Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti (also known as Asante) region and the "Garden City of West Africa." As you might infer from its nickname, it's a pleasant place to visit—plan to stay for two nights—though these days it might more accurately be dubbed the country's traffic-jam capital. Kumasi lies 125 mi/200 km northwest of Accra.

See the Ghana National Cultural Centre, where artisans demonstrate traditional handicrafts such as weaving, bronze casting and the making of palm wine. They also manufacture and display royal patterns of kente cloth. (A new pattern is designed for each chief.)

Across from the center is the Okomfo Anokye Sword Hilt, a buried sword that marks the spot where the Ashanti's mythical Golden Stool descended from the heavens. The best time to visit the Manhyia Palace, ceremonial home of the Asantehene (Ashanti king), is every sixth Saturday after around 10:30 am, when this powerful figure holds audience at a tributary festival called the Adae. Souvenir hunters should head for the nearby Kejetia Market—it's the largest in Ghana, and goods are often cheaper there than in Accra.

Rural Ashanti is rich in sites worth visiting as a day or overnight trip out of Kumasi. Culturally, the pick of these are the 10 remaining 19th-century traditional shrines (Abosomfie) that collectively stand as one of Ghana's two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The most accessible of these is the Besease Shrine, which lies in Ejisu, some 12 mi/20 km south of Kumasi and is still in active use. Other easily accessed shrines include Atia Kusia Kwame in Edwenase and Aduko Jachie in the village of the same name.

For wildlife lovers, the Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary on the banks of the eponymous reservoir 10 mi/16 km from Kumasi is a good place to see monkeys and forest birds. Birds and butterflies are the main attraction of the more southerly Bobiri Forest Reserve, which is serviced by a pleasantly rustic forestry resthouse. However, the natural highlight of the Ashanti region is undoubtedly Lake Bosumtwi, which lies in the base of an ancient crater created by a meteorite impact and is held sacred by the people of Ashanti.

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