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Upper East
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About Location

Bolgatanga is the capital of both the Bolgatanga Municipal District and the Upper East Region of Ghana, and has a population of about 72,000.Bolga is the major town between Tamale, 161 km (about 100 miles) to the south, and the border with Burkina Faso.The Upper East Region is bounded by the Republic of Burkina Faso, 32 km (about 20 miles) to the north of Bolga, the Upper West Region 65 km (40 miles) to the west at the Sisili River, and the Republic of Togo, about 100 km (about 60 miles) to the east of the city.Bolga lies in the Red Volta River Valley (which serves as a major migration route of elephants), with the White Volta River and the cliffs of the Gambaga Escarpment to the south of the city forming the southern boundary of the region.

The Hon. David Apasera (PNC) is the Parliamentary Representative for the Bolgatanga Municipal District (as of 2006).Historically Bolgatanga was situated at the southern terminus of the ancient Trans-Saharan trade route.The eastern route traveled through Northern Nigeria, converging with the Sahelian route from Mali via Burkina Faso, near Bolgatanga.Along the route, handicrafts especially straw baskets, hats and fans, as well as leather goods, metal jewellery and indigenous attires called "Fugu"were exchanged for kola nuts and salt.Although present long before on a smaller scale, in the mid-19th century, Samori ibn Lafiya Toure of the Wassoulou Empire, and the Zarma leader of the Mossi state of Gurunsi, Babatu, had drafted many Hausa-Fulani, Dagomba and Gurunsi mercenaries in the area to capture slaves from local villages in the Upper East region for their own financial profit.Both Toure and Babatu's capture is celebrated by the people of Bolgatanga with the annual Feok festival in the neighboring town of Sandema.

The Upper East Region, where Bolgatanga lies, is part of what used to be known as the Upper Region.Between 1902 and 1960 the Northern Territory was a British protectorate; it was separated into the Northern and Upper Region on July 1, 1960.The Upper Region was apportioned into Upper East and Upper West Region in 1983 during the PNDC rule.Bolgatanga is the major city of the Gurene people (also called Gurunsi).When early Europeans arrived in Bolga, the villagers welcomed them warmly.They greeted the Europeans with the words Ya Farafara, words of lament in the native tongue.These Europeans, who could not understand nor speak Gurene decided to name the people of the region by the word "Frafra".Thus the people of Bolga became known as the Frafra people.

Today, Bolga is known as the crafts centre of northern Ghana, with a large central market. Apart from items found elsewhere in Ghana, the so-called "Bolga hats" are made and sold there.Bolgatanga and its surrounding villages also comprise the largest producers of leather works, straw baskets and smocks in the country.The artists sell their works at the Bolgatanga Market, which is open every third day.There is also a museum in the town which houses objects of historical importance of the region.

How to Reach

By Air

The nearest major airport to Bolgatanga, Ghana is Tamale Airport (TML / DGLE).This airport is in Tamale, Ghana and is about 137 km from the center of Bolgatanga, Ghana.If you're looking for domestic flights to TML, check the airlines that fly to Tamale.

By Bus

From Accra/Kumasi/Tamale is cheap and safer than the maniac private bus drivers.It takes 3 hours from Tamale, leaving around 8am so make sure you make a bathroom stop on the lunch stop as you might not be able to otherwise.

By Car

Private car from any medium sized town with driver is only about €20 a day.

Key places to visit
Sumbrungu Painted Houses, Tongo Hills and Tengzug shrine, Naa gbewaa shrine at Pusiga, Bolgatanga Library, Paga crocodile ponds


Places to Visit

Sumbrungu Painted Houses

One of the most distinctive features in the Upper East Region are the traditional villages that dot the landscape.These villages generally feature round thatched roof huts, painted with decorative motifs in striking colors.A beautiful example of traditional paintings is found in the village of Sumbrungu, eight kilometers from Bolgatanga on the way going to Paga.

Tongo Hills and Tengzug shrine

The Tongo Hills and Tengzug Shrine are located in the village of Tengzug,17 kilometers (about 10 miles) southeast of Bolgatanga.With its landscape dominated by large granite formations, the Tengzug area evolved as the sacred centre of the Talensis people, an ethnic group in Northern Ghana.The Tengzug Shrine is located in the Tongo hills and is believed to grant luck and prosperity to all those who visit it.

Naa gbewaa shrine at Pusiga

The "tomb" of Naa Bbewaa, the founder of the Mole-Dagbon tribes,is located in the town of Pusiga. Legend states that Naa Gbewaa never died but simply vanished during a heated battle.The shrine was thought to have been built in the 14th century in commemoration of Naa Gbewaa,and is today a place of spiritual reverence.

Bolgatanga Library

The Bolgatanga library is a notable design of award-winning American architect J. Max Bond, Jr., who was influenced by Le Corbusier.Bond lived in Ghana for four years in the 1960s,escaping racism in the United States.The Bolgatanga library was his first major project while working for the national construction company.The design features perforated walls and an "umbrella" shaped roof, so the structure remains cool and well ventilated.

Paga crocodile ponds

Forty kilometres (about 25 miles) from Bolgatanga, along the Burkina Faso border, is Paga, home to the sacred crocodile ponds.These are purportedly the "friendliest" crocodiles in Ghana, and it is said that the souls of the royal family reside in them.The crocodiles roam freely throughout the ponds and it is unthinkable that anyone should harm them.

Right Time to Visit

December - April
July - August


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