Upper East Region
Bolgatanga or colloquially known as Bolga is the capital of the Upper East region, which can be found in the extreme north-eastern corner of Ghana. Though one of the poorest regions in Ghana, Bolga boasts a rich culture and vibrant tourist attractions that makes a trip up there well worth it
The best way to get to Bolgatanga is by bus or plane depending on your budget. As you can imagine the bus trip is a long one – from Accra to Bolga it takes about 15 hours! You can go by air; however Bolga doesn’t have an airport so you will have to catch a one hour flight from Accra to Tamale, then a 3 hour bus journey to Bolga.
Where to stay
If you have relatives or family in the region then it makes sense to stay with them. If not, Bolga offers some nice hotels and guest houses at very decent prices. These include Samata Guest House, Sand Gardens Hotel, Mama’s House, Ex-Tee Crystal Hotel and Comme Ci Comme Ca.
Things to do
There’s plenty to do in Bolga. Known as the crafts centre of northern Ghana, make sure you visit Bolgatanga Market. As a border point between Ghana and Burkina Faso, the market buys and sells many items from people of all walks of life. One can find beautiful woven baskets, clothes, hats, handmade jewellery and leather goods, all at very affordable prices.
Now if you’re the adventurous type then make sure you head to the Paga Sacred Crocodile Ponds, where the “friendliest” crocodiles in Ghana roam about. These crocodiles are termed as ‘friendly’ because they act like pets, allowing people to touch their tails, rub their backs and even sit on them!
Add a little mystery to your trip by heading to the town of Tongo, where one can find the Tongo Whistling Rocks. These rocks make for a dramatic scene as they jut from the landscape and makes strange whistling noises when the harmattan winds blow from the Sahara desert.
Tap into your spiritual side by heading to one of the most sacred places in the region, the Naa Gbewaa Shrine. Founder of the Dagomba tribe, legend has it that Naa Gbewaa was a god who never died but simply vanished during battle. The shrine which is thought to have been built in the 13th century is sacred ground to the people.
Immerse yourself in local history by visiting Pikworo (Rock of Fear) Slave Camp in Paga. Built in the 16th century, the camp still has remnants of the past, including mass grave markers, punishment sites and “bowls” carved into the rocks, out of which the slaves were made to eat from. Another site worth visiting is the Nalerigu Defence Wall built in the 16th century by Naa Dzaringa (named after the African viper) to protect the village against slave traders. The structure is said to have been built with milk and honey, of which some parts still stands today. Also equaly interesting to visit is the Kulungugu Bomb Site, where in 1962 an assasination attempt was made on the life of Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah. A memorial stands on the site.
Enjoy local art by visiting beautiful Sirigu Murals done by the women of Sirigu village intent on keeping traditional art alive. They also make baskets, pottery and other crafts adorned with exquisite patterns. Also delightful are the traditional decorated houses that have made Sirigu famous.
Another local community worth visiting is Widenaba (In the Red Volta Valley) who have a rich cultural history that began in Burkina Faso. Take a hike in the hillsides to be rewarded with breathtaking views reaching as far as Burkina Faso, and make sure you catch a glimpse of the African Savannah Elephant that roam the area.
Finally your visit to this part of Ghana will not be complete without witnessing the numerous festivals that reflect the distinct cultural identity of the people in the region. Some of the festivals include the Adaakoya Festival, Gologo Festival, Eiok Festival and Boaram Festival and include drumming and dancing, singing, sacrificial offerings, re-enactment of past battles and durbar of chiefs. And like the Upper West region, food in this part of Ghana include tuo zaafi (TZ), riceballs and peanut soup, rice, beans and cowpeas or ‘tubaani’ and kooko(porridge) with koose.
Yaa Nyarko (@yaayaa_89)