The Bahir Dar Lake Ethiopia

From the city of Bahir Dar, intrepid explorers can take a boat and head out to explore the thirty seven islands which dot the lake. Havens for 13th and 14th century churches and monasteries, these holy sites are filled with ancient manuscripts and artifacts that UNESCO has identified as worth preserving.

Bahir Dar is the capital city of the Amhara region in northern Ethiopia. It’s a port on the south shore of the huge inland Lake Tana. Dek Island is one of many islands in the lake that are home to medieval monasteries. On the Zege Peninsula, the Ura Kidane Mihret monastery is known for its elaborate, colorful murals. The Blue Nile River snakes southeast of the city toward the towering cliffs at the Blue Nile Falls.

The area is also a hotspot for biodiversity, especially birdlife, rendering the area a UNESCO proclaimed biosphere reserve.

Things to See and Do Around Bahir Dar


  • Here is a just a handful of the best points of interest Bahir Dar has to offer visitors including the Blue Nile Falls, Lake Tana, and some local cultural activities and places to see.
  • Lake Tana Ethiopia

    The largest lake in Ethiopia is the source of the Blue Nile and it is truly spectacular. The lake is approximately 84 km long and 66 km wide. Its azure waters, lush shoreline, and diverse range of birdlife make the views and scenery unforgettable. In 2015, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve recognized the lake for its natural importance.

    Where is Lake Tana located? The lake is located at an altitude of 1788 meters on the north central plateau of Amhara. Bahir Dar lies on its southern shore.

    How many islands are in Lake Tana? In total there are 37 islands in the vast lake. They can be reached by boat and there are a number of monasteries in and around the lake.

    The Blue Nile Falls

    Known locally as ‘Tis Islat’ (meaning ‘great smoke)’, the jaw-dropping waterfall is a 400-meter-wide waterfall during the rainy season. Though it gushes water all year round, it does so less furiously outside of the wetter months. The falls have isolated the ecology of Lake Tana from the rest of the Nile, and this has played a pivotal role in the evolution of the area’s wildlife.

    Ancient Monasteries

    Bahir Dar has 37 monasteries which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. They are well-structured and the interiors are decorated with religious imagery including pictures of Christian martyrs and Bible stories. There are numerous guided tours which you can book, a guide can take you between the monasteries and provide insightful information.

    Bahir Dar Market

    The Market is not a very touristic place but what it offers is an insight into genuine Bahir Dar day-to-day life. You can find literally anything at the market including clothes, spices, livestock, and a mouthwatering range of food. The best day to experience the hustle-and-bustle is on a Saturday (market day) when buyers and sellers pour in from neighboring villages.

    Che Che Ido

    The main airline operating out of Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is Ethiopian Airlines, flying to around 125 domestic and international destinations.

    Che Che Ido opens every evening and has a stage for local musicians to play Ethiopian music. There is no entry fee but donations to the players are appreciated and deserved. The bar stocks a wide variety of drinks including Ethiopian beers. The crowd is young, lively and welcoming. If you want you can get involved in the dancing and even get onto the stage!

    Getting to Bahir Dar: Bahir Dar is one of Ethiopia’s largest cities and is well-connected. There are a number of transport options available to visitors.

    Bahir Dar by Plane:

    Bahir Dar Ginbot Haya Airport is situated 8 km west of the city center. There are regular flights from the country’s main airport, Addis Ababa, which are run by Ethiopian Airlines. There are also domestic flights to and from various other places including Lalibela, Gondar, and Axum.Bahir Dar is 555 km north-east from Addis Ababa by road (national highway 3). From Gondar it is 170 km south via road 3. It is just over 310 km east of Lalibela if you go through Woleta.

    Bahir Dar by Car:

    Tourists are allowed to use an international driving licence to drive their own vehicle for 3 months. To drive a local vehicle or to drive for a longer period than 3 months it is necessary to get an Ethiopian driving licence.

    Bahir Dar is 555 km north-east from Addis Ababa by road (national highway 3). From Gondar it is 170 km south via road 3. It is just over 310 km east of Lalibela if you go through Woleta.

    Bahir Dar By Bus:

    The city is connected by daily buses (and private minibuses) which run from Addis Ababa, Lalibela, and Gondar. They often do not leave from the bus station but run from hotels and are organized through tourist agencies. Minibuses are more expensive than buses but are much faster.

    Do you need a visa to get to Bahir Dar?:

    Most probably. Only visitors with passports issued by Dijbouti and Kenya can enter Ethiopia without a visa. Thankfully, getting a visa for Ethiopia is simple and fast.

    The online Ethiopia eVisa application only takes a few minutes to complete, applicants just need to answer some questions before paying the visa fee. Find out more about the eVisa requirements.

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