Kids playing football in Gondar, Ethiopia

What to do in Gondar City, Ethiopia | The best must do’s!

Published: 19-08-2019

Ethiopia, an amazing country which has so much to offer. Nowadays Ethiopia still has so much culture and history. Gondar is in the North of Ethiopia, a city that used to be the capital of the country until 1855. The city attracts tourist because of the impressive castles in the middle of the city center.  Even though it’s a tourist hotspot, you won’t find that much fellow travelers in Ethiopia. All the fun hotspots for yourself. YAY! The weather in Gondar is perfect, year-round. The city has more to offer than just the castles. It is a city full of surprises. 

Things to do: The Gondar Castles 

I can’t start the blog with anything else then the castles. Since this is the reason people travel to Gondar. Definitely worth it. In the middle of the city center you will find a big complex, surrounded by a stone wall. The castles within these walls are built in the 17th century and are well intact. For about US$6 you can wander around yourself. There are plenty of guides whom are willing to guide you for a few hours. The price is around US$12 per group. 

The streets of Gondar

Visit Arada 

Arada means market. In Ethiopia market is equal to CHAOS, very fun chaos. Certainly, on Saturday, the market day in Gondar, you can expect some extra chaos. Many farmers from surrounding areas come to the market to sell their veggies. Since no one has a car, the market is crowded with little donkeys. And they are so cute! You’ll find lots of men and women with sticks on their shoulders, full of living chickens. Goats and sheep’s roam around, with an occasionally a cow. There are many tailors with their traditional clothes, women selling spices and show much more. Keep an eye on your personal stuff, because this market is home to many pickpockets. Besides that, it is so much fun to walk around at Arada. 

Market on the local market
Market in Gondar

Relaxing at one of the many juice bars 

Juice bars are everywhere in Gondar. Usually small shops, with plastic chairs. Those are the shops with the best fresh juices. In hotels they will offer you juice, but they are not as delicious as at the local shops. Juices cost only 80 cents for half a liter. Mixing everything you want. Regular fruits are; Mano, Papaya, Avocado, pineapple and quave. 

Go hiking 

The surrounding of Gondar is perfect for a morning hike. Just walk down the path behind the castle and you will end up in the countryside. Here you can experience the real Gondar. No other tourist. No begging peoples. Just lots of beautiful nature and animals. 

Lovely food in Gondar at Four sisters 

Four Sisters a restaurant where you can find almost every tourist in town. It is one of the few places which understand tourists. The owners are four sisters. A very cozy restaurant, just a few minutes away from the city center. The restaurant serves a buffet, or you can choose from a menu. Possibilities to sit inside and outside. In the evenings they will bring you a blanket to stay warm. If that doesn’t help, you can always try their homemade honey wine, Tej. Western food is okay here, but it’s worth it to try the Bejenetu. The local dish of Ethiopia. A sour pancake with all kinds of different sauces. Starting from 07.00pm the staff will perform some local dance and play music. You are more than welcome to join them!

Bejenatu, an Ethiopian dish

The best view from Goha Hotel 

Gondar has a lot of mountains, so there are plenty of places to get a good few. The best view over the city is from the terrace of Goha Hotel. High up a mountain. It is easy to walk there from the city center, which will take about 30 minutes. Just enter the hotel and walk to the back, outside. You can enjoy some drinks and food here, while watching the amazing hawks fly by. The birds are already high, so they can fly by at just a few meters away. 

View from the Goha Hotel
View from the Goa Hotel in Gondar

Traditional bars 

You haven’t been to Ethiopia if you didn’t see the traditional dance. Expect a simple room, decorated with small wooden stools and cow skins covering the walls. Order a local beer and get surprised by the amazing dancers on stage. They mostly use their shoulders to dance. Each region of Ethiopia has its own dancing style. During the evening, you get to see them all.

Streets of Gondar

To do in Gondar: Visit festivals! 

Don’t expect techno music or dance parties. All festivals in Gondar are related to religion. Most people are orthodox Christian. Almost each day is a special day. But some days turn into a real festival. 

Meskel

When Meskel is approaching, people start dragging wooden sticks with flowers all over town. They use them to build campfires. On the day of Meskel, early morning, they light the fires. In Gondar they wait till the afternoon. Around midday, on Meskel square you can enjoy this celebration. In the hours before the fire, priest will give a ceremony. Fun to go to the square and watch them. Everybody is in traditional clothes and the priest get protected against the sun by colorful umbrellas. Of course, I have no idea what they were saying. But the feeling of standing in between all those people is very special. Groups of youngsters are running around singing songs to get everybody in to the holiday spirit. 

Timket

Gondar is the place to be for Timkat (Epiphany). A much bigger party than Meskel. This festival attracts thousands of people. Including many foreigners. To really understand this festival, you should know the bible. In short it is about the baptism of Jesus Christ. Expect streets full of people singing and dancing in beautiful clothes. 

The festival is two days. On the first day the priests will carry a replica of the Arc of the covenant out of the church. Very unique, since it only happens once a year. The arc is covert with a blanket, so non-believers can’t get a glimpse. 

One the second day you get the chance to get blessed by holy water. In Gondar, this happens at the Fasil Bath. Only once a year, the bad is full of water. During the ceremony it is extremely busy here. But in the afternoon, it’s pretty quiet and easy to visit.

Timkat in Gondar
Timkat in Gondar

Visit Gondar and more places in northern Ethiopia in this itinerary

And.. did you expect so many things to do in a place like Gondar?

Suzan - Hi! I am a Dutchie, who lives in Ethiopia. I love to travel the world and meet new people. It is so much fun to visit exotic places, rough jungles and beautiful old cities. Via Travelaar I have the chance to share all my amazing experiences with you. If you want to follow my own journey, see my Instagram: @gateb91