Year of the Return: Ghana is my family’s home and I have the best recommendations on what to do in Ghana. This post will highlight the adventure trips I went on and where you should go too!
This was a wonderful family trip. Thanks to my grandparents I traveled there for two weeks and had the pleasure of meeting extended family, visit the markets, the art center and their botanical gardens and more.
Places to go for Artistry
Makola market (Pictured above)- the high energy, never sleeping outdoor market popular for its vast selection of goods! You can find almost anything here: fresh fruit, meats, vegetables, medicine, clothes, shoes, arts and crafts, and beautiful colorful fabric! Highly recommend visitng with someone who is local to the area, but either way, you will get a good sense of the culture here.
The Arts Center– this was one of my favorite places. You walk in at any entrance and its a huge maze of independent art sellers. Left and right they call out to you to get your attention to come to their table. I admit its a little overwhelming at first, but once you get your bearings and know what you’re looking for? Its a field day! This place has anything art related under the sun–canvas paintings, shirts, jewelry, handmade kente cloth sandals, fans, purses, book bags, small statues, and more. The best part is the bargaining, oh yes–you can negotiate on anything, but they know when you’re foreign and will definitely try to drive the price up.
Helpful Market tips:
Have a Ghanaian with you to bargain, but if that’s not feasible, just know how much it should be selling for normally.
Also don’t compare the currencies!! (1 USD = 4 Ghanain Cedi). Someone tried to sell a bracelet to me for 15 Cedis. In my head I thought “well hey thats about $3.5 so yea I should buy it” but NO. A reasonably priced bracelet would be 3 Cedis because thats what its worth in Ghana. So understand what things are worth so you don’t overpay.
Kente Weaving center was very cool to see in person. You know the kente cloth stoles you see at graduation? Yea those are handmade–or shall I say “foot” made–right here in Ghana. The skill it takes to make these– oh my. Ill be posting a clear video so you all can see!
Must Do Outdoor Activities
Aburi Botanical Gardens: Guys this was the coolest place because I learned about how different plants were used for medicine, foods, spices and so much more. I’ll just say one thing: Nature is BEAUTIFUL!! Check out some of the cool things I learned:
Nutmeg tree: The first picture from the left shows a nutmeg seed! Under the red cover is the seed used for seasonings. You can also grind it and add it to warm milk to drink to sleep well! The third picture of the red casing is actually used to make mace by soaking it in alcohol for two days! I appreciate the versatility within just one small plant.
Tree for home: This giant tree was actually used as homes in the forests of West Africa. The third picture as you can see shows a giant opening at the base of the tree, a sheet / leaf would be placed on top and that would be a room! Each tree had about 3 large “rooms”. I thought this was pretty freaking cool.
Strangler Ficus Tree (pictured bottom left): This tree feeds off of other trees by wrapping its branches and literally strangling the life out of the tree under it. The second picture is a type of palm tree that grows from down –> up –> and out! I very much wanted to walk in it. The last picture is of a natural bridge from twines and branches–my lovely grandparents are walking through since its the “love tunnel”.
Kakum National Park: This hiking tour was amazing,but SCARY oh my goodness. We made our way to the top and began our Canopy Walkway!! Ahhh it was 100 ft in the AIR. There are two options: you can take the 3 bridge walkway or the full 7 bridge walkway and I decided to be brave and do the 7 bridge one. Im so glad I did because the views were absolutely breathtaking! 100% you must come here if you ever find yourself in Ghana.
Historical Places to Visit
Slave Castles x Cape Coast: [Trigger Warning: slavery] Visiting the Cape Coast Castle was a humbling and emotional experience. My ancestors were forced to leave their families and lives to become slaves. There were two dungeons dedicated to each gender. The male one was small, but would hold up to hundreds of slaves for months at a time. They were all shackled to each other in heavy chains, not allowed to see sunlight, forced to defecate, vomit, and die while chained together in one place. The women’s dungeon was heartbreaking and it was physically hard to stand in. I could smell the iron from the menstration blood that was inevitably still in the floors of the dungeon. About every three months the men, women, and children were taken from the slave castles and put on ships to never come back again. They called the exit the “door of no return” because anyone who crossed that threshold was never able to return back again. They left the only country they had ever known. No more family, friends, home or life. It was a sad thing to see and even sadder to walk through, just knowing that I have ancestors who were stripped away of their humanity and identity and never had the opportunity to see their home again. Here is a video where the tour guide explains the”door of no return”. (this video does not belong to me, but coincidentally it’s the same tour guide I had! He is truly amazing).
I will say that one of the coolest parts of the tour was seeing how this artist used his skill to create this installation. His name is Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. As seen below, this room is filled with hundreds of concrete heads. The artist took almost a decade compiling historical information and real records of the slaves to create realistic faces of people who would have been kept in these dungeons. It was awe inspiring to see this beautiful work in person.
Here is a page that talks more about this project! –> http://10and5.com/2017/06/26/ghana-artist-kwame-akoto-bamfos-exhibition-depicts-an-honest-image-of-the-trans-atlantic-slave-trade/
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park: This national park and mausoleum is the final resting place of Ghana’s first President. There are artifacts, atatues, and gorgeous scenery to take in. Here is a quote from the Visit Ghana site that goes into depth about what you can find here:
The mausoleum designed by Don Arthur houses the mortal remains of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his wife Fathia Nkrumah. It is meant to represent an upside-down sword which in the Akan culture is a symbol of peace. The mausoleum is clad from top to bottom with Italian marble, with a black star at its apex to symbolize unity.The Mausoleum is surrounded by water which is a symbol of life. Its presence conveys a sense of immortality for the name Nkrumah. It shows that even in death he lives on in the hearts and minds of generations here and generations yet to come.
If you have been to Ghana and have some activites to suggest, feel free to comment below! I hope your trip here is as adventurous as mine was.