Founded during the first decades of the 20th century at the southern tip of Lake Tana and along the banks of the Blue Nile, Bahir Dar has gone on to become the foremost tourist destination of north western Ethiopia. The city has an altitude of 1,830m above sea level and a tropical climate with an average temperature of 190c.
At Bahir Dar you can spend days strolling along palm-lined avenues, lake side vistas exploring the Nile, and the Woito clan’s village, viewing spectacular sunset and riding a bicycle. St. George Church and the 16th century one-storied Portuguese building in the same compound are also worth visiting.
Festivals like the New Year on Sept. 10 or 11, the Meskel or Finding of the True Cross on Sept. 26, Christmas on Jan. 7, Timkat or Epiphany on Jan. 19, are also colorfully celebrated at Bahir Dar.
The Bazawit Hill Top
In February, the jacaranda trees are in full blossom, painting the city boulevards and village streets in a soft violet hue. On a peaceful hill near Emperor Haile Selassie's Bahir Dar palace, overlooking the Blue Nile is a mile long stretch of jacarandas to frame the entrance to this majestic spot. The hilltop of Bezawit offers a spectacular view of the surrounding, the city, the islands of Lake Tana and Blue Nile flowing out of the lake. With some luck one might see hippopotamus colonies at the bottom. The palace of Emperor Hailesillasie built in the 1960s also perches on the hill top.
The open-air Market
One of the largest markets in Northern Ethiopia is found in Bahir Dar. If you want to buy handicrafts like jewelries, woven and embroidered garments, ox-horn cups, grass baskets/ Agelgil/ at a very reasonable price, Bahir Dar open-air market has them all. The market also offers a unique opportunity to look at the hair, clothing and market exchange styles and other indigenous culture of the local community.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a pioneer of modern education in the country. Even today there are famous traditional schools in Bahir Dar where prospective young members of the clergy learn Ge’ez hymns and other liturgy that qualify them to serve the Church. The system of education and the living styles of students in their small, thatch-roofed huts are amazing.