Drinking in the Beauty of Ethiopia
Much of the tourism in Ethiopia is focused on history. The country is in the region of the world where humankind originated – the ‘Cradle of Civilization.’ From the Rift Valley, which yielded the 3.5 million-year-old fossil of Lucy, to 11th century churches hand-carved out of granite, the country fascinates. Add in some very interesting fauna such as the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf and the gelada baboon, and you have a winning destination.
Digging into Ethiopia’s history is fascinating, but part of any trip is finding special places to pause and take it all in…perhaps with a beer. Here are five of my favorite spots around the country to do just that.
Ethiopia is home to the highest bar in Africa: Simien Lodge. Perched atop the Simien Mountains at 10,700 feet, they serve Africa’s highest-elevation drinks in a cozy, circular room in front of a roaring fire. The fire is absolutely necessary, as nighttime temperatures at this altitude can be extremely cold, and the Lodge’s solar heating system leaves a bit to be desired during the wet season. After an evening enjoying local beer, wine, or creative cocktails, you can grab a hot water bottle and head to your chalet for a good night’s rest. You’ll want that sleep so that you can enjoy the next day, when you will be trekking to see gelada baboons, a unique monkey species only found in the Ethiopian Highlands.
Ben Abeba is a totally inexplicable structure nestled high on a cliff edge in legendary town of Lalibela. Winding ramps take guests up to gently swaying balconies with magnificent views. Beers come cheap at about $1 USD, and the food is delicious and served piping hot, which is most welcome once the sun sets and the temperature drops. Though Ben Abeba is much lower than the Simien Lodge at 8,500 feet, it can still be a bit chilly at night. There are blankets on offer for diners should they need one. And if it’s too chilly for travelers to walk back to their hotels, they can hop in one of the ubiquitous blue tuk-tuks for just a few Birr.
Photo courtesy of MaxyM via Shutterstock.
I visited the Dashen Brewery in Gondar on New Year’s Day. We had driven by the day before and things looked quiet, with a few scattered picnic tables around the grounds and a smattering of visitors. Yet my visit happened to coincide with the Ethiopian New Year, observed on September 12 in 2014. There were more than 1,000 people making merry on the grounds. Live music, professional and amateur dancers, and endless food and drink made for an enthusiastic crowd.
Kuriftu Resort & Spa
Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and the fourth largest lake in Africa. At its southern end, you’ll find the town of Bahir Dar, which is a great base to explore the historic monasteries along the lake and on its islands, as well as to visit the source of the Blue Nile. After a day of sightseeing, the best place to indulge in a beer is back at your hotel, especially if you’re staying at the Kuriftu Resort & Spa. Kuriftu has a stunning swimming pool and terrace that overlook Lake Tana. The real attraction of this spot is the view; the calm waters, bird life, and traditional fishing boats provide a tranquil and exotic setting that is unforgettable.
If your travel to Ethiopia includes spending time with the tribes in the south, you’ll need to stop somewhere en route. Lake Langano, with its latte-brown waters, is a great spot to shake off too much time in the car and indulge in a bit of relaxation. Its shores are the perfect place to kick off your shoes and lean back with a St. George’s Lager, another of Ethiopia’s delicious, crisp beers. Bird lovers will do well here, too, as the area supports a great variety of species. There are watersports on offer (this is the only freshwater lake in Ethiopia that is safe for swimming), as well as hiking in nearby Abiata-Shala National Park. There are plenty of resorts on the lake to choose from, and I promise you that chances are you'll be ablle to find a beer.
Gretchen Healey contributed this piece to The Daily Meal. Gretchen gave up a window office in the IT industry to embrace travel as a profession. When not traveling, she runs Pangolin Media, a full service copywriting development and online strategy consulting company. She has visited more than 30 countries, and each travel experience has enriched her life immeasurably. When she as home, she can be found hiking with her dog, cooking, gardening or skiing.
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