Ghana’s Year of Return in 2019 marked 400 years since the first enslaved Africans reached America. It was also the year Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo, invited all people of African descent to return to the continent – specifically Ghana – to rethink their identity and reclaim their roots.
With over half-a-million diasporans answering the call, Ghana’s Year of Return during 2019 became a global phenomenon. Africans abroad have continued to flock to Ghana in search of community, culture, opportunity and history. The journey has been so significant for some that they’ve taken citizenship and set up shop in the West African country, trading Western comforts for a new way of life.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Akua Aboagye-Graham, an advocate for African entrepreneurship, says that Ghana’s welcoming spirit and peaceful nature will “spark a sense of belonging and pride” in any diasporan who visits.
“You’ll become a proponent for Africa’s stunning beauty and humble lifestyle once you’ve seen it,” she says.
Ghana’s Year of Return is one of the most successful tourism initiatives the African continent has seen, leading countries like Nigeria and Uganda to follow suit. But why was President Akufo-Addo’s call to return so poignant? The answer lies in a sleepy beachside city called Cape Coast, with ports that facilitated one of the darkest forced migrations known to man.
Forts, castles and The Door of No Return
For decades, people have travelled to Ghana’s Cape Coast to observe, commemorate and heal generational wounds caused by slavery and oppression. The Cape Coast is home to several slave ports and castles including Elmina and Cape Coast Castle, where thousands of Africans were forced to leave via The Door of No Return, before being shipped off in disease-infested slave ships.
Today, these castles hold tours for visitors to educate them on the reality of slavery. They’re not for the faint-hearted: tour groups are led through museums of shackles and branding irons before descending to the depths of the dungeons themselves. The hour-long tours are guided by Ghanaian historians who share in great detail the torture their people endured.
The tours can also be deeply transformative. They end by offering visitors affected by slavery a chance to walk back through The Door of No Return – a step that has taken centuries to arrive. Ghana’s Year of Return borrows its name from this tradition, encouraging those who were historically wronged to find comfort.
Pro tip: Make sure your visit to the Cape Coast is no less than an overnight stay, since there’s so much to see and do in the region. Oasis Beach Resort offers excellent accommodation at affordable rates and is a five-minute walk from Cape Coast Castle.
The Year of Return: A celebration of resilience
If Ghana’s Cape Coast is a place of quiet reflection and sombre truths, then its capital, Accra, is a place of song and vigour. The Year of Return programme brought the city to life with festivals, parties and performances, drawing an influx of celebrities, too.
In December 2019, there were sightings of rappers Rick Ross and Ludacris out and about in the city. Classic Man rapper Jidenna made an appearance, electronic act Major Lazer threw epic beachside parties, and even Beyoncé was rumoured to have made the pilgrimage.
The West African music scene is booming, with the emerging genre Afrobeats at its centre. Ghana, one of the sound’s originators, has become a mecca for musicians searching for inspiration. The Year of Return leveraged the nation’s talent to host festivals of unmatched scale. The key events included:
Originating in Europe, Afro Nation truly made its mark on the festival scene during the Year of Return with headliners Burna Boy, Shatta Wale, Wiz Kid, 6lack and Davido on the main stage.
The Ghana-originated festival has received global recognition as Africa’s answer to Coachella – but it markets itself as so much more. Its Year of Return theme, Diaspora Calling, highlighted the process of various African cultures transcending borders without losing their heritage.
Essence Full Circle
Essence Full Circle is a travel group founded by actor Boris Kodjoe and family, aiming to show the world the true face of Africa. Its week-long itinerary in Ghana was jam-packed with sightseeing, parties and discussions about owning the African identity.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a great night out in Accra, your best bet is East Legon, Osu or Commercial Road. Here, the streets are lined with bars, clubs and restaurants celebrating the best of African nightlife, music and dance.
Business, growth and investment in Ghana
According to the World Bank, seven of the top 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. Part of Ghana’s intent behind the Year of Return was not only to showcase the country as a great tourist destination, but also to generate business and investment. As an advocate for African entrepreneurship, Aboagye-Graham believes that the best ways in which to invest in Ghana’s rapidly expanding economy are through contributions to and support of the hospitality, technology and agriculture sectors.
Getting around in Ghana: Travelling safely
Travelling in a country for the first time is always daunting, but with Ghana’s extensive minivan and taxi network, ride-sharing and the widespread use of English, getting around is very easy and safe.
Flagging a taxi is simple – just wave your hand and contribute two cedis (about £0.30) to the pool. Small buses called tro-tros take passengers from city to city as soon as the van fills up. Tro-tro stations are a hive of activity with salespeople, drivers and food vendors all trying to catch your attention.
Ride-sharing apps like Uber have also hit the scene with responsive drivers waiting for pin drops. The price is not much more than a taxi, and they come directly with the option of credit card or cash payment. Although language is not a barrier for giving directions, with so few street names, it’s wise to memorise nearby landmarks as they are the easiest way to communicate with the driver.
Recommendation: If you stop an empty cab, make sure you agree on the cost before setting off. This will avoid any chance of surprise fair hikes upon reaching your destination.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.