The Upper West Region is the youngest region of Ghana. The Upper West Region was carved out of the then Upper Region in 1983. The history of the people of the Region lies in two major events. The region had many converging points of the Trans-Saharan trade, which dominated the entire area. The second event is the over 300-year long Slave trade which left indelible landmarks in many places. This is evident by the presence of settlements around caves which served as hiding places against the Slave Raiders.
Premised on the slogan “the smile of the Xylophone”
The way of life of the people of the Upper West Region is not so different from the other parts of the country. There exist interesting cultures that are manifest in the way of dressing, crafts, music and dance. Traditional festivals are the best occasions for visitors to enjoy various musical compositions and dances. The major occupation of the people is subsistence agriculture. Some of the people are engaged in weaving fabrics for onward production into smocks, women in the lean season are mostly into shea butter making.
The inhabitants are mostly Christians, Muslims and Traditional worshippers. The staple food for the people is Tuo Zaafi (TZ).
The region covers a geographical area of approximately 18,478 sq.km (12.7% of the land size of Ghana). The region is bounded to the east by the Upper East Region, to the north by Burkina Faso, to the West by Cote d’ Ivoire and to the South by the Northern Region.
The region is within the Guinea Savannah Vegetation Belt. Vegetation consists of grass with scattered drought resistant trees such as the Shea, baobab, dawadawa and neem.
One of the smallest regions but it has to its credit numerous attractions in terms of tourism potentials. These vary from landmarks of the slave trade, through wildlife to captivating architecture. The region is the largest producer of cotton, groundnuts, millet and sorghum
The region has 11 administrative Districts with Wa being the Regional Capital. There are decent accommodation facilities with several banks operating in the region.
WA NAA PALACE
Location In the heart of the Wa Municipality, on the JJ Rawlings High Street, opposite the St Andrews Cathedral.
History The Wa Naa Palace is the seat of the Wa Naa. The Wa Naa is the Paramount Chief of the Wala Traditional Area. The architecture of the Palace makes it unique. It is built using the Ancient Sudanese Architecture. This form of architecture makes the inner sections of the Palace very cool as though it has been air-conditioned. The Palace houses the Wa Naa and his wives. Designated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Palace was built in the 16th Century but still stands very strong as though it was built a decade ago.
Possible Activities Possible activities include a guided tour of the Palace. Places of interest will include the inner court of the palace where the Wa Naa and his elders hold deliberations and the section that houses the wives of the Chief. History of the Wala people, especially their migration to their present location and their traditions will also be given on such guided tours.
Location In the Wa Municipality, precisely in the Nakore community which is about 1km away from the St Francis Xavier Junior Seminary.
History The Trans-Sahara trade left a heavy influence of Islam in the towns of the Upper West Region. Most of the major trade routes converged in the towns. This ancient Sudanese mosque at Nakore was one the legacies that the trade left behind.
- Tour of the inner and outer sections of the mosque
- Muslims could say a prayer, as it is believed people who pray in the mosque receives numerous blessings
- A walk around the Nakore township
WECHIAU COMMUNITY HIPPO SANCTUARY
Location The Sanctuary is located in the Wa West District. It is located along the Black Volta River near the community of Wechiau, approximately 42km Southwest of Wa. Travelling from the southern part of Ghana , one could branch on the left on reaching Ga, the second community on entering the Upper West Region on the Sawla-Wa road. The distance between Ga and Wechiau is 22km.
History The WCHS founded in 1998 was the first community led large mammal Sanctuary in Ghana, managed solely by the chiefs and people. The Sanctuary aims to preserve the floral and fauna along a 42km stretch of the Black Volta River through community based ecotourism, with particular emphasis on the threatened hippopotamus population. The WCHS includes the culturally sacred islands found along this stretch of the river plus the land adjacent the river on the east (note; the west is Burkina Faso). Lining this shore is the closed canopy riparian forest, which is home to a rare plant community inhabited by a broad variety of bird and mammal species. This forest buffers along the length of the protected area and represents one of the most intact reverie forests for the region. The Sanctuary communities are all located within the Guinea Savannah ecosystem which is distinguished by open grasslands and large trees, such as baobab and kapoks.
- View hippos and a wide variety of birds on the Black Volta River. Best time to view hippos is between November and June.
- Enjoy a cultural tour and learn about the Lobi traditional practices and ways of life.
- Spend the night in a Hippo Hide Tree House for views of hippos at night and a rare experience of dawn choruses (bird songs)
- Stay in Lobi styled lodges
- Witness traditional dance performed by the traditional dance troop.
ROAD OF RESISTANCE
GWOLLU SLAVE DEFENCE WALLS
Location Gwollu is located north of the regional capital, Wa. Means of transport from Wa, one will have to travel to Tumu and then connect to Gwollu by using public transport. With private means there is no need to travel to Tumu but one could go through Nandom through to Hamile to Gwollu via Fielmuo. This offers the visitor the chance to see other attractions along the road like the biggest all stone Gothic Cathedral in West Africa in Nandom and the Hamile and Dahili Caves.
History The remnants of this defense wall is as a result of a 300-year long slave trade that left indelible landmarks such as this and other monuments in other parts of the region. The wall was built by Gwollu Koro Limann as a defense against slave raiders for the local residents at the time.
- Tour of the remnant of the Slave Defense Walls
- A visit to the traditional bone setter clinic and male potency centre.
- A visit to the tomb of Dr Hilla Limann (former President of the Republic of Ghana)
- A visit to the Gwollu Koro’s palace and museum
Location Sakana is located in the Nadowli District which is northeast of the Wa Municipality. The Wa Municipality shares a boundary with the Nadowli District. From Wa one will travel to Kaleo which is about 10km and then travel for about 3km eastwards to Sakana.
History The region has a number of caves. These are found in Bulenga, Dahili, Bu, Bilaw and Sakana. The cave was used as a place of refuge for the inhabitants who were fleeing from the slave raiders. It was a hideout.
- A visit to the cave and hiking around the cave
- A visit to the Sakana dam to experience unparallel aquatic life.
- A walk around Sakana township.
GBEELE GAME RESERVE
Location This game reserve is at Wahabu which is located southeast of Tumu in the Sissala East District. Means of transport could be arranged from Tumu to the Game Reserve, example Taxi hire.
History The Gbeele Game Reserve and Bird Sanctuary is home to elephants, buffaloes and the country’s largests herds of Roan antelopes. A variety of different species of birds are also found in this Game Reserve.
- Watching various species of birds
- Game watching using safaris
- Setting and sleeping in camps.
Location From Wa, on reaching Kaleo, one should turn right and move along that stretch for about 1.5km to reach Ombo.
History The hill is believed to be sacred due to how it came into existence. The hill appeared immediately after a whirlwind passed through the present day site of the hill. Because of this, women in their menses are forbidden from climbing the hill.
- Climbing to the peak of the hill
- Having a panoramic view of Wa township
Date Last Week in January to First Week in February
Significance Thanksgiving to the ancestors and Almighty God for guidance over the farming season. Farm produce are exhibited alongside music, dance and general merry making
Date 27th April
Significance To thank ancestral shrine ‘wilaa’ for guidance and protection and also to ask for continued blessing from the shrine and Almighty God.
Date First of April
Significance It commemorates the victory of the Sakana people over the slave raiders in 1897.
Date First Week of April
Significance Thanksgiving to the ancestral gods, cleansing the land of evil spirits and pacification of gods and re-uniting of families. Considered the opportune time for contracting traditional marriages.
Date First Week in October
Significance A post harvest event to acknowledge the spiritual guidance of the traditional area by the ancestral gods as well as jubilate over the bountiful harvest. Traditional dancing competitions are organized
Date Last Week in November to First Week in December
Significance To thank family gods and to ask them to bless the soil, protect the people during the farming season.
Date: 27th December to 30th December
Significance: A thanksgiving to God and gods for their good guidance and governance throughout the farming season and the harvest