10 Nov Unveiling West Africa: 10 Best Things to do in Ghana
Ghana has always been a dream destination for tourists, especially those who cherish adventure and nature. With its rich history, including its colonial past and significant role in the fight for independence in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana beckons with its incredible stories and has recently advocated for the return of diasporans to Africa.
This advocacy gave rise to the Year of the Return program, which saw an influx of African diaspora visitors, including celebrities like Steve Harvey, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Nene Leakes, Kendrick Lamar, Boris Kodjoe, H.E. Kamala Harris, Tina Knowles, and many more.
Ghana deserves a spot on your African travel itinerary for various reasons, and to inspire your visit, we’ve compiled a list of 10 must-have experiences (though it was a challenge to limit it to only 10).
1. Slave Castles
Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, was a hub for the transportation of slaves to the Americas and Europe. Its coastline is strewn with painful reminders of a dark past. The Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Norwegians, Germans, and British erected forts and castles to confine and transport slaves who would never see their homeland again. Explore castles like Elmina Castle, believed to be in the city where Europeans first interacted with locals. Cape Coast Castle is another prominent slave castle in Ghana featuring the haunting “Door of No Return” where captured slaves passed through to make their way to unknown lands, never to return home.
For many African diasporans, visiting these slave castles provide a sense of closure and helps heal wounds that span centuries. A visit to one of the numerous forts and castles in Ghana reminds visitors of what captives endured and serves as a reminder why this traumatic aspect of Africa’s past should never be allowed to happen again.
2. Indulge in Ghanaian Culinary Delights
No trip to Ghana is complete without savoring its mouthwatering cuisine. From the famous Ghanaian jollof (originally from Senegal) to fufu (a starchy dish made from boiled and pounded cassava or Yuca root in South America) and unripe plantains served with peanut butter soup, and waakye (rice and black-eyed peas cooked together, served with spicy black chili sauce, tomato stew, and various accompaniments), local food is a delightful fusion of flavors, seasonings, and cooking methods.
Don’t miss the vibrant street food scene that comes to life at night with treats like kelewele (spicy fried plantains), kebab sticks (spicy goat, cow, or chicken skewers), and “nkosua ne m3ko” (boiled eggs served with spicy tomato chili). Ghana’s budding culinary scene is receiving deserved attention with renowned chefs like Chef Maame Boakye, Food Network’s Chopped winner, changing how Ghanaian and, to a larger extent, African food is presented on global stages and exciting features in the New York Times.
You can also sign up for a culinary class to learn about indigenous Ghanaian dishes, understand the nutritional benefits of locally sourced ingredients and appreciate traditional cooking methods used to prepare decadently delectable Ghanaian dishes.
3. Kakum National Park and Canopy Walkway
If you have a fear of heights, face it head-on by visiting Kakum National Park, located in Assin Attandaso in Ghana’s Central region. This lush forest reserve boasts incredible biodiversity, with hiking trails winding through the landscape. The park’s highlight is its seven suspension bridges forming a 333-meter walkway suspended 27 meters above the forest floor. Alterntively, you can choose to embark on a relaxing hike and savor the beauty of nature.
Kakum National Park is also home to over 300 bird species, 600 butterfly species, and numerous mammals and reptiles. Learn about the amazing medicinal values of some of plants in the forest. Remember to pack comfortable shoes and clothing.
4. Fantasy Coffins – Teshie/La
While death is a subject most people avoid, coffin makers in Teshie, Accra, have put a unique twist on the craft of making eccentric coffins. These fantasy coffins, known as “abebuu adekai” by the Ga people come in shapes ranging from Coca-Cola bottles to aircraft, representing one’s occupation in this life or a clan’s totem.
The crafting of fantasy coffins takes into consideration the final requests of the departed to give them a befitting departure. The coffins are usually made with high grade wood with the carpenter employing several apprentices who help him craft numerous coffins at once. This quirky approach to crafting coffins is a sight worth witnessing.
5. Trip to the Ashanti Region
The Ashanti region is one of Ghana’s most popular destinations. Begin your journey with a visit to Manhyia Palace, home to the Ashanti seat of power and one of Africa’s most recognized kings, Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II.
Legend has it that two brothers in Bonwire learned to weave the colorful and intricate Kente cloth, a must-see when in the Ashanti region.
Explore the Okomfo Anokye sword site, where a powerful priest received a sword from the heavens, which remains unmoved to this day. Include visits to Kejetia Market, the largest market in West Africa, Lake Bosomtwe, Yaa Asantewaa Shrine, and various historic sites to learn more about Ashanti culture.
6. Partake in a Ghanaian Festival
Ghanaian festivals are vibrant celebrations, bringing communities together to ward off evil spirits, celebrate rites of passage, or celebrate the end of famine. With over 80 festivals in Ghana, prominent celebrations like Homowo, Hogbetsotso, Akwasidae, Aboakyir, Dipo, Fetu Afahye offer a colorful display of drumming, dancing, and communal happiness.
In recent times, new-age festivals catering to a younger demographic, such as Afrofuture (formely Afrochella), Detty Rave and Afronation music festivals, have gained popularity. The Chalewote festival in August brings local and international artists together to showcase their creative interpretations of the annual theme. Many locals and increasing numbers of foreigners flock to Kwahu in the Eastern region for paragliding during the Easter celebrations.
Don’t miss the opportunity to partake in a once-in-a-lifetime festival celebration and discover the essence of being Ghanaian.
7. Ghana’s Rich Tradition of Naming Ceremonies
In Africa, a name bestowed upon an individual at birth serves not only as an identifier but is also believed to shape one’s personality and destiny. This cultural tradition holds true in Ghana, where the art of naming is a unique and integral part of the local heritage. At birth, every person is given a specific name based on their gender and the day of the week they were born. This ceremony typically takes place seven days after the child’s birth.
The richness of this naming tradition extends beyond Ghanaians, inviting non-Ghanaians to partake in a special ceremony held in traditional Ghanaian villages. Amidst drumming, dancing, and singing, participants receive a distinct Ghanaian name, forever connecting them to the country.
For African diasporans, this ceremony becomes a powerful means of reclaiming a heritage from which they were once removed. It offers an opportunity to reconnect with African roots and symbolizes a rebirth for people of African descent. This unique occasion not only fosters a sense of belonging but also solidifies the profound feeling of finding a home in Ghana.
8. Tour of Accra City
As the capital and most popular city in Ghana, Accra offers a host of iconic landmarks that should feature on your day trip itinerary. Explore the newly refurbished Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, W. E Du Bois Center, Arts and Craft Center, Osu Castle, Independence Arch, and Black Star Square.
Consider adding Jamestown Lighthouse, art galleries, and the Center for National Culture to your list, enabling you to discover both the past and present of Accra through a city tour.
9. Shopping in Makola Market
Hone your bargaining skills in bustling Makola Market, where you can shop for a wide range of goods, from food to textiles and more. Makola Market is one of Ghana’s busiest markets, and with local phrases like “mi paatsor” (please) and “medaase” (thank you), you can negotiate prices with vendors.
Be cautious in this crowded market and remember that cash is the only accepted form of payment.
10. Sandy Beaches of Ghana
Ghana’s southern border meets the Atlantic Ocean, providing the perfect backdrop for relaxation and unwinding with a coconut in hand. We recommend Kokrobite, Ankobra, Ada, and Busua beaches for a refreshing ocean dip.
Cape Three Points, Ghana’s southernmost point, appeals to eco-travelers and those seeking an off-the-beaten-path beach destination.
No matter which activity you choose to indulge in, Ghana offers something that will undoubtedly make you fall in love with its people, culture, and country.
If you need assistance creating an exciting itinerary for your Ghana adventure, please click here to email us to start the conversation.