Gondar is 50 kilometres north of Lake Tana, 500 kilometres north of Addis Ababa and nestles in the foothills of the Simien mountains at 2,200 metres above sea level. Gondor was the capital of Ethiopia from the rise of Fasilades to the fall of Tewodros (1855-68) which is reflected in the many castles and palaces in the city.
The city’s main imperial precinct, known as the Royal Enclosure, covers an area of 7.7 hectares and contains five castles, raised walkways and connecting tunnels surrounded by high stone walls.
The oldest of these is the Castle of Fasilades. Built of stone in the mid-17th century it reflects a number of influences, Axumite, Portuguese and Indian. The upper storey offers panoramic views and Lake Tana is visible on a clear day. The castle has been renovated recently.
Fasilades grandson, Lyasu the great, built his own castle and decorated it with ivory, gold and precious stones but an earthquake in the early 19th caused severe damage.
The palace of Ras Beit, was built in the 18th century as a private residence of the famous king maker, Ras Mikael Sehul and has been in continuos occupation ever since.
Bath of Fasilades is a sunken pool still used for the Timkat Festival in January.
Abba Jelli Hotel, clean, good value with views of the castles.
Fasilades, on the airport road. Clean and friendly, safe parking for vehicles and a good restaurant.
Patrice Lumumba, close to the piazza/telecommunications bldg (near the Misrak), the sign is in Amharic You can barter over the price of the hotel, restaurant attached.
Yimam, good value and with a restaurant next door. Also has safe parking facility for vehicles.
There are many other E-grade range hotels in the vicinity of the piazza/telecom buildings.
Fagera Hotel, basic, originally built by one of Mussolini’s fascists as a villa, spacious rooms.
Misrak Pension, Woreda 1, Kebeale 2, No 217, PO Box 391.
Where to Eat
Quara Hotel, government run hotel with restaurant. Good value.
Tele Club, next to the stairs of the Post Office -coffee, bread, excellent breakfasts.
Ethiopia Cafe, charming, old fashioned, ground floor of hotel, packed all day, excellent coffee.
There are many other cheap cafes in the city centre. Many of the cheap hotels also offer food.
Getting There and Away
Ethiopian Airways, PO Box 130, Tel. 08-110129, flies daily to Gondar. Airport is 17 kilometres from town. You are recommended to book/confirm onward flights at the Ethiopian Airlines office in Gonda (because office has computers -there’s nothing computerized in either Axum or Lalibela.
Route from Addis is via Bahar Dar and the whole journey is 600 kilometres Travel is difficult in
June-september when the rains are heavy. it is realistic to allow 3 days for the journey there, with stops in Debre Markos or Dejen and Bahar Dar. There are regular buses running along this route. From Bahar Dar the journey takes 5 hours. There is now a direct bus service between Gondar and Shire (Inda silase) leaving at 0630 from both Gondar and Shire. However if the bus fills up before the planned departure time, it leaves; so arrive by at least 0530. The journey takes about 11 hours and there is a stop at Debark
(4 hours from Gondar).
There are banks which will change any foreign currency in Gondar.