Bolgatanga, colloquially known as Bolga, is the capital of both the Bolgatanga Municipal District and the Upper East Region of Ghana, and has a population of about 50,000 (2000). Bolga is the major town between Tamale, 161 km (about 100 miles) to the south and the border.

It is bounded by the Republic of Burkina Faso, 45 km (about 28 miles) to the north, and the Republic of Togo, about 30 km (about 18.5 miles) to the east. 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.

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.

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, meaning “welcome” 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 center 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.


Journeys trips that include Bolgatanga:

West Africa: Ghana, Togo, Benin from March 25-April 8, 2008 with Will and Joan Weber 


Information based on