With a population of more than 30 million and a landmass that covers more than 90,000 square miles (238,000 sq km), there is a vast array of sights and experiences to enjoy in Ghana. Be it the beaches, plains and historic cities of the coast, the savannas of the north, the forest-covered hills of Ashanti or the colossal man-made reservoir of Lake Volta, the country has a range of landscapes for travelers to enjoy. Major tourist spots include the heart-rending former colonial ‘slave forts’ of Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle - UNESCO World Heritage sites which have important tales to tell. While the likes of Mole National Park, Kakum National Park and other nature reserves serve to shine a light on the country’s rich ecosystems and wildlife species - from hippos and elephants to primates. But with so much to see and do, just where will you start your exploration of this corner of Africa? Read on for the top places to visit in Ghana.
Ghana’s capital city welcomes more than 1 million international tourists every year, drawn by such attractions as the popular sands of Labadi Beach, which is host to a range of major hotels and live music. Elsewhere, the city’s status as the capital means it is also the base for the likes of the National Theatre, which is home to the National Symphony Orchestra Ghana. Naturally, there are also a host of historical sites, such as the 17th-century Osu Castle, Ussher Fort and James Fort in the city’s Jamestown area.
Full-Day Private Tour of Accra
Duration: 1 day
Located in Ghana’s Ashanti region, Kumasi is close to the country’s only natural lake, the ancient impact crater of Lake Bosumtwi, a sacred body of water which is roughly 6.5 miles (10.4km) across and sits just 19 miles (30km) to the south-east. The city itself, which is affectionately dubbed “The Garden City” owing to the city’s array of flowers, is also home to the historic building of Fort Kumasi. Built in the late 19th century to replace an older fort, today, it operates as a museum. Other attractions include the Okomfo Anokye Sword - a 300-year-old blade wedged into a rock, that has close links to royalty.
In effect a twin city comprising Sekondi and Takoradi, the coastal city of Sekondi-Takoradi is the largest in the region and is an important shipbuilding, oil and timber-trading site. Despite its industrial leanings, the city is home to a range of local beaches such as the sands of Vienna City Beach. Head west of the city and you’ll find further sands at a number of resorts - such as Green Turtle Lodge. Cultural highlights include an annual street carnival which typically takes place in late December, and has proven popular among tourists - who are drawn by the colorful outfits and dancing. Historic buildings include the likes of Fort Orange, a former Dutch fortress that dates back to the 1670s.
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One of the most important historic cities in Ghana, Cape Coast has a dark connection to the infamous slave trade of the past. Although it initially grew as an important site for the trade of gold and timber, it ultimately became a key location in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Cape Coast Castle was one of the notorious “slave castles” dotted around the coast. Today, this well-preserved fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and serves as an important museum and reminder of those dark days. Other interesting sites include the city’s Asafo shrines, and the nearby Kakum National Park, which is located just 20 miles (30km) to the north, and is home to important wildlife such as forest elephants and 266 bird species.
Cape Coast Guided Day Tour
Duration: 8 hours
Located in Ghana’s Northern Region, Tamale is the fastest growing city in West Africa and is today the third biggest settlement in the country. This growth has fuelled the creation of modern buildings and attractions, such as Tamale Stadium, which was built to host games in the 2008 African Cup of Nations and was later renamed the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium in honor of a former vice-president. Other attractions include the impressive architecture of local mosques, such as the Ahmadiyya Central Mosque, and the National Cultural Centre, which is home to a range of craft and art stalls.
Another city with connections to the infamous Atlantic slave trade, Elmina is home to Elmina Castle - a beautiful 15th-century fort with a dark past. The oldest European building on the continent south of the Sahara, the castle today operates as a national museum and monument commemorating the lives of the slaves who passed through its gates, never to return. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also welcomes large numbers of international visitors, and it has become a place of pilgrimage for African-Americans seeking to reconnect with their ancestors. Other local attractions include the Portuguese chapel of Fort Coenraadsburg, the Elmina Java Museum with its exhibits remembering local soldiers recruited to the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in the 19th century, and the Dutch Cemetery.
Located on the coast at the Bight of Benin, Tema sits just 16 miles (25km) to the east of Accra, making it an easy place to visit if staying in the capital. The country’s biggest seaport, Harbour City - as it has been nicknamed - is a modern city, built on the site of an old fishing village in the years after independence. Local sites of interest include the hundreds of fishing canoes in the Canoe Basin at the harbor - vessels used by local artisanal fisherfolk in the pursuit of herring and salmon. The city is also home to the white sands of Mighty Beach, should you wish to take in the sea during your visit, while those seeking to indulge in a little gambling may wish to check out a local casino, like the Golden Dragon.
Located in Ghana’s Bono Region, Sunyani is popular among tourists for the natural charms that can be found in the local area. These include the likes of the Boabeng monkey sanctuary, which is located in nearby Fiema, and the Kintampo Waterfalls, which cascade down several drops in the forest north of Kintampo. Popular sights in the city include the city’s cathedral, the Queen of Peace Building, and the unusual architectural stylings of the Cocoa House high rise, which dominates the cityscape.
Set amid the picturesque hills of the Ashanti region, Obuasi is a busy mining town and is home to the largest gold mines on Earth. Unsurprisingly, it has been dubbed “Gold Town” for that very reason, and the mines can even be visited by arrangement through the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation’s public relations directorate, should you wish to marvel at the scale of the operation. This importance as a gold mining center means that the city is home to a number of Ghana’s finest hotels and it has a busy restaurant and nightlife scene. Those who enjoy more sedate pastimes may also want to check out the town’s golf course.
Set at the meeting point of two historic trade routes, Techiman is a busy market town and the capital of the Bono East Region. Home to more than 100,000 people, the city is the base for a cultural center that aims to preserve the traditions of the ancient Bono state, which once ruled the area. Time your journey right and you may also see one of the annual events. These include a yam ceremony every August, that marks the end of the year’s production, and the colorful annual Apoo Festival, which is celebrated in Techiman and a number of other towns every April or May.
The capital of Ghana’s Upper West Region, Wa sits in the far north of the country and is the seat for an important local chief, the Wa-Na, who represents the Wala people and their culture. Landmarks include the striking edifice of Ombo Mountain, the Wa Na Palace - the traditional home of the Wa-Na - and the large Central Mosque and neighboring kasbah. Wildlife enthusiasts may also wish to check out the local Wicchau hippopotamus sanctuary and its 50 hippos. The city also hosts the annual Dumba, a festival that traditionally takes place at harvest time in September.
The former administrative center for British Togoland, Ho is home to more than 170,000 people in the south-east of the country, and it is nestled between Mount Galenukui and Mount Adaklu. Local attractions include the huge market, which draws in people from across the wider region, and will likely give you every opportunity to pick up some unique mementos of your trip. Other local attractions include the cathedral and the 5000-seat Ho Sports Stadium, should you wish to catch some football action involving the local professional outfit, International Allies FC. Ho is also home to the Volta Regional Museum, which serves to highlight the culture and history of the area. Exhibits range from paintings and pottery to swords, masks and local Kente textiles.
Visitors to Bolgatanga, which sits in the extreme north of the country, was once an important stop on the ancient Trans-Saharan trade route. Today, the town, which is often just referred to as Bolga, is home to more than 66,000 people and sits close to important elephant migration routes in the Red Volta valley. Visitors will also be able to enjoy the traditional architectural stylings of the wider area’s Sumbrungu Painted Houses - typically round, thatched huts that are decorated in bright colors and interesting designs. Other attractions include the striking design of the Bolgatanga Library, the 14th century Tomb of Naa Bbewaa, and the Tengzug Shrine 10 miles (17km) south of Bolga. Tourists also head for the Sacred Crocodile Ponds, some 26 miles (44km) outside the town.
Situated in the very north-east tip of the country, Bawku is home to 70,000 people and it is located in the same Upper East Region as Bolgatanga. The wider region is typically characterized by wide savanna grasslands, and the dominant trade of the local people tends to be agricultural products like millet, maize and rice. The local Kusaasi people hold festival celebrations to mark Samanpiid - a traditional celebration to herald a bumper harvest season - while the Bisa people are known to hold Zekula festivals.
One for wildlife fans, Ejura is located close to the Kogyae Strict National Reserve as well as the Awura Forest Reserve - both of which sit immediately to the south of the city. The Kogyae Strict National Reserve covers an area of some 386 sq km (38600 ha) and is home to dozens of birds species - some 85 varieties at last count - as well as a range of mammalian species, including primates, buffalos and civets. The smaller reserve of Awura Forest is still sizeable in itself, covering some 134 sq km (52 sq miles).
This historic fishing port, which is also known as Simpa, is located between Cape Coast and Accra on the Atlantic. Music fans are in for a treat, as the city is noted for its rich and vibrant musical groups - from Akoo Show Choir to the Winneba Youth Choir. The town is also home to a number of festival events - from the masquerade and fancy dress-based festivities that accompany the New Year to its annual Aboakyer festival, a bushbuck deer hunting festival that takes place at the start of every May. The latter stems from a longstanding tradition of the Simpa people, where two groups of Asafo warriors would compete for the honor to be first to catch one and present it to the local chief.
Ghana's rich variety awaits
Historically important UNESCO World Heritage sites, beautiful Atlantic beaches, spectacular wildlife wonders and much more besides. Ghana has a lot to offer. It’s time to start drawing up those travel plans. Use our guide above to find the perfect place to visit in Ghana.
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