By: Sojourner Walker Williams
I have always been firm believer in responsible, sustainable, local travel. I see travel as one of the best ways to uplift struggling communities and stimulate and revitalize local economies. There is enormous strength in our tourist power. When we as travelers make conscious decisions to journey forth in a deliberately local and sustainable way, it becomes in essence a form of quiet activism. In this spirit, here are my top ten reasons to visit Ghana.
10 Reasons to visit Ghana
1. Ghana has an incredibly diverse landscape. In the Cape Coast and surrounding areas, you’ll find secluded, pristine beaches. If you like large cities, Accra and Kumasi are bustling business and entertainment centers. In Tamale, in the Upper Volta region, you’ll find elephant and hippo safari reserves. There is something for everyone to enjoy in beautiful Ghana.
2. The Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle are worth visiting. These former slave forts, which have now been restored and turned into museums and monuments tell the story of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. They are melancholy and haunting, and you should visit to remember, to experience, and to honor those who perished or passed through the dungeons and doors of no return. The Cape Coast Castle is also home to a wonderful community of local artists. You can go to the shops in the courtyard and find authentic art, music and gifts.
3. Kakum National Park is a lush 375 square km forested park in Central Ghana. Kakum is home to jungle canopies, an exotic variety of flowers and plants, several species of monkeys, colorful birds and butterflies, and apparently, during certain seasons, forest elephants. The canopy tours are adrenaline pumping adventures with astonishing views.
4. Nzuelo Stilt Village. Located in the middle of Lake Anasuri, the Nzuelo Stilt Village is a traditional village that has existed on the lake for the last 500 years. A photographer’s paradise, the village is a visit back in time. Accessible only by canoe, through snake and crocodile infested waters (how’s that for adventure?), you can spend the night and get to know the locals who live life in a way that is very similar to the way they lived it centuries ago.
5. Mole Game Reserve: Lions, antelope and elephants — oh my! The Mole Game Reserve is Ghana’s answer to the vast Savannas of her Southern and Central African neighbors. The game reserve sits on 1,300 square miles of lush land. Guides will take you through the maze of tall grass and trees. Get ready, to get surprisingly close to the wildlife.
6. Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti region, and hands down, one of my favorite areas in Ghana. The Ashanti people are among the most hospitable and generous in the world. The stately golden Manhiya Palace, home of the royal family is a must see. A great day trip is Lake Bosomtwe, in the Rain Forest Region, the largest natural lake in Ghana, where the Ashantis believe the souls of their dead gather. Massive and warm, Lake Bosomtwe is surrounded by misty blue mountains and vibrant green forests.
7. African dance and drumming classes. With a little planning and preparation, you can take Djembe drumming and African dance classes. If you are in the Cape Coast region, you can literally go to the Coast Castle and ask for lessons, if you find yourself in another city or prefer a more structured approach, you can look online for schools and schedule a class or two in advance.
8. African Art. Ghana is home to a broad variety of African art. From paintings and sculptures, to carvings and Kente textiles, you can truly become immersed in the art scene. There are a variety of museums and galleries that can be visited. A few are listed below.
- The National Museum of Ghana– Accra
- The Cape Coast Castle Museum – Cape Coast
- Elmina Castle Museum – Cape Coast
- Volta Regional Museum – Ho
- Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Museum – Nkroful
9. Eating very well. I definitely didn’t like everything, in fact, Fufu, the national dish, I couldn’t stand. I did however, enjoy the fried plantains cooked to perfection in palm or coconut oil, the fresh fruit, the delicious fish, the black-eyed peas seasoned with tomatoes and spices. I loved the soy kabobs that could be purchased from vendors in the markets and the fresh doughnut pastries that women sold out of hot boxes balanced on their heads. In terms of restaurants, ask locals for recommendations and be adventurous and open. If you are a chocoholic like myself, you will be pleased to know that Ghana produces high quality cocoa. Try a Star candy bar, Ghana’s very own brand.
10. Central Markets. Wherever I go, I make sure to patron the local market. You get such a great feel for a group of people and the regional culture at these gathering places. Every dollar spent also goes directly to the people and the community, which is always a good thing. In a central markets you can almost always find restaurant stalls where you can sample local food. Markets are a wonderful place to purchase locally made jewelry, clothing and art. I’ve visited many central markets across Ghana; my favorite was the Kumasi Central Market, which is the largest in Western Africa. I was able to interact with locals, learn about the many medicinal applications of Shea Butter, see various salves and tinctures being created, and have a dress custom made.
Who should visit Ghana? Everyone should visit Ghana. Ghana is diverse in landscape, rich in culture, relatively affluent, politically stable, and seeped in history and tradition.
Sojourner is a fiction and travel writer, enthusiastic yogi and curious traveler. Currently working on a collection of short stories, she splits her time between Brooklyn, New York and Brandywine, Maryland. Her work can be found on her site, Sojourner’s Sojourns (www.sojournerwalker.com) which can best be described as a quarter travel memoir, a quarter photo essay, a quarter guidebook, and a quarter thoughtful musings on travel and writing.