Dirty Details – Gondar, Ethiopia

If you’re planning on going to Ethiopia you’ll want to hire a tour company. Tourism is relatively new to Ethiopia, which might be surprising to some since it is so rich with religious and anthropological history, geographical wonders and the many indigenous tribes who still exist today.

However, Ethiopia’s transportation infrastructure is not set up for individual travel. The roads are not great but more so, the complex and beautiful topography means travelling between cities would take up most of your trip’s time.

It is for that reason that most travellers to Ethiopia fly from Addis Ababa to the northern cities of Bahir Dar, Axum, and Lalibela as well as between them. For southern tours Arba Minch is usually the starting point and it’s an hour’s flight from Addis.

YAMA TOURS – I had the privilege of working with Tariku, the owner at Yama Tours. I cannot say enough of how great his team is. What sold me was how quickly Tariku responded to my needs and how quickly he put the tour together. His ground staff was professional and knowledgeable and I wouldn’t look any further for a ground handler in both Northern and Southern Ethiopia.

TREKKING TOURS IN NORTHERN ETHIOPIA WITH TESFA TOURS – If you’re looking for a different experience in the north you might consider community based trekking tours with Tesfa Tours. I didn’t get the opportunity to work with them but I’m told that their main focus is trekking with their guests through stunning scenery as guests of local farming communities who then host you in their specially built local style. Sounds like the real thing to me and my trek in the Simien Mountains was truly breathtaking!

DISCOVER ETHIOPIA BY PRIVATE PLANE WITH WINGS ETHIO TRAVEL – Many quickly rule out discovering a country by private plane because it would seem too expensive. However, booking your tour with Ethio Wings makes sense because Ethiopia is a country where so many domestic flights are needed. Don’t automatically rule it out, especially if you’re travelling with a small group, are short for time or want to travel in luxury. Captain Abebe, a trained pilot in Toronto, Canada has returned to his roots and caters to those who want to maximize their time on the ground and fly into destinations not as easily accessible by larger commercial planes. Ethio Wings also books tours by land, hotel/flight reservations etc so I would recommend contacting them as well and finding out what works best for you.

My guide in Gondar, booked by Yama Tours –

Amanuel Yitayew – yeamanuel2@gmail.com –

www.semienadventuretours.com

251.058115304 or 251.918775137

 

GONDAR DRIVE TIMES 

Gondar – Simien Mountains – 3 hours by car

Gondar – Axum – 6-7 hours by car

Gondar – Lalibela – 9 hours by car

 

AIRPORT TRANSFERS TO CITY CENTRE – Hotels often offer free airport transfers, confirm in advance.

Alternatively taxi will cost you about 100 birr / $5.60 USD and take you anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on traffic.

  

ATTRACTIONS

1) Fasil Ghebbi/King Fasildes’ Palace – Unesco Heritage Site:

Description: “Fasil Ghebbi is a fortress-enclosure located in Gondar, Ethiopia. It served as the home of Ethiopia’s emperors in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its unique architecture shows diverse influences including Nubian, Arab, and Baroque styles. The site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasil_Ghebbi

Opening Hours: 8:30am-12:30pm & 1:30pm-5:30pm

Entrance Fee: 100 birr / $5.60 USD. The same ticket works for King Fasildes’ Bath/Swimming Pool.

 

King Fasilides' castle

King Fasilides’ castle

2) King Fasildes’ Bath/Swimming Pool:

Description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gondar. Located 3kms from the palace.

Opening Hours: 8:30am-12:30pm & 1:30pm-5:30pm

Entrance Fee: 100 birr / $5.60 USD. The same ticket works for Fasil Ghebbi/ King Fasildes Palace.

King Fasildes' Bath

King Fasildes’ Bath

 

3) Trinity/Debre Birhan Selassie Church:

“Debre Birhan Selassie was built by Emperor Eyasu II (also known as Birhan Seged, “He to Whom the Light Bows”) in the 17th Century.

When the Mahdist Dervishes of the Sudan sacked the city of Gondar in 1888, they burned down every church in the city except Debre Birhan Selassie. According to local legend, when the Mahdist soldiers approached the church, a swarm of bees descended on the compound of the church and kept the soldiers back, and the Archangel Michael himself stood before the large wooden gates with a flaming sword drawn.

The outside of Debre Birhan Selassie is rather plain, but its interior has made it one of Ethiopia’s top tourist attractions. The walls depict biblical scenes and saints and the ceiling is covered with the faces of hundreds of angels. Icons of the Holy Trinity (three identical men with halos) and the Crucifixion have pride of place above the entrance to the Holy of Holies.

Above the floor of the church are the curtained windows of the second story stall from which Emperor Eyasu II and his mother Empress Mentewab would look down on the ceremonies.”

Opening Hours: I don’t know the exact hours but I imagine if you visit between 9am-12:30pm and 1:30pm-5:00pm that you’ll be ok.

I visited on a Sunday, arriving around 10:30am and was able to see and experience mass taking place.

Entrance Fee: 50 birr/$2.30 USD

 

4) Fellasha – Last Remaining Ethiopian Jewish Village

The Fellasha Village isn’t an attraction with any structure. You simply pull to the side of the road, walk past a few homes/huts and see the synagogue, which is also a hut.

Opening Hours: NA

Synagogue Entrance Fee: 10 birr / $0.55 USD

 

Woman in Fellasha Synogogue

Woman in Fellasha Synogogue

 

Accommodation Recommendations:

There aren’t really budget versus luxury accommodations in Gondar. There are few hotels and some are newer than others and some with better service than others. I’d recommend reading reviews on www.tripadvisor.com and making your own decision.

However, the top two hotels in Gondar are:

Taye Belay Hotelhttp://www.tayebelayhotel.com

I originally was slated to stay at the Goha Hotel but after reading a post on Trip Advisor about bedbugs I decided to change. I was happy with my decision. The Internet worked for the most part, the food good, although the choices dwindled as the evening progressed and the location was great. The rooms were clean and well-appointed. The Taye Belay hotel was a definite hit in my books.

Goha Hotelhttp://gohahotel.com

The Goha Hotel looks great and is a top choice among travellers to Gondar. I was looking forward to staying there until I read an unfavourable post about bedbugs but my tour guide says he takes clients there all the time and has never had a complaint. I just didn’t want to take a chance.

I would advise reading the most recent reviews on www.tripadvisor.com before booking any hotel.

 

LIFE IS SHORT SO LIVE IT! 

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