Been to Paris, Berlin and London? It's time to try something new! If you're looking for a trip off the usual tourist path, Ghana may be just the spot.
Ghana is a great starting off point for Sub-Saharan travel due to the nation's stability and its use of English as the official language. Sandwiched between Cote d'Ivoire and Togo, Ghana has a rich history, gaining independence in 1957 with the help of the revered Kwame Nkrumah.
Although the country does have tourist spots, visiting Ghana is more about the experience than seeing monuments or landmarks. Leave the smartphone at home, because there won't be any service anyway. Be prepared to discover the unfamiliar.
Here are five reasons to consider Ghana as your next travel destination!
Ghanaians overwhelmingly welcome you into the country. Yes, you will hear the endless chants of obruni (foreigner) or perhaps, if you're a female, a few marriage proposals a day. Asking for a phone number within a first meeting is common; later expect a phone call just to ask you how you are. Learn a few phrases in Twi, a widely spoken dialect, and locals will go wild with laughter, making them also more likely to help with directions.
A large majority of those visiting Ghana come through some sort of volunteer organization. This can be a great way to feel as though you are active in the community. Volunteer opportunities range from working in orphanages, hospitals, or other human rights organizations. Many companies have set up programs, like Projects Abroad, where volunteers pay to have homestays and travel arrangements completed. If you want to avoid these costs, its best to contact organizations directly.
Push outside the comfort zone of what is known and explore all Ghana has to offer. The culture is very diverse within the country, including six major ethnic groups - each with their own languages and dialects. The comparison between city life and that of northern Ghana are drastic. Travel to Sirigu in the Upper East Region and stay at Sirigu Women's Organization for Pottery and Art (SWOPA) to make traditional Ghanaian pottery and basket weaving.
If you are the type of person who likes to plan every detail of a trip, Ghana is not for you. Hop on one tro-tro (vans from the 80's that act as a local bus system) until you find a town that feels like a good stopping point. Interact with locals and you never know what will happen next: attending a wedding with a Member of Parliament, cooking with a Queen Mother of a local tribe... the possibilities of what could happen next are endless.
Many of the tourist expeditions in Ghana involve hiking. The most popular is Wli Falls, located in the Volta Region. It is said to be the highest waterfall in West Africa. Remember to bring a bathing suit for this hike as the waterfall creates a nice lagoon to swim in. For those more adventurous, in many regions the bush paths can be hiked from town to town. Ask in town first if anyone is headed that way if you don't want to pay a guide. Many of the local villages are now charging a small fee in their tourist centers for donations to the village. Pay what feels reasonable.
Now learn a few phrases of Twi and pack your bag because if you're open to it, Ghana can easily become a favorite destination. For more information check out Ghana's offical tourism website www.touringghana.com