Bahir Dar Ethiopia: A Simple Visitor Guide and 11 Cool Tips

Bahir Dar People talking in rain -

Bahir Dar Ethiopia is the third-largest city in Ethiopia. It is found within the jurisdiction of west Gojjam. Bahir Dar Ethiopia is the present capital city of the Amhara regional state.

Besides this, it is the headquarters for the Amhara regional administration. Bahir Dar Ethiopia implies “seashore” in Amharic. It got its title from Lake Tana, which is found inside the city.

How Does Bahir Dar Ethiopia Began?

The city is established alongside this lake. I will attempt to address everything that I have found out and known about Bahir Dar Ethiopia. It talks about Bahir Dar Ethiopia’s history, characteristics, demography, culture, climate, environment, economy, and last but not least my experience there.

Originally, Bahir Dar Ethiopia was known as Bahir giyorgis. It was more of a village or a city rather than a city. It was characterized by different traditional settlement patterns according to their social position.

The top in the hierarchy were the ‘balabbat’ communities and the kahenat/ clergy. Other than this, there are three groups of tenant craftsman communities.

These all three groups lived on balabbat lands. Despite the economic interdependence, there was no intermarriage between the tenants. The tenant communities were not allowed to marry with the balabbat and the kahenats.

At this time, there was high trading activity within themselves as well as with the people located at the ports of Lake Tana. The Italian traveler tried to estimate its population in 1891. In the early twentieth century, the British bring many teams that study on the outlet of Lake Tana with the desire to construct a stream there.

In 1936, when the Italians invaded as again, they occupied Bahir Dar Ethiopia and gave it many new urban features. The Italians abolished the old communal family land ownership and replaced it with private ownership.

The Italians took the land of the balabbats and utilized it for an organization, armed force, an airstrip, and harbor facilities. They even delineated new commercial and residential zones for the city.

They connected the city with the ports of Lake Tana using motorboats. Besides, roads that connect Bahir Dar Ethiopia with Addis Ababa, Gondar, and Debre Markos were built. This features changed the physical and social appearance of the city.

This derived new settlement patterns. Two of the tenant communities that are the weyto and the Muslim communities were affected by the new settlement pattern. However, the tanner communities were not affected by this new settlement. In the commercial zone, the participation of Ethiopian people was low.

Bahir Dar People talking in rain -
“AAE026A” by gill_penney is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Italians, Arabs, Somalis, and some Sudanese ran all of the shops, tearooms, restaurants, and bars. Bahir Dar Ethiopia got political importance in the eyes of the Italians. They made the city administrative center for the southern territories of Lake Tana.

They were also wanted to develop the Lake Tana agriculturally and produce hydroelectric power. Not all these ambitions of the Italians came to reality as the Ethiopian government was reinstated in 1941.

After the Ethiopian took over, Bahir Dar Ethiopia as a city was showing remarkable growth. From sub-district level to the municipality.

Moreover, in the early 1950s to the best substitute capital for Ethiopia. And later Bahir Dar Ethiopia becomes the capital of west gojjam.

The Ethiopian government developed Bahir Dar Ethiopia as a market and transportation center of the economic growth of lake tuna and the Blue Nile basin.

Germen experts prepared a comprehensive master plan with new zoning. The implementation of this new master plan completely changed the physical appearance of the city.

Bahir Dar Ethiopia became a center of economic and industrial development. Major infrastructures such as water supply, hydroelectric power, bridges, hospitals, and higher institutions were endowed. Because of the country’s free economic system, the growth of Bahir Dar Ethiopia skyrocketed in the 1990s.

The free economic system encouraged investments and other market potentials. This rendered Bahir Dar Ethiopia the core for industry, transport, communication, health, education and tourism development.

Bahir Dar Ethiopia Today?

In this time, Bahir Dar Ethiopia became the capital of the Amhara regional state.

Bahir Dar Ethiopia is the biggest city in Ethiopia after Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. It is a clean and well-maintained city.

It is generally considered a safe and violent free city as it entertains most of the tourist flow. There are many options to get to the city. The first and shortest one is by plane.

How Can I Travel To Bahir Dar Ethiopia?

You can get there by using the inbound flight routes of Ethiopian airlines. The Bahir Dar Ethiopia Ginbot haya international airport is 10 km away from the city center. The second one is cross-country buses that connect different major cities.

These buses are safer minibusses. There is a newly built bus station on the south side of the city near the national stadium. The third means to get there is by using minibusses. They are faster than minibusses but due to the roads, it is less safe.

You can also take a private tour to get to Bahir Dar Ethiopia from any city you are. There are many means of transportation within the city. The city’s major means of transportation is ‘bajaj’, which is a three-wheeled mini car. It can hold 3 people at once.

However, the local drivers put on up to 5 persons. The second option is the minibus taxis. There are now a few minibusses that give transport services within the city. Most of them link to different cities. You can also rent cycles from the locals and go around the places you want.

There is low car traffic, which makes it trouble-free for cycling around. The palm trees along the street make the riding along the street fascinating.

lake tana

Who Lives in Bahir Dar Ethiopia?

More than 318,000 people live in the city. From this population, 51.6 percent are men and 48.4 percent are women. Based on the 2007 census 81.16% of them lives in urban parts of the city while the rest lives in the rural kebeles.

When we see the ethnic and linguistic composition, the largest is Amhara, which is 96.23%. The tigrayans are 1.11% and the Oromo’s are 1.1% and the rest ethnic groups together 1.56%. The popular language spoken is Amharic, few speak Oromia and others speak their primary language.

When we look at the religion 79.72% say the practice Ethiopian orthodox Christianity, 18.47 were Muslim, and 1.62 were Protestants. The city offers numerous little every day markets and vast weekend market. There are also conventional music houses within the city.

Any Institutions in Bahir Dar Ethiopia Worth Mentioning?

There are several colleges and universities within the city. The infamous one is Bahir Dar Ethiopia University. It was to begin with a Polytechnic Institute, which was built by the Soviets and inaugurated by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1963.

This was afterward consolidated with Bahir Dar Ethiopia teachers’ college and got became the Bahir Dar Ethiopia University in 2000.

The university now has more than 52,000 students with 219 academic programs. From these programs 69 are undergraduate programs, 118 are masters programs and 32 are Ph.D. programs.

The university comprises four institutes, five colleges, two facilities, and one school. The university is now working to be one of the ten research universities in Africa by 2025.

What are Tourst Attractions in Bahir Dar Ethiopia?

Bahir Dar Ethiopia is located 578 kilometers north of northwest from Addis Ababa. It has an altitude of 1820 meters above sea level. The city is located at the tip of Lake Tana where the Abay River begins.

There are also many islands on Lake Tana, which are monasteries and churches. There is also tis Abay, a beautiful waterfall that is breathtaking. Bahir Dar Ethiopia is rich in vegetation types and ecosystems. There are also many indigenous plants there.

The plants that are located around Lake Tana are known to self-heal themselves and thus are used for traditional medicine. One of the prominent vegetation is the palm trees. It has given the city an iconic character.

The man who was responsible for planting and taking care of these trees have been recognized publicly recently. The climate of Bahir Dar Ethiopia is a tropical savanna climate to subtropical highland climate. The average temperature ranges from 20 degrees to 25 degrees.

Bahir Dar Ethiopia’s economy is based on its tourism, market, and industry. The most dominant one is tourism. Bahir Dar Ethiopia is one of the prominent tourist destinations. Bahir Dar Ethiopia is suited at the edge of Lake Tana.

This geographical location acts as the starting point and the introduction of the northern parts of Ethiopia. They start their tour from Bahir Dar Ethiopia and continue to the north. There are many things to see that are worth your while. The first one is Lake Tana which is the starting point for the world’s largest rive the Nile.

The lake also has many islands. Most of these islands are churches and monasteries. Tourists can hire private tours and visit these islands. The other startling thing to see in Bahir Dar Ethiopia is the Blue Nile Falls. With a width of 400 meters and a fall from 45 meters is an astonishing thing to see there.

There are historical things to see in Bahir Dar Ethiopia. The well-known one is the palace of Emperor Haile Selassie which was built by the Italians. This tourism industry has enhanced the local markets. There are many markets alongside the main road.

It has also created many work opportunities for the local inhabitants. There are many tour guides and boat owners that give a tour to the tourist that goes there. There are also many hotels and resorts there with a price range depending on their standards.

To list some of them kuriftu Lake Tana resort and spa, dalot pension, Lake Tana Hotel, ghion hotel, papyrus hotel, etc.

What is the Weather Like in Bahir Dar Ethiopia?

And precipitation of 1400mm annually. The bega season is the months from November to March. This season is warm. and July and August are the kiremt seasons and this season is cooler seasons.

There is a high chance of precipitation during this season. Most of the city’s rainfall is obtained during this season. There is no such temperature difference because Ethiopia is located close to the equator.

Nevertheless, the nights are chill in December and January. Since Bahir Dar Ethiopia is all year round sunny city, anybody can visit at any time but because of the rain, it might be a little difficult for visitors to tour.

blue niles

Personal Experience on Bahir Dar Ethiopia

I had seen Bahir Dar Ethiopia last year. We had a batch trip to the northern parts of Ethiopia. we went to Bahir Dar Ethiopia as the last destination of our trip. So we had to enter the city from the north. We began our journey from Gonder and arrived there after 3 hours.

When I arrive at the city, my first impression was the palm trees in the streets that gives Bahir Dar Ethiopia its character. It had some similar characteristics with my hometown Addis.

After that, we carried on our baggage and went to the hotel we stayed in. Be checked in at the papyrus hotel. It was a nice hotel at an affordable price.

It has a swimming pool free for guests who stay there. Then we put our bags in our room and had lunch. Then some of us began to swim. Then at night, we went to a fish house and had our dinner.

And on the next, some of us hire a private tour and went on to see Lake Tana as well as the islands there. This was the time I was on a boat.

I had never been in one before and the wave is active, and it was a little bit scary. The funny thing is I did not wear my life vest in the first round. But in the next round, I wore my vest. We visited around 4 islands. They were all amazing with their character.

We had our lunch on the last island we visited. We had fish fresh from the lake. And there was this big fresh mango that I ate after lunch. After we finish our tour, we went back to our hotel.

Then at night, we had our dinner and packed our staff for our journey tomorrow. Then we returned to Addis and this was how our trip ended.


Bahir Dar Ethiopia is one of the fast developing cities in Ethiopia. The city is the leading destination of tourists and the starting point of tours in northern parts of Ethiopia.

Having an international airport and inbound flight routes from the capital city makes it easily accessible. The weather of the city is warm throughout the year and a comfortable place to live in.

In this article, I tried to show and tell the things I discovered and found out about Bahir Dar Ethiopia incorporating it with my personal experience.

I recommend anyone visiting there should see Lake Tana as well as the islands. The churches and monasteries in islands. And the fascinating Blue Nile falls.

There are also many things to see other than this. The historical palace of Emperor Haile Selassie, the local markets, and their cultural traditions. Bahir Dar Ethiopia is one of the places in Ethiopia that is worthy of your time for a visit.

Bahir Dar

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