Destination spotlight: the Volta Region, Ghana, Africa

When people think of where they want to go on vacation, Ghana isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind. There are actually many good reasons to visit this African country, including an excellent exchange rate on the dollar, an experience rich in culture, and areas of untouched, natural beauty. These things and more can be found in the Volta Region in Ghana.

While many areas in Ghana have a chaotic, diesel-fueled city feeling, that all goes away as you experience the natural wonders and peaceful calm of the Volta Region. A great home-base to explore this area is Wli-Afegame, a small village outside of HoHoe, which can reached by tro-tro (think small, packed out mini van). From HoHoe, take a taxi to your hotel in Wli-Afegame. Some good ones are the Wli-Water Heights Hotel and the Wli Waterfall Lodge, which is right next to the Wli Waterfalls. For the rustic traveler, there is a hut-type accommodation with outdoor showers and toilets called Ras Madesko’s, which you can reach by having your taxi driver stay on the main road of town and drive up a mile past the waterfalls. Ras’s Rastafasian-style accommodation will be on your right, with a red, yellow, and green wooden guitar sign out front.To explore the sites of the Volta Region you have a few options in terms of transportation. Your first and cheapest option is the tro-tro, which will save you money, but will also add hours to your itinerary and can be unreliable in this area. Your second option, and the most expensive choice, is to have a taxi drive you around. While this is convenient, it may end up costing you quite a bit (although don’t forget to bargain the price, as foreigners are often charged 3 to 4 times what locals pay). Your third option, and the one I would recommend, is to hire Ras Madesko (his real name is Stephan) to drive you around. Whether you are staying at his hostel or not, he will give you an affordable deal and will take you to all the major sites of the area. For example, I stayed at the Wli-Water Heights Hotel, and he charged three friends and I 40 Ghana Cedis total (about $25) for a few hours of touring.

So what should you see while in the Volta Region? Here are the top picks:

  • Volta Lake– This is what the entire region is known for, so it should definitely be on your to-do list. It is the largest reservoir by surface area in the world, and the fourth largest by water volume. Behind the lake are mountains that make for a great photo backdrop, while in front of the lake there are many tiny fishing boats along the shore. There is also a large market here that sells food, drinks, clothing, jewelery, and more.
  • Tafi-Atome Monkey Sanctuary– For a small fee (discounts for students and volunteers) you will be taken on a guided trek into the jungle and will learn about the monkeys that live there as well as the nearby cultural villages and how they value these monkeys. The best part is that once you find a pack of monkeys in the forest, the tour guide will give you bananas to feed to them. What they do not warn you about is that the monkeys will literally jump down from the trees onto your head to get the bananas. While it takes a few minutes to get used to, the monkeys are really sweet and it’s fun to get them to come to you.
  • Wli-Waterfalls– This is my top pick for Volta Region activities, as there are so many options of how you can spend your day here. For those who aren’t really into hiking and just want to see the waterfalls up-close, a guide can take you along a flat road for about 30-40 minutes right up to the falls (you can even swim in the water!). For those who want a challenge, there is an option to hike to the upper-falls that takes about 3 hours (or more, depending on your fitness level). The entire trek goes up an extremely steep, rocky path and, while they give you a walking stick, can be dangerous at times, especially on the way down. There are many look-out points and photo opportunities along the way, as well. This option is great for those who want to experience a challenge in the outdoors. When you are leaving the falls, you will be able to walk through the forest and see the various fruits and plants of the region in their natural habitat. Visitors can also explore a market filled with carvings, paintings, jewelery, and food at the entrance.
  • Mount Afadjato– This is a must-see, as it is the tallest mountain in Ghana. Visitors are not allowed to trek it alone, but may hire a guide to take them to the top. An information center with exhibits and photos are also at the base of the mountain.
  • Cultural Villages– There are many cultural villages bordering Wli-Afegame, and it is worthwhile to explore some of them just to get a sense the architecture and lifestyle of the people. If you see any hawkers selling fruit, make sure to get some bananas, as they are native to the area, and an evo, a large-green fruit a little bigger than a mango that you break open with your hands. The inside is sweet and fizzy, kind of like a candy-flavored root-beer.