Emperor Haile Selassie considered moving the capital from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar – that says much about the city. Distinctively famous for its wide avenues, shaded by rows of rustling palms and range of colorful flowering trees, Bahir Dar is an attractive and well-planned city and one of the safest cities on African soil. The city lies on the southern tip of Lake Tana at an altitude of 1830m above sea level, and it has been defined by some as the Ethiopian Riviera.
Clean and well-maintained, Ethiopia’s third largest city is a leading tourist destination, and part of Northern Historical Circuit. On March 18, 2002, Bahir Dar received an honorable mention at the 2000-2001 UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize in Marrakesh, Morocco.
If you are planning a trip to Bahir Dar aka the Ethiopian Riviera, you definitely must see the Blue Nile Falls (or Tis Abay as the locals call it) which is smaller than Niagara but still a spectacular waterfall. The Blue Nile Bridge spans the famous river and offers you beautiful views.
Perhaps a more important ‘must see’ is Lake Tana, once believed to be the source of the Blue Nile. One of the biggest in Africa, the lake is famous for the 37 islands scattered across its surface of which about 30 shelter some of the oldest churches and monasteries in the world. Most of these monasteries are store houses of religious relics and are worth exploring. However, some are not open to women.
Another must see is the palace of Emperor Haile Selassie which stands on Bezawit Hill overlooking the Blue Nile. You can’t miss the Martyr Memorial Monument with its fountain falling into the Blue Nile. The memorial commemorates those who died fighting the Derg regime.
Food in Bahir Dar is not much different from what is available in Addis Ababa, except that proximity to Lake Tana and the Blue Nile means fish features prominently in dishes in the area. Breakfast is usually composed of bread and scrambled eggs, or omelet and there are pastry shops around to take care of you in that respect.
Local cuisine is readily available for lunch or heavy meals preference, and you should try the famous doro wat, injera or the kitfo made of minced beef mixed with spices and warmed in fragrant butter. Ethiopians love to eat meat, and some meals involve raw meat. Do note that Wednesdays and Fridays are regarded as fasting days characterized by a surplus of vegetarian dishes. You will find continental menu at the main hotels and the prices are pretty decent.
You should know that coffee and tea are quite popular in Ethiopia. In addition, there’s a drink called Esprice that resembles a smoothie. Wines and spirits are readily available at bars in the hotels and other restaurants.