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Ghana Weather, climate and geography

Weather and climate

Best time to visit

Ghana has a typically tropical climate thanks to its proximity to the equator and low elevations – the entire country lies below 1,000m (3300ft). Daytime temperatures are high throughout the year, approaching or surpassing 30°C (86°F) on most days, and humidity is also very high, especially along the coast. Temperatures tend to drop to around 20°C (68°F) drop at night, more noticeably in the relatively dry north than the humid south. The most temperate part of Ghana is the highlands area flanking the Volta Basin, which is often pleasantly cool after dusk.

There are two rainy seasons: from March to July and from September to October Rainfall is highest in the south, with some areas receiving in excess of 2,000mm each year, but the drier north more typically receives about 800mm annually. The capital Accra, together with the coast running east to Togo and Benin, lies within the Dahomey Gap, a tract of savannah that receives relatively little rain and divides the Upper Guinean forests (running westward from central Ghana) from the Lower Guinean forests (running southward from Nigeria southward to the Congo). A noteworthy climatic phenomenon is the harmattan winds, which blow in from the northeast from December to March, bringing dust from the Sahara and reducing visibility to as little as 1km (0.6 miles).

Ghana is fine to visit at all times of year, but if you have the choice, aim for the northern hemisphere winter i.e. October through to April, when humidity is lowest and the weather is typically quite dry. There are also fewer mosquitoes (and a decreased risk of contracting malaria), dirt roads are in better condition, and there is less likelihood of you or your luggage being drenched in an unexpected storm. However, photographers might want to avoid the dull ambient light and grey skies associated with the harmattan in December.

Required clothing

Light and loose is the way to go in this humid tropical climate. Bring light trousers or skirts made of a natural fabric such as cotton, combined with a stash of cotton T-shirts, and plenty of socks and underwear, also ideally must be made from natural fabrics to prevent fungal infections. Ghanaians are relatively relaxed about dress codes, but women should keep their shoulders covered and wear a skirt below the knees in the predominantly Muslim north. One sweater or sweatshirt should be adequate, since night time temperatures are seldom chilly. As for footwear, a good pair of walking shoes with solid ankle support is a must, but you'll also want sandals or thongs. If you forget anything, don't stress: there is a massive used-clothing industry in Ghana, and having new clothes made from local fabrics is quick and affordable.

Geography

Ghana is situated in West Africa between latitudes of 4°N and 12°N, and longitudes of 4°W and 2°E. It is a rectangular-shaped country bordered to the north by Burkina Faso, the east by Togo, the south by the Atlantic Ocean and the west by Côte d'Ivoire. It is bisected by the Prime Meridian (0°longitude), which runs through the port city of Tema, 25km (16 miles) east of the capital Accra, and Cape Three Points, the most southerly peninsula in Ghana, is also the closest land fall to the oceanic intersection of the Prime Meridian and the Equator.

Ghana's coastline is dotted with sandy palm-fringed beaches and lagoons. A narrow grassy plain stretches inland from this, widening in the east, while the south and west are covered by dense rainforest. To the north are forested hills, beyond which is dry savannah and open woodland. In the far north is a plateau averaging 500m (1,600ft) in height. In the east, the Akuapim Togo hills run inland from the coast along the Togo border. The country falls almost entirely within the Volta Basin, with the Red, Black and White Volta rivers all flowing into its northern borders from Burkina Faso. Following the 1960s construction of Akosombo Dam, about 60km (37 miles) inland of the Volta Mouth, much of the river is now submerged by Lake Volta, the world’s most expansive artificial water body.