Colourful markets vie with rich wildlife and a fascinating history for your attention. Where will you go first?
Ghana is a country of smiles. The sense of humour of the Ghanaian people is legendary and they greet life’s bittersweet twists and turns with a full heart and a cheery shrug. The hierarchical tribal society respects religious convention and ethnic heritage and is consequently rich in tradition and ceremony - it’s well worth seeking out a local festival for the overload of colour and sound. This is a land of green hills, savannah, tropical forests and golden beaches which has its arms wide open waiting to welcome you with warmth and beauty.
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Top things to do in Ghana
There are many wonderful experiences to be had in this lesser-travelled African gem. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime here are our top things to do in Ghana.
Amble around Accra
Ghana’s capital Accra – emphasis on the second syllable – is a pleasantly modern city. Sleek new builds are framed by the city’s copious greenery and satisfying strolls can be had in the historic dockyard areas of Jamestown and Usshertown, with their landmark lighthouse, fort and harbours. Bars are concentrated around Oxford Street; a haven of inner-city calm exists in the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and memorial park; and the immersive markets of Makola can’t wait to draw you in and spit you out festooned with local textiles, beads and crafts.
Bird’s eye view
Kakum National Park has a canopy walk with a panoramic view of the tropical forest below. Watch for monkeys, antelopes, yellow-backed duiker, elephants and the African grey parrot.
Get into haggling mode
Not for the faint of heart, Makola Market in Accra is crowded but compelling. Worth a visit for the assault on the senses alone, but if the mood takes you, pick up a bargain - from clothing to live snails and everything in between.
Experience Elmina Castle
The horrors of the slave trade are brought to life at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, built by the Portuguese in the 15th century and extensively restored in recent years. The building itself is impressive and it is well worth an exploration whilst taking in what its presence meant to the history of the Ghanaians. After your sobering visit, a walk along Elmina Beach will remind you of the glowing future Ghana has ahead.
Lesser known things to do in Ghana
While there are many well-known things to do in Ghana, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative Ghanaian adventure.
Cape Three Points
Ghana has over 500km of mainly south-facing Atlantic coastline. Beaches have their own identities, from fishermen’s friends to glamorous first-rate resorts. Partygoers single out Kokrobite, surfers love Busua. To visit the country’s most southerly community, head for Cape Three Points which is backed by Ghana’s only coastal rainforest reserve. The Cape’s phenomenal beaches offer myriad adventurous or relaxing diversions, and echoes of a colonial past inform its contemporary cultural life.
Fufu for you, too?
Seafood abounds in Ghana – crabs are a speciality – and chicken, beef and goat are served in a variety of delicious guises. For authentic flavours take advice from our trusted local partners and head to the best ‘chop bars’ in town. At these casual suburban cafés, West African classics like cassava or yam mash (‘fufu’) arrive, dropped into bowls of spiced stew or soup. Try ‘Red Red’, a stew blending black-eyed beans with sweet fried plantains, or peanut soup with meat, spices, tomato and fresh chili. All served with a smile and fufu galore.
Real, rural life
Cities aside, it’s in Ghana’s villages that long-lasting memories will be made. Many Ghanaians forge a living from farming the land and their well-used mud tracks criss-cross the landscape. Homestays and visits to meet more remote communities are a window into local cultures, worldviews and lifestyles. Many villagers have no luxuries or mod cons in their colourful homes but are incredibly welcoming as well as being generous with their time, hospitality and kindness.
Caffeine and coconuts
If you’re thirsty, pick-me-ups can be found, Ghanaian style. Roadside ‘spots’ serve up tea and coffee, with some of a higher quality than others. Palm wines, spirits and lager are popular across the country and, with tap water not advised, fizzy drinks and bottled water are widely available. Fruity mixtures and milkshakes offer a taste of the country at its exotic best and if you like minimal messing with your refreshments, drink coconut water straight from the coconut. This treat is popular along the coast where palm trees proliferate.
Leave your watch at home because no-one’s in a rush in Ghana. There’s always time for greetings, manners and civilities and the more you give, the more welcome you’ll feel. Greetings must always be exchanged before the simplest activity and with absolutely everyone you meet or deal with. It’s a simple fact of Ghanaian etiquette and to ignore it would appear rude. To remain respectful, make time for pleasantries. Remember to use your right hand if giving, receiving or touching anything rather than the left, as that has another role in Ghana…
Mole National Park
In Mole National Park you can track down elephant, buffalo and various antelope during a visit, especially in the dry season. Bird life is plentiful and expert local guides are able to discern differing bird calls. Hyena, warthog and hippo are also fairly numerous, with roaming populations of olive baboons and other primate species occasionally spotted. Leopards leave tell-tale tracks though sightings are rare. Walking safaris and game drives can be booked at far better prices than in better-known safari regions and your experience will be priceless in either.
When is the best time to go to Ghana?
Temperatures in Ghana are hot and stable year-round, with average daily highs of around 28°C and lows of 21°C. The wettest periods are from April to June and September to November, which can hamper some travel plans, but this depends where you wish to go. Tourism peaks in the south of Ghana in the dry and slightly cooler months of July and August. Visitors in December, January, February and March can expect to find comparatively dry (if humid) weather and less crowds.
Interesting facts about Ghana
Ghana is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top four facts about it?
- The Ghanaian currency is called ‘cedi’ after the local word for a cowry shell, as these were once used as currency in Ghana.
- Lake Volta is the largest artificial lake in the world. It extends for over 250 miles and can be seen from space.
- In 1957, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence post-colonialism.
- The global peace index ranked Ghana as the most peaceful country in Africa.
Insider tips from our local experts
Being local, our experts have an extensive knowledge of the secrets to experiencing the 'real' Ghana. Here are a few of their top tips - ask them for other recommendations when you enquire to ensure you have the most in-depth experience whilst on holiday!
Revel in the riotous colours of kente cloth
With its happiness-inducing patterns, it’s a standout product of Ghana and there’s an age-old custom for this bright, handwoven traditional clothing to be worn at any ceremonial occasion. It tends to be woven in an eye-catching combinations of colours and its designs feature geometric shapes and stripes. The cloth is made in time-honoured style by experts who weave so fast it’s hard to follow the process, and there are villages where kente weaving is still a mainstay of the local economy. Visitors are welcomed by these communities, whose weaving cooperatives have the facilities to impart their wisdom.
Attend the Akwasidae festival…
It’s one of the most important events for the Ashanti people and happens every six weeks. The Ashanti calendar divides the year into nine periods of 42 days and the Sunday at the end of each is marked by a celebration to honour the tribal ancestors. Vibrant drumming and dancing takes place in the palace courtyard in Kumasi, and the Ashanti King attends to enjoy the parades, music, drumming and folk dancing.
Join a weaving workshop
Kente cloth is strongly associated with the Ashanti empire, and two of the major weaving villages are located near to the Ashanti capital, Kumasi. Bonwire is recognised as the most important centre of kente weaving, while nearby Adanwomase is a good example of community tourism in action. In both locations, trusted local partners can arrange tours of the workshops for you to buy cloth direct and weaving lessons will introduce you both to an age-old skill and to local weaving experts.
Make or buy beautiful beads…
Genuine antique Ghanaian beads are special and correspondingly expensive. Locals have traded with them like a currency for centuries, with families passing them down the generations as valued heirlooms. Modern bead-making is inspired by this history to create beautiful beads from traditional materials or upcycled products like glass bottles. To see beads being crafted or to try your own hand, visit the Krobo district or craft markets in Koforidua on a Thursday or Agomanya on a Wednesday or Saturday. Haggling is de rigueur.
Devoted to religion...
Religion is very important and is a fact of daily life in Ghana. Most inhabitants are believers (it’s often called the world’s most religious country), with over 95% of Ghanaians belonging to a religion. Christianity flourishes in the central and southern zones, with Islam more dominant in the north. Expect to see widespread evidence of devotion during your stay. Dressing and behaving in a modest manner will be appreciated.
What to read before you go to Ghana
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Ghana, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born' by Ayi Kwei Armah
This novel tells the story of a principled man trying to walk the straight and narrow. He avoids bribes and frivolous satisfactions, only to realise that his well-meaning efforts bring scorn rather than praise. Armah’s debut novel (1968) quickly gained recognition and was republished almost immediately in the influential Heinemann African Writers Series in 1969.
'Anowa' by Ama Ata Aidoo
In this play by Ghanaian playwright Aidoo we meet a tribal daughter who rejects the gentlemen suggested by her parents in favour of another suitor who it transpires is a devil in disguise. Aidoo’s spin on this traditional folk tale is set on the Gold Coast in the 1870s and is unusual in that an old man and woman appear at crucial points to opine on events as they unfold.
'In the Chest of a Woman' by Efo Kodjo Mawugbe
Mawugba’s play brings the ancient Ashanti Kingdom alive. It centres on a woman so desperate to see her daughter grow up to rule the Empire that she disguises the child as a boy. A play written and originally staged for Ghana’s then Chief Justice and the first woman to occupy that role, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood.
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