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
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
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!!!!
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
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
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!
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!
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 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 – email@example.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 €
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
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!