Ghana, known as West Africa's Gold Coast during the colonial era, is better known for its lovely beaches, lively nightlife, good roads, variety of landscapes and friendly people than for dramatic scenery or wild animals. But these assets make Ghana a safe and fascinating introduction to West Africa.

Although it was once a center of the slave trade, Ghana became the first modern African country to win its independence—giving it a head start in nation-building. Ghana's people are well-educated, and it has good schools, a thriving press and one of the highest economic growth rates on the continent. Moreover, Ghana has managed not merely to retain a strong sense of national identity and pride but actually to boost its economy and infrastructure.

Ghana is also home to a fascinating variety of historical and cultural sites, the best known of which—ironically—are the European-built castles and forts along the coast. Just as interesting, however, are the ancient mud mosques found in the north (especially Larabanga), the more secular adobe architecture of Sirigu and Wa, the kente-weavers and fetish shrines of Ashanti, and the traditional villages of the eastern highlands.

Other notable sights include the likes of Boabeng-Fiema, with its troops of colobus and mona monkeys, and the sacred crocodiles of Paga, whose caretakers feed them by hand.

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