the black of night, and worrisome accident scenes along the main roads. The hilly north-south road north of Kara is particularly dangerous. If you are skeptical, take a day trip, and marvel at all the husks of buses and trucks that weren't there on the way out! Traffic is the single biggest danger to travelers in Togo.
The main cities and popular places have an internet café.
See also International Telephone Calls
Togo's international telephone code is 228.
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Togo does not have much to boast in terms of the slave trade, however it has rich cultural and other touristic attractions that will be of interest to tourists in the interest
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