10 Best Things to Do in Ghana

St. George's castle Elmina Castle
Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Getty Images

One of the brightest jewels in West Africa's crown, Ghana is a country blessed with idyllic beaches, cosmopolitan cities, and remote nature reserves full of unique wildlife. It's also a country steeped in rich history, with colonial-era trading forts along the Atlantic coast standing as a testament to the suffering caused by the transatlantic slave trade.

Knowing where to start your adventure in such an interesting country can be difficult. Whether you're spending the day wandering the halls of a historic castle, surfing world-class waves, heading out on a safari, or shopping alongside the locals at a popular market, the experiences you'll have in Ghana are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.

01 of 10

Hit the Local Markets in Accra

A mother and child selling their wares at Makola Market in Accra, Ghana

Renate Wefers / EyeEm / Getty Images

a20 Kojo Thompson Rd, Accra, Ghana

Make time to visit bustling Makola Market, a central shopping hub where you'll find you could ever imagine wanting to buy, from fresh produce and local arts and crafts to vintage sports jerseys, colorful fabric, and tasty local treats. While a first visit may feel a bit overwhelming to the senses, taking your time, chatting with vendors, and honing your negotiation skills will surely make your trip to the most famous market in Ghana more memorable—and end with you finding some truly unique souvenirs.

Those in search of a real culinary adventure should head to the nearby Osu Night Market, where you can sample local street food favorites like kenkey—a traditional Ghanaian dish similar to a dumpling that's made with fermented white corn—jollof rice, and freshly-caught seafood like fish, crab, and lobster, all grilled to perfection.

02 of 10

Visit the Highest Waterfall in West Africa

Wli Waterfall in Ghana

Waldemar Friesen / Getty Images

Wli agorfieve, Ghana

About a four-hour drive from Accra, Wli Waterfall (also called Agumatsa Waterfall) is truly a sight to behold. At 262 feet (80 meters), it's the highest waterfall in West Africa, enticing visitors with dramatic views from its easier 1.5-hour hike to the lower falls and challenging four-hour hike to the upper falls. Go with a guide to find out more about the history and culture of the area's Indigenous people. While the falls are a top attraction all year long, seasonal rains make them even more impressive April through October.

03 of 10

Learn About the Slave Trade Where it Happened

Cape Coast Castle
De Agostini / C. Sappa / Getty Images
Victoria Rd, Cape Coast, Ghana
Phone +233 57 710 1707

Ghana's Atlantic coast is lined with 17th century forts and castles; Cape Coast Castle is one of the largest. Built in 1653 for the Swedish Africa Company, this structure was originally used as a trading post for the timber and gold industries. Later, the castle's footprint was expanded by the Dutch and the British, serving as an essential holding station for slaves bound for the Americas. Cape Coast Castle is currently a museum full of information about Ghana's history, the slave trade, ​and local culture. Guided tours take you through the dungeons and to the "door of no return," through which the castle's slaves once passed.

Just a 20-minute drive west of Cape Coast Castle brings you to the picturesque fishing town of Elmina, home to one of Ghana's most important historic landmarks, Elmina Castle, also known as St. George's Castle. The stark beauty of its white-washed walls contrasts its dark history. Built by the Portuguese in 1482, it was taken over by the Dutch 150 years later, serving as the headquarters of the Dutch West India Company for more than two centuries as the slave trade eventually replaced gold exports. Today, tours through its dungeons give visitors emotional insights into the horrors the slaves here were forced to endure.

04 of 10

Take in Views from Fort St. Jago

Fort St. Jago in Ghana

Fabian Plock / EyeEm / Getty Images

Across the lagoon from Elmina Castle (St. George's Castle) lies Fort St. Jago, also known as Fort Coenraadsburg, offering excellent views of the castle and town of Elmina. The very first European building erected on this hill was a church dedicated to St. Jago—the hill was also used as a gun-position by the Dutch to bombard and overtake Elmina Castle (now St. George's) from the Portuguese. Years later, a permanent fort was built, consisting of two landward bastions, two seaward bastions, and buildings that housed 69 soldiers, all surrounded by an impressive courtyard. Come to view 19th and 20th century modifications to the fort that reveal its use as a prison, hospital, and resting house.

15 Dutch Cemetery Rd, Elmina, Ghana
Phone +233 24 436 9481
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05 of 10

Ride the Waves in Kokrobite

Kokrobite Beach
Merten Snijders / Getty Images
Kokrobite, Ghana
Phone +233 24 999 9330

Ghana's most popular beaches are located around Kokrobite, home of the particularly beautiful Langma Beach. Kokrobite is a quick 20-mile (32 kilometer) ride away from the capital, Accra, which also sports several scenic seaside spots, including Labadi Beach, Coco Beach, and Bojo Beach.

In Kokrobite, beachfront hotel Big Milly's Backyard offers laidback accommodations, as well as a bar and restaurant where backpackers, volunteers, and Ghanaian Rastafarians like to chill out. The hotel is also home to Mr. Bright's Surf Shop and School, where surf staff offer gear rentals and lessons to travelers wanting to experience the famous International Surf Day waves. Kokrobite Garden is another popular place to stay, complete with a sparkling swimming pool.

06 of 10

Sunbathe on Busua Beach

Busua Beach
Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Getty Images
R357+FHV, Dixcove, Ghana
Phone +233 20 638 8029

Another one of Ghana's beautiful beaches and one of the best surfing spots in Africa, Busua offers visitors the chance to soak up the sunshine, swim in the Atlantic, and feast on fresh lobster. The area, about five hours to the west of Accra, is also the country's unofficial surfing capital, with several shops offering surf safaris to secret surf spots and lodging options ranging from basic to luxurious.

A favorite of many visitors is Busua Beach Resort, a large, modern hotel with dining facilities, a swimming pool, and comfortable beach chalets. The more intimate Busua Inn is run by a French couple whose love of authentic French cuisine is evident at the ocean-view bar and restaurant. For reasonable rates that include breakfast, try the African Rainbow Resort, a small family-run hotel with just 12 rooms.

07 of 10

Cross the Canopy Walkway at Kakum National Park

Man walking on a canopy bridge in Kakum National Park

Travel Ink / Getty Images

R82, Ghana
Phone +233 20 042 0831

Kakum National Park is a dense tropical rainforest located in southern Ghana that's home to more than 40 mammal species, including forest elephants, forest buffalo, meerkats, and civets. The birdlife here is fantastic, with more than 250 different species recorded.

The highlight of any visit to Kakum is a stroll on the Canopy Walkway. Suspended 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground, this 1,150-foot (350-meter) walkway has you crossing several bridges and offers a unique perspective of the park's flora and fauna. Take a guided tour for a better understanding of the plants' many medicinal properties and pitch your tent at the basic campsite if you want to spend the night in nature.

08 of 10

Embark on a Safari in Mole National Park

Herd of elephants at a watering hol in Mole National Parke
Max Milligan / Getty Images
Phone +233 24 431 6777

Located in northwest Ghana, Mole National Park is the country's largest wildlife park. Expect to see buffalo, rare roan antelope, elephants, warthogs, hyenas, and if you're very lucky, leopards. Lions have recently been re-introduced to the park as well. Birders can keep an eye out for more than 250 avian species. Opt for a walking safari or a traditional game drive accompanied by an armed guide. The best time to spot wildlife is during the dry season (January through March) when animals congregate around the water sources.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Visit Ghana's Oldest Mosque

Larabanga Mosque

Wikimedia Commons / CC BY SA 3.0 

One of Ghana's most treasured spiritual sites, Larabanga Mosque is the oldest in the country, located just outside Mole National Park. It's one of eight mosques in the country built from packed earth and horizontal timbers, complete with towers and buttresses. In 2002, it was included in the World Monuments Watch after falling into a state of disrepair, which then allowed for conservation efforts to repair rotting wood and replace broken cement with mud-based plaster.

This pilgrimage site, used by Ghana's Muslim population, still operates as a center of worship. To visit, contact Ibrahim who works at the local orphanage in Mole, for specifics. Note that non-Muslims are not welcome to enter the mosque, but can still view its exterior.

34 Sawla-Damongo Rd, Larabanga, Ghana
Phone +233 54 301 1889
10 of 10

Meet an Ashanti King in Kumasi

Kejetia Market, Kumasi
Anthony Pappone / Getty Images
Kumasi, Ghana

The former capital of Ghana's Ashanti Kingdom, Kumasi is located in southern central Ghana and is the country's second-largest city, with a population of over two million people. The Ashanti are famous artisans, specializing in gold jewelry and trinkets, Kente cloth, and carved wooden stools. Examples are displayed at the Kumasi Cultural Center and at craft villages on the outskirts of the city. Bustling Kejetia Market is chaotic but well worth a visit. To see how the Ashanti kings used to live, check out the Manhyia Palace Museum—if you time your trip right, you might even meet the current Ashanti king, who makes an appearance every 42 days.

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10 Best Things to Do in Ghana