The reason I am now writing about things to do in Ghana is that a friend of our family is from there, and has mentioned how much she misses it, and enjoys it very much when she is able to visit. This was enough inspiration for me to do a little research.
Located along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, it is considered a sub-region of West Africa. The country is bordered by Togo in the East, Burkina Faso in the North, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea in the South, and the Ivory Coast in the West. Now let’s investigate a bit, and see what this area of the world is all about.
Some History of the Area
Although there were many empires and kingdoms in this area over the course of time, the first permanent existence of Ghana as a state dates back to the eleventh (11th) century. The empires with the most influence and power were the Kingdom of Ashanti and the Kingdom of Dagbon.
The British gained control of this area in the late nineteenth (19th) century, but prior to this the Portuguese took over in the early fifteenth (15th) century, and a number of European countries fought over trading rights after that. The present borders were set up as the British Gold Coast in the early 1900s. After many years of resistance by the locals to this occupation, Ghana gained independence on March 6, 1957.
The country comprises an assortment of religious, linguistic, and ethnic groups. The first prime minister and president of the country was Kwame Nkrumah. The motto of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) was “self-government now”. Kwame promoted the concept of Pan-Africanism, and modeled his teachings after the ideas and works of Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, and W.E.B. Du Bois.
The government was overthrown by a coup in February 1966, and subsequent military and civilian governments resulted in great economic instability through much of the remainder of the twentieth (20th) century. The multi-party system was restored in 1992 with the new Constitution of Ghana.
Check out this video which will give you a good introduction to this country:
A Few Facts to Consider
- Officially it is called the Republic of Ghana
- The translation of the word Ghana in the Soninke language is “Warrior King”
- The culture is a mix of different ethnic groups
- The population is just over thirty-one million (31,000,000), people
- The most widely spoken and indigenous language is Akan, although the official language is English. In the Western Region, people speak Nzema, while in the greater Accra Region they speak Ga and Danbe. There are nearly eighty (80) languages that are spoken in the country.
- The capital is Accra
- The currency of the country is the Ghanaian Cedi. One (1) Ghanaian Cedi to seventeen cents (.17) USD.
- The country is a unitary constitutional democracy. The president is the head of state as well as the head of the government.
- The president of Ghana is Nana Akufo-Addo
- Its landmass is very diverse comprising everything from tropical rain forests, low hills, waterfalls, plains, rivers as well as coastal savannahs
- It has the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Volta
- The climate is tropical with a dry and wet season
- An economic plan called “Ghana Vision 2020” has the country positioned to become the first African country to be designated as a developed country sometime between 2020 and 2029 as well as a newly industrialized country between 2030 and 2039
- The country has vast gold reserves
- It is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world. Its largest financial sector is services. It also has manufacturing and extractive industries contributing to its economy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- There are eight (8) public universities in the country
- It is a multi-ethnic country with the largest segment of the population being Ashanti.
- They have an interesting form of hand printing and embroidery developed in the thirteenth (13) century called Adrinkra
- Music and dance is an integral part of their culture and it takes many forms depending on the regions and ethnic groups. There is traditional music and dance for different occasions.
- The film industry in Ghana goes back to 1948
- The media in the country is one of the freest in the entire African continent as evidenced by the private press often being critical of government policy
- The top sport in Ghana is football (soccer), although they competed in 2010 for the first time in the Winter Olympics and have made several appearances in the Summer Olympics
The food here is rather diverse as you can find a variety of dishes. Stews and soups are common as well as a good selection of seafood. Most soups consist of a mixture of vegetables, poultry, meat, or fish. A major part of their diet is fish with many choices available such as crayfish, whitebait, smoked fish, and tilapia.
Tilapia and Banku are served in the majority of the restaurants in the area. Banku is a mixture of cassava dough and fermented corn which is cooked in hot water and results in a whitish paste. Beware that a number of their dishes contain a condiment made from green and red chiles, tomatoes, and onions and is very spicy. Fufu is another common dish consisting of equal portions of green plantain flour and cassava mixed with water.
Things to Do
* Experience the Natural Beauty — there is so much natural diversity here so once you leave the city you will have plenty to discover. For example, In the Eastern Region of the country which borders Togo, you will come upon Mount Afadjato and some of the highest mountains in the country. This mountainous area is filled with many gorgeous sights, plenty of fresh air, and numerous birds, monkeys, butterflies, and fruit bats. In the Hoeho district of this region, you can journey through a tropical forest and come upon the lower falls of Whli Waterfalls. You will have to hike a bit up the mountain to get to the upper falls. In the northern part of the country is Mole National Park which is perfect for those into the natural scene, and it has less tourist activity. It is the largest wildlife park in Ghana with a variety of wildlife including cheetahs, elephants, hippos, and buffalo. In the Central Region, you will find an abundance of fauna and flora at Kakum National Park. It has one (1) of only two (2) canopy walks in the entire African continent. Its a fun experience if you are not afraid of heights, as you will see white breasted guinea fowl, many species of monkeys, antelopes, and rare birds. There are plenty of hiking and walking trails throughout the area, as well as biking. You can also take inland cruises across the lagoons, lakes, and rivers on traditional wooden dugout boats and canoes. A popular activity is taking a canoe ride through the Amansuri wetland and then checking out the fourth (4th) century stilt village of Nzulezo.
* City Life — there is plenty to do in the city with shops, restaurants, and bars scattered about. A great place to get an excellent view of the entire city is at the Skybar, which sits atop the tallest residential building in Accra. Here you will experience first-rate service and a bit of elegance where you can have dinner, drinks and listen to live music. Another hot spot for drinks and music is the Republic Bar and Grill. It is located in the Osu section of town, which has a number of clubs, restaurants, and bars. It gets a bit crowded at the Republic on Wednesday nights when they have their live music venues. They offer flavored beers and locally created “akpeteshie” cocktails prepared with rum or gin and mixed with ginger, hibiscus, and coconut to give it a tropical flair.
* Markets and Street Sellers — for you shoppers there are a lot of shops, markets, and street vendors from which to choose as you wander about the city. The area is known for its fabric, and you can find many kinds with an assortment of vibrant colors. There are seamstresses and tailors who will create any type of clothing you would like for a very reasonable price. Kente fabric is a well-known woven fabric and is available in a variety of colors. The Northern Gonja cloth is another popular woven fabric, as well as Pan West African cloth.
* The Historical Cape Coast Castle — this is located in the western part of the country and was originally built by inhabitants from Sweden for the gold and timber trade. It is situated on the edge of the sea on the Cape Coast, and it eventually turned into a slave fort for the Transatlantic trade. Although it is an important and interesting part of Ghana’s history, it is rather sad when visiting the holding rooms and the dungeons of this facility. Like other of the forts and castles, it is now a museum and part of the UNESCO Heritage Site.
* Art Festivals — in the seaside community of Jamestown you will find a cultural setting that hosts the Chale Wote Street Art Festival and the Accra Dot Alt. You will also discover among the old colonial-style buildings a wide array of street art. Take a walk down High Street where you will find Ussher Fort, and also check out the lighthouse. Stop for a drink at Osikan which is situated high on the cliffs with a gorgeous view of Osu Castle and the surrounding area. If you get a bit hungry drop by the Jamestown Cafe for lunch.
* Great Place to Surf — over the recent decade surfing has really caught on around here. This trend got started by Englishman Brett Davies who is a former Rip Curl champion. You will find him at Mr. Bright’s Surf School teaching both the locals and tourists the finer points of balancing on the board. As well as giving lessons, he hosts surf camps at some of the best surfing spots on the coast. When he first arrived he was based in Busua, and now resides in Kokrobite. The beaches are relatively undeveloped, but you can find plenty of eco-lodges and a lot of privacy. While some of the beaches are great for water skiing, sport fishing, yachting, and surfing, you will find some such as Cocoloca beach for the nesting of migratory whales, and Ada beach for the nesting of a variety of bird species.
* Museums and Mosques — you can immerse yourselves in the rich history of Ghana by visiting some of the galleries and museums such as the National Museum of Ghana in Accra, the Volta Regional Museum in Ho, the Cape Coast Castle Museum, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Museum in Nkroful, and the Elmina Castle Museum at Cape Coast. You will find white mud mosques that are centuries old in the northern part of Ghana. Built-in West Sudanese style of architecture, all are unique and have many stories to tell about local history and culture, such as the Larabanga Mosque.
This is one of the only countries in Africa which has had such a stable democracy and a healthy economy for several years. With low crime rates and a warm and friendly bunch of locals, it is most definitely a place to check out and spend some quality time.
It is today considered the “Gateway to Africa” because of where it is located in the Gulf of Guinea, making the country and its ports an ideal location to connect with the entire African continent. Present-day Ghana is brimming with an abundance of commerce, trade, and entrepreneurship.
It is one of the few English-speaking countries in Africa, and it has a rich traditional heritage with its small villages as well as the vibrant activities of the modern cities. You will find quiet peaceful villages which embrace the culture and hospitality of these people, along with all the amenities you may desire in the larger cities.
There is much wilderness and natural beauty to take in, but Ghana does not allow hunting so you will not find any game reserves or game safaris.
Visiting Ghana is not your typical tourist experience of taking in a few sights here and there. It is more a matter of immersing yourself in its rich culture and hospitality. The country has less tourist activity than most, so you will find that your money goes a long way here. Wherever you go you will be greeted by the warm hospitality of these people, and you will hear the term “Akwaaba” quite often, which is the Twi word for “welcome” spoken by the Akan tribe. You will not tire of hearing it.
I look forward that I have whetted your appetite a bit to visit this marvelous country which is rich in so many ways and has a special ambiance evidenced by the genuine kindness and hospitality of these people. I encourage you to seriously add this wonderful country to your travel plans.
All the Very Best,