Addis Ababa and Bishoftu hotel reviews

Emma writes:
I’ve been in Ethiopia for a few months – just staying in Addis Ababa and Bishoftu/Debre Zeyit – so I thought I’d do a bit of a review of the places I’ve stayed.
Salayish Park & Lodge – Debre Zeyit
I loved this place. I went for a few days and have ended up staying about 3 weeks in total. It is just out of Debre Zeyit (also called Bishoftu) which is about 1 hours drive south of Addis. At the moment, the trip is annoying, because the road is really busy. So, it’s better to go early in the morning (around 7am). There is a new highway being built though, which should be open sometime in 2013, and that will cut the trip down to an easy 30 mins.Salayish has about 5 thatched huts in a beautiful garden, and one hilltop room which is bigger and has views over the lake. The place is really peaceful and unpretentious. The rooms cost around 380 birr a night , and I think the hilltop room costs around $80 a night. The huts are basic, but very clean, and they are spaced around the garden so that you get a nice sense of privacy. The food is good, although the menu is small – they could really expand it.

They have a nice little menagerie of animals – a horse, goat, chickens, cows, turkey etc etc as well as a heap of birdlife in the garden. They also have a traditional distillery where they make tej (a type of honey wine) and araki. Sitting around a campfire at night, listening to the crickets and drinking tej is probably the highlight of my stay in Ethiopia (so far!)

One quibble I have with the Bradt Guide description of this place is that it calls it one of the most ‘peculiar’ spots in Ethiopia.  I really didn’t find it peculiar, just rustic.  I met another traveller at Salayish who said to me that she liked how Bradt called it “peculiar” because it put other people off going there and she had it all to herself.  (Hmmm…not sure that was quite the aim of the writer of the guide!!)
Elame Resort – Debre Zeyit
This little resort is on the same lake as Salayish (Lake Babogaya), although it doesn’t have lake views. I didn’t stay here, but I looked in the cabins and talked to people who did stay here and they really liked it. The cabins are spaced around a lovely garden with lots of quirky little statues, and the whole compound is very quiet. I think the rooms cost around 600 birr a night. The food there is awesome, because at the moment they have a chef from the USA working there and training the staff. I think I had the best roast chicken of my life there, followed up by strawberry sorbet. Yum, yum…I highly recommend the food!
Lisek – Debre Zeyit
Lisek is a large, new resort that has almost finished construction and will be opening in the next month or so.  It is across a little lane-way from Elame and about a 200 metre walk from Salayish.  I met the owner and have done a tour of the place.  It is MASSIVE.  Heaps of rooms, all cascading down a steep hillside, with a big swimming poo.  There’s a lovely eating area at the bottom that goes out over the lake. I don’t know how much the rooms will cost – someone told me but I forget.  I think around $100 a night. Even if you can’t afford the rooms, it would be a nice place to go have dinner or a swim.
Mr Martin’s Cozy Place – Addis
I stayed here for a few weeks when I first arrived in Addis. I stayed in one of the larger family rooms, which was really good value at around 380 birr a night (sorry, I can’t remember the exact price!) The room I was in had 3 beds, a sitting area, and a fridge. Even though it faced onto the main courtyard it was extremely quiet. I also stayed for a few nights in one of the smaller rooms, which was next to the communal bathroom. This wasn’t such a great experience because the sound-proofing wasn’t very good and every time someone went into the bathroom it felt like they were walking into my room! But, I am an extremely light sleeper, so most people probably wouldn’t have a problem with this.The staff at Mr Martin’s are really friendly, and the cleaning staff were good (I had the cleaner in my room quite often whilst I wasn’t there and nothing went missing). The compound itself is very quiet, because it’s back off the road, down a lane-way. It’s very secure as well.

The main drawback for me was the location. It’s out in Bole and feels a bit like staying in the suburbs – not much around, although there are a few nice places to eat in the area. I recommend Oh Canada, and also a nice little Lebanese place whose name I can’t remember. But, you get there by walking out of Mr Martin’s, turning right at the end of the lane and walking down through the intersection. The restaurant is one of the first buildings you pass after crossing the intersection.


Itegue Taitu – Addis
I’ve been at Taitu for the past month and have stayed in a few different rooms, all in Block A. Apart from the filthy bathrooms and maids who steal stuff, this place is great. Block A is set back a bit from the old building and the rooms on the top floor are really quite nice – apart from the bathrooms. They have cupboards and bed-side tables in the rooms, and some have nice views out over the garden. I find block A to be very quiet, so if you are a light sleeper this would be a good option. The rooms are around 345 birr a night.

The patio area at the Taitu is a lovely place just to hang out, and I really like the Piazza area because it has a bit of atmosphere, and some nice little cafes.

Just be aware though, that the maids at the Taitu do occasionally steal, and that complaining to the management isn’t going to help much. My solution has been to never let the maid into my room without me being there watching the whole time. Most of my friends at Taitu do the same thing – the maids will often ask for my key to clean my room but I don’t let them have it. That has worked for me. (I don’t mean to say that all the maids steal, or that you’ll lose everything you own…but it is an issue.)

Suri Country with South Expedition Africa

Dietmar from Germany writes:

In October 2012 I stayed 4 weeks in Surma area around Kibish and Tulgit. Surma is the official Ethiopian umbrella term for three ethnic groups in South Ethiopia: the Suri people, the Mursi people and the Mekan people. Very often the name ‘Surma’ is used for the Suri people as well, but this is wrong, a Suri would never call himself a ‘Surma’. The Suri people are semi-nomadic cattle herders and live on the west side of the Omo River in the southwestern part of Ethiopia.

This area is still much undeveloped, only unpaved roads lead to the heart of the Suri settlements: Kibish. There are two roads from Mizan to Kibish: the old road via Bebeka Coffee Plantation and Dima, or the new Waji-Maji road via Tum and Koka. From time to time the roads are blocked because of rain, so you should better ask in advance which road is open. Beginning of October only the old road was passable.
Suri people have a cattle-centered culture, the wealth of a family is measured by the number of animals owned. Usually the animals are not eaten unless a big ceremony takes place or a family member is sick. The animals are used for milk and blood. The Suri tribe is used to conflict, like for example the constant conflict with the neighbouring Nyangatom (Bume) tribe over land and cattle. In October 2012 however, the Suri and the Bume tribe lived together in peace. The Suri culture demands that the men are trained as warriors as well as cattle herders. Stick-fighting events like the ‘Zegine’ (or ‘Saginay’, also commonly known as Donga, the Amharic name for the stick fights) take place to train boys and young men and also to allow them to meet women.
However, Kalashnikovs are omnipresent and threaten to destabilize their society. Many ceremonies like weddings or funeral celebrations (Kilonga) look more like a military ceremony these days with a lot of Kalashnikovs and many gunshots. Even the stick-fighting events are accompanied with gunshots, sometimes deadly in case too much local beer was involved. As a result the Ethiopian government banned the stick fights, which now have to take place secretly and without presence of tourists.
In four weeks I only met a handful of tourists. This area is still quite untouched, and there are plenty of opportunities to see and experience the traditional life of the Suri tribe. The Suri people love to sing and dance, especially in full moon nights. If you are lucky you can see scarification, blood drinking ceremonies and other traditional rituals of the Suri people. All in all a wonderful experience.
If you are looking for a flexible, reliable and trustworthy company South Expedition Africa could be your choice. Especially if you are looking for off the beaten tracks or a tour operator who supports photo expeditions. The owner Nathaniel Taffere, helped always in any possible way to create a perfect logistic and to get the best local guides. The driver Gecho was great, a wonderful travel companion and advisor, and always driving very carefully and responsible. In summary, I had an amazing time and I would like to recommend to anybody planning to visit Ethiopia, especially people who are interested in photo expeditions and indigenous tribes.

Forty Springs Hotel, Arba Minch

Oliver Ryan, the owner of this new resort in Arba Minch, writes:

Forty Springs Hotel has 16 bedrooms with double beds which can function as single or double room, each having on-suite shower and toilet. There are four twin bed rooms. There are two hotel apartments – bedroom, sitting room and small kitchen; for guests who like to prepare their own food, and for longer staying visitors.

Rates: Rooms are 20€uro (26$) for single and double rooms, and 25€ (33$) for twin beds and apartment.

There is a pleasant outside seating area for meals and drinks.

Reception, lounge and restaurant are done in a modified traditional (Konso) style.

The kitchen prepares both Ethiopian and foreign food.

There is WIFI internet access.

Our hotel is a place of relaxation and refreshment for visitors and local people. Refreshment and food can be enjoyed either in the restaurant or while sitting in the open air.

Contact us at:

Sheicha, Arba Minch.

Reception: 046 8812138

Office: 046 8812153

Tarikwa 0912 063076

Addis Ababa:

Oliver 0911 43532


Link Ethiopia

Trixia Hayne writes: 

We were in Ethiopia working with Link Ethiopia (, a small British charity that aims to link schools in Ethiopia with partner schools in the UK, with a view to both educational support and cultural exchange.  The charity also supports schools directly through small-scale projects, and arranges for volunteers to teach English communication skills, as well as IT and (occasionally) PE; placements start from one month.

Lalibela & surrounds

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

page 322                  Map This isn’t to scale, which is fine if you’re fit – but could be a problem if not!  The new hotels top left, including the Cliff Edge, are about 1km from the shops, rather than the 300m or so that the map implies.  I’d be happy to redraw it if it’d help (we’ve already done it in part).  It’d probably justify a 2pp map as a result.


page 325                   Getting there and away The hotel charged us 70 birr each way to/from the airport – so US$4 rather than US$4.50.


Page 327                  Top Twelve Hotel Opened in November 2012, the Top Twelve is an unusual red-block construction with massive wooden doors.  Spacious, modern and spotlessly clean when we stayed, its rooms are notable for superb views across the valley, attractive wood and leather furniture, and vividly coloured throws that give a strong sense of place. US$55 twin, B&B.


Page 330                  There are now three banks in town; both the Commercial Bank and the Dashen (next to the Aman Hotel) have ATMs.


Page 331                  Tour practicalities – I’m sure you’ve heard this from all quarters, but just in case, the cost of a faranji ticket to Lalibela’s rock churches is now US$50, or almost 1,000 birr, per person.  Ow!  All churches are in theory open to the public 12.00 and 2-5pm; services are generally 6-8am and 12-2pm.


New toilets are being built by the World Bank near the northwest cluster.


Page 337                  Yemrehanna Kristos Entrance is 150 birr pp (US$8.50).  A 4×4 to the church cost us 1,400 birr (US$80), and could take up to 7 people, plus a guide and the driver.  The steep walk up to the monastery was paved/stepped a few years ago, so no more problems with loose rocks etc.  There are toilets on the way up, with new ones being built, again by the World Bank.  In the car park at the bottom there’s a handful of souvenir stalls.

Gondar & Simien updates

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:; mob: 251 0911 404792; email: