Elmina – a fascinating fishing village

Ghana’s Gold Coast sure is filled with fascinating surprises, including a stunning beach ecolodge out west and lovely Cape Coast at its center.  One more to add to the list is the small town of Elmina. Although right next to Cape Coast, Elmina is often overlooked by tourists who ignore just how attractive and historically significant this overgrown fishing village is.

Being on the coast, the best place to stay is right on the beach west of town at one of the resorts or guest house, like the charming Stumble Inn.

Elmina

Elmina

It’s peaceful, built the traditional way with beautifully landscaped grounds and so many tempting resting places you won’t know where to put your feet up for that reading session, cool beer or simply staring at the beach.

Elmina

The beachfront location is hard to beat with eastern views taking in the coast, fishing village and castle in the distance.

Elmina

You can even opt to walk to town on the beach in roughly 30-45 minutes.

Closer to town you start seeing signs of the fishing life – brand new dugout boats made from hollowed tree trunks are lining up the shore.

Castle is shaping up…

You soon realize though the beach is essentially the villagers’ backyard and garbage dump (not to mention public toilet too) so you might want to head in at that point and continue your walk from the village.

Elmina

The castle (named St-George’s Castle) is unmissable in its location on a rocky promontory and sheer size and in my opinion (and it seems many share my views) more interesting than the one in Cape Coast.

This one is after all the oldest European building south of the Sahara and was the first trading post to be established on the Gulf of Guinea. Just like the Cape Coast castle, it was first a trade settlement before becoming a major stop on the route of the Atlantic slave trade.

Architecturally it is also a lot more impressive than Cape Coast’s with its four stories and multitude of staircases.

The Portuguese church in the middle of the courtyard

A special cell (marked with a skull above the door) was used to imprison slaves who rebelled against the Portuguese.
Cells

Elmina Castle

From the main courtyard you can access the female dungeons, located underneath the governor’s balcony from where he could watch and pick a companion for the night…

Female courtyard

Inside the female slave dungeons where hundreds were held captive
Elmina Castle

Exit

The door out to the waiting boats now opens up to a calm stretch of the fishing harbour.

Elmina Castle

While the lower level of the castle is pretty grim, the upper floors were reserved for what we could call the upper class, watching the action down below from balconies and fancy quarters.

Stairs leading up to the Governor’s rooms
Elmina Castle

The Officers’ Mess
Officers' Mess

The top floor opens up to a large terrace…

Elmina Castle

…with magnificent views over the whole town.

The Fort St Jago is looking over the castle from the top of the hill and was used by the Dutch to bombard the castle in the 17th century, forcing a Portuguese surrender.

Elmina

Elmina

Looking west you can get a splendid view of the lagoon and all the fishing boats coming in and out.

Boat in the making
Elmina

Eagle flying over the harbour
Elmina fishing port

Once out of the castle, you can cross over the lagoon and explore the busy city center.

The old Dutch Cemetery
Elmina

Posuban shrines can be found in the streets around the castle and are unique to the region. These colorful concrete sculptures are each dedicated to one of the militia-type organizations who used to have military duties but are now mostly ceremonial in nature.

Elmina

Street scene
Elmina

Before leaving I made sure to grab my favorite street snack, kelewele – fried plantains with spices, usually ginger and cayenne pepper…completely addictive!

4 thoughts on “Elmina – a fascinating fishing village

  1. gorgeous photos! had a quick look and will have to read the post after work ;) when are you back to NA, soon, no? hope you’re well. xo, e

  2. Such fond memories! I hope your trip to Togo & Benin is incredible. Looking forward to dinner on Wed!
    Safe home my dear,
    Tara

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