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Africa > East Africa > Ethiopia > Northern Ethiopia > Mekele

Mekele

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Mekele is in the Tigrayan Highlands in Ethiopia. It is the capital of the Tigray region and has a population of 200,000.

Understand[edit]

Mekele (or the smaller towns of Wukro and Hawzien to the north) can be used as a base to explore the many rock-hewn churches scattered across the stunning high-desert landscape of northern Tigray. The churches are as rewarding to visit as they are (often) difficult to reach. Abuna Yemata Guh is a particular highlight, although not recommended for those without a head for heights. The tourist office in Wukro can help to arrange guides and transport.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

Coming from Axum there are three types of buses: public buses, minibuses and shared taxi. The buses depart from Axum in the early morning. If you want to go to Mekele in the afternoon you have to go by either minibus with a stopover in Adwa or by shared taxi. Ask at the bus station for certain taxi companies. The public bus should be about 65 birr, the minibus 90 birr and the shared taxi around 100 birr. From Addis Ababa buses depart early morning from Meskel square, cost around 600 ETB and take about 14 hours (July 2019). It is advisable to purchase your tickets a few days in advance (e.g. Selam bus has their office near Meskel square, but there are also other companies). The bus passes Yangudi Rassa National Park which gives you some scenic views during your ride. Buses leave Wukro for Mekele regularly.

It is possible to travel to Lalibela by public bus in a long day. You need to be at the bus station in town just before 6:00AM. There are some changes of bus on the way but everything goes pretty smoothly until you reach Woldia. There are direct buses from Woldia to Lalibela these do not go via Gashena but turn off the B22 before Gashena however the direct buses only run in the morning. Buses from Mekele arrive in Woldia in the afternoon so you need to either take a bus to Gashena and change or pay extra money (300 Birr per person, as of 2020) so that the bus goes direct.

Buses from the north terminate at the Northern bus station, about 4 km north of the town. Buses leaving for southern destinations leave from the bus station in the centre of town.

By plane[edit]

As of July 2011, there are daily direct flights to Axum, Addis Ababa and Lalibela. For other destinations you have to change flights.

Get around[edit]

See[edit]

Yohannes IV Museum
  • Yohannis IV Museum, opposite the Atse Yohannis Hotel. Formerly the palace of Emperor Yohannes IV.
  • Sit on the balcony of the Atse Yohannis Hotel (situated near Ethiopian Telecomms building, on the roundabout that has a sometimes-on fountain in its centre) and watch the world go by while having a coffee, cold beer, fresh juice, lunch or dinner. It's a nice view and you're up on the first floor so you're away from beggars and street-stares.
  • Abreha Castel Hotel.
  • Romanat Waterfall.
  • Haweltii Semaetat (ሃውልቲ) (The main entrance is on the northern side of the complex). The museum at the memorial is most interesting and has many photos taken from TPLF archives
  • Choma'a.

Do[edit]

  • Walk around the town, the tree-lined streets are pleasant to walk around and observe life going on around you.
  • Chele Anka Waterfall - 8km out of Mekele, to the southwest - a nice hike to get there, more dramatic in the rainy season.

Buy[edit]

  • Traditional clothing and Jewelery.

Eat[edit]

There are quite a few 'ferenji' restaurants in Mekele, serving pizza, meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and salads. There's also lots of national food restaurants and many cake/pastry/coffee shops.

  • Geza Gerelassie - eating/drinking/dancing venue, has great beef dishes such as shish kebab and shekla tibs. Live Ethiopian music and dancing at the weekend (or is it Thursday and Saturday nights - maybe someone else can confirm?). Everyone gets up and joins in, it's good fun. They have good food too and a bar.
  • Karibu Kitchen restaurant has European and national dishes. The pizza is great and you can eat outside in the charming garden.
  • Yordanos restaurant beside the Abreha Castle Hotel has European and national dishes. They have another branch down the road into the town, called Yordanos Blue (this one doesn't have pizza but has everything else).

Drink[edit]

  • SUWA.
  • Mese.

Sleep[edit]

  • Atse Yohannis Hotel (near Ethiopian Telecoms building, on the roundabout that has a sometimes-on fountain in its centre), +251 344-406 760. One of the classic "Western" hotels in town. They have a huge selection of good food which is surprisingly cheap. 220-400 birr depending on room.
  • Axum Hotel (on the way to Mekele City from Alula Abanega Airport).
  • Parrot Guest House, On the side street directly across the road from the main entrance to the Enda Maryam Church. Breakfast included, pleasant courtyard. Can book with internet booking sites.
  • Planet hotel.
  • Seti Hotel (south of Lucy park). Rooms are simple with basic facilities included. 450 ETB for a double room (July 2019).

Go next[edit]

  • Hawzien to the north, in an area with many rock-hewn churches
  • Adwa and nearby Yeha with its ancient temple, further north than Hawzien
This city travel guide to Mekele is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.