Gondar

Gondar's 17th century royal castles

Gondar (also spelled Gonder) is an historic royal city of Ethiopia, in the Amhara region. It was the home of many emperors and princesses who ruled the country from the 12th century to the last decade of the 20th century, including Suseneos, Fasiledes, Empress Mentwab, Iyasu I, Tewodros II and Empress Taitu. Leading the list of its attractions is Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), containing several castles and palaces from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Get in

By plane

Gondar Airport is also named Atse Tewodros Airport. Ethiopian Airlines has daily flights from Addis Ababa – usually leaving Addis around 07:00. Flights are also available to/from Axum, Lalibela and Bahir Dar. Ethiopian Airlines flights are frequently cancelled or rescheduled at short notice, so allow plenty of time if travelling for an international connection.

By bus

Get around

See

Debre Birhan Selassie: 17th-18th century wall paintings

Gorgora

Gorgora is a beautiful small town on the northern shore of Lake Tana about 70 km from Gondar. It has some interesting relics from its brief time as Ethiopia's capital, and the lack of tourists adds to their charm. It is also good for birdwatching. There is an early morning bus from Gondar (20 birr) and occasional minibuses.

Do

Buy

Dashen Bank (and many more) has ATMs that accept Visa cards all over the town, one of them at the university.

There is a fairly large market in Gondar, near the bus station, where you can find clothes, spices etc.

Eat

Drink

The pure tej (without sugar - only from honey), tela (korefe, tiru) are the local famous drinks. They are also common throughout Ethiopia, particularly in the Amhara region, although there is some sugar. Factory beers of all kinds are found. It is very common to get Dashen Beer, as Dashen Brewery is in Gondar.

There are a number of bars and clubs with music and dancing on the street running down the slope from Walia Ibex roundabout (with a statue of an ibex in the centre) towards Atse Tewodros Square. The Walya club is on the corner of the ibex roundabout; down the slope there are the Balageru, the Atse Bakafa and others.

Sleep

Prices start at 20 birr for very basic rooms.

Gorgora

Go next

Simien Mountains are a 3 hour bus journey north of the city. Treks in the mountains can be arranged in Gondar, and you will be approached by many touts offering a wide variety of treks. The advantage of using their services is they may be able to put you in a group of other travellers, which will cut costs, and they can arrange for private transport to and from the park. Tell the touts immediately upon arrival in Gondar that you are looking for a group and they will try to find other tourists. The disadvantage of booking with a tout instead of an agency is that they may put you on a bus to Debark instead of Sankebar (an hour further into the mountains). Make sure you double check with the driver before getting in the car. They can also arrange to drive you to a campsite and pick you up from another, which is useful if you are short of time.

It is also straightforward to arrange everything yourself, and it is certainly cheaper if you aren't splitting the costs with anyone. Debark is the staging point for treks in the Simien Mountains.

Well organised, if expensive, trips to the Simien Mountains can be arranged in Gondar through Seyoum at Explore Abbysinia Travel. His office is underneath the Circle Hotel, facing away from the main road. He can also organise good value guided tours of Gondar, which is worth doing as a guide is effective at warding off unofficial guides and other hassles.

Another option for organized Simien Mountain treks is through Bwahit Travel and Tours run by Ephraim at Fasil Lodge. As mentioned earlier, self-sufficient travelers can independently arrange a tour at the park office in Debark; however given the services (guide, cook, transfers to/from Gondar to the Simien Mountains, etc.) included in the tours organized through Ephraim's company, the prices are virtually the same as if one arranged the same thing independently.

Daytrips to the Simien Mountains from Gondar can also be arranged, but you won't have time to do much other than step out of your 4WD for a few minutes to snap some pictures.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 05, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.