Togo landscape © Jurgen
Togo is an intriguing destination. Squeezed between Ghana and Benin, with just 35 miles (56km) of lagoons and sandy beaches on its southern coastline, this narrow strip of a country hides a surprising variety of different landscapes. The coastal plains and woodland plateaus of the south lead to forested hills in the centre, which in turn gives way to the gently rolling savanna of the north. Despite a complicated history, Togo still retains a certain charm to fascinate the intrepid explorer.
The country was known as the German colony of Togoland, before being invaded by the French during the First World War. A successful coup d'etat in 1967 saw the start of President Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema's 38-year reign, which ended only with his death in 2005. He was succeeded by his son, the incumbent president of Togo.
Once dubbed 'the pearl of West Africa', the capital city Lome still has a nonchalant elegance. Wide, palm-fringed avenues abut white-sand beaches, and visitors can enjoy tasty restaurants and a lively nightlife. The traditional markets are popular with tourists searching for souvenirs of the Voodoo religion prominent in the country.
Lome is a good base for day trips out to the beaches of Aneho, or the Voodoo shrines of Togoville on the shores of Lake Togo. Further afield the scenic hills around Kpalime are perfect for trekking and hiking. North leads to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Koutammakou, home to the local Batammariba people. They have constructed unique Takienta 'tower-houses' of mud and straw, which have become a national symbol of Togo.
Togo plays host to 37 ethnic tribes. Visitors may be lucky enough to see one of the many traditional festivals that take place throughout the year, celebrating the culture and spirituality of the people. It may be small and off the beaten track, but Togo has plenty to offer.
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