Want to visit West Africa but not sure when’s the best time to go? The good news is that there’s always something interesting to see, something fascinating to do, and pleasant weather someplace no matter the time of the year.
To help you decide the right time for you, we’ve created a month-by-month guide of the most exciting things to do every month of the year. So check your schedule, pick a date, and get started planning the West African tour of a lifetime!
January – Ring in the New Year at the Ouidah Voodoo Festival in Benin.
Voodoo is practiced by over 60% of Benin’s population and in 1996, it was declared by the government as its official religion. Unlike the sensationalized pop-culture version of voodoo, the actual religion believes in an unknowable creator and includes a deep system of ethics and a tradition of folk medicine that has survived intact over many generations.
If you visit Benin in January, be sure to plan your visit so you’re there for the Ouidah Voodoo Festival on January 10th each year. You’ll see traditional dance and even ancient rites of sacrifice—and there’s no denying in the incredible energy of the people who participate in the festivities.
February – Visit Dogon Country in Mali.
Photo Credits: John Spooner
Mali is known for its extreme temperatures, but in January and February, the climate is temperate, perfect for visiting Dogon Country, one of the most fascinating places in the world. It was discovered almost by accident by travelers in the 1960s and has become a popular stop with visitors to Mali.
The Dogon people build their homes in the Bandiagara Escarpment and they are famous for the intricate geometric designs that decorate their village structures. They are an agricultural society that practices a traditional communal style of living.
Don’t miss a dama performance, when young men come of age and are allowed to don the “imina” or mask. These elaborate masks are a marvel to behold—worth a visit to Pays Dogon just to see them up close.
March – Celebrate Holy Week at the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, one of the largest Christian churches in the world, Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.
Photo Credits: Erik Celebes Kristensen
March is a great time to visit the Ivory Coast—the weather is pleasant and you avoid the harmattan, the Saharan wind that blows sand into everything. Holy Week is the last week of March, so why not round out your trip with a religious service at the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace?
While you’re there, visit the sacred crocodiles at the presidential palace in Yamoussoukro, dubbed the Versailles of Africa. For an amazing spectacle, try to visit during feeding time.
April – Explore the rich cultural heritage of the Bijagos Archipelago in Guinea-Bissau.
The Bijagos Archipelago is a string of 18 major islands with inhabitants whose matrilineal culture remains unchanged over the centuries. The Bijago people are the most mysterious native culture in Guinea-Bissau. You may even see the women wearing their traditional saiya fiber skirt.
May – Check out the Saint Louis Jazz Festival in Senegal.
Photo Credits: Christophe Alary
You may not associate Senegal with jazz, but the Saint Louis Jazz Festival each May draws a diverse international crowd to this lovely city. If you book a tour to Senegal in 2018, you can combine the jazz festival with a visit to Dakar for the biennial Dak’Art exhibition celebrating modern African art and artists.
June – Hit the beaches of Cape Verde.
June is the perfect time to enjoy the sea breezes and pristine beaches of Cape Verde, an undiscovered island paradise. Ponta Preta beach and the Santa Maria pier with its stretch of golden sand make Ilha do Sal a top destination on a tour of Cape Verde.
Make time to enjoy strolling through Praia, known for its lovely Portuguese architecture and beautiful public parks.
July – Get a taste of West African theater and art at Panafest in Ghana.
Ghana is a top West African destination—its people are friendly and welcoming, the food is fragrant and delicious, and its outdoor markets are delightful. If you plan your tour of Ghana in July, you can attend the annual Panafest of Pan African Historical Festival at Cape Coast, one of the most visited cities in Ghana.
You’ll see traditional performance art and ceremonies and have the opportunity to attend workshops and exhibitions celebrating Africa’s storied past. Be sure to visit Elmina Castle, the first European structure built in Africa.
August – Shop the amazing markets in Lome on a tour of Togo.
Photo Credits: Dan Sloan
By August, the weather in Togo is beginning to cool—which means it’s the perfect time to visit the Grande Marche in Lome, Togo’s bustling capital city. This bustling market is packed with vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to art and traditional crafts (and everything in between).
Bring your bargaining skills—haggling is half the fun of visiting these vibrant markets. Besides, the vendors would be disappointed if you didn’t!
September – Go snorkeling or diving in Sao Tome and Principe.
The waters around Sao Tome and Principe offer some of the most spectacular underwater landscapes in the world. Snorkelers and divers from all over the world come to these idyllic islands to explore the underwater volcanic rock formations.
Spend some time on a tour of Santo Antonio City, a charming town with a Portuguese flair—perfect for a romantic evening stroll through the quaint shops and restaurants.
October – See the unexplored, authentic side of West Africa.
Photo Credits: Hiroo Yamagata
October is the perfect month for empty nesters to take the ultimate tour of West Africa. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see Juffureh Village, believed to be the home of Root’s Kunta Kinte? Or the stunning waterfalls of Dalaba?
Maybe the chimp sanctuary in Freetown is more your style? And no tour of West Africa would be complete without visiting the Ashanti Kingdom in Kumasi and the castles and fortresses of Cape Coast.
November – Find the finest crafts, fabrics, masks, and leatherworks at the Artisans Center in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Ouagadougou is the capital of Burkina Faso and it’s known world-wide as an artisan’s haven—and a shopper’s paradise. Visit the Artisans Center and browse a tempting selection of batik fabrics, wooden masks and statues, leatherworks, and amazing hand-crafted jewelry.
If you have a passion for African masks, don’t miss a visit to the Kassena people on your tour of Burkina Faso. And bring your camera, because you’ll definitely want to take pictures of their beautifully decorated homes and villages.
December – Do your Christmas shopping in Dakar.
Photo Credits: Jeff Attaway
Yes, Senegal is a majority Muslim country—but the Senegalese all celebrate the Muslim and Christian holidays and festivals together. Dakar in particular goes all out during the Christmas season and there’s something magical about holiday shopping in this mysterious and beautiful international city.
Ready to Go?
Have a month in mind for your travel to West Africa? As you can see, it’s always a good time to visit. If you see something that excites your sense of wanderlust, why not get in touch today and get the ball rolling? Or you can sign up for our free email course to teach you everything you need to know about planning a cultural tour of West Africa.