With gorgeous beaches, a rich culture and vibrant cities, as well as a stable democracy and tourism-friendly infrastructure, the West African country of Ghana is one of the most interesting and popular destinations. accessible from the continent – it is even called “Africa for beginners”.
Located between the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, this hotspot has a colorful traditional heritage to explore – largely through spicy cuisine, brilliant African art and historic colonial sites. Accra is the capital and the cosmopolitan center of the country, but there are also sights to see outside the city limits, all within easy reach with great attractions. These are the best places in Ghana to visit.
Kumasi is best for Ashanti tradition and culture
Kumasi is Ghana’s second largest city, and its people – known as Ashanti – have a cultural history and language that has remained dominant in the region for centuries. To learn more about this rich heritage, stop at the Manhyia Palace.
Now a museum dedicated to the Ashanti monarchy and traditions, it was built in 1925 by the British colonial government for King Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I after his return from nearly three decades of exile in the Seychelles (although he refused to move in until the Ashanti had paid for the building themselves).
The palace would remain the home of the monarchy for several generations, until Otumfuo Opoku Ware II moved to a new residence in 1974. Two decades later, it was turned into a museum with exhibits featuring family artifacts such as sitters, the customary regalia used during royal activities and talking drums, which function as a means of communication to celebrate and mourn at gatherings. Each beat of the drum has a unique way of speaking to the Ashanti people.
A visit to Kumasi also means access to many celebrations, such as the Akwasidae Festival, which takes place every sixth Sunday to honor past kings, invoking their blessings by invoking their names.
Tamale has arts and crafts and Islamic architecture
Tamale is the capital of northern Ghana, and it features an excellent mix of both old and new architecture, including modern skyscrapers dating back as far as 150 years.
One of the highlights is the central mosque in Tamale – it can hold thousands of Muslim worshippers, hundreds of whom visit in droves for daily prayers. The mosque is located right in the center of the city, distinguished by its green-topped minaret; a step inside reveals an array of multi-coloured patterned mats gracefully lining the floor, ready for prayer.
Another example of impressive local architecture is the Larabanga Mosque, located about 116 km (72 miles) west of Tamale. Dating back to 1421, it is recognized as one of the oldest mosques in West Africa, built in a Sudano-Sahelian style using mud and reeds, with high white walls and curving towers towards the inside. It’s a great photo op – most tourists capture the mosque’s iconic architecture from the outside.
Tamale is also known for its arts and crafts. To shop for unique souvenirs or simply browse the wares, visit the National Cultural Center, where you’ll find items such as handmade jewelry, drums and baskets, intricately woven from grass, straw and bamboo .
Aburi is best for families and green spaces
Located less than an hour’s drive from Accra, Aburi is bursting with fresh air, making it a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and spend some time with nature.
For a relaxing day trip, the Aburi Botanical Gardens are particularly popular with families, who come to stroll along the towering palms and snap a photo to commemorate the occasion – posing near the palms is an iconic gesture.
With trees that arrived in the late 19th century from distant parts of Central America, Mexico, Malaysia, India and the Caribbean, as well as orchids, rockeries and a children’s park, the gardens also include 13 hectares (32 acres) of uncultivated land, kept wild to maintain the ecological balance.
As you stroll through the park, keep an eye out for an array of contributions planted by visiting dignitaries, such as Queen Elizabeth II’s Mahogany in 1961 and Prince Charles’ Silver Oak in 1977.
Learn about colonial history in Cape Coast
Located on the Atlantic coast, Cape Coast was once a hub of the transatlantic slave trade, and Cape Coast Castle played a key role, housing slaves from the 16th to 17th centuries.
First built by the Dutch and then captured by the British, the fort’s whitewashed walls belie the dark history inside – as US President Barack Obama noted during his visit in 2009, it is a site that “reminds us of the capacity of human beings to do great evil.”
Today it is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and guided tours take visitors into the dungeons and along the ramparts to explore this period of Ghana’s colonial history. The West African Historical Museum is located inside the castle and contains a large collection of ceremonial drums and ancient pottery.
Head to the Volta region for an outdoor adventure
The Volta region is home to Mount Afadjato, one of the highest mountains in Ghana. A climb to the top takes around two and a half hours and rewards hikers with incredible views of Ghana and neighboring Togo to the east, as well as flora and fauna like hippos, turtles, lizards and butterflies .
Other outdoor attractions in the area include a monkey sanctuary and myriad waterfalls, including the highest in West Africa, the Wli Waterfalls, whose clean, gushing waters mark the border between the Ghana and Togo. A 30 minute walk leads to the lower falls, then it’s a longer climb to the upper falls; there are pools at the base of both sets where you can take a cold dip, spot monkeys in the surrounding trees and bats in the nearby cliffs.
Stop at the Wli Tourist Office for a guide; you are not allowed to go up to the falls without one.
Accra is best for nightlife and art
Ghana’s capital is a gateway to the country’s culture – a gateway to Ghanaians, art, food and nightlife. Choose from stylish nightspots such as the rooftop Skybar25 or stylish Bistro 22, suitable for tourists, expats and diasporas who can afford the high prices, and restaurants offering a more down-to-earth taste Ghanaian cuisine, such as Auntie Muni Waakye and Bush Canteen, which serves local specialties such as jollof rice, made with tomato sauce and spices, and waakyea dish of black-eyed peas.
In the galleries, you’ll find images of Ghanaian social life from up-and-coming actors such as Kwesi Botchway and Afia Prempeh, and internationally renowned artists such as Serge Clottey and Betty Acquah. Pieces by Ghanaian and African artists as a whole are captured in exhibition halls across the city – contemporary art at Gallery 1957, older African works at Berj Gallery and rotating visual art installations at the Nubuke Foundation, to name a few.
Ada Foah is the best for water sports
On Ghana’s southern coast, Ada Foah sits where the Volta River empties into the Atlantic Ocean – a secluded stretch of real estate with long beaches and plenty of water sports opportunities. Hire a speedboat to hop from beach to beach, or take your time and kayak along the palm-lined waterways for a slower experience.
Places like Aqua Safari Resort capture the essence of Ada, with waterfalls, ponds and aquariums on site and peacocks roaming the grounds. Check out the Baffour Falls, where there are pelicans and a turtle to feed.