Alternative routes to Lalibela, Bale Mountains & Guassa

Jacky and Yolande write:

An alternative road from Addis-Ababa to Lalibela :

This route is certainly the most beautiful to join Addis-Ababa to Lalibela but not the shorter in time. We travelled it from Magdala Hills to the South on 2009 and now on November 2015 from the South to the North. It crossed many beautiful landscapes far from the tourism rush, the first time, we met no tourist, the second, it was the same. There are 610 km including detours of 5 to 10 km and about 20 hours with many stops to take photos and to contemplate. We drove during 2 days but it seems to be better to take 3. There is petrol in Mukatori, Fetera, Alem-Ketema, Worelu, Tanta, Gashena ….. and anywhere near the residents but the price is a little bit higher !

The first day : Addis-Ababa to Mukatori by the main road (km 78), to Katcha (km 102), to Robi (km 114), to Lemi (km 120) via splendid Jemma valley, bridge on the Jemma river (km 134), Fetera (km 162), Alem-Ketema (km 178), Wenchit and Bisolo Rivers at the foot of the sumptuous Amba Weremo (km 194), Meragna (km 225), Degolo (km 263) and Worelu (km293) where we stay in the good and clean Gumitt Hotel (160 birrs for a double or twin and 90 for a single with toilets en suite).

The second day : Worelu to Segnogebeya (km 308), to Kabe at the foot of the marvellous Yewel Mountains (km 326), to Guguftu (km 326) where we join the road to Mekane-Selam on the left, to Segnogimba (km 350) then Tulawilia (km 367) where you turn right to Tenta (km 415) near for a visit of Magdala Hills, to Beshilo (km 445), to Wengel-Tena (km 473), Jita River (km 498), to Changoma (km 504) where you have to turn right, to Kone (km 537) and Gashena (km 549), then you follow the North road under construction to Lalibela (km 610).


An alternative road from Bale Mountains to Addis-Ababa :

After 5 days (October 25th) in the Bale Mountains NP, we decided to set out the 4×4 day excursion from Robe to the Wabe Shebelle Gorge as described in the Bradt, before our return to Adama via Asela, the day after. The first km on the Dinsho road are asphalted but afterwards, it began very difficult because the heavy rains. The panorama over the escarpment is just 1 or 2 km North of Gasera, it is a fantastic view on a large valley and a deep gorge. The descent is difficult and in bad condition because of the rainy season but very sumptuous during 16 km from the top to the bridge over the river. In this place, it is possible to walk along the Wabe Shebelle upstream or downstream. The people, Oromo and Somali, living in this area not accustomed to the tourism, are friendly and disinterested. They told us that the road to Adama is opened but they didn’t know the distance and the difficulties! So, we decided to set out this route. Gasera is at 55 km, the bridge at 71 km, the other side after a long and very beautiful ascent is at 107 km (we saw geladas in the cliffs 3 times). Then, we drive on a plateau with the Arsi Mountains in the distance on the left crossing Indetu (km 114), Sedika (km 136), Gena (km 153), Robi (km 170), Bulale (km 187), Diksis (km 195), Aribgebeya (km 213), Huruta (km 229), Dera on the Asela asphalt road (km 248) and Adama center (km 276). The drive was 9 hours with many stops on the two slopes of the gorge (3 hours as far as the river, then 6 hours from the river), including a puncture in the descent and a repairing in Robi (1 hour for these operations). The landscape after Indetu was not really interesting, except some sections around valleys above all near the Kalata and Wadicha rivers near Huruta. There is not tyre-repair or station before Robi (km 170).


Leaving Guassa Plateau :

After an interesting stay in Guassa Plateau, we’d like to follow our trip but we didn’t want back to the same way to Termabir. On the Bradt (6th edition) page 171 and on certain maps, there is a road from Mehal-Meda to Dessie, certainly via Worelu in the North direction and to Alem-Ketema in the West direction. Before our departure, I couldn’t find them on Google earth or Tracks 4 Africa and even on place with the local people thinking it is not possible by car. The first don’t exist and the second is only a project for the future, there are only improbable tracks for the farmers and their livestock for these directions. But it exists an interesting new gravel tracks (under construction in 2009 and now just open on October to the traffic) to join the main asphalt road in the town of Ataya North of Efeson. The surface is not easy, above all in the beginning after heavy rains, so it is necessary to have a 4×4 and drive carefully.

On the way between Guassa Community Lodge and Mehale-Meda, there is a branching cross-road on the right side, just near a small hill with a hut on the top and a piece of water at the foot. On October 12th, there is a fence but the guard opened it for us. At the beginning the road is narrow with an impressive and long descent (the views are very magnificent) crossing the villages of Kilkil, Segnogebeya, Zengadamidir and so on. No tourists in this area so the farmers are very very friendly and the children only surprised to meet white people, a real joy to travel in Ethiopia like in the past. There are 2 hours and a half to 3 hours including stops and 43 km from the high and impressive cliffs of Guassa Plateau to Ataya on the asphalt road.


News from Addis Ababa

Many thanks to AddisAdvisor for the following updates to the 7th edition:

Addis Light Rail

Both the East-West and North-South lines are now open. The two lines can be distinguished by colour: trains on the North-South line are Blue and White, while those on the East-West line are Green and White.

This East-West line goes from Ayat 15km out in the far eastern suburbs of the city, via Megananya, Haile Gebre Sellassie Avenue, Meskel Sq ,Lagare, Mexico Sq, to Tor Hiloch 5km west of city centre. See maps in new Bradt Guide p 158 159 or
138/9 where the railways are marked in a darker shade with dots in the
middle (but part is missing in square 5B). The East-West line passes many hotels, see 158 /9…..

Some of the station names are not as in the book. This is because station names were not all decided/published when the Bradt maps were finalised… and more stations were built than on the original planners map.

For example 158 2C station is not called Kasa South but Bambis Supermarket….

Tickets are bought outside each station from new orange coloured mini
shop nearby. You state your destination and get a single ticket at 2,
4, or 6 birr according to distance you are going.

The plan is for trains to run every 6 minutes but at the moment not all trains are built or running so you may have to wait up to 20 minutes.


The Mexican Family Restaurant, listed on p164, has closed. But the Claypot, listed on p165, has now relocated from Gerji to the premises formerly occupied by the Mexican Family Restaurant i.e. between Bambis and Olympia underpass, as shown on the map on p155, grid G8 labelled 29.

New hotels

Addis Ababa seems to gain a new hotel pretty well every month.

Here are 2 newish ones both at Atlas junction close to the budget Mr Martins (p159 4E in new Bradt guide maps).

Hometown Addis Hotel, small boutique hotel, 25 very nice rooms. Prices
start at $40. Close to restaurants and minibus route to Urael , Kasainches towards
city centre, or to Edna Mall area. or 00251

Washington Hotel. More upmarket $95 upwards. Tour company owners tell
me the standards are high. Info

Ethio Cycling Adventures, Addis Ababa

Levi Lawrence of Ethio Cycling Adventures writes:

We are a new outfit offering urban and rural bike rides in an around Addis Ababa, starting in October 2015. We will provide high quality bikes, hi-vis vests and helmets. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 10 participants, with experienced leaders at the front and back of each group, who also act as tour guides. We also provide on-road repairs if needed. Our tours include city landmarks, suburban rides, mountain bike trails, day and overnight regional rides, giving riders not only an adventurous recreational experience, but also an up close opportunity to interact with the real Ethiopia.

For further details, contact or 0929 343987

March 2015 trip report

E&M writes:

This is a great resource that I so appreciated when I was researching our trip to Ethiopia. We spent 33 days in this amazingly beautiful country (Dec/Jan 15), and wanted to add my notes in the hopes it might help others.

Trans National Airlines (TNA) We did not fly w Ethiopian Airlines, so TNA was great for us. We flew on it twice $50 each way from Bahir Dar. The first flight saved us the 9 hour bus ride from Addis. The 2nd flight we drove from Lalibela to Bahir Dar and then flew from there back to Addis, saving us the 2 day bus ride from Lalibela. Make sure you confirm flight times, as our information was a 12pm flight, so a 5am departure from Lalibela to ensure we would get there on time. The actual flight time was 3pm.

Addis – Lots of construction, but when the light rail is finished it will be so much easier to get around the city. We were not there long enough to get a grasp of the buses and the taxis never seemed willing to go below 150 birr, so we did a lot of walking. The Caravan is a great place to stay for $50-60 US per night, and includes free airport shuttle. Fairly centrally located with great restaurants nearby, plus the hotel restaurant is quite good, too. The employees are great, each time we returned we felt like we were meeting old friends again. Addis Eats Walking Tour – great food tour that highlights 3 restaurants, 2 coffee shops and a juice bar. We did it on one of our last days in Ethiopia and wondered if it was worth the $s. It definitely is! We had a great time, and enjoyed the best Injero and Tibbs.

Ethio Travel andTours – Great company and great experience with them. We met with them the first day after exchanging emails earlier, spent @ 2hr firming up our itinerary. We only booked 2 tours with them – 4 day Simien trek and The Danakil, both were excellent. They offered great logistical suggestions, such as the TNA flights which saved us time and money. Several times we called them on our trip to arrange transport and we found them responsive and helpful.

Other suggestions ETT recommended included – starting the Simien trek at the waterfall and then hiking the first day to Gich. This allowed an extra night at Chenek, which we preferred over spending the first night at Sankabar. Also, scheduling a vehicle at Chenek and driving to Axum, rather than going back to Gondar. The drive to Axum is long with many switchbacks, but stunning scenery. After hiking in the Simiens, the drive allows you to look back up into the Mtns on this drive. We found everyone we dealt with at ETT professional and helpful.

ATMs – prior to arrival this was the most conflicting information. Perhaps we were just very lucky, but we never had a problem getting birr from the ATMs. We used them in Addis, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, and Mekele. There was a 4000 birr max per transaction, but we could do multiple transactions. At the time of our ETT booking (Dec 5, 2014) they were not able to accept credit card payment. But they drove us to the Hilton in Addis and were able to get the birr for payment.

Bahir Dar – we really liked this pleasant tree lined city bordering Lake Tana. We only stayed 2 nights since we had committed to the Simien trek, but definitely would have stayed longer. Stayed at B&B The Annex – a small 4 room B&B with a beautiful little courtyard in the center where we ate breakfast and enjoyed the birds. A great restaurant on the South Shore of the lake, can not remember the name, but also had @ 100 beautiful pelicans nearby.

Gondar – enjoyed the castles. Three Girls restaurant – delicious food.

Simiens – Our understanding – the guides are randomly assigned by the Park Headquarters. We were very lucky to have Davey Yohannes assigned as our guide, and would recommend him. We are not clear whether you can request a specific guide ahead of time. This is a beautiful trek. Itinerary suggestions above. It is definitely cold, proper gear is essential. Mid Dec we woke up to ice/frost. We were traveling for too long to carry our own gear, but it would be a consideration for another time.

Axum – Africa House is a decent place to stay. Had our best spitz across the street from the Africa House.The small Archeological museum (at the Stella site) is nicely done, with very knowledgeable staff.

Loved the Tigray area – especially the Geralta Lodge. Well worth the splurge!

Mekele – probably the only non interesting town for us, but perhaps it was due to just spending 4 days in the Danakil. Atse Yohannes – upgrade and request the balcony – its old and tired, but ok for a quick stop before and after The Danakil and convenient to the ETT office in Mekele.

The Danakil – GO! It is amazing!!

Lalibela – lots already written – the churches are amazing. We had read lots of warnings on the hassle from the children. Someone has been working very hard to change that image – we were greeted with “welcome to Lailabela’. Yes, they would join you walking, but they did not hassle us.

Harar – a long 9 hour bus ride, stumbling into town at the edge of the massive market, arriving at a dumpy ‘recommend’ hotel (The Belayneh) that did not have water, and pretty filthy … The next morning, stumbling around in the old city, trying to locate the Cultural guesthouses. Finally asked someone and Sherif took us to the unmarked gray door – Zubeyda – to walk into a lovely courtroom with 3 rooms. It changed the entire dynamic of the city. Spent the next 2 days touring with Sherif, the camel market, the spice market, the cloth merchants. Highly recommend a guide to really enjoy the city. Just negotiate the daily charge ahead of time.

Ok, so that is a long post. Hope you find it helpful. We truly enjoyed our trip and definitely hope to return!

April 2015 Trip Report

Natalia writes:

Addis Ababa: Biruk Bed and Breakfast was excellent. Much better than expected, excellent owners and comfortable room.

Correction to the Bradt guide: if looking for Linda’s restaurant at the Juventus Club, it is important to go up the RIGHT hand steps on Meskel Square’s terrace (facing the terrace), NOT the left hand steps. We wandered for ages!

By road from Addis to Hossana via the Butajira road: beautiful, but a good 5 hours in private car because of the traffic in southeastern Addis. Lovely area.

Public bus ran from Hosaina to Awassa via Alaba Kulito, left when full around 9ish, 5 hours on a very pretty road through Angecha.

Hawassa: Lakeview Hotel is a new hotel that was fantastic value. Located next to the Oasis hotel, on the road to the Lewi. Very smart, new rooms (great beds, best bathroom in ET, fridge, spotty Wifi, balconies onto lake) start at US$22.

Yirga Alem: Excellent splashout with a stay at Aregash Lodge. This is a very special place, and while not cheap ($US70 for 1 person, $US80 for two, buffet meals perhaps 230 birr), it delivered on the value with very spacious, well appointed rooms, excellent bathrooms, extremely good service, and high quality food. I’ve been in lots of overhyped “ecolodges,” and this one truly delivered. Took the minibus from the bus station in Awassa to Yirgalem, and it’s easy to get a bajaj there up to the lodge or call the lodge. Bajaj may not be able to do the last 500m. Pretty isolated spot.

Skybus from Awassa to Addis was easy and smooth, if grubby. Booked one day ahead, 167 birr, booking in Awassa at the Alliance Building opposite Time Cafe. Seat maps bore no resemblance to actual bus, but at least there was just one seat per person. They gave out water on the bus, one bathroom stop in the bush. Departed Awassa about 6:40 am, were in Meskel Square by 12:15 pm.