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Tourism

This page will be developed to cover tourist excursions, based on the writer's own experience, in and around Addis. There may be many other places we haven't seen yet. Please send your experiences, comments and suggestions to listings@thisisaddis.com

NORTH

Debre Libanos, beautiful spot on edge of giant and stunning Jemma valley, mediaeval monastery and former centre of Ethiopian church, destroyed amid several massacres by the Italians in 1937. The amazing place and feeling, holy caves and a beautiful new church built by Haile Selassie in 1950s are main attractions. Entrance is Birr 50 but the rules say not to enter if you menstruated or had sex in last 48 hours, also my guidebook (see below) says the priest in the cave only gives blessings with holy water if you didn't eat that morning. The main North road from Addis is in excellent condition and beautiful scenery, its about 100 km, then turn to the right on a smaller road down the edge fo the steep valley. The original monastery was founded by Abuan Tekle Haymanot around 1284 and got its present name from Emperor Zara Yaqob in 1445. In 1520 Emperor Lebana Dengal formally received the first Portuguese mission to Ethiopia.

Portuguese Bridge, about 100 metres north of turning to Debre Libanos, reached by footpath. According to my trusty Philip Briggs Bradt guide (www.bradtguides.com) it wasn't built by 16th century Portuguese as the locals explain, but by Ras Darge at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries using a traditional sealant of limestone and ostrich shells. Paths here lead to stunning views over the valley and dramatic waterfalls as Gur River plunges over the edge in cascades.

Ethio-German Park hotel. Several cabins already built since it opened in 2006, and more coming, on a beautiful spot on the edge of the valley next to the Debre Libanos turnoff. Abenet Shifferaw and his wife Annette run it and although the menu is mainly Ethiopian, they can apparently cook a wide range of food. Currently double rooms are Birr 200 per night, the grander new ones may be more, they have stunning views out of the bathroom windows and great little stoeps/verandahs. Meals about Birr 50, breakfast Birr 25. Plenty of indigenous trees and plans to add swimming pool, horse riding, etc. but already stunning walking around the area and very quiet. Call 0911-978834 or 011-6563213 for more information.

NORTH EAST

Ankober Lodge, well built lodge on beautiful, strategic and historic site on edge of escarpment (next to Menelik's old capital, before he moved to Addis Abeba), with eastern plains stretching away far below into the dawn. Haven't tried the accommodation, but it looks nice. Hard to find right phone numbers, but try 0911-653643, fax 011-5515506 or e-mail Ankoberlodge@yahoo.com, see www.Ankoberlodge.com.et, another website which could do with improvements! Room is around the Birr equivalent of $75+service charge+breakfast.

WEST

Ambo Hotel, Ambo- head out along the new Ambo road. The new road makes this 108 km drive a breeze, its still mostly empty and took under 1.5 hours each way. The grand hotel has been privatized to an enthusiastic owner, Ato Takele Tadesse, who keeps it in good condition, and is adding attractions. Main attraction are the large grounds with camping and other spots as well woods and a grotto by the river. Nice surrounds and an excellent swimming pool, clean but brown with the famous Ambo water which bubbles into hot baths at the side. Grand, if not recently refurbished, "first class" (i.e. large and clean, but old) rooms for Birr 200, adequate rooms cheaper. For bookings call 011-2362002/7 or 0911-204926 or email ttadesse_2008@yahoo.com.

Wenchi Crater, one of the most scenic spots imaginable, a giant crater with a lake at the bottom and a church on an island accessible by boat. There is a well-organized community tourist project (even the local honey is linked to "Slow Food") next to the main road between Ambo (about 35 km) and Weliso, which can provide horses, boats, guides, etc. at fixed prices and well-run routes. Ignore the naughty villagers elsewhere on the road telling you to take a small and steep side road and head to the main project.

Equus Ethiopia - horse riding stables, excellently run stables in the Cheshire Homes site at Menegasha, just before Holeta and just after the old Ambo road meets the new (about 16 km from Addis). The stables are run by Yves Stranger and Lydia Fantaye. The day we visited we had excellent horses, good guides and a great 2 hour ride in the country (Birr 125/horse/hour minimum 2). Longer multi-day treks with camping are on offer, as well as horse riding lessons (Birr 100/hour). Call 0911-102609 or 0911-102618, email yvesstranger@yahoo.com or web www.equus-ethiopia.com.

Menegasha National Forest - take the Jimma road. Africa's oldest nature reserve. This was set up by far-sighted Emperor Zara Yaqob in the mid-15th century, concerned at deforestation, who ordered a large juniper forest to be replanted with seedlings from Ankober area. Its now 2,500 ha of natural forest and 1,300 ha of exotics (mainly pine) on the southern slopes of Mt Wechecha. There are animals (guereza monkey, duiker, gazelles, baboons, leopard, etc.) and lots of birds, but the main attraction are the miles of giant and ancient trees. It's well organized for day and overnight visits (cheap accommodation), with lots of walking trails (0.3km-9 km), a lovely waterfall and Damocha Peak (3,385 m). Its 40 min- 1 hr drive from Addis, head out on the Jimma road just past Sebeta village and turn at Meta-Abo brewery sign (I think the 3rd one), you may need a 4x4 or vehicle with high clearance, especially in rainy season. Call the manager, on 011-5154975.

Negash Lodge, Weliso - about 100 km down the Jimma road. Stunning accommodation, described by one guidebook as "one of Ethiopia's most underrated hostelries". It is about 100 km from Addis on the Jimma Road (1.5 hours drive), which is in excellent condition. The hotel was privatized some years ago and well restored, although when we visited in July 2007 some areas are being renovated again, including the indoor pool. It has great treetop bar and excellent warm outdoor pool (with shallow end), plus friendly staff, guerezas and other monkeys and lots of birdlife, as well as curative hot baths and indoor pool. It could have a better restaurant and more activities (horse riding, sports, etc.) but its a great break and a great base to see Wenchi crater lake. Room prices are changed and increased, so call 011-3410002/3410147 or try emailing Zemitawork on addsal@ethionet.et to get information and bookings as its often full at weekends.

SOUTH

Kuriftu Resort and Spa, Debre Zeit. A stunning resort and health centre, artistically built to overlook the quiet Lake Kuriftu at Debre Zeit, a short 45 km drive from Addis Abeba. The resort features luxurious spas, beauty salons and saunas, a pool and a small cinema with excellent surround sound, gym, mountain bikes, canoes onto the lake. The decor includes woodwork (doors, furniture) by Kidus Markos and paintings and mozaics throughout by artist Teklemariam Zewde. For all this, you pay, $100-$125 per room per night depending on location, including breakfast. Call 0911-091185/011-6623605 or email bostonpartners@ethionet.et to check it out.

LANGANO, the heart of holiday-making.
Bishangari, a beautiful and well-run (also pricey) ecolodge in pristine forest, with walks, horses and bikes and excellent staff. Ignore the crowd of irritating and aggressive kids who try to divert you in the hopes of tips, just follow the sign where it turns off from the gravel road, 4wheel drive only sometimes in rainy season. For reservations and sales call 0115-517533, 0911-201317 or e-mail reservations@bishangari.com. Double room Fri-Sat $138+VAT (Birr 1,460) per night.
Sabana Beach Resort - just visited (end May 2009) and it features great standard of comfortable rooms with local designs and views of lake from all, excellent restaurant and food, nice beach and swimming, canoes, darts and other recreations, beautifully landscaped area. Congratulations. We advise early booking. Just past the 200 km from Addis Abeba milestone. See www.sabanalangano.com. Reservations (7:30am-10pm), please call 046-1191181/1191466/1191467 or email sabana@ethionet.et for helpful reception staff and pay in Addis in advance, at Top View or Blue Tops restaurants. Rooms are Birr 665 (single), Birr 795 (double), to Birr 1430 (family room for 5) all including service, VAT and breakfast, and cheaper (Birr 575/690/1245 respectively) on weekdays. Recommended!
Wenney Eco Lodge, also on the quiet side of the lake, not checked personally. Office tel: 011-6185878/6510339, mobile 0911-203614/215722, fax: 011-6634658/9 or email reservations@wenneyecolodge.com or greenplc@yahoo.com. Very near to Bishangari, ignore kids and follow signs as above for Bishangari.
Abule Bussuma. A beautiful spot but still not opened (we recently followed the sign for 16 km or so of mud to find it was still closed). Call 046-2204674 or mobile 0911-834661/612179.
Bekelle Molla, Popular especially for youngsters, basic but OK rooms (Birr 280-380) and food. Tel: 011-6620918/9.

AWASSA, garden town of the south, full of fresh fruit and sunshine, nice lake and bird life. There are many hotels of which we have tried so far:
Lewi Hotel, tel: 046-2206310. Oldish and adequate rooms around a courtyard. Bedroom Birr 150-250. Often full.
Lakeside Motel and Dolce Vita Italian restaurant, tel 046-2214449/2210337, mobile 0916-823159. Nice rooms with small but good bathrooms off a small garden, excellent Italian cooking. Bedroom Birr 220.

COMMUNITY TOURISM
Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives (TESFA) is helping local communities to set up and run trekking facilities, including in the basalt mountains around Lalibela, where you stay in simple, comfortable and well-run tukuls and get to learn some of the ancient Amhara culture in between hikes. They are also helping communities in Abuna Yoseph, East Tigray and North Shoa. We haven't visited any yet, but the brochures and website (www.community-tourism-ethiopia.com) look good and the website has prices and information, or call TESFA in Addis Ababa (CTTSU) on +251-11-1225024/1247231 or duty mobile 0913-244480 or email tesfactbt@ethionet.et.

 



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