Ethiopia’s Riviera – Bahir Dar

With its palm-lined boulevards, warm climate and lakeside views, a stay in Bahir Dar really does feel like you’re at the seaside, and indeed Bahir Dar means “by the sea” in Amharic.

The large, bustling town is located on the southern shores of the beautiful Lake Tana, great to use as a starting point for exploring the lake. It is the regional capital of the Amhara National Regional State and can be easily reached by road from Addis Ababa.

Its origins date back to the sixteenth century at least, when, during the reign of Emperor Susneyos, a Portuguese Jesuit priest, Pero Paez, built several buildings along the shore of Lake Tana. One of these, a two-storey stone tower, can still be seen today in the compound of Saint George’s Church.

Come and explore the city on foot. Take a stroll along one of Bahir Dar’s two beautiful tree-lined boulevards, Lake Avenue and Palm Avenue, with their vibrant assortment of shops and restaurants. The lakeside promenade, stretching from the Tana Hotel to the Kuriftu Resort, offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy the sunset on a leisurely evening walk gazing out over the lake.

Exploring the lively market in the south west part of town is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon. The market is not just a place for bartering, selling and buying goods; it is also a place for exchanging news and catching up with old friends. Said to be one of the best in Ethiopia, this is a great place to pick up souvenirs and presents for loved-ones back home. Traditional clay coffee pots, large metal plates for injera, spices like tasty and hot berbere, exquisite hand-woven clothes: there’s something here for everyone.

The impressive Martyrs Memorial Monument is located about 2km to the north east of Bahir Dar. The tall white column, the sculptures of fighters, and the wide fountain of water that cascades down to the Blue Nile stand in solemn memory of those who died in the resistance, fighting the Derg in the 1974 Civil War. There is a small museum inside the memorial with informative photos and articles used in the fight.

Bezawit Hill is site of the former summer palace of Emperor Haile Selassie I and is located about 5km south of the city down a road lined with fragrant Jaracanda plants and flamboyant Flame trees. The palace, constructed in the 1950s, is not currently open to visitors, but has two magnificent viewpoints from the 1,890m-high hill, both in front and behind the palace, which offer amazing panoramic views over Lake Tana, the Blue Nile and Bahir Dar.