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From the vibrant street markets and festivals, to lakes and tropical rainforests, ancient slave castles and forts, Ghana holds attractions for tourists with varying interests.

Since independence in 1957 from Britain, Ghana suffered a number of coups until eventually becoming one of the most stable democratic governments in West Africa. The current administration is led by President John Kufuor.

Of the country's 18.8 million people, about half belong to the Akan ethnic group. English is the official language and is widely understood in most parts of the nation, while Twi is the most common language spoken, especially in the south. Other major languages include Dagbani, Ewe and Ga. The population is about 69 percent Christian, 16 percent Muslim with the remainder following traditional beliefs.

International direct flights arrive in the capital, Accra. Three internal airports are located in Kumasi, Sunyani and Tamale. Car rental and tour agencies are located all over the country, although buses, mini-vans (tro-tro) and taxis are more common and less expensive.

Ghana lies on the Atlantic coast and has a number of exotic resorts on the Busua, Coco and White Sands beaches. To sample Ghana's vibrant and colorful festivals, most of which occur between August and February, get a guide from your hotel and plan to stay in rural areas for a few days. You will find street markets in just about any town you visit in Ghana and the vivacity combined with serious business activities is enlightening.

The castles and forts dotting Ghana's coastline reflect one part of the country's history during the slave trade and under colonization by the British. These vestiges of the past, especially the Cape Coast and Elmina castles, are in various stages of preservation and are favorite spots to visit with tours daily.

The country also has a network of national parks further inland, including Kakum, Mole and Bui, which show the diversity of Ghana's ecology with tropical rainforests and savannahs. The national parks have elephants, antelopes, various primates and numerous birds. Animal sanctuaries like the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary and the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary are also a great way to see nature's diversity in Ghana. There are many hotels in the major cities as well as lodges and guesthouses, which are cheaper and less luxurious.