Gondar & Lake Tana

Known as ‘the Camelot of Africa’, Gondar has an impressive and slightly surreal collection of stone castles and palaces.

Overview

Gondar & Lake Tana

Now the second city in Ethiopia, Gondar is best known for its striking collection of 17th century stone castles and palaces. These are a serene reminder of Gondar’s heyday as the Imperial Capital of Ethiopia. Nicknamed ‘the Camelot of Africa’, they would not look out of place in southern Europe, with their Portuguese and Moorish influences. Certainly they are unexpected in the heart of Africa.

Nearby the serenely beautiful Fasil’s Pool is heaven for photographers at any time of year. The vast sunken moat is only filled once a year at the hugely popular Timkat ceremony. This multi-day religious celebration is in mid-January when thousands of white-robed pilgrims descend on Gondar.

Lake Tana & Bahir Dar

From Gondar it is only an easy 2+ hour drive to the attractive lakeside town of Bahir Dar. Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake and the source of the Blue Nile. It offers excellent birding, island monasteries and scenic attractions such as the Blue Nile Falls. The lake’s mountain backdrop is the craggy Abyssinian Highlands.

The Blue Nile Falls are best visited during, or just after, the rainy season. Then they are at their most impressive. But the charming circular walk to the Falls is enjoyable at any time of year.

The island monasteries mainly date from the 13th and 14th centuries with treasuries filled with ancient artefacts. Some are only accessible to men! But the 18th century Narga Selassie on the island of Dek – reminiscent of the Gondar palaces - is open to all.

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Gloria Darvall

Africa Travel Specialist
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Features

Why you may love it

  • Known as ‘the Camelot of Africa’, Gondar has an impressive and slightly surreal collection of six stone castles and palaces.
  • The serenely beautiful Fasil’s Pool is heaven for photographers at any time of year.
  • Dibran Birhan Selassie church with its elaborate 18th painted walls. Row upon row of angels gaze down from the ceiling.
  • The Gondar palaces, built by Emperor Fasil, are one of Ethiopia’s Wolrd Heritage sites .
  • Kuskuam royal palace
  • Enjoy birding, island monasteries and the Blue Nile falls at Lake Tana.

Explore the Gondar & Lake Tana map

When to visit Gondar & Lake Tana

January to February

Most popular time to visit

January is the most popular time to visit Gondar. The Timkat Festival celebrates the Ethiopian Epiphany over three days of festivities, starting in mid-January. It is centred around Gondar and so if you want to witness it, you may need to book many months ahead. Later on it becomes quieter from March onwards. It is dry and sunny in Gondar and warmer than the far north, with daytime temperatures around 25C in January. However day time temperatures start heading into the low 30c from February onwards.
AVG RAINFALL 13 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 9 Hours
MAX TEMP 29 ℃ / 84 ℉
MIN TEMP 12 ℃ / 53 ℉

March to May

Increasing humidity

Gondar continues to experience high temperatures with little rainfall in March and April. It becomes increasingly humid in April and May with afternoon rain-showers, so it’s not the ideal time to visit. This is a good time to visit Lake Tana as the Blue Nile falls are impressive at this time.
AVG RAINFALL 95 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 8 Hours
MAX TEMP 28 ℃ / 83 ℉
MIN TEMP 14 ℃ / 58 ℉

June to September

Rainy season

This is the start of the rainy season proper. The heaviest rain is in July and August and this brings down daytime temperatures. We don’t recommend this time as many roads become difficult to navigate and the rain is fairly continuous. Rain decreases in September but it remains overcast.
AVG RAINFALL 314 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 5.5 Hours
MAX TEMP 23 ℃ / 73 ℉
MIN TEMP 12.5 ℃ / 55 ℉

October to December

Start of the dry season

The rain departs in October and this is the start of the dry season which lasts to March or April. There are still some passing showers in Gondar in October. This is a lovely time to visit as it is still green after the rainy season and there are fewer people than later in the peak season. The Blue Nile Falls at Lake Tana are also impressive at this time of year.
AVG RAINFALL 82 mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7.5 Hours
MAX TEMP 26 ℃ / 79 ℉
MIN TEMP 11.5 ℃ / 53 ℉

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Got to the heart of the celebrations

"Being in Gondar for Timkat was incredible and Amanuel and Henok ensured we got right to the heart of the celebrations" Mr Tim Flesher, UK
 
Did you know
  • HistoryGondar Castle was built by Emperor Fasilides in the 17th century.