Seven reasons to visit Ghana

28/06/2017 12:15

Written by Bradt Travel Guides

Put simply, Ghana is one of Africa’s most rewarding travel destinations. What it lacks in a ‘big-name’ attraction it more than makes up for in sheer variety. Get up close with rare birds along Africa's oldest canopy walkway, visit one of the traditional kente craft villages of the south or marvel at the magnificent architecture along the Gold Coast. 

A cosmopolitan capital

Black Star Arch Accra Ghana Felix Lipov ShutterstockBlack Star Arch on Independence Square is not what you'd expect of an African memorial, with its Soviet-esque angular style © Felix Lipov, Shutterstock

From historic Jamestown to vivacious ‘Oxford Street’ in the trendy suburb of Osu, Accra is one of Africa’s most invigorating cities, whether you are into craft shopping, museums, nightlife, eating out or just hanging out at La Beach.

A dazzling coastline

Busua beach, Ghana © aripeskoe WikimediaThe beach at Busua is famous for its carefree vibes © aripeskoe, Wikimedia Commons

The short but scenic stretch of coast west of Takoradi is the ultimate Ghanaian beach chill-out venue. Strung along a wide sandy beach, Busua is generally regarded to offer some of the safest swimming in the country and has also emerged as a focal point of Ghana’s ever-growing surfing scene.

Colourful craft villages

Agomanya Market Krobo Ghana by Ariadne Van ZandbergenKente cloth on sale at Agomanya Market © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library

Of all the crafts practised in West Africa, few are more readily identifiable with a particular country than kente cloth with Ghana, characterised by intricately woven and richly colourful geometric designs, generally dominated by bold shades of yellow, green, blue, orange and red. The southern region of Greater Ashanti lies at the heart of Ghana’s traditional cloth industry, with many craft villages offering visitors the chance to see traditional kente weavers at work. 

Magnificent mud mosques

Larabanga Mosque nr Mole National Park, Ghana © www.africaimagelibrary.comLarabanga Mosque is one of the best examples of Sahelian architecture in West Africa © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library

Northern Ghana is studded with centuries-old West Sudanese-style whitewashed mud-and-stick mosques, the best-known of which is Larabanga Mosque. With its broadly rectangular timber-frame structure, whitewashed mud walls, and supported by around a dozen bulbous buttresses spiked with protruding timber struts, Larabanga is decidedly surreal, and northern Ghana’s must-see attraction.

An Atlantic slave-trade history 

St George's Castle, Elmina, Ghana © www.africaimagelibrary.comSt George's Castle in Elmina offers excellent views across to the beach and over the town © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library

Although Ghana has a comparatively ill-defined travel circuit, it does boast one obvious touristic focal point in the form of the twin ports that adorn the coast 150km west of Accra. These are Cape Coast and Elmina, centuries-old trade and military rivals protected by two of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Europeanbuilt castles in West Africa, yet only 10km apart as the cannonball flies. Due to their great antiquity and nefarious role in the Atlantic slave trade, the castles at Cape Coast and Elmina are of global significance as the centrepieces of a UNESCO World Heritage Site embracing all the fortified buildings along the Ghanaian coast.

The brilliant local festivals 

Anloga, Ghana © Iamablessing WikimediaGhanaian festivals are a colourful affair © Iamablessing, Wikimedia Commons

A notable feature of Ghanaian society is the enormous number of local festivals that take place throughout the year, celebrating everything from yams to waterfalls. Few travellers are likely deliberately to select the dates of their trip to Ghana to coincide with any one particular festival, but it’s certainly worth taking note of any festivals that will take place while you are in Ghana and making the effort to be in the right place at the right time. If you are visiting Ghana in early May, do try to get to Winneba for the first weekend of the month, in time for the renowned Aboakyir deer-hunting festival, one of the most ancient in the country.

Africa’s first canopy walkway

Kakum National Park Ghana by Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library, www.africaimagelibrary.comKakum National Park has the oldest canopy walkway in Africa © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library

Teeming with rare birds and other rainforest wildlife, the popular Kakum National Park a short drive north of Cape Coast is home to Africa’s oldest canopy walkway. Though a little gimmicky, it is undoubtedly good fun, and offers a rare opportunity to actually look into the forest canopy, a breathtaking experience in itself, though emphatically not for those with a poor head for heights.

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