Interesting places in Ghana

Country snapshot, interesting facts

Ghana flag

Ghana is situated in West Africa and is bounded by Burkina Faso, Togo, the Atlantic Ocean, and Côte d'Ivoire. A narrow grassy plain stretches inland from the coast, widening in the east, while the south and west are covered by dense rainforest. To the north are forested hills beyond which is dry savanna and open woodland. Ghana's coastline is dotted with sandy palm-fringed beaches and lagoons. The capital, Accra, features the Makola Market, a large and busy open-air market. Kumasi is the historic capital of the Ashanti civilization, where ruins of the Manhyia Palace and the Royal Mausoleum burnt down by Lord Baden-Powell may be examined. In the northeast, the Boufom Wildlife Sanctuary contains the spectacular Banfabiri Falls. Mole National Park is recommended. Species of antelope, monkeys, lions, and elephants can all be seen on guided excursions. Local dishes include traditional soups (palmnut, groundnut), Kontomere and Okro stews that are normally accompanied by fufu (pounded cassava), kenkey, or gari. In Accra and other major centers, there are nightclubs combining a selection of Western pop music and spectacular Ghanaian music and dancing.

Resorts and excursions

Ghana is divided into 10 regions but for the purpose of this guide, the country has been split into four regions. This does not necessarily reflect administrative or tribal boundaries. For further details of tours within Ghana, contact the Ghana Tourist Board (see address section).

Greater Accra Region

Accra. The National Museum has a large collection of Ghanaian art. The Makola Market, a large and busy open-air market, is located on Kojo Thompson Road. Traders from surrounding villages bring their wares everyday. The Centre for National Culture is an arts center and crafts market, where crafts, kente, and other traditional cloths can be purchased. The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, on the High Street, is a magnificent monument to the first President of Ghana. The National Theatre is a Chinese showpiece and the venue for musical shows, plays, dances, and conferences.

Aburi. Located 38 km (24 miles) to the north of Accra, Aburi is in the Akwapim Hills. The Sanatorium (now a rest house), built there in the 19th century, is indicative of the refreshing climate. The Botanical Gardens, planted by British naturalists in colonial days, has a comprehensive array of subtropical plants and trees.

Ada. A popular resort at the mouth of the Volta, this is where Ghanaians and tourists go for watersports. A luxury hotel has been built here. Swimming is safe in the river mouth. Anglers have the opportunity to catch barracuda and Nile perch. Nearby are the salt marshes of the Songow Lagoon, famous for their birdlife.

Shai Hills Game Reserve. A comparatively small reserve some 50 km (30 miles) by road from Accra. Horses may be hired here to explore the park.

Central and Western Region

The central region of Ghana borders the Gulf of Guinea and is home to ancient castles and forts that were often used during the slave trade as holding areas for human cargo. Cape Coast Castle, built in the 16th century and later reconstructed and enlarged, served as the seat of British administration in the then Gold Coast until 1877 (when administration moved to Christiansborg Castle in Accra). Further west is the castle of Elmina (the mine). Elmina was the first Portuguese settlement in Ghana. This huge 15th-century fort, that largely remains intact, is the location of one of the first Catholic churches in sub-Sahara Africa. Fort St Jago was primarily used as a military base and stands on a hill commanding fabulous views of both Elmina and the Atlantic Ocean. Cultural shows are often performed at the castles and guided tours are available. Fort St Jago and Cape Coast Castle have both been declared World Heritage Monuments by UNESCO.

Kakum National Park. Located 20 km from Cape Coast, the park is a protected conservation area, following governmental concerns to promote ecotourism. Wildlife that can be seen include elephants, bongo antelopes, monkeys, over 800 species of rare birds, butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles. Visitors can view wildlife at tree canopy level from the 333 meter tree-top walkway.

West Coast
There are many popular beach resorts along the western coast. At Dixcove, there is a fish market and a 17th-century British fort. Nearby Busua is a tropical beach with palms and spectacular Atlantic breakers. However, as with much of the Ghanaian coast, swimming is unsafe due to the treacherous undertow of the waves. In this area, there are small rocky inlets which are safe for swimming.

Volta and Ashanti Region

The Volta region is dominated by Volta Lake, the largest man-made lake on earth. The waterway stretches for two-thirds of the length of the country. A round trip on the car ferry to Kete-Krachi takes a day; alternatively one can take the three-day trip to the northern capital of New Tamale at the head of the lake. There are facilities for sailing, water-skiing, and other watersports. Ferry links across the lake now make the region more accesible (see Travel - Internal section). Akosombo, center to the important Akosombo irrigation dam, is developing as a holiday resort, particularly for watersports.

Kumasi. The historic capital of the Ashanti civilization, where ruins of the Manhyia Palace and the Royal Mausoleum burnt down by Lord Baden-Powell may be examined. The Cultural Centre is a complex comprising a museum, library, and outdoor auditorium largely devoted to the Ashanti. There is also a "Living Museum", a farm and reconstituted village, where craftsmen such as potters, goldsmiths, and sculptors can be seen at work using traditional methods. Of particular interest are weavers making the vividly colored kente cloth, the ceremonial dress of the region.

Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary. Located to the west, close to Kumasi. Further to the northeast is the Boufom Wildlife Sanctuary containing the spectacular Banfabiri Falls. To the south is the pleasant gold-mining city of Obuasi.

Northern Region

The northern region is characterized by high plains and a central plateau rising between 150 and 300 m. West of the region's main town, Tamale, lies Mole National Park, which is one of the best equipped nature reserves in Ghana. Visitors can go either on foot or hire a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but must always be accompanied by a guide. Routes are planned to take in species of antelope, monkeys, buffalo, warthog, and more rarely, lions and elephants, which have been introduced into the region. Unlike many African game reserves, visitors are allowed to camp and explore the area at will, rather than being confined to a car on a set route. Tourist facilities exist at the entrance to the park; these include a motel with restaurant.

Situated five miles north of Mole National Park, the Larabanga Mosque is well worth visiting. Built in the style of former Western Sudanese Empires, it houses a holy Koran and is believed by locals to be a "God-built mosque".

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