What to do in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia
What to do in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia - Understand
Gondar is a town of 207,044 at the northern end of Lake Tana in a scenic valley near the Simien Mountains National Park. It is known for this national park and its medieval royal ruins.
The city of Gondar is everything that Bahir Dar isn't. People are xenophobic, the poverty is overwhelming and the mood is decidedly more aggressive compared to Bahir Dar (which is just across the lake).
What to do in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia - Get Around
Gondar's airport is located about 20 miles outside the city and (typically) is only served by Ethiopian Airlines. As usual in Ethiopia, the airport transfers are included in your hotel rate, so there's no crazy taxi hassles.
The royal ruins are somewhat spread out, so either book a tour that includes transportation or use a 'tuk-tuk' and have a map handy. A tour during the off-season can be had for around $20. Most hotels organize tours and you should be able to do it right when you arrive.
What to do in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia - Safety
While generally a safe town, Gondar saw a number of violent street protests in July, 2016. These were not directed against foreigners, but it's still a good idea to check the local situation before you go.
What to do in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia - Sights
The main sights here are Gondar's castles and the ruins are spread around the town.
Fasilides' castle Fasil Ghebbi (dubbed Ethiopia's Camelot) and Fasilides' Bath are located in the center of town. The entrance fee is a steep 200 ETB ($10). The castle was built in 1640 and if you have seen any European castles from that era, it will look eerily familiar to you.
More ruins from that period in Gondar's history include Debre Birhan Selassie Church, Iyasu Palace and the Church of Debre Sina.
If you have time, drive up to the Goha Hotel and enjoy the awesome views from the patio.
What to do in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia - Eat and Drink
Gondar isn't a foodie heaven, but Four Sisters makes it look like one. This fantastic restaurant is a bit hard to find (and the neighborhood also looks shaky) but it has an awesome atmosphere and cheap but great food. Don't miss this place.
Tele Cafe has a great location overlooking the plaza. A macchiato is just 7 ETB and tastes fantastic.
What to do in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia - Where to Stay
For my stay, I selected the Goha Hotel, which has a pretty location on top of a hill overlooking the valley.
It's indeed a lovely building with a great view. However, don't expect fast WiFi, a working pool or heaters in the room at this hotel. Also, the breakfast is just about OK. For $100 (and given the competition), I was expecting more.