Not many think of the Gold Coast when they picture a trip to the African continent, however, Ghana is a destination that’s not to be missed. Within a week’s time, you can comfortably complete a tour that visits the main sites and destinations along the Southern coast of the country – an area rich in history and culture.
International flights will arrive and depart in the capital, Accra. From here, you can take a short flight to Takoradi, a port city that’s been booming in recent years, particularly since the discovery of oil off the coast. A half-day city tour will provide you with a sufficient orientation, so from there I would recommend scurrying up the coast to the town of Elmina. This one is my favorite – a fishing village that’s both picturesque and gritty; charming and though-provoking. The harbor is a congested tangle of colorful fishing boats and rigging, once all of them return with the day’s catch. The streets leading to and fro are humming with activity, a thin layer of dust and smoke from nearby cooking fires filling in around the people and market stalls. The nearby Elmina Castle sits atop a short hill above it all – a majestic and sobering presence. This was once used as a final holding place for captured Africans before they were shipped overseas and sold into slavery. While you can tour the inside, I recommend traveling up the coast a bit further to the Cape Coast Castle instead - in my opinion, it’s the better of the two (and one tour into this heartbreaking past may be enough for most). The experience is not to be missed though. This is a chance to step into the history you’ve studied from afar – to stand in the dark and stuffy dungeons, imagining the experience and conditions these people went through. It is beyond words.
From Cape Coast, you can enjoy the scenic drive up toward Kakum National Park and learn a bit more about the ecosystems of the area while viewing the forest from suspended canopy walkways. Continue East back through Accra to the nearby village of Torgorme, close to the shores of Lake Volta. Here you will be welcomed with open arms by the villagers and chief. This is a great opportunity to get immersed in the culture and traditions – including a naming ceremony with drumming and dance. Stay the night in the village and listen to stories of their life and history as you sit around a campfire. When you return to Accra, complete your trip with a city tour before you head back to the airport.
Of course, while these are many of the sight-seeing highlights, you can also dedicate time to volunteer and visit social projects, schools, and/or local businesses – there are countless opportunities to learn and get involved, as desired. Below is a basic itinerary to build upon. (Consider taking your trip during the dry season, October-March, and be sure to drink plenty of water!)
Day 1: Depart the US (an overnight flight is likely)
Day 2: Arrive in Accra and travel by air to Takoradi (overnight in Takoradi)
Day 3: City tour of Takoradi and Elmina (overnight in Elmina/Cape Coast)
Day 4: Cape Coast Castle tour and Kakum National Park (overnight in Cape Coast)
Day 5: Travel through Accra to Torgorme (overnight in the village)
Day 6: Accra city tour and evening flight out
Day 7: Arrive home in the US