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Togo: A land of savage beauty

Togo is a narrow strip of land on Africa’s west coast bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital Lomé is located.

While the official language is French, many other languages spoken in Togo, particularly those of the Gbe clan. The largest religious group consists of those with indigenous beliefs but there are also large minorities of Christian and Muslim.

Togo is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone as well as La Francophonie and Economic Community of West African States.

Togo covers 57,000 square kilometres and is one of the smallest countries in Africa, with a population of approximately 7.5 million. Togo is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with a climate that provides good growing seasons. Togo is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, which are used in fertilisers, but the country remains poor and dependent on foreign aid.

The country is ruled by Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema who succeeded his father after his death in 2005. The military installed Faure Gnassingbe as president, but following intense domestic and international pressure he called elections. Hundreds died challenging his victory in those polls. Since then  he has won elections in 2010 and 2015 even though the results have been called into question by opposition groups who have protested against changes to the electoral law which they said further favoured the governing coalition.

The capital, Lomé, is low-key yet with its large avenues, tasty restaurants and throbbing nightlife as well as splendid beaches on its doorstep.

The country offers a great diversity of landscapes, from the lakes and palm-fringed beaches along the Atlantic coastline to the rolling forested hills in the centre and further north the lush forest green is replaced by the light green and yellowy tinges of savannah land. Togo is also an excellent playground for hikers – there’s no better eco-friendly way to experience the country’s savage beauty than on foot.

The best time to visit Togo is from November to February when the temperatures are pleasant an ideal for outdoor activities. The rainy season is from May to October and it can be challenging for transport while there is a dry spell along the coast from mid-July to mid-September. The hottest period, and best avoided, is March and April.

Everyone except nationals of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) countries needs a visa to visit Togo and one-week extendable visas (CFA10,000) are issued at major border crossings with Ghana (Aflao/Lomé), Benin (Hilakondji) and Burkina Faso (Sinkasse), and upon arrival at the airport.

The Service Immigration Togolaise, near the GTA building 8km north of central Lomé, issues 30-day visa extensions in one or two days. They’re free when you extend the seven-day visa. Four photographs are required.