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 exotic wildlife. It is also a country steeped in history. In particular, the colonial trading forts that still exist along the Atlantic coast stand as a testament to the suffering caused by the transatlantic slave trade. With so much to see and do, knowing where to start can be difficult. Check out this guide to Ghana's top tourist attractions and plan your trip so that you get to see as many of them as possible.
Cape Coast Castle
Ghana's Atlantic coast is lined with old forts and castles built by various European powers during the 17th century. Of these, the Cape Coast Castle is one of the largest. It was built in 1653 for the Swedish Africa Company and was originally used as a trading post for the timber and gold industries. It was expanded by the Dutch and the British and served as an important holding station for slaves bound for the Americas. The Cape Coast Castle is now a museum full of information about the history of Ghana, the slave trade and local culture. Tours take you through the dungeons and the "door of no return", through which the castle's slaves would once have passed.
St George's Castle
A 20-minute drive west of Cape Coast Castle brings you to the picturesque fishing town of Elmina. Elmina is home to one of Ghana's most important historic landmarks, St. George's Castle. The stark beauty of the castle's white-washed walls contrasts with its dark history. Built by the Portuguese in 1482, it was captured by the Dutch 150 years later. It served for more than two centuries as the headquarters of the Dutch West India Company. Gold exports were soon replaced by slaves, and today tours through the dungeons give visitors an emotional insight into the trade and the horrors it entailed. Nearby Fort St. Jago lies across the lagoon and offers excellent views of the castle and Elmina town.
Phone+233 30 255 5221
Ghana's vibrant capital is a sprawling city with over two million residents. It constitutes an eclectic blend of contemporary architecture, ramshackle townships, colonial castles and lively markets, and is considered one of Africa's safest capital cities. Highlights include the Makola Market, a central hub selling everything from fresh produce to local arts and crafts; and the National Museum. The latter houses wonderful displays focusing on Ghanaian culture and history, including the legacies of the Ashanti Kingdom and the slave trade. Accra also has several scenic beaches, including Labadi Beach, Coco Beach and Bojo Beach.
Kakum National Park
Kakum National Park is a dense tropical rainforest in southern Ghana. The forest is home to more than 40 mammal species including forest elephants, forest buffalo, meerkats and civets. The birdlife is fantastic as well with over 250 different species recorded. The highlight of any visit to Kakum, however, is a stroll on the Canopy Walkway. Suspended 100 feet/30 meters above the ground, it crosses several bridges and is over 1150 feet/350 meters long. The walkway offers a unique perspective of the park's flora and fauna. Make sure to take a guided tour for a better understanding of the plants' many medicinal properties. There's a basic campsite for those who want to stay overnight.
Mole National Park
Located in northwest Ghana, Mole National Park is the country's largest wildlife park. Here, you can 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 also keep an eye out for more than 250 avian species. You can opt for a walking safari or a traditional game drive accompanied by an armed guide. There's a motel just near the park headquarters. The best time to spot wildlife is during the dry season (January-March) when animals congregate around the water sources. On your way to Mole, visit the nearby Larabanga Mosque, the oldest mosque in Ghana.
Phone+233 55 431 2389
Ghana has many lovely beaches. Of these, the most popular are those located around Kokrobite town, especially beautiful Langma Beach. Kokrobite is a quick 20 mile/32 kilometer tro-tro ride away from the capital, Accra. Beachfront hotel Big Milly's Backyard offers laidback accommodation. Big Milly's has a friendly bar and restaurant where backpackers, volunteers and Ghanaian Rastafarians chill out, and is also home to Mr. Brights surf shop. The staff at Mr. Brights offer gear rentals and lessons, so that you can experience the waves that host the country's annual International Surf Day competition. Alternatively, Kokrobite Garden is another popular place to stay, with the added bonus of a sparkling swimming pool.
Phone+233 32 202 5558
The former capital of Ghana's Ashanti Kingdom, Kumasi is located in southern central Ghana. It is the country's second-largest city with a population of over 2 million people. The Ashanti are famous artisans, specializing in gold jewelry and trinkets, Kente cloth and carved wooden stools. You can see examples at the Centre for National Culture as well as at various craft villages on the outskirts of Kumasi. The bustling Kejetia Market is chaotic but well worth a visit. If you're interested in seeing how the Ashanti kings used to live, check out the Manhyia Palace Museum . If you time it right, you can meet the current Ashanti king here; he makes an appearance to greet the public every 42 days.
Another of Ghana's beautiful beaches, Busua offers visitors the chance to soak up the sunshine, swim in the Atlantic or feast on freshly caught lobster. It's also the country's unofficial surfing capital, with several shops offering surf safaris to the area's secret spots. Hotels along the beachfront range from basic to luxurious. The Busua Beach Resort is a large, modern hotel with dining facilities, a 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, check out the African Rainbow Resort, a small family-run hotel with just 12 rooms.
Updated and re-written in part by Jessica Macdonald on 22nd August 2018.