Our guide to the optimum places to base yourself in all the key destinations throughout Ethiopia
09 Jul 2020
Share article on
The best places to stay in Ethiopia
When planning a holiday to Ethiopia where you stay in each destination is a very important consideration. Whilst the country may be somewhat lacking in genuine “luxury” options, although there are a handful of these, the quality of properties is improving on a seemingly monthly basis, with enough choice to satisfy even the most discerning traveller. Our guide to the best places to stay naturally includes properties being luxurious, but also takes in to account their location and views, ease of access to surrounding attractions, the quality of food (a big thing in Ethiopia) and how well you are looked after during your stay. As soon as it comes to planning your trip please ask about any of these properties and we would be delighted to incorporate one, some or all of them in to your itinerary.
Without question the most luxurious property in Ethiopia, the Sheraton Addis Ababa is an imposing building set on a hillside with stunning views across this thriving African city. The bedrooms have all of the amenities one could wish for and come with the quality and style that one would expect from a major international hotel brand. What makes the hotel so special is the sheer range of leisure facilities and restaurants, making this the perfect place for a few days of well-earned R&R at the end of any trip through Ethiopia. Our favourite feature is the large swimming pool, which sits in the centre of the large patio area where the best views across Addis can be enjoyed.
There is a poolside bar with live music on most evenings, adding a vibrant feeling to proceedings. The six restaurants serve varied food from across the globe, including outstanding Ethiopian food, whilst the bars and café are great for drinks and more relaxed dining. There is also an atmospheric nightclub under the hotel, so guests looking for some late-night entertainment have it easily to hand. A great choice for a few days at the start or end of an odyssey through Ethiopia, or indeed both, the Sheraton Addis Ababa is inarguably the country’s flagship hotel.
As Ethiopia’s tourism industry has matured over the years, a small number of excellent local hotel chains have sprung up, opening properties in a number of destinations throughout the country. Perhaps the best of these chains is Kuriftu, renowned for their small, well-run hotels that have prime locations wherever they choose to set up. Our favourite of the Kuriftu stable is their Bahir Dar incarnation, which occupies an enviable location on the shores of Lake Tana making it the ideal location from which to explore the region’s lake Monasteries as well as the Blue Nile Falls. The bedrooms are stone-built so stay lovely and cool, especially important as it can get hot here despite the lakeside location.
The beds are amongst the most comfortable you will sleep in during a trip to Ethiopia and the bathrooms are well-equipped with everything you could need. There is an excellent restaurant, serving both Ethiopian and Western food, so plenty of choice for those who like to be adventurous, as well as those who prefer the comforts of home. The sparkling swimming pool overlooks the lake and is surrounded by a large decking area, so a great spot for soaking up the sunshine. Unlike many hotels in Ethiopia, it has an outstanding spa, with a huge range of treatments, so guests looking to be pampered after a busy day exploring Monasteries and the Blue Nile Falls.
One of the newest additions to Ethiopia’s hotel scene Gondar Hills, as its name suggests, is found on the hillside overlooking the town of Gondar, one of the most important stops on Ethiopia’s historical northern circuit. The rooms have been designed to take advantage of the stunning views that the property boasts, with large floor to ceiling doors that open up to allow guests to gaze over the historic castles of Gondar.
En-suite bathrooms come with all of the amenities that you could wish for and there is ample space for luggage in the room – something that certainly shouldn’t be taken for granted in Ethiopia. The restaurant is very good, with both local and international cuisine on offer, as well as an excellent wine list including some surprisingly good local wines which more adventurous guests may wish to try. There is a lovely swimming pool here as well, a welcome addition to the town’s leading hotel and a huge region to choose Gondar Hills as your base for exploring the historic castles, beautiful churches and fascinating villages that surround the town.
The stunning Simien Mountains, known locally as the “Roof of Africa” are a must-do for all visitors to Ethiopia. Renowned for stunning views, extensive walking trails and quirky endemic wildlife, this is a wonderful area and one we would not hesitate to recommend visiting. Despite the Simiens’ popularity, there is a surprising lack of permanent lodges to stay in, but the shining light is undoubtedly the wonderful Limalimo Lodge.
The lodge is the brainchild of an Ethiopian guide and his English wife who helps to run the lodge, Limalimo benefits from having some of the highest standards of hospitality in the whole country. The bedrooms are in their own wooden chalets which have wonderful views out across the escarpment and forests that drop from them. The main area is a wonderful open space with a lounge and dining room which leads out to the sprawling deck. A firepit in the middle ensures that guests have the perfect spot to relax in the evenings and enjoy drinks as the sunsets after another blissful day in the Simien Mountains. A superb example of local enterprise partnering with experienced travel industry operators to make the most of Ethiopia’s natural beauty, Limalimo is an undoubted first choice when planning where to stay in the Simien Mountains.
Whilst amazing mountain top locations for hotels are nothing new in Ethiopia, there is something truly special about the Hotel Maribela, a gem of a hotel which commands stunning views of Lalibela. The bedrooms are very spacious and comfortable with private balconies to take advantage of the amazing views, whilst the en-suite bathrooms boast regular hot running water – not something to be taken for granted in Ethiopia. Equally, there is reliable WiFi, an excellent restaurant and bar terrace which also boasts stunning views down the valley and is the ideal spot for sundowner drinks.
Indeed, it is these incredible views that ensures Hotel Maribela stands out above the other hotels in Lalibela, with its sweeping views down to the valley beneath, as well as across the town and to the surrounding jagged mountains. The whole hotel is sited to take advantage of these incredible views and helps make this the number one choice for visitors heading to this gem of Northern Ethiopia. The service is also an important factor in helping make this first choice, with the charming staff amongst the best-trained and most efficient you will find anywhere in the country. This is thanks, in no small part, to the commitment of the owner, a young entrepreneur from Addis Ababa who takes on board all feedback from guests and implements excellent training programmes to ensure his staff deliver the ultimate experience for the hotel’s guests.
Ethiopia is not somewhere that immediately springs to mind as a wildlife destination and it certainly is not marketed as some for safari enthusiasts to spend their time. However, if you are prepared to travel a little off the beaten track then there are some very interesting wildlife areas, not least the breathtaking Bale Mountains in the south-east of the country. Undoubtedly the premier place to stay here is the lovely Bale Mountain Lodge, beautifully located on a plateau with stunning views up to the jagged peaks and forest covered slopes of the surrounding mountains. Styled like a traditional safari lodge, it offers guests a wonderfully comfortable place to stay with excellent food and attentive hosting.
However, it is the experience away from the lodge that makes this such a standout place to stay, not least the wildlife experience. The Bale Mountains are home to the world’s rarest canid, the Ethiopian Wolf, as well as endearing mammals such as the giant forest hog and mole rats. Ornithologists will love the varied bird species found here, whilst those who like more unusual sightings can look for butterflies, frogs and snakes, and many other species. The guides at the lodge have lived in this area their entire lives and to say that they known the area like the back of their hands is an understatement. Whether you are exploring the barren Sanetti Plateau or delving in to the mystical Harrena Forest, they know exactly where to look for everything and have amazing success rates in finding wildlife, especially the Ethiopian Wolf. They impart their knowledge and enthusiasm in such an endearing way and ensure that a visit to the Bale Mountains is the highlight of any visit to Ethiopia.
In contrast to the dry and dusty north of Ethiopia, the south is a land of lush farmland, vast lakes and fascinating tribes replacing the ancient historical sites. The contrast also extends to the accommodation, with precious few places in the south to stay, especially at the higher end of the scale, compared to the relative abundance in the north. Many visitors to the south will choose to camp as opposed to staying in the hotels and lodges, such is the relative lack of quality.
However, if you are heading south and looking for some luxury during your visit then Arba Minch’s Haile Resort is a great choice, offering the comforts of home in a beautiful location. Boasting stunning views out over Lake Chamo, a sparkling swimming pool and excellent food, visitors here are very well looked after throughout their stay. Add to this the spacious, modern bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, well-trained staff and ample facilities, there is nowhere better to stay in the region. Arba Minch acts as the gateway to the famed Omo Valley, with the Haile Resort acting as the best place to stay in the town, either for a night before heading off to explore the Omo or for a few days well-earned R&R once you have returned from seeing the tribes.
Experienced travellers to Africa will be familiar with the concept of luxury tented camps – small camps tucked away in beautiful locations, run by inspiring staff and with amazing activities to enjoy. Although Ethiopia isn’t a safari destination per-se, it does have such a camp, the beautiful Lale’s Camp found deep in the Omo Valley in the south of the country. Nestled on the banks of the Omo River beneath a thicket of trees, Lale’s offers guests genuine tented luxury in one of the most intriguing and under-visited parts of the country.
The tented rooms are spacious and comfortable, with plenty of storage space, en-suite bathrooms and beautiful views through the trees to the river beyond. Aside from the lack of wildlife, guests could be forgiven for thinking they were in a secluded part of the Maasai Mara or Serengeti such is the quality of the tents, which extends to the spacious mess tent where the local staff serve delicious, innovative meals prepared by the chefs. What really makes the experience here so special is Lale himself – born and raised in the Omo Valley, he takes guests well away from the crowds to truly remote and hidden villages. These trips give guests a fantastic insight in to the life of these tribes and how they differ greatly from one another despite living in such close proximity. His relationship is such that he can offer overnight fly camping experiences in both Mursi and Hamar Villages – a truly unique experience and one not to be missed if you are looking for genuinely authentic interactions with the local people.