Archive for the ‘Gonder’ Category

Matthew Birt writes:

I enjoyed reading and made good use of everyone else’s information, so I thought I ought to contribute:

 

Dec/Jan 2014

Travelled solo, independently using local transport

 

Bradt Guidebook excellent

 

General

 

Generally felt very safe and welcome

Quite a lot of hassle from kids, beggars, tourist touts, blokes in the street – quite consistent, but not that persistant and certainly not threatening in any way. Groups of kids are a right royal pain in the ____ .

 

Transport pretty good. People always really helpful – and I always got to where I was heading, even if I’m not sure how. Roads generally good and traffic free – all the driver has to worry about are the people standing in the middle of it and the aimlessly wandering livestock

Cheap tuk-tuks just about everywhere – seem to have replaced garis in most places

Mobile phone coverage generally good – cheap and quick to get sim (need photocopy of passport and photo)

 

Everything seemed very inexpensive – accomm, transport, food, etc

Easy to change cash in banks/airport

ATMs in a lot of places – Dashen and Commercial Bank worked for me

 

Forgotten how noisy Africa is, especially at night – or at least it was where I slept. Every night. My top tip – take the finest ear plugs money can buy. As well as eye drops (for the dust) and lip balm (for the sun).

 

Budget hotels – apart from in Harar – always provided towel, toilet paper and soap.

 

Weather – always sunny and hot during day – 25-30 C. No rain. In some towns, pretty cold early morning and night and required two fleeces (e.g. Debark, Debre Birhan, Abese Teferi)

 

Bole Airport

 

Arrived 2am, and stayed in there until morning flight to Axum. Felt safe, although pretty cold. Nowhere nice to sleep, try and get into domestic terminal departures asap where there are comfortable loungers.

 

 

 

Axum

 

Hotel reps waiting at airport with free transport

Africa House – fine – 175B en suite single

Thought Tsion Maryam complex at 200B a rip-off, considering much of it closed and under refurbishment

Really enjoyed walk out to Debre Liqanos Monastry

 

Shire

 

Africa Hotel – fine – 150B – adjacent restaurant good but noisy at night

Nice just to be in a normal town, without the tourist ‘nonsense’

Good to walk out of town into countryside to see ‘real’ Ethiopia

 

Debark

 

Bus from Shire didn’t leave until after 7, even though told to be there at 5. Awful road. Wonderful Simien scenery for 10 hours or so!

Simien Park Hotel – good – 250B en suite single

Unique Landscape next door also looked good, but slightly more expensive.

If not trekking, negotiate hard and get a number of quotes for your day trip into the national park – tourist touts, argh!!!

 

Gondar

 

Queen Taitu Pension – 200B en suite single. Poor. No hot water, etc. Noisy.

Moved to  Belegez Pension, 200B, water still a problem, but quieter and nicer courtyard

Four Sisters Restaurant – great food and fantastic dancing. Before I left I didn’t think some contrived dance show for tourists would be a highlight of my trip. But it was. Go and see for yourself.

 

As solo, negotiated guide fee down to 100B (rather than 200) for castle complex

 

Kosoye also a highlight. Easy to get to (30-40 mins north of Gondar). Had a very nice breakfast at Befikir Ecolodge, which is visible from main road. Staff super friendly. Then great walk down into valley. Scout cost 100B, and worth every penny. Tough going.  Highly recommended.

 

Bahir Dar

 

Wudie Pension -  nice big room – 200B.

Ghion looked really run down to me, although good spot for meeting fellow tourists.

Tread carefully with the tourist touts in town. Both half day trips to the lake monastries and waterfall were shambolic and a rip-off. Average price paid seemed to be 200B/person, but I’m sure you can get for less. Get itinerary and any additional costs written down. You have been warned! Good for meeting other (equally hacked-off) tourists though!

Lucky with Blue Nile Falls – water was flowing – and another highlight.

 

Lalibela

 

There for Christmas, so very busy and accomm prices x2 or x3 normal rate

Hotel Lalibela, been refurbished and now rather swish. $45/double en suite

Private Roha – very basic, but felt safe – 400B/twin shared facilities

Recommend Unique Restarant opposite Asheton – cheap and good fun

Walk up to Asheton Maryam good, although hard

 

Used local guide  – Zewudu Melak – +251 (0) 913636414 – for churches – nice guy – only ‘guide’ I used that I can recommend

 

Lake Hayk

 

Logo Hayk Lodge (I think, maybe name changed, not sure)

This place could probably be very peaceful and relaxing, but not on Christmas Day with a huge party going on!

230B/hut ensuite for okayish room (150B if you’re Ethiopian!)

 

Debre Birhan

 

Akalu Hotel – reasonable place – 100B for ensuite

Really nice restaurant at Eva Hotel

 

Bishoftu

 

Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake

 

Awash

 

Buffet D’Auoache – 150B/room – pretty nice and peaceful place. Dusty, nondescript town though

 

Managed to find a ‘guide’ to get me into Awash National Park by asking around at hotels. Hired a good minibus and driver for 1000B for the day (6am-6pm). Really enjoyed the reserve, it’s not the Serengeti, but saw quite a lot of game. Waterfalls fab. Awash Falls Lodge looked nice and was a good spot for lunch

 

Abese Teferi

 

Kebsch Int Lodge – decent room – 150B en suite; good restaurant attached

 

Got 6am bus direct to Kuni, found ‘guide’ quickly albeit using sign language and pointing to pictures in my Bradt Guide and visited Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala Sanctuary. Not sure about ‘30-45 mins walk to river’. I got taken 2 hours up a bloody mountain, then 2 hours back down it. Not my ideal start to the day at 7 am. Fantastic though. Saw plenty of (skittish) nyala, warthogs, reedbuck and hyena.

 

Harar

 

Everyone I met moaned about the hotels in this place – except for those in the cultural guesthouses. The only town where I found that hotels were full

Trawfik Sharif Hotel – bit grim – bucket shower – 150B

Tewodros – 160B ensuite – okayish – despite stinking communal bathrooms at entrance

Belayneh – only offering doubles for 300B and water issues

Heritage Plaza looked more run down and mismanaged than guidebook suggests

Harar Ras – looked best bet – been refurbished – cheapest room 230B – good restaurant serving absolutely wonderful pizzas

Fresh Touch Restaurant – good, but expensive (for Ethiopia)

Hyena feeding cost me 100B – the greatest concentration of tourists I saw in one place throughout my 4 weeks in the country

 

Addis Ababa

 

Almaz Pension – 200B shared bathroom – clean, friendly, quiet, safe

Yod Abyssinia – good fun, if expensive – don’t go alone, sit at the front and be of above average height, otherwise you are liable to get dragged up on stage to dance – much to the amusement of the local crowd. This can lead to embarrassing flashbacks.

 

Have a good trip.

Lindsey writes:
Lalibela:
-The Dashen bank will manually process atm cards if all the atms in town are out of order
-The fee for the church entrance was raised to 50 USD
-Lal hotel no longer accepts visa cards
-A good guide for Lalibela is Leul (Ethiopian Cell: 0913228565). Some friends of mine passed along Leul’s number after an amazing visit to Lalibela. We had an equally amazing time with him as our guide. He has mastered the art of tour guiding that many in Ethiopia have not– he knows when to talk and when not to. We spent two nights/three days in Lalibela. Leul took us to the first cluster of churches Friday afternoon. We started Saturday morning by touring the second cluster of churches, then accompanied Leul to the market, where we met his father and observed him bargaining for a goat. We joined Leul’s family for lunch and a coffee ceremony at his house. He picked us up Sunday morning at 6 am to attend one of the masses at the churches, and brought along the white scarfs required to attend the mass. Leul is an absolute gem, and all this cost less than the entrance fee for the churches! Several other friends have used Leul as a guide and have all been very satisfied with their experience.
Gondar:
-Golden gate restaurant does not have Chinese food. It is mostly Ethiopian food. We thought it was overpriced for the food we ordered

Romana Roschinsky writes:

Just returned from a holiday in Ethiopia in July/August 2013. Your guide was really helpful. Although I did not have the latest verision, we ere in general very happy with the recommendations.
A few comments.

Ghion Hotel Bahir Dar.
The room we got for 300birr was ok, but not much more.
We approached the reception to organise a tour to the monastries. They referred us to a guy on the porch. Later we found out that he is some relative of the manager.
We were booked for a tour and promised to see between 4-5 monastries the next day starting from 8.00. The tour was said to be 250birr/person and last around 4-5 hours. We were told there was an extra 100 birr entrance fee for Ura Kidane Mihret church but he adviced us that woud be worth it. And we could enter the monastry compounds of the other monastries without paying and decide if we wanted to enter the buildings. Then we would be charged accordingly. We thought allright.
We were ready the next day. Had to wait with all other tourists for an hour, but that was ok. We went to Zege Peninsula where we were welcomed by our guide. We visited Ura Kidane Mihret and it was perfectly fine. Then we made it back to the boat.
Passing another island the boat guy said the monastery would be closed, but thhere was a museum that the men could enter. The men on our boat refused out of solidarity. We approached a second island and disembarked. We wanted wo move around the compound but were told we woul dhave to pay yet another 100birr per person. We refused, discussed that we had been told we could at least move around on th ecompound and asked to be brought to another place. The boat guy did so but at the next monastry the same game. We refused again. As “compensation” he offered us to take us to the Nile outlet. We agreed. The promised Hippos were nowhere to be seen because: The temperatures were too cold. What a stupid lie.
Back at Ghion Hotel We approached our organizer. First I asked him to give back the extra 50birr he had charged me but not the other tourists. He did that. Then all of us complained that we did not get what we payed for and were really disappointed. We asked him what he yould offer us. He said it was not his fault and shoved the boat owner into our faces. He tried to run off several times but we always managed to confront him again. He said we could go again to the lake but none of us was interested after spending hours on the water already. He refused to do anything else for us.
So I strongly advise against booking the Tana monastry tours at Ghion Hotel in Bahir Dar. A bad idea.

Gonder:
Queen Taitu Pension is a terrible accommodation. We were put into a room with mould across all walls. The smell was disgusting. We could not change rooms, as all others were booked and did not know where else to go as it was dark already.Do not stay there!!!

Lalibela:
I know this night be updated now but the entry fee is now 50 US$/ person. It’s well worth it but we were surprised be the amount.

We were told the tourist information is closed. We did not check if that was true though.

Axum: Africa Hotel: very nice place. But check the room before you pay. They wanted to give us a mould one at first.

Addis Abeba: Taitu Hotel: The main building is very nice. But the bathrooms are terrible. No toilet seats, mould, cockroaches. Still the price was ok for 300birr/night.

Simien Mountains Lodge:
We got a wet season discount and payed 90US$ for a double room. They even brought us a massive bucket full of hot water as the fog was too thick for the solar power panels to work. Very nice.

 

Peter writes:

In Gorgora (p 213), the Gorgora Rock Resort as of July 2013 never got built, and indeed, not on one brick got laid that I could see. However, the lovely Tim and Kim Village is nearby. You can find details on timkimvillage.com. There are lovely chalets on the shore of Take Tanna, and it is 10 minutes walk from Gorgora. Camping facilities are also available. Tim and Kim employ and train local staff and it is (by a long way) the most relaxing and pleasant place to stay in that part of the world.

On my trip I got fly strike by tumbu (or mango) flies. The gravid females lay their eggs on damp cloth and the larvae hatch out and burrow under the host’s skin. As they develop, the maggots cause a massive inflammatory responses and are extremely itchy. I had a total of six! My advice would be that if travellers have insect bites which do not settle down after three days or so, they should seek medical attention. If not treated, eventually the larvae leave the host and the cavity they created should heal up, but they can leave abscesses and it is generally not very nice.

I attended a folk club in Gondar and did not have such a positive experience as you did. There were some extremely drunk locals who I found a bit intimidating (although no-one threatened me), and the musicians and dancers kept on insistently hitting on me for money. I would advise ferengi to go with a local, or at least with a friend.

Otherwise I found the guide to be extremely helpful, so thanks for your efforts.

Gondar & Simien updates

Posted: April 14, 2013 in Gonder, Simien Mountains

Former Bradt commissioning editor Tricia Hayne has kindly sent me the following feedback:

Page 216                  Getting there and away/By air Asking around, it seems that almost no-one reconfirms tickets.  Certainly no-one we spoke to in Gondar or Addis.  We did in Lalibela – but when I went to the Ethiopian Airlines office it seemed a formality rather than a necessity.

Pages 220-1                  Where to eat

Our favourites were the Mini Fogera (main dishes around US$1.50), and the new:

 

Masterchef (218 D3). Opposite the Belegez Pension (which isn’t in quite the right place on the map), it was set up by an Ethiopian chef who has spent time working in Dubai.  Simple seating is both indoors and outdoors, service is friendly yet professional, and the food is excellent – both fish goulash and fish dulet (US$3.50) make it worth the trip.  US$2.50-5.

 

There’s also a convivial restaurant at the Nile (218D1) which is on the map as a hotel, but not in the text.  Tables are under cover but the restaurant is open at the front, with foliage and lights blocking the rather urban surroundings. US$2.50 average.

 

Goha Hotel The three-course dinner here (see also p217) wasn’t up to much: the soup was OK, and the stir-fry was good, but the fish was dry and unappealing, and the dessert horribly oversweet.  At 150 birr (US$8) a head without drinks, it was the most expensive meal we had in Ethiopia, and far from the best. Service, though, is indeed good, and there was live entertainment when we were there on a Saturday night – though note that you’re expected to tip the dancers.

Fogera Hotel The restaurant at the Fogera looked empty and unwelcoming when we went there, and no-one we spoke to recommended it.  Instead, we went across to the Mini Fogera opposite.

 

Four Sisters justifies its reputation – once we found it – the map is somewhat misleading. Tej served with the meal was an added bonus.  Prices at US$3-6 aren’t as expensive as locals make out, though drinks are higher than average.

Sofa Juice doesn’t serve pizzas; instead try a huge slice of cake or a pastry with your juice!

Page 223                  Central Gondar There’s a beautiful 400-year-old ficus tree in front of the castle, which as you might expect has all sorts of legends attached!  The area around it, effectively an oversize roundabout, was being ‘beautified’ when we were there, with arches, paths through the gardens, and posh new toilets nearing completion.  In the centre of the Piazza is a gleaming new statue of Emperor Tewodros, which I think was erected in 2012.

Page 224                  Fasil Ghebbi Guide fees are US$5 (100 birr) for 1-3 people, or US$7.50/150 birr for 4+. We didn’t see any connecting tunnels – though they could of course be there.  Only the first floor of Fasilides’ castle is open to the public.

Bakafa’s banqueting hall was – according to our guide – used as a bunker by the Italians, who concreted it to withstand bombing from the British. Or not, of course!

Mentewab’s Castle has been closed for a couple of years for structural reasons, and there is no longer a gift shop at the castle.

Gemjabet Maryam is accessed from the road rather than from within the enclosure.

Page 225                  Ras Ghimb (end of page 225) is almost opposite the Church of Medhane Alem.  It was apparently open to the public until 2012 (50 birr), but is currently swathed in scaffolding and closed for restoration.  You can still get inside the complex, though!

Page 226                  Fasilides’ Pool  To get there, take a minibus (1 birr) from opposite the Circle Hotel and get off at Fasilides’ School.  From there it’s about 300m: take the road that forks to the right, and follow on round the back of the stadium, where there’s a signboard.  We were particularly struck by the gnarled roots of what I think are banyan trees, seated like some fairytale ogres  along the exterior walls of the pool.

We couldn’t find the House of Chickens – though it’s possible this is the building that’s by the road and is being restored (I’ve no idea for what purpose).

The domed pavilion mentioned in the box above is in a state of partial collapse, and is now held up by scaffolding.

Page 226                  Kuskuam As with Fasilides’ Pool, take a minibus from opposite the Circle Hotel , and get off at the hospital (1 birr). There’s no signpost, but the road is clear.  At Kuskuam, we searched everywhere in and outside the banqueting hall, but found no sign of the cartoon-like etchings that you mention, though they could have been hidden by scaffolding.

Page 227                  Debre Birhan Selassie It’s worth getting a guide to interpret the paintings, but make sure as always that he’s official…   We didn’t get any sense of a helpful caretaker!  Re the symbolic architecture box, the info at the end about the seven-pronged medallion relates to many churches that we saw in Ethiopia.

Page 230                  Wolleka is about 3km, not 5km, from Gondar, a pleasant 45-minute amble along the main road. Plenty of crafts stalls all line the road here, but there’s a fair amount of ‘persuasion’ from youngsters touting their wares or seeking to take you to the synagogue.  Much better and more peaceful is to visit the Ploughshare Women’s Crafts Training Centre, which is on the opposite side of the road at the start of the village (not 2km away), on the right as you’re heading from Gondar. You can watch the potters and weavers at work, as well as buying their crafts; standards are high and prices fair.

Pages 236-7                  map In the key it says that ‘hiking route follows road for much of the route’. Our experience over three days suggests that it does in parts, but is more often off road.

 

Page 239                  Three days (two nights) Walking from close to Simien Lodge, sleeping at Sankaber and Gich, then walking a circle to Imeg Gogo and back to Abergirna (I think!), where we were collected and driven back to Gondar.  Superb walking; stunning scenery and fantastic raptor population; would love to go back!

 

There are a few Simien specialists in Gondar, including one based at the Atse Bekafa Hotel, and the one we used, who although a little more expensive, we’d recommend:

www.simienmountains.com; mob: 251 0911 404792; email: alebachew_2005@yahoo.com

Heike writes:

We stayed for one night in Befikir Kossoye Ecology lodge in Queens Village. This lodge is very new and is at the road from Gondar to Debark, 30 km behind Gondar.
This place is very special, because the Ethiopian emperors Yisak , Fasil, Teklegiorigis, Yohannes IV, Haile Selasie I und king Tekelhaimanot of Gojam had been there.
The 10 double-bungalows with bathroom are very clean. The manager and the staff are very friendly. In the morning we had a good breakfast with bread, honey, marmalade, eggs, tea and coffee.
In the evening the manager offered us 3 different meals. The meals were very good. After the meals the manager and the staff celebrated a very special coffee-ceremony for us.
From the lodge you have a nice view to the mountains. The area around the lodge was afforsted by the manager.
The manager organizes hikes to chugi mariam (6 – 7 hours).
The adress is:Befikir Kossoye Ecology Lodge
Phone: +251-911-250825
Befikirdd66@yahoo.com
http://www.semienkossoye.com

Kristen Davis writes:

Hi there, I’d like to recommend a guide and tour agency I used in Gonder who did a fabulous job of organizing our 5 day trek in the Simien mountains. The guide and agency owner, Addis Yimmer, and his team really know how to put together a tailor made package and know the area so all the questions you have about geology, flora & fauna are met with interesting replies. I’ve trekked all over the world and can say this was one of the smoothest and most friendly outfits I’ve worked with.

http://www.ethiopiaecotourandtrek.com/

Thanks
P.s. Awesome Ethiopia guide! Keep up the great work!

Here our comments / special mention regarding our 20-day trip North and East Ethiopia. 5th August – 25th August
Addis Ababa
Hotels:
Regency Hotel in Piazza. Upmarket. Double room w/breakfast 100$. Very good location, clean and comfortable. Good breakfast. Wifi low speed. Airport shuttle complimentary.
Haimi Apartment Hotel in Bole, beside MK restaurant and Enya restaurant. Upmarket. Double room suite w/breakfast and dinner 120$. Excellent location. Amazing suites with great views of the city. Breakfast is very good. Continental dinner not that good. Wifi high speed. Very appropriate for business trips and tourist.
Restaurants:
Piazza:
Addis Ababa Restaurant. Very good traditional food in a nice traditional house.
Castelli’s. This Italian restaurant is now closed under restoration.
Bole:
Habesha Restaurant. Excellent traditional food and good live traditional music. We found this one more sophisticated and higher level than Addis Ababa Restaurant.
Enya Restaurant. Excellent greek food.
Bahir Dar
Hotels
Bed & Breakfast The Annex. Tel. 0918727504. Nice patio full of birds and flowers. Clean rooms and shared bathroom. Very good breakfast. Double room 40$
Restaurants
Special mention to the restaurant of Kuriftu Resort. More expensive than other restaurants in Bahir Dar, but the food is excellent and the location / atmosphere / environment is romantic and beautiful.
Lake monasteries
Half day trip by boat including the lake monasteries Kibran Gebriel, Bet Maryam, Uda Kidane Mihret and Debre Maryam, 150 birr pp with shared boat from Ghion Hotel. Otherwise 600 birr per boat.
Day trip by boat to Gorgora including visit to Daga Istafanos, Narga Selassie (Dek Island) and Debre Sina Maryam (Gorgora), 3000 birr per boat.
Gorgora
If you arrive to Gorgora by boat after 5pm, it is very possible you will not find any kind of transportation to Gonder. So you will have to overnight in Gorgora Hotel. This is what happened to us. “1st class rooms” in front of the lake were fully booked by Chinese families. I think there were only two of these. We had to sleep in a 2nd class room for around 200 birr for a double room. Dirty, bedbugs, toilet was a place to avoid if possible. Simply nasty. Food in the hotel restaurant was eatable.
Gondar
Hotels
Goha hotel. A good choice both hotel and restaurant are good. They offered 50% discount for low season. Around 40$ including breakfast.
Gondar to Axum by road
We went to the Tourist Information Office and decided to contact a 4×4 driver called Mamoush Tel. 0918773409, following “Anton’s trip report” of April 2012. He was really friendly and helpful all the time. We hired him for 5-6 days to do the Gondar – Axum (2 nights) – Debre Damo / Adigrat – Gheralta (2 nights) – Axum flight to Lalibela. Price per day ranges between 150$ to 200$ including driver’s food and accommodation, depending on your negotiation skills and length of the journey. You will probably have to pay an extra day for him to go back to Gondar. Even though it is not cheap, i really recommend this 4×4 trip as a way to optimize your time when visiting churches in the Gheralta / Adigrat. Also the scenery is magnificent from Gondar to Axum.
Axum
Hotels
Yeha hotel. 70$ double room without breakfast. We found it expensive. The hotel is comfortable and the restaurant is nothing special but good.
Restaurants
AB restaurant (beside Ethiopian Airlines). Nice patio and environment, good traditional food in the birr 40 – 60 range.
Other
We were lucky during our stay in Axum and had the chance to see a morning ceremony (4am-7am) including a night walk of thousands of people with candles following monks and the ark of the covenant (replica).
Adigrat
A superb recommendation in Adigrat, don’t miss the restaurant of the Geza Gerelase Hotel. The meat is excellent there and inexpensive, both lamb and beef/ox. They use this kind of local wassabe for the meat… Coffee ceremony and so on, in a very traditional tukul restaurant. By the way, kurt was awesome…
Gheralta Lodge / Rock-hewn churches
What to say about this place…? It is just perfect. One of the highlights of the trip. I wish we had had more days to spend in the Gheralta Lodge / rock hewn monasteries. We will come back for sure 3 or 4 more days the day we visit the Danakil..
The rock-hewn churches are something else. We visited Abuna Yemata Guh, Abreha Ye Atsbeha and Wukro Chirkos in the same day. Abuna Yemata Gut is espectacular. An unforgettable experience. For me it was far better than Debre Damo. Abreha Ye Atsbeha is also excellent in paintings.
A good guide near the Gheralta lodge, but cheaper: Haile Selassie (it is not a joke!) 0914041123. We payed him 250 birr.
Lalibela
Hotels
We had a reservation at Mountain View Hotel. As soon as we got there, we decided this hotel was not for us. Extremely overrated, 75$ for an awful / retro / unpleasant double room. The entire hotel looks like if they had left things half done, as if they had finished the investment before completion and not payed attention to details. The only good thing was the restaurant. Its Jamaican chef cooks really well. So we had lunch and moved to Tukul Village. Tukul Village is simply excellent. Try to get room 23, is the best one in the hotel. Price 57$ double room including breakfast.
Restaurants
Seven Olives. Excellent traditional food and pasta, 150 birr per person.
Other
Outside Lalibela we visited Genata Maryam. 700 birr for the car. For us was not really worth it, specially if you have visited some churches in the Tigrai.
Harar
Hotels
We spent 4 nights in Harar getting some rest and enjoying the end of Ramadam. I do recommend Rowda Guest House Tel. 0256662211, 350 birr double room w/ breakfast. Breakfast isnt very good but… at least you are in the Old Harar, in a nice traditional Harari house. One of the rooms has bathroom, as for the other is shared. Price is always the same.
I don’t recommend Zubeyda Guest House. They are family with Rowda but the service is awful. To give an example, we had our reservation in Rowda, but by mistake we went the first night to Zubeyda. They didnt say this wasnt Rowda. The following day, when we found out this was another guesthouse, we decided to move because of course we had a reservation in Rowda. They tried to charge us 700 birr instead 350 birr for one night! they said we had used two beds instead of one!!! There was a sad discusion, we paid 350 and go.
Recommended guide for Harar: Sisse 0913450433. We enjoyed his company and attention for 4 days. We had a chat experience with him one of the days. That’s something I really recommend. Another day, he prepared in his home an excellent meal: young camel goulash and also beef tips. Excellent. We drunk Goudar red wine…
In Harar you can buy excellent coffee in the Harar Coffee Company. Very cheap and excellent taste.
A good place to drink one of these awesome juices with three colours: green, orange and pink (avocado, papaya or mango and guava) is Mermaid Cafe, 1st Street. Coffee is also excellent. A better breakfast than in Rowda Guesthouse.
Babile and the Valley of Marvels
If you have time in Harar, Babile is worth a visit. The camel market is very interesting and colourful. As for the Valley of Marvels, i recommend a short trek over there. We were lucky and found about 100 vultures eating dead camels!!
Ethiopia is top of the list for us, a destination you cannot miss.
Cheers
Jehu & Laia from Sitges, Barcelona

First of all thanks a lot for the great guidebook, it was not only helpful but also a good pastime during long bus rides and a source of many laughs…

Here some updates and personal experience from my 4 weeks Ethiopia trip in May.

General:
- Maestro/MasterCard can be used with any Dashen ATM, the limit per withdrawal was 4000 birr
- Attention: the forex bureau/bank at Addis Bole airport is closed during the day (open only mornings and evenings)! If you happen to have surplus birr, the Ethiopian Airlines lounge will change for an inferior rate (23 birr/$ instead of 17!)

- cashed Travelers Cheques at Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (100$), same exchange rate as for cash, service charge less than 1$)

- exchanged dollars at Dashen bank, same exchange rate for all denominations (even for 1$ bills)!
Addis Ababa:
- Baro Hotel: rundown and quite rough, but clean enough; 135b for a tiny s/c single; shoestring in the great Piazza area
- Mr. Martin’s Cozy Place: most expensive accommodation during my trip, but a very friendly place and good location with many restaurants, shopping facilities etc. around; 220b for a spacious clean single with shared bathroom
- Old Piazza Restaurant (Mahatma Gandhi Rd. below De Gaulle Square, maybe identical with the mentioned “The Pizzeria”) has good pizza, pasta and some local food
- for getting to the Meskel Square, ask for a minibus to “stadium”; they didn’t know “Meskel” or mixed it up with “Mexico” Square

Bahir Dar

- Tana Pension was very rundown, many mosquitoes (the window didn’t close) and erratic water supply; 80b for a s/c single
- Wudie Pension (50m from Tana Pension at the crossroads) has nice rooms; 120b for a single, but the common bathrooms could be cleaner…; try the delicious Fatira for breakfast
- just across from Wudie is a very good restaurant (check out the balcony on the 1st floor)

Gonder:
- Habesha Cafe for good juices and coffee
- booked a 3 days Simien trek with Mickey (simientrektours.com) for 320$; for sure there are cheaper offers around, however I was happy with the tour, we were only 2 and had the best cook around, the guide and the scout just for us, and didn’t meet a single other tourist; very good organization

Axum:
- the bus ride from Gonder to Shire was long and bumpy (almost 12h), but wonderful landscapes and views; tough but worthwhile
- Africa Hotel is a very nice place; 170b s/c single with hot shower and DSTV

Wukro:
- the Tekra Tesfai cluster of rock-hewn churches is easy to visit as a day trip from Wukro, even caught a minibus to Mekele the same afternoon; don’t pay the “keeper” at the foot of the cliff just for taking photos from below the cliff

Mekele:
- Atse Yohannis Hotel is a great place; try to get a room on the 4th floor, mine was the corner room and had great views over the city from the balcony; 200b for a spacious s/c single
- very good local food just across the corner from Atse Yohannis (Bellevue Restaurant?)
- the Green Valley Cafe serves good pizza, burger and of course coffee with some nice pastry

Roger

Thanks to Anton for sending us this trip report from his visit to Ethiopia in September 2011.

 

Weather: I think, September is not the best time to visit E., because there’s still heavy rainfall, most in Addis, during midday and afternoon, but otherwise everything is flourishing

 

Addis Ababa:

 

On Bole Road there are almost ALL African embassies.

 

I can recommend Bole Ambassador Hotel near the airport (www.boleambassadorhotel.com) for those who only want to overnight, but you have to pay 90 US for a single and 120 US for a double room (including buffet breakfast). The transport to and fro the airport is FREE

 

I also can recommend RAS-Hotel at Churchill Rd. Many travellers; clean; Taxis in front oft he hotel; but you have to bargain a lot! To Airport is 10$US. If you wan t to rent a taxi for a few hours: that will cost you 250 BIRR. Opposite of RAS-Hotel, there’s a street, where you can find fast internet!

 

Near RAS-Hotel you can find GALAXY TRAVEL, where you can book flights etc. People, who want to got to South-OMO, should ask there for Mr. Tesfaye MIDEKSO; he’s the guy with all info. A 10 day trip will cost you up to 2400 EURO

 

Lufthansa is now in AXUM Building! Within walking distance: go from Meskel-Square in direction of Haile Selassie Road outtown, and after the Carnivore Resti, go the next broad street tot your right.

 

Address: PO Box 3484, Axum Building, Urael Church to Atlas Hotel Road, Addis Ababa

 

Eating: If you like American/European food go to “Carnivore Addis Restaurant“ Salad-Buffet; good menus. Not far form Meskel-Square; Haile Gebre Selassie-Road, right

side

 

 

Money:

ATM: maximal withdrawal  5000 Birr per day, Exchange rate €1=25 BIRR; US$1=19 BIRR

 

Postcard < 5 Birr

Water 2 Litre bottle: 8-10 Birr

Café  Espresso: 5 Birr

 

If you want to spend a lot of money, go to Sheraton Hotel  for a mixed fruit juice, very delicious, but 120 BIRR!!!!

 

 

Bahir Dar

 

I recommend to take a flight. The airport is a kind of joke, still under construction! Baggage claim is out of the airport, there’s a building to your left, where all the hotels have their boards. Here you can get a transport to YOUR hotel.

 

I choose the Summerland-Hotel; the guy for this Hotel is Mr. Haile Yesus, he’s a good but somehow expensive man! But you can trust him, he can help you in any way!

 

To do the Nile-Falls with a guide and private taxi you pay US$50. The falls are now full of water again!!!

 

Summerland-Hotel: single is 500 Birr (with breakfast). Because of water pressure take only room at 1st or 2nd floor!

 

Ghion Hotel is right now not in a good state

 

Zege Peninsula:  if you can see only these 2 churches, this will be fine! The boat is 750 birr! Entrance fee to the church is 50 birr. Guide 110 birr: this is o.k., because he knows all the pictures and can describe them. There are al lot of  souvenir stalls, but the people are very friendly and not pressured.

 

Other monasteries on the lake:

 

The boat costs you 2400 BIRR: this will be a very long day, starting at 0600 in the morning until 1900 in the evening. Most of daytime you will spend on the boat. Important: Bring some warm clothes with you, otherwise you will freeze!

 

Because of time limits you can visit only 3 churches, if you have different wishes, that will cost you more! Of interest is in my opinion only the Selassie church. Otherwise I think it’s not worth the money and the time, but….

 

Tana Kirkos: it’s a very beautiful island, but the monk is crazy: he asks 150 Birr entrance fee (monk’s law, as he said!!). The view from top oft he island is spectacular! We didn’t pay and therefore I don’t know, if the inside oft he church is worth to visit! The „last“ church next to town is Debre Maryam – is in a very bad state; I suggest, NOT to visit!;

 

Otherwise the bird nests at the lakeside in the papyrus are very nice

 

Mixed Fruit-Juice in Harar Supermarket – go down the ally from R/A (warrior monumentl) to the south; after 100 meters it’s on the right side! A very tasty fruitjuice costs you 8 BIRR (in Gonder you pay 11 birr)

 

1 Kilo Bananas  12-15 Birr

 

We shared a taxi (3 persons) to Gonder, that is 1500 Birr, this is not bad and has a big advantage: you can stop on your way to Gonder and can visit the GUZARA castle which is world heritage and well worth to see: the view unto the lake is wonderful and also the site itself; entrance is 50 birr. There’s a good guide, he knows a lot of stuff and speaks a decent English

 

 

 

Gonder:

 

This is NOT a really Must see-city; it’s no good place, in my opinion, only the castle is really worth to see.

 

There’s no need to take a guide, they charge 120-150 birr;  the entrance is 50 birr

 

1 night is enough there!

 

I overnight at Atse Bekaffa Hotel: 25 US per night for a single room; had a lot of flees and other bugs!!!

 

Near this hotel is a very good restaurant: Habesha Coffee Shop

 

The only thing to stop in Gonder is to rent a car with driver! We did this at the wonderful Tourist Information! There’s a very good manager there, where we discussed the possibility to go by private car to Axum (and first to Simien lodge). He recommended us the freelancer Mamoush! After all we have been driving around with this guy for 3 weeks(!). This cost you for the car (and fuel) 150 US per day!! It was the best thing we could do and was worth every penny!

 

We did with „our“ driver the whole north: Simien Mountains, Axum, Gheralta, Mekele, Lalibela)

 

Don’t forget in Gonder to visit  church Debre Berhan Selassie: because of the ceiling paintings!!

 

The drive from Gonder to Debark is remarkable

 

 

Simien Mountains

 

Park entry in Debark 100 Birr; office can not be easily seen, but it’s on the left of the main road. They speak a very good English. In Debark they can arrange everything; you can buy food and all stuff you need! A scout is obligatory; he is carrying  the usual AK 47. There’s plenty of food around the shops in town! Debark is one oft he most dirty towns I’ve every seen (in rainy season!)

 

Simien Lodge; wonderful house; a family room is in total 250 BIRR, breakfast is included. It‘s very cold there! In the evening everybody is sitting round an open chimney.The food is not bad!

 

Be aware, that if you are trekking there, you are NOT alone: there are living a lot of people along the trekking paths, the settlement is all around and there’s a lot of cattle there!

 

The geladas are easily to find, not far away from the lodge, they are used to people and are not afraid of man! The kids will show you the way to some; but as you have a guide/scout and so on, of course they will do this! With a car you can go to Chennek and further on! There are a lot of roads up there! So trekking is not very nice! Our driver told us, you can go almost to the base camp of Ras Dejen! To drive there is only a matter of money!

 

From Simien lodge to Chennek it will cost you by car 100 US!! And it is WORTH it!!! Spectacular view!  A big waterfall  is there! For the drive to this place and back by car, you need a whole day!

 

 

 

Axum:

 

Yeha-Hotel; very good with nice view from the stelae ; the food is so la la!

 

Don’t forget to visit Panteleon-monastery: going  up and down is wonderful! The view from top is incredible.

 

Guide for a whole day is 250 BIRR. If you take an „official“ guide, he will take 400 birr!

 

Temple of Yeha: wonderful surroundings, you should see this! – have a look at the so called LION-shaped mountain

 

There are many wonderful  landscapes on your way to Gheralta Lodge, one oft he best I have ever seen: it’s a mixture of Grand Canyon, Patagonia, Scotland and so on; you will see many birds!

 

Debre Damo:

On your way you will pass Debre Damo church: be sure to be fit, as you must climb up on a rope, almost 20 meters, that was quite an experience: the people managing the rope will of course help you going up and down!! As a matter of fact, they will pull you up, if you have no strength. 20 birr is the price: don’t pay any money before you are UP!! –Whatever the people downstairs tell you. Pay for the entrance to the church on top oft he hill!! The price is 150 birr. But ask first, if there is a service in the church, if it is so, they would not let you in, but they take of course your money!!!! In our case it was so, so we had a lot of troubles to get our money back!! Best, to give the money directly to the priest or to his helper!

 

Gheralta

Gheralta Lodge is a wonderful hotel ; we spent 3 days here, but you should stay longer; the landscape is extraordinary: we have visited all churches in the surrounding ; the food here is „Italiano“ and wonderful! There are a lot of table mountains and other fantastic rocky formations!

 

The church Peter & Paul was beautiful:  the rest oft he churches are not really highlights, but you should visit at least a few oft hem!

 

Atsbi Cluster ist an absolutely must!

 

The priests are almost a big disaster; but they all have now persons, who will open the churches for you, even when the priest is NOT there! We could visit all churches: there has always been a person there, who could open the doors!!

 

If you have car and driver, you must visit Abba Yohannis: you will need a whole day; it‘s best to do on your way from Gheralta lodge to Mekele: don’t plan to come back to Gheralta lodge

 

 

Mekele & Erta Ale:

 

Axum Hotel is not bad; I must say, the food is good. There’s is free internet in the lobby!

 

Near the hotel ist he office of GK Tours and a very helpful tourist office: i must mention the head of the tourist office, Mr Gebrehiwot Taddesse. E-Mail – hotgereth2007@yahoo.com – he was very helpful and has a lot of infos!

 

He can help you in all ways, especially, if you want go to Danakil depression: i was in contact with him, when I decided this January to visit Erta Ale and he told me immediately, that there was an assault, where 5 tourists died in an attack by terrorists (so I had to quit this trip)

 

But HE has the latest info and will help you to prepare your trip!!

 

You have to pay for Erta Ale per person 500 €, if you are lucky to join a group: Mr. Taddesse will see to that and can put you on a group!!!

 

If you want to got by yourself, that will cost you at least 2000 €

 

Lalibela:

 

I recommend Hotel Tukai Village, also Mr. Bill Clinton had an overnite here (without Monica)! The restaurant is good, but only a few meals; the rooms are very spacious. Every hotel organizes transport to he airport; it’s 70 Birr and less.

 

The bugs bites you get in the churches are terrible!! Especially women will have a very bad time there!

 

 

 

Do some of the churches near of Lalibela: at least Genata Maryam and Yemrehanna Kristos. Car and driver is necessary

 

 

 

Harar

A visit to the hyenas is an absolutely MUST, this is strange, but I will never forget this trip; I visited the hyenas twice because I was so excited ; you can feed them by your own hand, and it’s……whooow!

 

Expect to pay at least 150 birr for this remarkable adventure. The animals are strolling around a courtyard and they will touch you…..

 

Guides are already asking you for helping at the airport at Dire Dawa: if you go with them to Harar, that will save you time; but it’s very costly and you should bargain hard! For 3 days I paid 130 US (!)

 

The Belayneh Hotel is not a bad choice: 200 Birr night. They can organize everything. „Harar Ras Hotel“  was under construction

The town itself is world heritage; nice old city, good for  walking, don’t expect much; but you can feel, that the people are not very friendly with tourists. The main thing are the hyenas and from them you will see a lot!