Tragic history and voodoo traditions
From Kpalimé, head back to the areas near Lomé for a final few days of exploration. An easy day trip from the capital is Lake Togo and Togoville, the first trading post with Europeans and the last site of slave trade in the country. Near the lake, in what appears at first glance to be an unassuming residential house like any other, is the Maison des Esclaves, or House of Slaves. Thousands of people once passed through this home by night and were kept chained in the basement by day. Visitors can still climb into and directly feel the claustrophobia-inducing areas that once held captives. This site is also the last point of illegal slave trade on the West Coast of Africa, where records show that people continued to be held 37 years after the abolition of slavery in America. It’s an overwhelming, emotionally devastating, but vital experience.
Next stop is Togoville. To reach it from the Lomé side, you can drive around the lake, but you can also rent a canoe and paddle for about 20 minutes across Lake Togo. Visitors will first see a small coterie of buildings tucked between the green trees and red shores of Lake Togo. This peaceful landscape lies in striking juxtaposition to the turbulent history of slave trade and voodoo around it. First to visit once across the lake are the Togoville Cathedral, a large church covered in paintings of African saints, and the Maison Royale, a small museum that includes the throne of King Mlapa III, who signed the first treaty with Germany. Togoville also remains a hub of the voodoo religion, which is still practiced by 33% of the Togolese population.
Speaking of voodoo: If you’re interested, you can hire formal voodoo tours that include a stop in the Akodessawa Fetish Market in Lomé. All visitors are required to sign a book to enter the voodoo records before embarking on a more detailed immersion in the religion. Tours often then visit Togoville for a more hands-on exploration of voodoo with a local guide. Visitors can have readings from feticheurs (spiritual readers), shop for voodoo talismans, and witness demonstrations of voodoo feats. If you want more than just a taste of voodoo, consider going to Togo in January and expanding your trip to Benin to attend the annual Ouidah Voodoo Festival, which attracts thousands of voodoo practitioners from around the world and showcases unbelievable, mystical demonstrations of voodoo powers.