What to see and do in Bahir Dar
Bahir Dar lies at 1880 metres asl, 180 km south of Gondar, and is included in the “historic circuit” of northern Ethiopia. It’s also the perfect base to explore Tana Lake, the biggest lake in Ethiopia, also known for its island monasteries, dating back to the 14th century. The city is really nice, well maintained, and features avenues lined with palm trees and public gardens planted with colourful flowers.
When to go
Like most of Northern Ethiopia, you can visit and enjoy Bahir Dar any time of the year, but the best period is during the dry season, roughly between October and March. January and February are perfect because the temperatures are nice and the sky mostly clear.
How to reach Bahir Dar
If you travel with a local tour operator, Bahir Dar is usually the second last stop of the historic circuit. If travelling alone, you can reach the town by bus from Gondar (about 3 hours), Lalibela (via Gashena Town – about 8/9 hours), and Abbis Ababa (about 13 hours).
You can also fly direct to Bahir Dar from Addis Ababa and Lalibela with Ethiopian airlines.
Where to sleep
Bahir Dar is a small town, and there isn’t a better place where to sleep. It offers a good range of accommodations, including some resorts in front of the lakeshore. We slept at Bahir Dar Hotel 2, nice accommodation with a restaurant, bar, a peaceful garden, and only 500 meters from the Bahir Dar jetty.
Other accommodations in Bahir Dar:
- B&B The Annex;
- Rahnile Hotel;
- Bahir Dar Backpackers;
- Asinuara Hotel;
- Delano Hotel & spa;
- Jacaranda Hotel.
Local cuisine and restaurants
The Ethiopian cuisine is delicious and mainly consists of vegetable and spicy meat dishes accompanied by a local bread named injera that locals eat with their hands most of the time. Leaving aside the traditional dishes like Kitfo, Niter Kibbeh, Doro Wat, or Beyainatu, Bahir Dar is the right place to eat fresh fish. We ate at the Lake Shore restaurant twice, where we tasted delicious grilled Tilapia with injera.
Currency exchange and Method of payment
The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr. 1 USD is about 41 Birr. There are a few banks where to exchange your currency and ATMs which accept international cards. The method of payment is cash.
We would never think of travelling without proper coverage because the medical expenses could be very high. We always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads that we’ve used during our time in Ethiopia and throughout Africa. The northern circuit includes many hiking activities, and it’s always advisable to have travel insurance. Avoid drinking local tap water and make sure food is cooked thoroughly before eating. Malaria is endemic, and it is highly recommended to consult a travel medicine specialist to assess travel-related risks and have information to ensure your health and safety.
Bahir Dar best attractions
1. Lake Tana boat tour
2. Blue Nile Falls
3. Zege Peninsula
The Zege Peninsula is included in the boat tour and features 7 ancient and beautiful monasteries immersed in a lush forest. In case you don’t want to book the tour, you can reach the peninsula by catching a public boat from the Bahir Dar Jetty or a taxi/minibus to Zege village (25km).