Bahir Dar

Bahir Dar - The City


Bahir Dar - The City

Bahir Dar grew around a Jesuit settlement, founded in the sixteenth or seventeenth century; a building from this period and associated with Pedro Páez can be seen standing near the central square.

The city is located in north western Ethiopia, and is the 3rd largest city in Ethiopia the city has an estimated population 170,000. Bahir Dar is one of the leading and best tourist destinations in Ethiopia with a variety of attractions in the nearby Lake Tana and Blue Nile river, it is also capital of the Amhara land region. The city is distinctly known for its wide avenues lined with palm trees and a variety of colorful flowers.

It is also considered as one of the most beautiful, well planned, and safest cities in Africa by many standards, and in 2002 it was awarded UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize for managing to address the challenges of rapid social economic developments.

The city is located approximately 578 km north-northwest of Addis Ababa and an elevation of 1840m above sea level. At least two main attractions are a must see in Bahir Dar: “Tis Isat”, the misty Blue Nile Falls is a most dramatic spectacle on either the White or the Blue Nile rivers.

The waterfall is four hundred meters (1,312 feet) wide when the river is in flood and it descends to the river surface below over a sheer chasm more than forty-five meters (150 feet) deep, in the course of which this misty falls throw up a continuous spray of water, which drenches onlookers up to a kilometre away. The delight to the visitor of this majestic waterfall is the rainbows it produces, which shimmer across the gorge, and the site, a small perennial rainforest of lush green vegetation, which is equally the delight of many monkeys and multicolored birds inhabiting the area. 

Blue Nile Falls

Rivaling the attraction of the Blue Nile Falls is Lake Tana, with it's for thirty-seven islands scattered about on its 3,000 square kilometer (1,860 square mile) surface, twenty of which shelter churches and monasteries both historically and culturally significant as the repository of innumerable treasures.

A particularly interesting site is Dega Estefanos (which houses a Madonna painted during the reign of Emperor Zera Yaqob (1434-1468) and, more importantly, the glass-sided coffins containing the mummified remains of several of former emperors of Ethiopia, including Yekuno Amlak, restorer of the Solomonic Dynasty to the throne in 1270; Dawit, late fourteenth century, and Zera Yaqob, fifteenth century, to name but a few), Dek, Narga, etc.

Most of these churches are off-limits to women, but those of the Zaghe peninsula and the churches of Ura Kidane Mehret and Narga Selassie can be visited by women.


The city is equipped with an airport with paved runways, identified by the ICAO code HABD and IATA BJR; Ethiopian Airlines operates scheduled flights both day and night between Bahir Dar and the capital as well as with Gondar to the northwest. The city is also connected through roads (and bus lines) to other cities. The most common and convenient way of traveling in Bahir Dar is cycling. Taxis also provide efficient transportation in the city. Executive intercity bus service is provided by the Selam Bus, Sky Bus amongst other private investors are in plenty.

A View of Lake Tana


Bahir Dar birdlife is rich and diverse, with a range of habitats supporting a multitude of species. Lake Tana is a key birding area, in particular Fasilidas Island, which is especially famous as an important wetland. The whole of the Lake Tana region and the Blue Nile Gorge have a wide variety of birds both endemic and visitors.


Bahir Dar conservation mostly consists of formal and informal environmental education, and as the town is a growing educational hub, a number of projects are aimed at the youth. The growing threat of industrial pollution is also a key conservation issue. PlantsBahir Dar plant life varies, with a number of key ecosystems within the region.

The major habitats around Lake Tana are farmland, grassland, forest, rocky areas, marsh, reedbeds, while more sparse vegetation can be found around the city itself.

Safety Tips.

The Federal Police, the city police and the local neighborhood militia provide security to the city  Some hustlers around the shore of Lake Tana over-charge for boat trips - only use proper brokers  The city is otherwise extremely safe to visit with very few issues.


Travel Books.

Bahir Dar recommended travel books include the following:

Bradt Travel Guide: Ethiopia by Philip Briggs.

Ethiopia and Eritrea Lonely Planet Country Guide by Matt Phillips and Jean-Bernard Carillet

Ethiopia, the Unknown Land: A Cultural and Historical Guide by Stuart Munro-Hay

The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance by Philip Marsden

Visa Requirements.

Get more information on visas in Ethiopia.


Bahir Dar wildlife is fairly minimal, and mostly consists of beautiful black-and-white Colobus monkeys which can be found across the city and Lake Tana region. Large numbers of Nile crocodile can also be found around the lakeshore.