Bryan & Judy Pready write
First part (days 1 to 16, to Gonder) prebooked through Tesfa Tours http://www.tesfatours.com/ ; after that independent travel, mainly using local buses.
A selection of our photos can be seen here:
|12||17 Jan||Axum||Ye Yared Zema Hotel: Stellae|
|13||18 Jan||Axum||Ye Yared Zema Hotel. Stellae and church.|
|14||19 Jan||Gondar||Flight to Gondar: Fasil Lodge; visited castle. Procession in afternoon. Tesfa guide: Tamerat|
|15||20 Jan||Gondar||Fasil Lodge; Timket celebrations from very early morning|
|16||21 Jan||Gondar||Fasil Lodge; planning our own itinerary|
|17||22 Jan||Bahir Dahr||Minibus to Bahir Dahr. Blue Nile Hotel, booked via
Booking.com (USD35 inc breakfast).
|18||23 Jan||Bahir Dahr||Blue Nile Hotel: Boat trip to islands, peninsula and monasteries.|
|19||24 Jan||Bahir Dahr||B&B The Annexe; (USD45 inc breakfast) This B&B only has 3 rooms and is often fully booked. Quiet residential area. Originally was holiday home of SwissEthiopian family, who live in Lausanne. Bookings by email are handled by them in Switzerland and the B&B is run by family members who live in Bahir Dahr. Attractive garden with lots of birds. Excellent breakfasts.|
|20||25 Jan||Bahir Dahr||B&B The Annexe: Blue Nile Falls|
|21||26 Jan||Bahir Dahr||B&B The Annexe. Walked to Derg Memorial, saw hippos in river near bridge. In Bahir Dahr, we enjoyed several good fish meals at the Lakeshore Resort. Good food, excellent location and pleasant service.|
|22||27 Jan||Lalibela||Minibus (ETB300 each), then shared 4×4 (ETB300), to Lalibela. Lalibela Hotel booked via Booking.com (USD37 inc breakfast)|
|23||28 Jan||Lalibela||Lalibela Hotel; rock churches|
|24||29 Jan||Lalibela||Lalibela Hotel; more rock churches|
|25||30 Jan||Lalibela||Lalibela Hotel; mule ride to St Mary’s Church (arranged through hotel) Manager of Lalibela Hotel, Indie, was very helpful with advice, arranging mule ride, and helping to get a very good deal for our Danakil trip.|
|26||31 Jan||Makele||Private transfer to Makele, arranged through ETT as part of Danakil package. Yohannes Hotel ETT Manager in Makele, Abeba, is very efficient, pleasant and helpful.|
|27||1 Feb||Erte Ale||ETT Tour: Makele Dodom Erte Ale volcano (camp) Large group with only one guide and an assistant. Not impressed with guide on trek to volcano; he went off quite fast, leaving lots of stragglers behind. On the other hand, drivers and police escort were pleasant and helpful. Volcano was impressive well worth it.|
|28||2 Feb||Abaala||Dodom Abaala (ETT guesthouse)|
|29||3 Feb||Hamdela||Abaala Behthale Hamedela (camp): Salt lake at sunset.|
|30||4 Feb||Makele||Ragad (Asebo) mine Dallol, Lake Assal (Absolutely stunning landscapes; can’t imagine there is anywhere else on earth quite like this) Makele, Yohannes Hotel|
|32||5 Feb||Addis||Free transfer to airport by ETT. Flight to Addis; Zeist Lodge. Aladin Restaurant went because we could walk there from Zeist Lodge but not impressed.|
|32||6 Feb||Addis||Zeist Lodge: La Mandoline Restaurant certainly the best restaurant we visited in Ethiopia. Decided to visit again.|
|33||7 Feb||Addis||Zeist Lodge Booked bus to Bale Robe for following day from Mercato, assisted by taxi driver, without whom we’d have never found the right place to buy the ticket.|
|34||8 Feb||Bale Robe||Early morning bus to Bale Robe. Got on wrong bus at Mercato but then helped by another passenger to find the right one; not easy in complete darkness. Bekele Molla Hotel. Moved after 1 night. Hotel very run down. Broken furniture, no running water, smelly bathroom. (ETB 250, breakfast not included)|
|35||9 Feb||Bale Robe||Siko Mendo Hotel. Clean, modern 3storey hotel, hot water shower. Dusty because of airport construction traffic using dirt road in front of hotel. (ETB 400, including breakfast.) Walking tour with guide from National Park HQ, Abubakar Adem mountain nyala, reedbuck and warthog. No alcohol at hotel so went to restaurant near roundabout where we received a warm welcome, good traditional food and cold beer.|
|Bale Robe||Siko Mende Hotel. Tour with minibus and NP guide, Abubeker Adem, to Sanetti Plateau and beyond. Ethiopian wolves and colobus monkeys.|
|Hawassa||Minibus and bus, via Shashemene to Hawassa, Lake View Hotel. First night in first floor room above bar. Very noisy until late so moved to second floor on other side of hotel; much quieter. Large, comfortable rooms with pleasant balconies.|
|Hawassa||Lake View Hotel Explored along lakeside|
|Hawassa||Lake View Hotel: Fish market (ETB 40 entrance, ETB 100 guide, separate receipts issued by fishermen’s and
|Hawassa||Lake View Hotel: Eating: Dolce Vita didn’t impress, most items on the menu weren’t available. Venezia: went
twice, first time good but the second time the boss messed up our order and then tried to blame the kitchen staff! “What a Burger” good new burger place, run by a young Ethiopian who has lived in the USA. New Italian
ice cream place, also started serving pasta on the day we left, diagonally across from Dolce Vita.
|Dilla||Bus to Dilla: Delight Hotel|
|Dilla||Delight Hotel Prehistoric rock carvings and villages, Wechemo district, tour by bus and on foot with local guide, Abrahalign Mengesha, from Gedeo Zone tourism office.|
|Dilla||Delight Hotel Quiet day, after minor injury previous evening for which I received treatment at Unity Medium Clinic, a short walk from the hotel.|
|Dilla||Delight Hotel Stellae; tour by bus and on foot with
|Yabello||Bus to Yabello. Tried Green Hotel (now “Pension”) but only rooms with shared showers and toilet so went across road to Yabello Hawi Hotel (ETB300 ensuite with
“instant” shower) Evening meals at Yabello Motel.
|Yabello||Yabello Hawi Hotel|
|Konso||Bus to Konso. Not easy to find, doesn’t go from bus station. Were told it left every day at 8 a.m. so went at
7:30. Bus eventually came at 9:15 and finally left Yabello at 11:15. New Konso Edget Hotel (No restaurant; ate at Konso Edget Hotel. No internet cafe and no WiFi, used internet cafe at Konso Development Association)
|Konso||New Konso Edget Hotel: Museum, local market and visit to Konso village without official guide. We were invited in and guided round by a local man who teaches physics in a local secondary school, a really good experience.|
|Konso||New Konso Edget Hotel. Tour to local villages by bajaj with guide from Konso Tourism Office but wasn’t as good as yesterday’s unofficial guide.|
|Arbore||Tour by minibus to south, with local guide Bereket Tekel. Walked to see fishing. Camped in village (tent, mattresses and bedding hired from community) Camping ETB200 per person, plus ETB100 for guard.|
|Turmi||Mango community camp site (Tent and bedding provided by guide) Camping ETB150 per person. Hamer village visit on foot from camp site with local guide, Oïta, at sunset. Excellent visit; relaxed; welcomed into homes.|
|Turmi||Omerate in morning by minibus. Visited Sambura village (Dasenach). Expensive for very short visit! (ETB 1300 in total) and not very interesting. Afternoon; tried to see bulljumping in village near Turmi. Saw preliminaries but ceremony rained off by heavy thunderstorm. Mango community camp site. Had to wade across river which had been completely dry when we left. Used double bedroom, with ensuite shower because our tent had been flattened by the thunderstorm! Very impressed with Mango it’s well looked after and the people there are extremely
helpful and welcoming.
|Konso||Original plan had been to go to Jinka but we decided to spend the morning drying out our clothes and around the the camp site before returning to Konso. Kanta Lodge (No power or water at New Edget Hotel)|
|Arba Minch||Zebib Pension Recommended by our guide, Bereket Tekel. An excellent choice. Weather was warm, so we chose a room in the block facing the courtyard, which had a window at the front and door onto a small balcony at the back, rather than in the block behind, where rooms only have a door and window at the front. (BTB700) Lunch at Tourist Hotel pleasant gardens, including tame dikdik, cold draught beer. Evening meal at Swayne’s Lodge not good, fish cooked to cinder.|
|Arba Minch||Zebib Pension Boat tour full day (ETB2500 for two, inc NP entry, boat, guide, bajaj, scout) Hippos, crocs, zebra, gazelles, baboons, fish eagles, pelicans, goliath heron. Evening to Paradise Lodge by bajaj (road tarmaced all the way now) in search of working ATM. Place very quiet, beautiful views from restaurant terrace.|
|56||1 Mar||Arba Minch||Zebib Pension Dorze by bus (ETB20) Met by local guide, Freo (he’d been tipped off by phone that two farangi were coming!) who made sure that we got off at the right place. Very interesting tour, especially seeing how false banana is prepared and eaten, Bajaj to market at Chencha. Late lunch back at Tourist Hotel. Better evening meal at Swaynes, possibly because they had a group staying..|
|57||2 Mar||Arba Minch||Zebib Pension Sunrise then breakfast at Swaynes, while watching a family of baboons and three warthogs. Bekele Mola for lunch and dinner, which has better terrace, food and service than Swayne’s. More popular with locals.|
|58||3 Mar||Ziway||6 a.m. bus to Shashemene, then minibus. Haile Resort|
|59||4 Mar||Ziway||Haile Resort Lake trip to island. Interesting village but church closed because priest away for bishop’s funeral.|
|60||5 Mar||Ziway||Haile Resort Good lunch, with bottle of Rift Valley Merlot at the winery restaurant.|
|61||6 Mar||Ziway||Haile Resort Another lazy day, sorting travel and bookings, and another lunch at the winery restaurant.|
|62||7 Mar||Addis||Minibus to Addis; left without being full! Long delay because of accident involving 3 trucks. YeAfoli International Hotel New hotel (opened late in 2015). Went here on recommendation of Zeist Lodge, because they were full. Good value; booked USD75 room though Booking.com and were upgraded to a larger USD100 room. Good location nearer to Bole Road than Zeist Lodge. Large, comfortable, wellequipped room and bathroom. Only place in Ethiopia where we saw kettle, cups and teabags provided,|
|63||8 Mar||Harar||Free transfer from hotel to Selam bus to Harar. Winta
Hotel (Tried to book Harar Ras Hotel by phone but was
told it was full) Further from walled town but very pleasant atmosphere at this familyrun hotel. The Manager, Daniel Berhe, is very helpful. Excellent breakfasts; most evening meals at Harar Ras
|64||9 Mar||Harar||Winta Hotel Tour of walled city on foot with local guide, Solomon. Feeding Hyenas after sunset.|
|Harar||Winta Hotel Trip in Peugeot 404 taxi to camel market at
Babile, “valley of marvels” and Koromi village.
|Harar||Winta Hotel Explored more of old town. Offered beers on house by Daniel when he saw us playing Scrabble downstairs.|
|Addis||Selam bus to Addis. Lunch stop: thought we’d ordered pasta but got roast chicken and chips. Really excellent! Shame we didn’t have time to properly relax and enjoy it! YeAfoli International Hotel Same room, at same price as previous visit. La Mandoline restaurant for birthday treat.|
|Addis||YeAfoli International Hotel Cathedral museum (good), then went to Ethnographic Museum but was closed for refurbishment; not sure for how long.|
|Addis||YeAfoli International Hotel Red Martyrs Museum, interesting reminded us of Cambodia, then shopping for gifts. Hotel restaurant is good appears to be used by locals as well as hotel guests. Talked to hotel owner, who is also its architect about the hotel and some of the ideas he’s got from working in other countries.|
|Free transfer from hotel to airport. Return flight to London|
We used local buses and minibuses most of the time. Information in the Bradt guide is generally accurate and helpful, though it was useful to check out the detail the day before, and to buy tickets, where possible for early morning departures, which tend to leave soon after dawn. Later in the day, they generally wait until they are full before leaving. Unlike in some other countries, there never seemed to be any competition between buses going to the same destination; one would fill up and leave, and then another would take over. Some towns (e.g. Shashemene) have more than one bus station, and, in one place, Yabello, the bus didn’t leave from the “bus station” that is marked on the map in the Bradt guide (a yard next to the stadium).
Because buses only leave when they are full it is often extremely difficult to board a bus anywhere along its route. Buses are not allowed to carry standing passengers, a rule that is enforced by traffic police who lurk along the main roads. It is noticeable that buses do pile on extra passengers once they turn off onto side roads where the drivers know that there is little chance of being caught.
Road accidents are common, though we didn’t see any involving buses. We did see the aftermath of a headon collision between a minibus and a truck, which must have been fatal for the front seat passengers of the minibus.
Bus stations are usually very large yards which appear disorganised but the buses or minibuses for each destination gather in the same spot. We found it useful to check this out the day before, when we weren’t burdened with our bags. Young men often hang around bus stations, offering their services as porters, guides and “seat bookers”. We usually declined their offers but, once or twice we did use them to track down a ticket office or help us find the right bus.
We used a lot of local guides along the way, starting with the young lad who showed the the area around Gheralta Lodge. He was the son of two of the Lodge staff and knew the area and its people very well. Just the sort of guide we like not necessarily an expert but someone who is interested in local wildlife, able to introduce you to local people, show you how they live, point out interesting sights and respond to your questions.
Most of the guides that we found were good. Some were able to organise longer trips and transport. The best of these was Bereket Tekel who we used for our trip to the south from Konso. He came to find us at our hotel, having been tipped of by the receptionist, and we must admit that we were, at first, quite wary. There’s no mention in the Bradt guide of being able to arrange such a trip from Konso and the lack of an internet connection there meant we had no other way of checking out what he was telling us.
Having mulled it over for a couple of days while we visited the villages around Konso, we accepted his proposal and are very glad we did. We had an enjoyable time travelling by minibus, and walking and camping in the villages. Bereket, the driver, Yaziallam, and his assistant, Tesfalla, made a great team and the local guide in Turmi from the Hamar community, OÏta, was also excellent.
Finding local guides isn’t usually a problem, though deciding whether to use them can be. In some places, you have no option, and in these places you don’t have a choice either, you take whoever’s turn it is. This was the case in Omorate, where we had our worst
experience. The guy showed no real interest, he just wanted to do it as quickly as possible. He didn’t respond to any of our questions. The whole thing was very expensive but I doubt if much of the money went to either the villagers or the boatmen. We expressed our concerns to Bereket but he obviously felt powerless to do anything about it.
Of the museums that we visited, we enjoyed:
● The Ethnological Museum in Addis. We’d hoped to go back for a second visit but we were told it was closed for refurbishment.
● The National Museum in Addis basement is excellent, rest is hardly worth looking at.
● Red Terror Museum in Addis brought back memories of Phnom Penh and the
● The Cathedral Museum in Addis perhaps the best display of church artifacts that we saw.
● The museum in Lalibela which is part of the the community centre, just along the road from the Lalibela Hotel. Two large rooms, the first about the churches, based on recent archeological work. The second is a very good ethnological museum. It’s unfortunate that this museum appears to get few visitors; it really is worth visiting.
● The museum at Ura Kidane Mehret monastery on the Zege peninsula in Lake Tana
has a very good display of church artifacts.
● Konso museum, across the road from the Kanta Lodge. Again, this museum doesn’t appear to be on the main tourist trail; plenty stay at the Kanta Lodge but I didn’t see anyone walking across there or even being brought over in their 4x4s.
Finally, the one we wouldn’t recommend is the church museum in Axum. Dismal. Dusty objects behind dirty glass, including a lot of ancient books but you can only look at their covers. And it’s more expensive and most other museums.
ATMs and money
Ethiopia has a good network of ATMs. The only town where we didn’t see one was Yabello but we weren’t really looking. Biggest network is Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) followed by Dashen Bank, both of which allow you to withdraw ETB4,000. For some others e.g. NIB, Awash, the limit is ETB2,000. Some banks, e.g. Abyssinia, don’t accept foreign cards.
Machines can be found outside some of the major (usually expensive!) hotels and afew tourist attractions, e.g. Lalibela churches, Addis Ethnological Museum.
You can withdraw money from bank branches using a foreign card. Dashen charges a fee of 2.5% for this service but at CBE it’s free. Two advantages of withdrawing money in branches are that you can take out a larger amount (up to the limit set by your own bank) and you can ask for the money in smaller denominations than the ETB100 notes that you usually get from ATMs. We did this in Konso before heading off to the South.
You can’t rely on ATMs working all the time so it is wise to always have enough money for the next few days. Occasionally bank branches may also be out of action because of power cuts or problems with phone connections. There appear to be times, at the end of each month, when CBE branches are besieged by large numbers of students and government employees trying to withdraw money.
We are in our late sixties. This is the fifth long winter trip that we’ve done since we retired. The previous ones were in Indochina, India and Latin America.
According to a new post on the Thorntree – click here & scroll down to answer 9 – it is now possible to get from Addis Ababa to Lalibela in one (long) day using the Selam Bus to Weldiya then local minibuses to Lalibela itself.
Doing this will involve at least 13 hours on public transport and it is unclear whether it is possible all year through or dry season only, so on a ‘hope for the best but plan for the worst’ basis, I’d still caution travellers to allow two days from Addis Ababa to Lalibela, especially in the rainy season, and treat it as good luck if they get through in a day!
Consider couch surfing and Air BnB in the bigger Ethiopian cities- often young, fun, English speaking people can really show you the city from a local perspective.
Minibus transport and hitch hiking is the coolest way of transport, if you can tolerate being squeezed in a small place, and having variable times of departure (they dont leave til the minivan is “full”- varying definitions for sure).
I’d highly recommend the Tigrai Rock Hewn churches, much less touristy and more beautiful than Lalibela.
I found Harar to be the most interesting and beautiful city in Ethiopia, with incredible food (try the camel- you can buy from a butcher and have the restaurant next door cook it for you!) and beautiful winding narrow alleys. An interesting contrast and peek into the Muslim African world.
In Bahar Dar, take the local ferries (you need to wake up early to get tickets), they are beautiful, interesting and about 1/10 the cost. You will get to the lake monasteries before any tourists as well.
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.
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. ZeAyele@gmail.com or 00251
Washington Hotel. More upmarket $95 upwards. Tour company owners tell
me the standards are high. Info @washinbtonaddis.com
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.