See Ghana's essential cultural sites
A national park erected in memory of Osagyefo (the Messiah) Doctor Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and one of its founding fathers. Built on a former British polo field, it was the point where Nkrumah declared independence in 1957. The park consists of five acres of land and holds a museum tracing Nkrumah’s life. There are many personal items on display, but the centrepiece is the mausoleum, Nkrumah and his wife’s final resting place. Tours in English can be taken. Kwame Nkrumah is an essential part of Ghana’s history and a good half-hour here will fill you in on most of the details. Events are held on Independence Anniversary celebrations on 6 March and the Celebration of Emancipation Day on 1 August.
Half an hour’s drive from Cape Coast, Kakum National Park’s verdant slice of semi-deciduous rainforest offers a fresh green alternative to the bustling cities and stifling heat of the coast (033 21 302 265, www.kakumnationalpark.info, 8am-4pm). The 607 square kilometres (234 square miles) of protected rainforest are home to an assortment of wild residents, including forest elephants, giant hogs, flying squirrels, leopards and various species of monkey. However, with much of the elusive wildlife buried deep in the forest’s flora, there’s little chance of seeing anything more than a millipede or two unless spending a night on an organised camping trip. For those content with gazing at the greenery to a soundtrack of birdcalls, try the canopy walk (US$9). Elevated 40 metres above the forest floor, the 350-metre-long wooden walkway and various viewing platforms offer spectacular, if vertiginous, views of the park, although it is unlikely much wildlife will be seen. There is a simple but informative visitors’ centre, a café and gift shop administered by the Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust.
The Nubuke Foundation has been in this, its first permanent location, since 2009. In this pleasant building in East Legon is one of the most important art galleries in the city, dedicated to Ghanaian visual art, culture and heritage. It was set up to provide an artistic space for Ghanaian artists (often in collaboration with artists from other countries) and show off their talents. It has also a philanthropic aim to support artisans around the country. One successful project was with kente cloth weavers in Tsiame, in the Volta Region, teaching them how to make more commercially appealing cloth (tableware and bedding for example) as well as improving techniques such as colour fastening. The results, available at its shop, are beautiful pieces of work (between GH¢100-600 for two yards). Its vibrant cultural offering includes poetry evenings, Saturday workshops, art walks, film and music. Keep an eye on the website for details.
With modernist and Soviet- influenced lines, the stands around Independence Square can seat 30,000 people. The vast area, built under Kwame Nkrumah, is designed for huge events and military marches, but it is usually empty except for a few soldiers sheltering from the sun. The only times the square comes alive are at commercial events such as concerts and fashion shows, which take place throughout the year. Even if there’s not much happening it’s worth wandering around just to marvel at the sheer audacity of it all.The Independence Arch, at the centre of the busy roundabout, is also known as Black Star Square, thanks to the motif that dominates the arch. The sculpture is a nod to Ghana’s acclaim as the ‘Black Star of Africa’: it was an inspiration to other African countries vying for independence and the Flame of African Liberation, lit by Nkrumah, still burns strongly nearby. Please note that there are (seemingly unwritten) laws about taking photographs and we strongly suggest that you don’t take photographs of any part ofthe area.
The National Museum is home to some of Ghana’s most absorbing historical finds. The museum, opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1957, gives an opportunity to travel through the country’s history from both an archaeological and ethnographic perspective. Much of the display is dedicated to indigenous art and crafts: there are regalia, musical instruments and the all-important royal Asante stools. Other displays include Asante gold weights, currency, instruments, textiles and leatherwork. Slighty hidden away is the chair used in Kwame Nkrumah’s inauguration and the chair of the last British governor, rescued from Christianborg Castle. An exhibition about the slave trade is essential viewing, outlining the era’s brutal history, and showing poignant relics such as shackles. There’s also a gallery with pieces by Ghanaian artists.
Green is the colour of balance and harmony. And sometimes we all need a bit of that in the midst of a busy city like Accra. While a trip to Aburi Botanical Garden might not cure everything, it will certainly bring momentary peace and well-being. This lush beautiful garden, is situated in Aburi 32 km north from Accra, and is popular with bird and butterfly watchers. It is a great destination for picnics, especially if you set up your blanket under the shade of 160-year-old kapok trees. Spread out over 10 different lawn areas, you’ll find statues like the deserted helicopter and carved wood trunks. For food, bring a picnic or you can or have lunch at one of the three different restaurants on site. Visitors are free to tour the park on their own, or have a guided walk to hear about the history, creation, and evolution of botany in Ghana. This is where you can find some of the oldest trees in the entire region. The high altitude makes Aburi noticeably cooler than neighboring Accra. Don't forget to enjoy the view on the way up, as climbing the hillsides of Aburi offers a picturesque view of Greater Accra. Officially opened in 1890, the now century-old garden was originally established as a sanatorium for Gold Coast government officials. The garden has had many roles over the years, including plant introduction, teaching methods of modern agriculture and played an important role in cocoa production in South Ghana. Today, the garden plays an important role as one of the wor
This was the first cocoa farm in This was the first cocoa farm in Ghana and the birthplace of Ghana’s burgeoning cocoa industry. The original seedlings were brought from Fernando Po Island just off the coast of Equatorial Guinea by Tetteh Quarshie himself in 1879. Three original trees remain. There’s little to see (don’t expect a visitor centre or shop), but a guide will take you around the plantation for a few cedi – get the price first. Contact the caretaker at the Mampong Chief’s Palace for entry.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was an African-American civil rights activist who became a citizen of Ghana in the 1960s. He was known as the ‘Father of Pan-Africanism’. The centre, where he and his wife once lived, and where they are now buried, houses his personal library, a small museum with a handful of personal effects such as his graduation robes. The couple’s mausoleum is surrounded by Asante stools, a seminar room, a restaurant, a gallery, an amphitheatre and a research centre for Pan-African history and culture.
First-time visitors pulling up to Bojo Beach’s powdery sands are oft taken aback that this easily accessed beach just 25 minutes’ drive from the frantically beating and dusty heart of Accra feels more like a remote stretch of the Caribbean. A meander through a couple of Accra’s sprawling suburbs and down a bumpy track or two is all it takes to reach this wide expanse at Bortianor, just off the Kokrobite Road. After paying an 8ghc entrance fee, beachgoers hop into little boats that glide across a small and flat stretch of water to Bojo’s gleaming strip of sugar-white sand. Thatched umbrellas stud the shoreline, looking out over the area’s characteristically crashing waves. Rustic to say the least, Bojo is a delightfully simplistic set up of sand, water and seating. The current here is a powerful one, however – there are lifeguards, but it is advised that only good swimmers go out of their depth in the hardy surf. But what appeals compared with the overall feel of city-front Labadi, is Bojo is well-maintained, clean, and the urban hubbub seems eons away. A large thatched shack is the only refreshment option, serving up average but edible snacks and a good selection of chilled drinks. During the week, and on the rare cooler day, the beach is a wonderfully tranquil haven, with oodles of space. Weekends and holidays tend to see a transformation into a bustling hive of activity, with locals and visitors alike enjoying a festive atmosphere, and participating in the likes of jet sk
An hour or so out of Accra is Kokrobite. This small beach town has become a destination for sun seekers and pleasure seekers. The long-established Big Milly’s has become somewhat of a backpackers classic – a laid back hostel with an open bar. Nearby is Bah’doosh, an Australian-owned bar and restaurant where there always seems to be someone strumming a guitar (Bob Marley is a favourite). But the beach is the main attraction – the finest near Accra.