Banner for Snapshot


Gonder Ethiopia Travel Pictures

Kweskwan Complex, Circle Hotel, Yeha Hotel, Royal Enclosure, Fasiladas Palace

Gonder, Ethiopia,  a former caravan route stop, is still a major crossroads in the Ethiopian Highlands. Gonder is 60 km (37 miles) from Bahir Dar. We came by Land Cruiser, along a rough gravel road that made for slow going for the first half hour before reaching the newer sections. Kweskwan Complex and Royal Enclosure were two of the tour highlights.

Gonder from Bahir Dar: We left Bahir Dar just before 9 a.m., and arriving in Gonder in time for lunch at the Circle Hotel. Where the road heads north around the east side of Lake Tana and into the mountains, there are many switchback turns. There is ferry service between Gonder (Thursday departures) and Bahir Dar (Sunday departures), as well as bus service, and daily flights from Addis Ababa.

Kweskwan Complex at Gonder Ethiopia Kweskwan Complex at Gonder Ethiopia.

Just west of Gonder town, about 3.5 kilometres (2 miles) from the center, we toured around the Kweskwan Complex.

It's fairly dilapidated, but has wonderful views from its site high on a hillside. Road signs indicate where to turn; our driver decided on a different route that had us heading straight up a steeply-angled, freshly-bulldozed embankment, before we white-knuckled passengers convinced him that this might, just possibly, not be the correct route.

You can take a cab from town, and ask the driver to wait in the parking area on the grounds. On-site guides (tip them, please) will show you around. There's a tiny crypt in one of the buildings with the mummified remains of the empress, her son, and grandson.

Royal Enclosure at Gonder ~ Fasilada's Palace Ethiopia HistoryAncient stone walls of the Royal Enclosure at Gonder ethiopia.

At 75,000 square metres (18.5 acres), the Royal Enclosure is in the city itself, and well worth a visit.

A guide will accompany you when you pay the entry fee. There's a small fee, too, for using video cameras.

Fasiladas Palace, formed from rough blocks of basalt, is the oldest of the structures. Tunnels run under the entire area, but are not accessible.

From the far terrace, there are views to Lake Tana, some 67 kms (40 miles) to the southwest.

The entry fee to the Royal Enclosure also entitles you to same-day entry at Fasiladas' Bath, located some distance away, where Gonder's main street heads west and down a hill. Fasillada's Bath was being restored at the time of our visit.

Sad News for Me: For the first time ever on my travels, I had lost some exposed film roll(s); most of the missing photos are of Gonder, and the Royal Enclosure.

I have no idea where they went, and though I knew they were gone shortly after and searched high and low, they never turned up.

Circle Hotel, Gonder Ethiopia Room with a ViewA room in the Circle Hotel, Gonder ethiopia.

I had been heartened to learn from my guidebook that the Circle Hotel was only two years old at the time of my visit.

My room (with balcony) at the front overlooked Gonder's main street.

It was interesting to people-watch from, but noisy most of the night.

The miserable state of the hotel room prompted someone to point out that in Amharic, there's no word for 'maintenance'.

An empty table and wires were where the television was supposed to be; the manager promised a replacement shortly after check-in.

After two days, when I again inquired about the absent TV, the manager threw his hands up and launched into a scathing diatribe on the manners, customs, level of sophistication and mental capacity of his countrymen.

The price was right, though, at 200 Ethiopian birr ($23 U.S.) for a two nights' stay, and included a decent hot breakfast and a spirited nightly in-room game of Smack The Roaches. My high score is 36. There's an internet cafe just outside the front door in a separate office, and a not-bad dining room, and lively bar. Gonder is the 'big city' in this area and on weekends, especially, it rocks.

Circle Hotel room ensuite Bath typical Ethiopian Style

Gonder Ethiopia at  the Circle Hotel room ensuite bathroom with hot water tank on the wall, shower stall.

This is the ensuite in the room above. The white tank on the wall is the hot water heater, typical of the type in most hotels. When you need to have hot water, plug it in and it heats in about 20 minutes.

The toilet seat was not attached to anything, though the 'roaches were, especially in the shadows under the rim. Together, they made for some lively times.

No, I didn't get much sleep over the two nights, between all the scuttling inside and the raucous party noise outside.

But all things considered, at least I had hot and cold running water, a shower pad, and a flush toilet; much better conditions than much of the populace.

We drove up to the Yeha Hotel, north of town on a hilltop, with marvellous views.

The Yeha Hotel is where most organized escorted tours stay. Now I know why. We had a lovely lunch in the Yeha's very nice dining room.

There are smart shops just outside, in a separate building. The National Tour Operator can arrange bookings at the Yeha Hotel and at other properties (and tours) in Ethiopia.

Gonder main street with Ethiopian shops, banksGonder ethiopia main street with pedestrians across from the bank.

This is the view from the Circle Hotel balcony, overlooking the main street. There's a bank just where the street curves to the left (top of photo).

Follow that street past small restaurants and coffee shops; it eventually winds around to the Royal Enclosure, and a good restaurant.

The Fogera Hotel restaurant is sited on the banks of the city reservoir.

We dined under the stars beside its lapping waters, at tables set up on the patio, and enjoyed it so much that we returned the following night.

The street scene was lively most hours of the day and night, a parade of donkey carts piled high with produce, and a stream of mini buses, trucks and pedestrians; the driver said Gonder is like that most nights.

But the Circle Hotel restaurant fixed-menu lunch of mushroom soup, spaghetti, boiled beef with tartar sauce, crisp fried potatoes and buttered rice, topped off with a slice of papaya and a cup of coffee set me right as rain.

Typical Ethiopian Houses by Gonder highway Houses with walls made from vertical slim wooden posts along the Gonder highway in Ethiopia.

This style of home was commonly seen in many areas of the Highlands, often fenced with field stone walls.

From my notes: 'very basic hovels with tin roofs, walls of wood slats and mud, dirt floors, built across a drainage ditch from the roadway.

They went on for miles. Gonder looked more propserous'.

In early evening, we could see women cooking meals outside, in the courtyards in front of the houses.

Roadside Stop near Gonder EthiopiaRoadside rest stop in field  near Gonder ethiopia.


With few highway facilities available, rest stops were naturally al fresco and ad hoc, that is, wherever you could find a place and whenever you needed to.

The challenge was to find a spot that afforded some privacy, and complete the task quickly, before visitors arrived.

No matter where, or how remote, the spot, as soon as we stopped, youngsters came running from the fields.

We proved to be the greatest attraction :-)


Related Ethiopia photos :

Simien Mountains National Park and Debark;

Axum; Axum stele fields;

Blue Nile Falls).