The largest region in Ghana, the northern region is filled with exotic Islamic culture, traditional rustic mosques, scenic natural features and historical legacies that makes a visit to this part of Ghana an exciting one.
There are several ways one can get to this part of Ghana. STC buses depart from Accra and Kumasi every day except on Sundays to the northern capital Tamale. You can also fly there with Antrak Air or City Link. If you want to go to the north from the eastern region, you can use a weekly ferry service from Akosombo to Yeji on the Volta Lake.
Where to stay
Despite being the biggest region in Ghana, the north is less populated than the south, thus limiting the choices of accommodation when compared to places like the Greater Accra region. However the B&Bs, hotels and guest houses are nice and decently priced. These include Sisimbo Beach Resort in Kuntul, TICCS Guesthouse in Tamale, Nim Avenue Hotel in Tamale, Savannah Loge in Larabanga and Central Guesthouse in Tamale.
To get a real taste of authentic northern cuisine then definitely head to Luxury Hotel in Tamale for some lovely northern food. Main dishes in this region include tuo zaafi, rice balls with groundnut or green leaves soups, tubaani (made beans or cowpea with sheanut oil and pepper), koko or millet/corn porridge eaten with koose (fried bean balls). Wash these meals down with locally brewed beer from millet called pito, toasted millet flour in water and “fula” mashed in water, milk, ginger and sugar, or try bokina, bisaab/sorrel, toose and lamujee.
Things to do
The northern region is rich with history, especially regarding the slave trade. The north served as a key supply source for slaves who were sent to markets and sold to local markets from the south. The town of Salaga used to be the biggest slave trading centre in northern Ghana, and here one can find a pond called ‘Wonkan Bawa’ (a Huasa word meaning the ‘bathing place of slave’). Other relics like slave chains and slave dormitories can also be found there.
Ancient mosques are another feature of the north that reflects its Islamic heritage. The Larabanga Mosque, the oldest and largest Sudanese-style mosque in Ghana built by Moorish traders in the 13th century is a must see.
Graves are also a prominent feature in the north reminiscent of past battles fought in the region. Visit the mass grave of fallen Dagomba warriors at the battle ground at Adibo, near Yendi, where the Dagombas fought the Germans. Also the grave of Naa Attabian, a great Mamprusi King, is at Nalerigu, while that of Ndewura Jakpa, the greatest King of the Gonjas, is in Buipe. In addition, the graves of massacred Gonjas, have now become shrines at Jentilkipe, where the Gonjas battled with Samore and his army of slave raiders.
Now dotting the eastern part of Tamale are the northern region’s distinct and somewhat peculiar architecture of round huts with conical thatched roofs known as Kraal buildings, which are a real beauty. The outskirts of these compounds are often surrounded with multi-coloured ceramic mosaics made from fragments of chinaware. Be sure to make a visit to these and you won’t be disappointed.
Another unique feature of the northern region is their handicrafts and textiles. Visit these areas for brightly coloured textiles and cloths: Yendi, Gushiegu, Daboya and Tamale. Jakarayili and Kikuo are famous for their giant potteries, and the town of Lobi produces exotic water pots and beautiful handwoven baskets. For all things leather then visit Zongoni. To grab a bargain, then the central market in Tamale is in the place to head for the things mentioned above, especially leather bags, purses, necklaces and boots.
Despite its dry climate, the northern region has some scenic natural beauty. A distinctive feature of the northern region is the savannah, a picturesque vegetation with various species of trees such as acacia, baobab, and Shea nut, rare species of flora and fauna, and ant-hills. You can catch a glimpse of the region’s natural wildlife by heading to Mole Natural Park in Damango, a safari-like park that has one of the biggest elephant sanctuaries in Africa. Other animals on the park include antelopes, buffaloes, apes, birds and other 400 species of animals.
Get to know the regions culture by taking part in some of the festivals celebrated in the region. The Damba festival is celebrated under the lunar calendar by the people of Dagbon, Mamprugu, Gonja, Mamprugui and Namumba to commemorate the birthday of the Holy Prophet of Islam. The two day festival is full of pageantry and showmanship. Another well-known festival is the Bugum Chugu or Fire Festival as it’s sometimes known as, is celebrated by the people of Dagomba, Nanumba and Mamprusi. Also held under the lunar calendar, it involves the procession of torches at night amidst music and dancing.
Yaa Nyarko (@yaayaa_89)