I recently backpacked through two cities in the Ivory Coast – Abidjan (regarded as the capital) and Grand Bassam, the UNESCO listed city. I was able to get an online visa, which i collected on arrival at the international airport in Abidjan.
I based myself at the Hotel Ibis Plateau in Abidjan and backpacked the main sights of the city thanks to my excellent tour guide Dayo Williams. I also did a side trip to Grand Bassam.
What is Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast?
It’s a gorgeocative seaside town with a beach and a UNESCO world heritage site. Grand Bassam is in south-eastern Ivory Coast, about 45 minutes drive east of Abidjan. This town was the French colonial capital city of the then Coast of Teeth or Vents (while Burkina Faso was once called Upper Volta) from 1893 to 1896. In 1896, when the administration was transferred to Bingerville after a bout of yellow fever. Bingerville also didn’t last as the capital, but famous footballers Wilfried Bony and Didier Drogba come from there. Grand Bassam remained a key seaport until the growth of Abidjan as the clear capital, from the 1930s. Here are the best things to check out when backpacking in Grand Bassam in the Ivory Coast. Get it on your list!
1.Grand Bassam Beach
When backpacking in Africa I love to get a trip to the beach in. I managed to do this so far in South Africa, Western Sahara, Morocco, Senegal, The Gambia and Tunisia. Ivory Coast joined the list as I visited the sensational and calm beach here in Grand Bassam.
The waves crashed in, the sun was favourably unhot and we walked for a bit chatting. I did remember the sadness of the terrorist attacks here though. I passed the ill fated Etoile du Sud hotel where those horrific attacks happened.
2.Grand Bassam Museum
The main sight here is actually the museum. I got a personal guided tour which I think is standard for everyone who visits it.
My tour guide spoke in French which is where my lessons of Linda Macklin, Miss McCormick, Billy Cree and Katie Anderson came in handy. I could understand about 50% of what my guide said. Dayo helped translate for any questions.
There were two floors, an abundance of information to take in and a few displays. The main point of the museum is to illustrate the French colonial history and the tribal village life that existed in the area, and in the rest of Ivory Coast.
The building itself is a French colonial building. It’s definitely a top sight well worth backpacking through.
3.Grand Bassam Library
Locals wait by the roadside before the library opens. That is how important and significant a building this is. I passed it just too early. There is also Wi-Fi in this library, an important link for the town to the rest of the world.
We walk down one of the main streets in this UNESCO town. This street is full of French era Colonial buildings. It oddly reminded me of two places I had been before – Cayenne in French Guyana and St Laurent du Marconi, also in French Guyana.
5.The First Toilet in the Ivory Coast
You’re taking the piss aren’t you?? You’re shitting me?? I only backpacked in Grand Bassam so I could do a shit in the country’s first toilet. No seriously I didn’t do one of my top 8 shights but I did see the country’s first bogside residents! A luxurious green toilet here within the museum building was officially the first proper toilet in the country.
6.The UNESCO Sign
For proof that Grand Bassam is a UNESCO world heritage site I went to read the sign. I got a photo beside it to prove I have been here. Travel has become so mundane since depression began that it has boiled down to this.
7.The Comoë River
The Comoë river rolls its way through the town of Grand Bassam. Dayo and I went for a dander along it, inland where the town ends and there is a bridge to the neighbouring town. There are also two islands here – Ile Bouet and Ile Morin, reachable by boat but we didn’t tour them. It’s also worth noting that most of the sights on this list are actually on the peninsula rather than central Grand Bassam, which sits inland across the bridge.
8. Palais Royal
Yellow and brown and arguably the coolest building in Grand Bassam is the Palais. It has closed brown doors and houses the current town mayor. It was built by the French invaders back in the day but has since been refurbished and maintained to a much higher level than many of the other UNESCO listed Colonial Buildings. The Palais Royal is down by the beach, also on the main peninsula.
9.Workshops – Pottery and Art
On our tour, we checked out two workshops – one for pottery and one for art. Hand crafted trade is still important here in the Ivory Coast, though it seemed the days of selling nik naks from elephant tusks have passed the country by. I didn’t even see a single elephant when I was here, except on the football shirts.
My thanks once again to my tour guide Dayo Williams for being such a great guide. Here are the details for booking a tour with Dayo:
Dayo Williams – Dayo African Tours:
00225 Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire
Here are some videos of my time backpacking in Grand Bassam in the Ivory Coast: