Ankober Palace Lodge review

We were a bit disappointed with this hotel. The cheapest daily rate for a double room is USD85 per night including breakfast (the price in the Bradt Guide is USD 35/45). It was our honeymoon; so we were a bit disappointed to find out all rooms have two single beds and not at least one double bed. The rooms are simple but nice. Also, they had quite a few guests during our stay and placed them right next to us, although there were other rooms available not so close to us.

The place is basically run by two members of staff who do everything from reception to waitressing, reception and acting as guides (guided tours and coffee ceremonies are charged separately though, and are not particularly cheap).

On the first night, we were greeted by the owner, who gave us a lecture on how he is just breaking even (which I doubt), and how he wanted to help the community by setting up the hotel where the ancient Menelik Palace was. On the same night, the chicken we had ordered was virtually inedible. It was quite embarrassing, as we had to leave it right in front of owner (he was eating with us).

On the second day, though, we went for a walk to town, only to find lots of children asking for money, a young boy who appointed himself our guide, until we told him were didn’t need one and were not going to give him any money. There is no indication that Ankober Palace interacts with the locals as most guests do not even leave the hotel and a security guard by the front door does not allow locals to come in (though the staff are at least employed from amongst the local population).

To complete the experience, their menu is really quite expensive, comparing unfavourably with restaurants of a similar quality in Addis. Most disappointing of all, their ‘international’ food is practically inedible. After ordering two overcooked and impossibly tough meat dishes, we started ordering local food, which was actually very good (and much cheaper than the international dishes, though still rather more than one would find in most Ethiopian restaurants). Having said that, there are only 3 local dishes available in the menu and 2 of them are vegetarian.

The hotel offers guided tours and visits, for which one pays separately. My husband did a trek that cost 650 Birr, in which one of the two principal members of staff acted as the guide. On day 3, we paid 150 Birr to visit Aliyo Amba on the market day. In the hotel description it said “Drive 14km by car to Aliyo Amba to visit the market etc…”. When we booked, we thought it was a bit cheap and asked if the ‘car’ was included, which we were told it was. On the day, the guide/restaurant lady/member of staff told us to be ready at 7am and meet her at the gate. It turned out that the ‘car’ was the local bus, which was actually full and didn’t stop for us. Luckily, some guests who were staying at the hotel and had their own 4WD gave us a lift to Aliyo Amba. We did the market thing (our lady guide was very nice and helpful) and took the local bus back to the hotel, which was NOT included in the 150 Birr we had paid and was 25 Birr per head for the 3 of us (lady guide, myself and my husband). The 150 Birr apparently covered her fee – a not unreasonable rate at all and far cheaper than the 650 Birr option the prior day, but not at all clear in the guidance notes and price list.

At the market, we bought mangos and papaya. The hotel kept running out of juice, so we thought it would be nice to get our own fruit for them to use to prepare juice for us. Once back at the Lodge, we realised that they only offer papaya juice because papaya is much cheaper than mango. When we asked the kitchen staff to make the mango juice for us, they didn’t know how to do it and I ended up doing it myself in the kitchen, which was actually worth it as the mango was really nice and sweet.

Members of staff were very nice to us all the time, the place has a fantastic view, and is peaceful and quiet (apart from the couple with a baby placed in the room next to ours on day two of our four-day visit).

Debora Chobanian

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