There are many people, places and things to see in Ghana, but these have been a few of my favorites. Traveling helps make Ghana stay as new and exciting as the first week I arrived. Many of the places I visited are in villages, making it easy to meet locals and to learn about Ghana’s history and culture from local perspectives. If you study in Accra, enjoy it, but travel as much as possible because Ghana has a lot to offer.
Branching Out of Accra
Accra is the capital of Ghana and a busy city full of diversity. It has all the amenities and entertainment of a typical city, but if you want to absorb all Ghana has to offer, I would suggest getting out of Accra.
Cape Coast has a beautiful coast-line with rows of palm trees, rocky cliffs and fishing communities. In this area we came across street vendors selling art, and children working and playing on the boats. The Elmina and Cape Coast slave castles offer tours with a narrative that only begins to unravel the dark history of the transatlantic slave trade. Our guide at the Cape Coast castle walked us through the story of the slave experience, a stark contrast to that of the governor who lived above the dungeons.
Another trip took our group to Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana. While still a city, Kumasi is very different than Accra. Rich with Ashanti culture, the Manhyia Palace gave us an inside look at the history of Ashanti kings and queens and the famous golden stool. The narrative of the Ashanti people provides a strong foundation of Ghanaian culture and how different regions and dialects of Akan formed.
Kumasi is also rich in Ghanaian art history. We visited the kente cloth weaving village in Bonwire (/bon-weer-ay/). A guide shared the brief history of kente cloth: how the concept was born from watching spiders weave their webs, women’s battles to be allowed to weave and how each pattern has its own name and meaning. In the weaving room there are massive looms set in the center and all four walls are covered in different designs. While the cloths are beautiful, the best part of Bonwire are the children living in the village who loved posing for pictures with one another.
In a craft village a group of us made batik cloth through a process of stamping wax patterns and dye. While we waited for the fabric to dry we walked around the craft shops which were full of jewelry, paintings, brass works, drums, wood carvings and hundreds of different fabrics.
In Ntonso we learned the history of Adinkra symbols and were taught the process of creating dye. The dye used in Adinkra comes from boiling the root of a tree found in the Northern Region of Ghana. After learning the process of creating the dye, visitors can make their own Adinkra cloths or purchase ones made by locals.
In the Ahwiaa wood carving village we exercised our bargaining skills for beautiful handcrafted pieces of art. In many of the shops you can watch the artists make the pieces that they sell. Walking around these areas people are often shuffled into the shops right by the road. There are many treasures to be found in the shops farther back so don’t spend all of your money in the first shop you see.
On our way to Mole we spent the night in Tamale, which has cheaper lodging. Staying in Mole is an awesome experience, but can be pretty pricey. Tamale is a predominantly Muslim community and has beautiful mosques to see. We were lucky enough to be invited to the Gukpeau Palace where we met subchiefs of the village and learned more about Muslim culture in Tamale. We also ventured into the markets and talked to some guys on street corner who asked for our hands in marriage (we politely declined).
In Mole National Park we took a safari ride and were lucky enough to see elephants. Visitors are most likely to see them during the dry season as well as earlier in the morning or in the evening. There are other animals to see like bushbuck and crocodiles, but the elephants are definitely the most exciting.
On our way to the Volta region we stopped in Ho at the Tafi Atome monkey sanctuary. From the tro tro stop the best way to get to the sanctuary is by motorcycle taxi, so we embraced the wind. At Tafi Atome a guide gave us a brief history of the village and the Mona monkeys before taking us through the village to see the monkeys. We were taught how to hold a banana so the monkeys peel it and eat it from your hand instead of taking it and running away. They tell you not to scream so you don’t scare the monkeys. Be prepared to hold it in when you have one surprise you by jumping on your head.
We lodged in HoHoe and took a tro tro to Wli Falls the next morning. Wli Falls is the highest waterfall in West Africa and absolutely breathtaking. Our group opted for the loop hike to have an easier ascend to see both the upper and lower part of the falls. The hike can be a bit of a challenge, but the guide was wonderful about setting a slow pace with lots of breaks to catch our breath while taking in the mountains around us. The challenge only made the falls that much better.
On our last day in the Volta Region we hiked Mount Afadjato, which is the highest mountain in Ghana. The hike was short, but very challenging and totally worth it. There’s even a flag posted at the top for you to take triumphant pictures for all your efforts.
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