Perched on the edge of West Africa and a diverse and bustling nation with an international community and a fast-growing economy, Ghana offers a perfect gateway to the continent. There are many reasons to visit and receive an Akwaaba (welcome) from the locals; here are some of them.
Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence, becoming a republic in 1957 under the guidance of pan-Africanist and first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Soon afterwards, other nations followed suit, looking to Ghana for guidance and inspiration on how to bring together nations filled with diverse tribes and varied landscapes. Visit the National Museum of Ghana in Accra to get a full picture of the historical journey as well as Independence Square. If possible, join in the myriad of celebrations that take place every year on the first long weekend of March including the annual Asa Baako Festival that takes place on the beautiful beaches of Busua, Western Ghana.
Ghana is home to more historic forts and castles than any other African nation; a throwback to its tumultuous history of colonisation and slavery. The structures left behind are incredible (and sometimes harrowing) in terms of architecture and geography and stretch all along the coastline. They range from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cape Coast Castle to the English country-manor style of Fort Gross Fredericksburg. The dusty battlements of Fort Metal Cross at Dixcove is situated directly in the middle of a lively and colourful-fishing hub.
Domestic animal such as chickens, pygmy goats, and herds of cows driven by Malian traders can be quaint to see. While the colourful birds of paradise and parrots that occasionally flit past, it is the wildlife that recalls an earlier, less industrialised time in Ghanaian history. Water reef herons and cormorants flock in droves on the outskirts of the city near marshlands. Out by the Shai Hills Production Reserve, cheeky baboons surround and line the quiet road to the site; and at Kakum, the monkeys delight in their preserved swath of rainforest. Whilst up in the Northern Region, marvel at the closeness of the elephant herds at Mole National Park.
With an energetic music scene, a plethora of live venues and a wide range of artists covering hi life, hip life, Afrobeat, and more, music is an important part of everyday life in Ghana. The lively pub-style outdoor stylings of Republic Bar and Grill leads the way with their live performances on Wednesdays and constant stream of events and DJ led sets. +233 Jazz and Grill as well as old-school venue The Piano Bar feature soul and jazz from veterans of the industry. Clubs such as Twist, Carbon, and Duplex pump out current hits while encouraging club goers to dance all night long and catch a full weekend of live music and dancing at the annual Asa Baako Festival held each March.
Home to a vast range of tribes including the Akan, Ga, and Ewe people, numerous cultural festivals take place throughout the year and give opportunities to see ancient rituals performed in the modern age. The Ga people’s Homowo Festival, held in commemoration of a serious famine, begins with a ban on stereo music. Lending to a peaceful and reflective air to the city and coastlines, the tribe does this in appeasement to the traditional gods. The festival ends a couple of months later in a procession down to the ocean to give thanks whilst dressed in white. Up North in Techiman, there is the Apoo Festival where men dress as women and vice versa in a celebration meant to rid people of social evils.
Spanning 539 km (around 335 miles), Ghana’s coastline is immense and varied, lending different vibes for different times. In the city, the bars on the beach such as Tawala and Osikan teeter on rocks while Sandbox, less about sunbathing and water sports, lends itself to nighttime-club vibes and fun. Look outside the city, and pick from the beautiful lagoon at Keta, the unspoiled beauty of Cape Three Points, and the wonderful surf of Busua. Kokrobite, on the edges of Accra, is a surfer’s hub and known for its relaxed, weekend-party atmosphere. Meanwhile, Labadi combines a raucous-beach party each Thursday with a more laid-back vibe throughout the week complete with horse riding and the latest hits pumping background.
The mountainous Eastern Region is a breath of fresh air after the low-lying nature of most of the country. The stronghold of the Ewe people stretches beyond the border of Ghana and into Togo, and it has some of the loveliest vistas from the top of the mountain ranges available to climb with a guide. It is not an easy trek doing the full route, but those able to finish are rewarded with secluded high-vantage waterfalls, the most breathtaking views into Ghana and Togo, and passing through ancient forests that teem with fresh fruit. At the bottom, check out the glorious lower Wli Falls, a majestic site that swirls with bats in the middle of a temperate forest.
The largest man-made lake in the world, the Volta’s river stretches south from the Akosombo Dam to the northernmost reaches of the country and into Burkina Faso. Along the way, it threads its tributaries throughout most of the country providing gorgeous landscapes and islands along the way. In Kumasi, Lake Bosumtwe is a natural 8-km (about 5-mile) wide lake formed of an impact crater thought to be from an asteroid during the Pleistocene Period, and it provides an idyllic atmosphere. On the Accra plains, there are the Densu, Pra, and Ankroba Rivers among many others.
Located on Ghana’s southern tip and arguably one the of the country’s most stunning beaches, Cape Three Points is a refuge for all those seeking peace and serenity. Located in the village, the nature-filled eco-resort of Escape3Points offers locally-sourced food and a desert-island atmosphere. The village also houses a historical lighthouse and a magnificent surf break that draws surfers from all over the country to brave the long paddle out for the best waves in Ghana.
From the kente weavers of Bonwire in Kumasi to the Gonja cloth of the north and the beautiful-Ankara fabrics made into a wide range of styles, fabric plays and large and colourful part in Ghanaian life. Fabric turns the regular-street scape into a multicoloured panoply as the tradition of roadside seamstresses and tailors encourages everyone to become owners of the unique clothing. The straw weavers of Bolgatanga delight with their striped, funky sun hats and traditional baskets that can be found purveyed around the city under the shade of large trees. Woodworkers craft Djembe drums of various sizes in the traditional-arts center as well as other delightful percussion instruments made out of Calabash gourds. Meanwhile, coffin makers at Nungua inspire awe with their one-of-a-kind caskets that once took the fancy of former American President Jimmy Carter, who reportedly purchased two for himself.