I'm heading to Ethiopia from the 22nd - 31st of May and am keen to get any recommendations.
So far I've been told to leave Addis asap and spend most my time in Lalibela and Gondar, but if anyone can recommend one or two things to do in Addis I'd be seriously grateful. Even if it is a favourite restaurant, cafe or view of the city.
Lalibela and Gondar - does anyone have any personal recommendations then throw them my way as well. Also if anyone happens to be there at the same time, gimme a shout! I travel with my bagpipes so I'm pretty conspicuous!
If you enjoy architecture, tour St George & Holy Trinity Cathedrals. A quick tour of the National Museum Of Ethiopia will let you see the bones of Lucy, the oldest human. Spend at least an afternoon at the Merkato, one of Africa's largest markets. If you can, find a local to walk around with you so you won't get lost or harassed by young men trying to give you guided tours. Also, if you're looking for souvenirs, you can hunt around the city for the 'best' tourist shop, but there are nice shops right in the middle of the city along Churchill Blvd.
For views of the city visit Sheraton Addis or Top View Restaurant For a nice tourist experience take the time to enjoy a full coffee ceremony at the Hilton Hotel lobby. Dashen Restaurant is popular for its traditional cuisine and atmosphere. Be sure to spend an evening at one of the dinner and entertainment restaurants like Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant Traditional Food. You will be sure to enjoy the traditional dancing and music show.
Addis Ababa is not a bad place to visit. Just be prepared to see areas of urban poverty and children begging you for money and attention. Be sure to not give them money or food unless you want to be swarmed by a larger group. Set your private taxi destination & prices with your driver before you go. If you know where you are going, use a minibus, the prices are fixed and you get to ride with the locals. Have a great trip!
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If I had it to do again—and I hope I will, because Ethiopia is fantastic—I would go to Merkato. I suppose it depends on your comfort level, but there are plenty of guides around who offer to take you through it—just arrange someone before you go. The Ethnological Museum was probably my favorite museum that we visited in Addis Ababa; interesting exhibits and you get to see Hailie Selassie's living quarters; as a bonus, it's set in a lovely university campus.
In Lalibela, we stayed at the Alef Paradise hotel, which was comfortable and clean, with some nice views (we were able to see the Church of St. George in the distance). Unique Restaurant is up at the top of town, but it's worth the walk—best food in town, hands down, and wonderfully welcoming people. I'm going to try and dig up the receipt (I know I have it floating around somewhere), but just down the road (or really, downhill) a piece from Alef Paradise, we went to some random restaurant and had the best spaghetti—yes, spaghetti—we've ever eaten. I realize that that is not generally a dish prone to being remarkable, but it was honestly that good. Seven Olives Hotel had decent food but a nice little patio on which to hang out, take in the view and have a nice drink or a juice. Don't miss out on Ethiopia's lovely juices, particularly the layered ones with avocado! It's only natural that you see the churches in Lalibela—it's why you're there, after all—and they are breathtaking. If you can spring for it (or find other travelers to chip in and minimize the cost), go to Yemrehana Krestos Church. It's an incredible place, and even after the magnificence of the Lalibela churches, it still blew us away. It was something like $70 USD for a 4x4 to get out there, but on the way, you'll understand why (I'm pretty sure they have to overhaul the suspension after every trip). I think you can also hire donkeys, if you are OK with a longer journey. There's also the option to go to Mt Abuna Yosef and Asheton Maryam Monastery.
I'd just sort of planned Gondar as a stopover point between Lalibela and Bahir Dar, but I ended up liking it quite a bit. I've always sworn up and down that I'm not a castle person, but Fasil Ghebbi mesmerized me; I was running around like a kid in a candy store, thinking of the incredible history and marveling at the gorgeous buildings. Debre Birhan Selassie Church is a knockout as well—absolutely do not miss it. We stayed at a craphole hotel the name of which I can't remember. Quara Hotel is right on the main roundabout and has some nice terraces for eating meals. Goha Hotel is the place to go, if you want to splash out. We were in town such a short time that we didn't go, but it'd be a great place for a sundowner, even if you're not staying there. Requires a taxi to reach it, so keep that in mind. We mostly just ducked into small restaurants where locals were eating and always got friendly service and good, inexpensive food. Bayinetu (the "fasting food" platter, all veg) is an absolute failsafe option—I never had a bad one. There was also a place just off the roundabout called Sofa Juice, which just tickled the hell out of me.
Have a marvelous time and don't worry too much about the fleas. :)
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I've been to Ethiopia twice and I checked with my friend who was there 10 times. Depending on your preferences and budget you can do Northern or Southern loop (or both if you will fly). If you are on the budget you can take a bus but ideally rent a car with the driver. You can leave Addis Ababa and drive to Bahir Dar where you can see gorgeous churches on the small island and blue Nile waterfalls. From there you can drive to Simien Mountains National Park where you can do daily trek(s) to see amazing ingenious animals and great views (4000 m so prepare yourself). You will probably stop by Fasil Ghebbi (Gondar castle). From there you can head back to Lalibela and spend 1-2 days there. If you have enough time or tike a short flight you can go south and visit some of the Oromo River Valle tribes or Nechisar National Park.
I hope this helps.
PS. Ethiopia is amazing and nothing like you would expect.
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