Ghana is a destination that has gained popularity among travelers from around the world. While many visitors flock to the coastal areas and the bustling capital city of Accra, there’s a hidden gem in the north that offers a unique and enchanting experience: the Northern Region of Ghana.
One of the beautiful sides of this region is that it still maintains that “raw African” essence to it. You will get to experience first hand many of the ancestral Ghanaian traditions, culture, lifestyle, food, etc that you may never get to experience in Accra or any other region.
In this post we want to offer you a quick guide into the essentials for you to visit in the Northern Region of Ghana.
Introduction to the Northern Region
The Northern Region is one of the ten administrative regions of Ghana, located in the northern part of the country. It is a region characterized by its striking natural beauty, vibrant culture, and a strong sense of community. Comprising three of the major ethnic groups in Ghana: the Dagombas, Mamprusis, and Nanumbas – the Northern Region showcases a diverse and harmonious blend of traditions, languages, and customs.
One of the main sources of income in the North is farming; mainly growing crops such as yam, maize, millet, rice, peanuts, and beans. Most farm work is done by men; women often assist in harvesting. Dwarf shorthorn cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, and guinea fowl are kept; hunting and fishing are also practiced.
There is quite a big gender inequity between men and women in this region, the reason why you will find many Shea Butter cooperatives (especially in Tamale) and women’s weaver cooperatives around Bolgatanga area. These kinds of activities provide extra income for the women, allowing them to have an extra source of income and be more independent financially.
Geography and Climate
Covering an area of approximately 70,384 square kilometers, the Northern Region is the largest region in Ghana. It is bordered by the Upper East and Upper West regions to the east and west, respectively, and shares international boundaries with Burkina Faso to the north and the Volta region to the south.
The region’s geography is varied, encompassing savanna grasslands, lush forests, and the vast Lake Volta.
The savanna stretches across much of the region, providing a picturesque backdrop for the region’s many attractions. The climate is generally tropical, with two distinct seasons: the rainy season, which lasts from April to October, and the dry season, which spans from November to March (this is when harmattan comes). The temperature ranges from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius throughout the year.
To reach the Northern Region, most travellers choose to fly into Tamale (cost can be approximately 100 and something USD for a return flight) the regional capital, which is well-connected to Accra and other major cities in Ghana. The journey by road is also an option, with several bus services operating daily from Accra and Kumasi. Keep in mind that the road trip can be long and tiring (approximately 10h).
Once you are in cities like Tamale or Bolgatanta, the best way to move around is with “tuk-tuks”, referred to as “yellow-yellow”. They are much more common than other areas of Ghana and at the same time can be fun allowing you to take in all the landscapes of the northern area.
What to visit in the Northern region?
Tamale, often referred to as the “City of Three M’s” (Mosques, Murals, and Motorbikes), is the largest city in the Northern Region. It serves as a great starting point for your exploration of the region. Here are some places you should visit when in Tamale:
Tamale Central Mosque
One of the most iconic landmarks in Tamale is the Tamale Central Mosque. Its stunning architecture and impressive size make it a must-visit, even if you’re not religious. Visitors are welcome to explore the mosque’s exterior and take in its intricate designs.
Tamale Arts Centre
Just as Accra has an Arts Centre , Tamale also has one which is worth discovering. It is much smaller than the Accra one (probably has no more than 20 vendors) but you will definitely be able to find some nice souvenirs and engage in some conversations with the artists.
Tamale Shea Butter women cooperatives
Did you know that big multinational companies such as The Body Shop have their own shea butter cooperatives here? Visiting a shea butter cooperative should be a must, with shea butter being one of the natural products used for centuries in Ghana.
While Tamale is an excellent starting point, the true charm of the Northern Region lies in its towns and villages that offer a more authentic and rustic experience. Here are some destinations to explore:
Mole National Park
Mole National Park is Ghana’s largest wildlife refuge and one of the best places to experience wildlife in West Africa. The park is home to elephants, buffalo, antelopes, baboons, and a variety of bird species. Take a safari tour to get up close to these magnificent creatures, and don’t forget to stay at the Mole Motel, which offers panoramic views of the park.
If you want to add a luxurious experience to it, you can stay at Zaina Lodge (mentioned below in this article) and enjoy its serene environment with its beautiful infinity pool.
Located near Mole National Park, the Larabanga Mosque is one of Ghana’s oldest mosques, dating back to the 15th century. Its unique architecture, constructed with mud and sticks, and its intriguing history make it a fascinating stop on your journey.
Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region, is known for its vibrant culture and crafts. Visit the Bolgatanga Market to purchase handmade baskets and other traditional crafts produced by the talented local artisans. Bolgatanga is also known for the women’s weaver cooperatives.
If you want a truly unique experience, where you will not only learn what it is like to live in this region as a woman, but also about the type of food they consume, some of their local traditions, and dances, visiting a weaver cooperative is a must.
Please check out our complete guide on what to do in Bolgatanta.
Accommodation options in Northern Ghana
Accommodation options in the Northern Region range from budget-friendly guest houses to more upscale lodges and resorts. In Tamale, you can find a variety of hotels that cater to different budgets and preferences.
If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, consider staying in traditional mud huts or eco-lodges in the rural areas. Here is a selection of 9 accommodation you can consider to book for your stay:
As the largest city in the region, Tamale offers a range of accommodation options, making it a convenient base for your Northern Ghana adventure.
Please note that most of the following hotels do not have a website so booking are best done by calling them directly. For prices we advise to ask when calling as they tend to change.
Zosimli Hotel is a contemporary and well-appointed establishment offering comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, and an on-site restaurant that serves both local and international cuisine. It is a popular choice among business travelers and tourists alike.
Phone number: 037 209 9917
Located in the heart of Tamale, the hotel offers a range of amenities and services such as a swimming pool, Wi-Fi, conference facilities, airport shuttle and an on-site restaurant where guests can savor a variety of local and international cuisines.
Phone number: 020 503 9794
Mum Hotel provides a fitness centre, non-smoking rooms, free WiFi throughout the property and a garden. Boasting free shuttle service, this property also boasts a restaurant and an outdoor pool. The property is 8 km from Market and 8 km from the Ghana Tourist Info office.
Phone number: 024 411 5879
Little Africa Lodge
This is a family run lodge which offers a good price-quality relation (more budget friendly than the ones mentioned above). Breakfast is included in the daily price and its located in a very quiet area. As its family run, it is quite small but super cozy (specially the main reception area, looks like it could be the front house are of your own house!).
Phone number: 024 587 0379
Comme Ci Comme Ca
This is another family-owned lodge, offering a great, central location in Bolgatanga and a very good price-quality relation. It has a big open space where breakfast is served (included in the nightly price) as well as dine in a restaurant with a varied menu. Rooms are very spacious and clean.
Phone number: 020 750 9718
The following accommodation that we will talk about will not be directly in Bolgatanga but rather some km outside of the town. If you want a centric location, Comme Ci Comme Ca is the accommodation we would recommend.
This complex, considered one of the top sustainable hotels in Ghana, is an oasis situated approximately a 20 min drive from Bolgatanga. If you want to experience what it is like to live in an African traditional house (but still with some level of comfortability) this is your place.
Here you will experience the most gorgeous sunsets, hear nothing but nature at its fullest and disconnect to reconnect. From here you can visit the Tongo Hills, rock formations, caves and natural rock shelters which are a sacred epicenter of the Talensi people. You can find more info about Tongo Oasis here.
Phone number: 024 852 7352
The Greenhouse Guesthouse
The Greenhouse Guesthouse is ideal if you want to experience a local way of living in a comfortable environment. Do not expect any air-conditioning or fan, because you will be sleeping in a traditional mud African hut which is built in such a way which will provide you with natural room ventilation.
They can also offer a range of activities you can book which will surely enrich your trip; a village tour with a visit to the chief’s palace, visiting farmers, bird watching, drumming lessons, you can even rent one of their bicycles to discover the beautiful surrounding areas of Karimenga.
Phone number: 020 891 3117 / 024 933 3184
SWOPA stands for Sirigu Women’s Cooperative, which is a community-driven initiative focused on preserving traditional art and empowering local women. It is a bit far from Bolgatanga (approximately a 45min drive) but if you want to pay them a visit (which is worth it) you may also consider to stay at least one night there. They offer a small eco-lodge with prices ranging from 55 cedis – 100 cedis per night.
Phone number: 0202436446 / 0205880712
Last but not least, we will briefly mention Zaina Lodge, a luxurious safari getaway mentioned in our article about the top swimming pools with a view in Ghana.
This is the place to stay when visiting Mole National Park. It is definitely the most luxurious option out of all previous accommodations options, but if you want to treat yourself and at the same time enjoy some wildlife, this is a great option.