Bahir Dar is a very relaxing city in the Northwestern part of Ethiopia. You can take a dive at the origin of the Blue Nile, or swim under the waterfall. There are many unique monasteries on lake tana, worth a visit. From the lakeshore it’s possible to see hippos. Since the city is flat, biking is the easiest way to transport yourself.
How to get to Bahir Dar?
Bahir Dar is the capital city of the Amhara region. It is the third largest city in the country and located at Lake Tana. Lake Tana is the biggest lake in Ethiopia. You can take a direct flight from the capital city, Addis Ababa. There are also daily busses going from Addis or the nearby cities like Gondar. These run from 6:00 till 4:00 p.m. It’s about 180 km from Gondar and will take some time. Plan at least 5 hours for this trip, this is including the waiting at the bus stop.
Swimming at the Blue Nile falls
The beginning of the Blue Nile. To call it swimming might be a bit exaggerated. It’s more like a cooling dip. Prepare yourself for an hour-long ride on a dirt road. Not very comfortable. The price for the local bus is around $1. Just stay seated till the last stop on the line. From here it’s a half hour walk to the fall. In the dry season you can ‘swim’ under the waterfall. In the raining season (July/August) the waterfall is at its biggest. On Sundays there will be more water, because they open the dam.
Monasteries on lake Tana
You can take a boat trip on the lake to visit the islands and see the monasteries. This will take half a day. The cost is $15 per person. Depending on your negotiation skills. If you are a woman, pay attention! Some monasteries don’t allow women to enter. Make sure they bring you only to the ones you can enter. If not, you can always go souvenir shopping on the islands. Many locals try to sell their handmade stuff.
Wild hippos up close (for free)
Of course, you need a bit of luck. But there are many places in Bahir Dar where you can see hippos. During your boat trip on the lake. But also, from the riverside. For example, at café Mango. This is a café with a floating restaurant. The hippos prefer this place for grazing. So big chance of seeing them there. No luck? Go to the bridge where you enter the city. Every tuk-tuk driver know where to find it. In the mornings and late afternoons there can be up to 6(!) huge hippos standing. Warming up in the sun and grazing. Bizarre fact is that the locals are doing their laundry right next to them.
Local markets in Bahir Dar
Visiting markets is always fun in Ethiopia. The market is located just outside of the city center. You can easily walk to the market in about 10 minutes. Immerge yourself in the chaos and enjoy. Most of the products are fruits and grain. Which are super cheap! There are many tailors whom sell handmade traditional clothes. If you stay longer in the city, they can make traditional clothes for you in a few days.
You can’t leave Bahir Dar without eating some fresh fish. They are caught in the morning, and served in the evening. It doesn’t get any better than this. Most of the restaurants serve fresh fish. Fish Dulet is favorite among the locals. Pieces of fish in tomato sauce, served with Injera. The local food of Ethiopia. Bahir Dar is one of the few places where it is safe to eat fish in a fasting season.
Accommodation in Bahir Dar
In Bahir Dar prices vary. Ethio Star is one of the cheaper hotels, and one of the few whom don’t ask foreigners to pay more than Ethiopians. Basic rooms, WIFI and breakfast are included. Located in the middle of the city center. Room rate is between $10 to $15 per room per night. Look for more cheap hotels in Bahir Dar.