West Africa is a vibrant region that boasts a beautiful blend of cultures, landscapes, and historical sites. One of the countries that truly captures the spirit of this region is Ghana. There are many worthwhile places to go in Ghana, but the sheer number of them can be overwhelming. In this curated guide, we will share the top Ghana tourist attractions that will help you immerse yourself in the magic of West Africa.
Ghana is a small but culturally rich country located on the Gulf of Guinea. It shares borders with Ivory Coast to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, and Togo to the east. The country is famous for its warm and hospitable people, vibrant markets, and historical landmarks.
Ghana’s cultural heritage is a tapestry of vibrant colors, languages, and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. The country is home to over 100 ethnic groups, each with their own unique customs and way of life. Among the most prominent ethnic groups are the Akan, Ewe, Mole-Dagbon, and Ga-Adangbe.
Ghanaian culture is also deeply rooted in the arts, with a rich history of music, dance, storytelling, and textile-making. One of Ghana’s most important textiles is the iconic kente cloth. Kente is a brightly colored, intricately woven fabric, worn on special occasions. The cloth symbolizes the rich history and cultural identity of the Ghanaian people.
The history of Ghana is a fascinating journey through time, from ancient empires to the slave trade to the birth of a modern nation. Its story begins with the powerful Ghana Empire in the 9th and 13th centuries. The empire eventually declined, giving way to a series of smaller kingdoms, including the influential Ashanti Empire.
The arrival of European traders in the 15th century marked the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. This horrific period not only affected Africa, but it also had a profound impact on the entire Western world. Forts and castles along the coast served as trading posts and holding areas for enslaved Africans for hundreds of years.
Ghana gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1957, becoming the first African nation to do so. Since then, it has emerged as a beacon of democracy and development in West Africa.
One of the best ways to experience the vibrancy and energy of Ghana is by visiting its bustling markets. A prime example is Makola Market, the largest open-air market in Accra. Here, you can find everything from fresh produce to traditional crafts to street food and even live snails!
Makola Market is not only a shopping destination but also a cultural experience. It offers a glimpse into the daily lives of locals in Accra. As you navigate the labyrinth of stalls, you’ll witness the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the local economy. There’s also a warm, friendly atmosphere that characterizes Ghanaian society. It can also be chaotic and overwhelming, but it’s worth it to soak in the sights, sounds, and smells!
Jamestown is a historic neighborhood in Accra that offers a fascinating window into the city’s past. The British established the neighborhood in the 17th century. It once served as a thriving trading hub and the center of Accra’s colonial administration. Today, the neighborhood is famous for its narrow streets and vibrant street art, and is among the top places to go in Ghana.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Jamestown is the James Fort Lighthouse. The lighthouse offers panoramic views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors can also explore the colonial-era Ussher Fort and sample street foods like tilapia, banku, and even homemade candy!
Cape Coast Castle is one of the most significant historical landmarks in Ghana. It serves as a sobering reminder of the country’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. Built by the British in 1665, the castle initially was a gold and timber trading post. It later became a major hub for the slave trade.
Today, Cape Coast Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the top places to go in Ghana. It’s also home to a museum that documents the history of the slave trade in Ghana. Visitors can explore the dungeons where enslaved Africans were held before being shipped across the Atlantic. Its infamous Door of No Return symbolizes the final exit point for those taken from their homeland.
A visit to Cape Coast Castle is a powerful and emotional experience. It’s a difficult place to visit, as the air is still heavy and thick from the horrors that occurred there. Combined with the awful stories of what happened within its walls, it’s almost unbearable. But it offers a unique opportunity to learn about the slave trade and its lasting impact on Africa and the world.
Another important historical site related to the transatlantic slave trade is Elmina Castle. Built by the Portuguese in 1482, Elmina Castle is the oldest European structure in sub-Saharan Africa. It originally served as a trading post for gold and ivory.
Like Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle later became a major center for the slave trade. It housed thousands of enslaved Africans in appalling conditions before they were forcibly transported to the Americas. Like Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s another heartbreaking place to visit but a necessary one that reminds us of the evils that shaped Africa’s past and present.
Located in the city of Kumasi, Kejetia Market is the largest market in West Africa. It’s also among the top places to go in Ghana for anyone interested in experiencing the hustle and bustle of Ghanaian life. It also showcases why many know Kumasi as the country’s cultural capital.
With over 11,000 stalls and 45,000 traders, it’s very much sensory overload. The market offers a dizzying array of goods, from fresh produce and textiles to traditional crafts and imported electronics.
Navigating Kejetia Market can be an overwhelming experience, but it’s worth exploring its many alleyways and corridors. The market is also an excellent place to sample Ghanaian dishes like jollof rice, waakye, and etor.
There’s a reason why people often refer to Kumasi as Ghana’s cultural capital. The city is a vibrant showcase of Ghanaian art and craftsmanship. Nowhere is that more apparent than the craft villages outside the city. The wood carvers in Ahwiaa are masters at their craft, creating gorgeous masks, stools, dolls, and animal figurines.
Meanwhile, the villagers in Ntonso are expert weavers. Here, they create beautiful textiles stamped with traditional Adinkwa symbols, each with a different meaning. You’ll find even more weavers in Adanwomase, a village specializing in making Kente cloth. These villages are among my top places to go in Ghana and should be on any travel itinerary!
For nature lovers, a visit to Mole National Park is a must when exploring places to go in Ghana. Located in northern Ghana, the park is the largest wildlife reserve in the country. It’s also home to elephants, antelopes, warthogs, baboons, birds, and even rare lions.
Outside of its importance as a wildlife reserve, the park also boasts an impressive cultural and historical heritage. Nearby Larabanga Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in West Africa. It’s a prime example of Sudano-Sahelian architecture and Islamic and indigenous influences.
Mole Village, the Mole River, and the mysterious Larabanga Mystic Stone are other must-see places to go in Ghana as well.
Tamale is the capital city of the Northern Region of Ghana and a growing hub for business, education, and culture. The city is known for its vibrant markets, traditional architecture, and the warmth of its people.
One of my favorite experiences in Tamale was visiting a local tannery, where I watched local men make and dye leather. I also recommend visiting a local market to get a feel for daily life. You can also find great souvenirs to buy there!
Tamale is also a great food town where you can find Ghanaian staples like fufu and waakye. I tried both in the city and loved them. It’s one of the top places to go in Ghana for the food and culture alone!
Ghana captures the essence of West Africa, with its rich cultural heritage, stunning beauty, and historical landmarks. From the bustling markets of Accra to the serene savannahs of Mole National Park, there is no shortage of places to go in Ghana for those seeking an authentic African experience.
Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culture, Ghana has much to offer and will leave a lasting impression on any traveler. So start planning your trip to Ghana today and experience the top places to go in Ghana for yourself!