Ticket – check. Accommodation – check. What next? Your itinerary for an epic visit to Ghana, of course! How can you make the most out of your Year of Return Ghana experience? Well, first off, we hope you read our Year of Return logistics guide and have your yellow fever vaccination card handy. You will need it for entry into Ghana. In town already? Great, we will be walking you through all the fun, informative and culturally immersive things you can get up to during your stay – the makings of your ultimate Year of Return Ghana trip. There are unique sites to see, delicacies to taste, and major cultural experiences you must try in Accra and beyond. Pair this up with our companion travel guide on eating and going out in Accra.

Essentials for Your Year of Return Ghana Trip

Year of Return Ghana T-shirt - Circumspecte
The Adomi Bridge in Ghana’s Eastern Region // Credit: Jemila Abdulai

Before we jump into the many options for your itinerary, here’s a quick checklist of essentials you’ll need upon arrival. First, a local SIM card for calls, SMS and data. The main voice and data providers in Ghana are MTN, Vodafone and AirtelTigo. You can easily get a SIM card and credit on arrival at the airport for under a dollar or at key outlets like the Accra Mall. Traveling with a visa card and need Ghana cedis? You can withdraw local currency at many visa card compatible ATMs at the airport and across the country. Team Mastercard? Look out for ATMs by Stanbic Bank and GTBank. As a general rule of thumb, try to have cash when venturing outside key cities like Accra, Kumasi and Tamale. Exchanging foreign currency at a bank, forex bureau, or hotel? Here’s an insider tip: bigger bills fetch better exchange rates. On the hunt for discounts? Consider getting a GUBA Diaspora Card for up to 40% off on select services and products in Ghana.

It’s the tech era, and many Ghanaians use their smartphones and apps to communicate, get around and/or discover places. Consider downloading the following apps before you arrive: WhatsApp for low-cost communication; local Ghanaian app ExpressPay for easy credit top-ups and mobile money payments; Google Maps so you don’t feel entirely lost; Eventbrite and EgoTickets to stay updated on events; Instagram for the visuals; XE for those currency conversions; local app Ghroupdrive to book a tour or rent a bus; TripAdvisor for visitor reviews, and of course Uber or Bolt (Taxify) to get from point A to B. Ride hailing in Ghana can be a bit…curious, so do check out our Uber in Ghana guide for a discount and safety tips. You’ll also need a power bank to keep your phone juiced up. Visiting in December? It’ll be the dry harmattan season, but consider packing some white outfits for the many white parties and weddings. You may also want to grab some mosquito repellant and local shea butter. Our personal favorite Kaeme’s carefully crafted and zesty ‘Eternal’ shea butter will take care of both the bugs and elements. And for those of you wondering, yes, Ghana is generally safe. However you’ll want to bring your everyday safety smarts with you.

Places to Explore & Sites To See In Ghana

Ghana is definitely not a place you visit languidly or observe from a hotel room. To truly experience the beauty of this West African country, you should put on your sneakers – ones you don’t mind getting dirty – get out there and interact. Between all the history and culture, and the growing options of outdoor activities, you’ll have plenty to see, appreciate and experience. That said, it’s not always easy planning one’s Ghana itinerary or moving about, especially if you are traveling to Ghana with a disability. With this in mind, you may want to consider working with a tour group, especially if you want to avoid the hassle of planning logistics, safety, negotiating prices and so on. For more traditional tour group options, look up Ghroupdrive for tour and bus rental packages, as well as Landtours and WangoWango. However, if you’re in the mood for more alternative and immersive cultural and traditional experiences, you’re in luck: see The Village Ghana, Hamamat African Village, and Asaasi Yaa. Like a good adrenaline rush? Explore Ghana’s growing adventure scene with the likes of Brave Hearts Expeditions, Peaks & Valleys Outdoors and GhanaAkwaantuo.

Year of Return Ghana Travel Itinerary
Beachy views in the Central Region

Historic Ghana Landmarks

Ghana is a key destination for many coming for the Year of Return and/or looking to explore their African heritage for good reason: it is of huge historical significance to the African continent and the Diaspora. You can literally map out an itinerary that covers traditional Ghanaian culture and society, colonisation, and liberation during your Ghana stay. From Jamestown to the Manhyia Palace Museum and Larabanga Mosque, you’ll see creative elements of who Ghanaians are as a people. The former slave castles offer a sobering recollection of the transatlantic slave trade, while historic spaces like Independence Square and the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum & Memorial Park are a testament to our resilience as a people.

Planning on exploring beyond Accra with the Elmina and Cape Coast castles? You may want to leave by 10:30am at the latest for a day trip; the slave castles are open to the public from 9am to 5pm and a road trip both ways can take between three to five hours depending on traffic. Per Trip Advisor reviews, tickets for a 45-minute tour go for about 5GHS and 40GHS for Ghana nationals and non-nationals respectively. You can also see the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park from 10am to 6pm for under 2GHS with extra charges for cameras. Seeing the iconic Independence Square and Arch is however free.  Beyond Accra, you can tour Kumasi’s Manhyia Palace Museum from 9am to 5pm for GHC10. Want to learn a bit about Ghana’s oldest 15th century mosque in Larabanga? Do so from 8am to 5pm, but make sure you go with a tour guide or tour group and ask about admission and tour rates beforehand. You may not be able to enter the mosque, but the Sudanese architecture and history makes the Larabanga mosque worth a visit. A bonus experience as you venture beyond Accra would be a drive across the Adomi bridge at Akosombo: have a camera handy for some amazing views!

Year of Return Ghana - Elmina Castle _ Circumspecte
Thousands of enslaved people were shipped from Elmina Castle

Ghanaian Art & Culture

For a truly immersive Year of Return Ghana experience, you may want to explore the diversity of Ghanaian culture and traditions, and/or the growing contemporary art scene. To deep dive into Ghanaian art is to not only be able to collect a few art pieces for yourself but to also plug into conversations about Ghanaian culture through events, screenings, talks, readings and forums. The Chale Wote Street Art Festival in Jamestown, one of Accra’s oldest districts with visible remnants of colonial rule, culture and city life, allows you to engage thoroughly in a week-long celebration. Up north, the relatively new Savannah Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA) is a hub for artistry with exhibitions, a research hub, project space, and artists’ residency. In the Garden City? Visit SCCA’s Kumasi-based sister contemporary art project space BlaxTARLINES. Want to get more hands-on traditions wise? Consider exploring fabric making techniques that are unique to our culture. Visit the Ntonso Adinkra Cloth Village where you can take an Adinkra cloth stamping tour. You can have a go at the weaving loom yourself if you go to the Bonwire, Adanwomase or Kpetoe Kente weaving villages. If you can’t decide, ask for the local national cultural center in whichever city you’re looking to explore and work your way from there.

Spending most of your time in Accra? Get ready to dive into the city’s growing arts scene. Check out the Nubuke Foundation, Kuenehyia Trust for Contemporary Art, The Studio Accra, Terra Alta and Ano Ghana which host a variety of arts events, talks and exhibitions throughout the year. New comer Gallery Soview and seasoned Gallery 1957 also exhibit year-long and are great walk-in options. Looking to purchase art? Visit the Artists Alliance or Art and Culture Centre for pieces by established and upcoming local artists. Alternatively, paint, sip and play Picasso at home with Paint Boire. In the mood for some music, dance, or theatre? Alliance Française and the National Theatre are your best bet. All that said, there’s nowhere better to experience the full gamut of Ghanaian art, culture and lifestyle, than at one of the many Ghanaian weddings, festivals or social events.

Wildlife, Nature & The Great Outdoors

It is little talked about, but Ghana’s landscape is actually a nature lover’s dream, especially if you venture beyond Accra. From its beachy coastlines to the rolling green hills of the inner south and the wooded grasslands of the savannah, Ghana’s terrain by itself is all the adventure you need. You can begin your adventure by hiking up the Shai Hills, Mount Afadjato or the Aburi hills with its lush botanical gardens. Fancy yourself a water baby? Ghana has beaches a-plenty including the Bojo Beach, Kokrobite Beach, Coconut Grove Beach, Ada Beach or Busua Beach. Fancy falling asleep to the sound of waves? There’s usually accommodation ranging from eco-conscious lodges like Ko-Sa Beach Resort & Sankofa Beach House to luxurious resorts like Bojo Beach Resort and Aqua Safari. Don’t sleep on experiencing the serenity of the Wli and Kintampo waterfalls either. For adventurous outdoor activities like obstacle and rope courses or canopy walks check out the Legon Botanical gardens and Kakum National Park in the Central Region. Alternatively, you can opt for a day out with the family at the Lakeside Marina Park. Interested in quad biking or cycling? ATV Aburi , AccraCycle Share, Surf Ghana and The Ascent GH have you covered. Ghana is also rich and diverse in wildlife and offers a myriad of experiences from the therapeutic views of elephants at Mole National Park; the exciting Tafi Atome and Boabeng-fiema monkey sanctuaries; and the daring thrill of feeding crocodiles in Paga. Not much for exploring, but still want to keep in shape? Our guide to Accra’s popular gyms should have you sorted.

Personal Grooming & Self Care

Special occasion and need to go glam? Call Glow with Maj or Nafi’s Beauty Palace for some face beat in the comfort of your home, or head to Polish by Sauda if you are in Tema. If you’re not allergic to henna, you can get creative with some henna body art by Phai’s Henna Parlour. After all the exploration, you’re going to need a bit of pampering in Accra before you head back home. Get your hair done up at natural hair specialists Twist & Locs’ salons in Osu and East Legon, or head to Eya Naturals in Spintex or North Kaneshie. Team natural and prefer a home call? WhatsApp 3130 Naturals to book an appointment. Like a good weave, wig or box braids? Hair District, Beauty Technicians, Nzinga and Silver Hair will hook you up. Don’t forget to grab your hair extensions from Hair Senta or Afri Pride, along with your beauty products from Ghanaian makeup brands Evita Joseph and Colorbox Cosmetics. Full service grooming for the guys? You read right — X-Men offers everything from haircuts to mani-pedis. Alternatively, indulge in some group therapy at a topnotch spa: Niobe, Head2Toe, Allure, Marie Noelle’s or Kora Spa. For a truly Ghanaian beauty experience, go to the Hamamat’s African Village; the first sheabutter museum and spa.

Ghana Shopping & Souvenirs

Our bustling, colourful street markets are bound to leave anyone intrigued. The question is what can’t you find combing through Accra’s Makola and Madina markets, Kumasi’s Kejetia market (West Africa’s largest) and Tamale’s Abaabu market? Whether you are looking for fabrics, souvenirs or window shopping you’ll find that there are multiple options for you. That being said street shopping means you’ll need to be street smart, you’ll need to up the game on those bargaining skills and be watchful of your valuable items. Fancy a more high-end experience? Accra has numerous shopping malls including the Accra, A&C, Palace, Marina and West Hills shopping malls. You can also head to the Kumasi Mall for similar offerings. For little things that you might have forgotten to pack such as mosquito repellent or toothpaste, simply dip into any of the mini-marts and convenience stores that dot Ghana’s cities. But why stop there? Make it a historic shopping experience with friends by visiting the bi-weekly Saturday market at the Dubois Memorial Centre in Accra.

Year of Return Ghana - Elle Lokko _ Circumspecte
Visit Elle Lokko in Osu for creative souvenirs and gifts.

Arts & Crafts

When it comes to artsy souvenirs, Ghana has plenty. From beautiful paintings to fabrics, figurines, prints, sculptures, wood carvings, brass trinkets, stools and drums there is an endless list of novelty items you could pick up as gifts for your loved ones. You can get started at the Arts Centre, Oxford Street or the Dubois Centre to get locally made pieces at cheaper prices and then proceed to shop more contemporary pieces at the Artists Alliance and Wild Gecko (also at the airport). Insider tip: If you decide to go to the Arts Centre, do so with a local. They may be able to help you get a bargain. Visiting Kumasi or Tamale? Head to the cultural centre and look out for arts and crafts unique to Ghana’s second and third largest cities.

Fashion & Accessories

Ghanaian fashion is about making a statement. If “African print” is your thing, head to the Makola or Madina markets for an array of colorful fabrics at reasonable prices. Don’t have much time? Trek to the Woodin store on Oxford Street in Osu for tasteful fabrics at premium prices or check out some of the small shops for fabrics and other fashion accessories. Make sure you bargain those prices! Between the unique and one-of-a-kind high fashion picks to the budget friendly and chic everyday wear, you could basically shop a new wardrobe if your suitcase would only allow it. Christie Brown, Duaba Serwaa, Poquaa Poqu, Pistis and Bello Edu mainly serve luxurious women’s wear, while Mod, Charlotte Privé, Akataasia, Naadu, Ekua Addo Basics, Red Cotton, Bayabs Clothing and Alfie Designs offer quality and unique ready to wear pieces at more affordable prices. For purely traditional fabrics and clothes check out Kofie, Larry Jay and Osei Duro for hand-dyed batik outfits; Shaaliwud for contemporary batakari and fugu designs and Goba Kente. Like to standout? Consider Steve French and Hazza for contemporary wear with a creative twist.

// Insider Tip: Busy schedule? Ask about delivery options for Ghanaian fashion at your doorstep. You’ll be glad you skipped the Year of Return Ghana traffic and queues.

A visit to Elle Lokko, The Shop Accra and Untamed Empire is a must if you would like to shop from a variety of high-end creative made-in-Ghana items. For more eco-conscious accessories, look to Korlekour for ethically sustainable glass bead jewellery and Global Mamas for fair trade items. The Tumi Foundation in Kumasi also offers well-made and tastefully designed African print fashion items and souvenirs. Like to keep it simple and still make a statement? Awo Tsegah and Adjasam Apparel have you covered on those afro-inspired graphic t-shirts.

Shopping for menswear? Browse through Instagram catalogues from Chocolate Clothes, Dekage, Nallem Clothing and Man Kave Clothing for chic kaftans and more. Match your fine threads with some sunnies from Bohten or pair them up with woven rattan, leather or print bags from AAKS, MSimps, Oyé Bags or RPC. You also can’t go wrong with gifting arm candy and it’s much less complicated to pack; select some dainty pieces NuaVa or Orné. You could also order custom-made adinkra jewellery from Adorn, to symbolize your Year of Return Ghana experience.

Tasty snacks & treats

Where’s the chow? Don’t worry, we have an entire Year of Return Ghana guide coming up on eating and going out in Accra and beyond. But if you can’t get enough and want to take a slice of Ghana home with you, we’re dishing some of our favourites. Ghana chocolate is a must and you will literally be spoilt for choice with chocolatey delights from 57 Chocolate, Sweet Art Company, Niche Cocoa and Midunu Chocolates. Blue Skies‘ delicious gluten-free vegan ice cream may not survive your journey home, but you can certainly take one or two bottles of their fresh fruit juice on the road with you. If cookies are your thing, get some Baked with Love by Ann Menzo. Health junkie? Grab yourself some Dim Fonio in Tamale or at major grocery outlets and make a highly nutritious breakfast out of northern Ghanaian superfood fonio. You can also indulge in Wanjo Foods which uses indigenous ingredients to create flavourful juices, jams and salad dressings that won’t go bad during your flight. Crunchy snacks are also a staple in Ghana and one a memory you can easily share with friends back home. Come up with your own ‘GHmix’ for those house parties with an assortment ranging from Sankofa Munchables’ spicy plantain chips, coconut chips from Snacks of Africa, salty plantain crackers and snacks from Judi Foods and dried fruits from Yvaya Farm. Don’t have a sweet tooth? Why not spice things up with a jar of Ghanaian condiments from Chilli Junkie or some of that delicious Ghanaian green pepper sauce from The Pepper – both of which can be ordered straight from Instagram. You can also pick up a jar of Goodies Shito, Joe Carl Shito, Shito Lava, or Rosso Shito from various fuel stations and shopping marts.

Unique Year of Return Gifts & Souvenirs

Aside from all your Instagram-worthy photos, you should take back some other memorable mementos of your visit to Ghana. Harmattan Collectibles has everything including mugs and posters, while Gold Coast Miniatures has Ghanaian landmarks in mini-form. If you are all about sensory gifts, candles from Kaeme, House of Aerin or Melons Candleshop are a great find. Likewise, Ghanaian shea butter – easily recognized as some of the best shea butter in the world – would be a great choice for yourself and loved ones. Again, you are spoilt for choice with butters and other natural body and hair products from Teiva Skincare, Kaeme, Skin Gourmet, Naya By Africa, Freya Living, Hamamat, Eya Naturals and Nokware. For one stop natural beauty shopping, look up The Delse Shop. Not enough space in your bag? Real Raw Shea and Kaeme both offer unrefined, unscented shea butter in the Diaspora. A bonus on our list would be a cute gem planter from Crete&Co which are perfect for housing small plants.

Talk about a lot to see and do! If you’re already hungry for more, check out our comprehensive guide to eating, drinking, and chilling in Accra. Look out for our We The Culture CirqMixer on December 21; a networking event in collaboration with The Afropole. Found this guide useful? Bookmark it and share with a friend.

We the Culture CirqMixer during Year of Return for December in Ghana.

Written by Circumspecte’s Germaine Bombande & Jemila Abdulai. Originally published by Circumspecte.com. Photos by Jemila Abdulai.

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