Great Lakes of Ethiopia

The Lakes

Lake Tana

Great Lakes of Ethiopia

A short 45 minute flight from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar you will find one of East Africa’s most prominent natural jewels, Lake Tana. 84 km long, 66 km wide, 15 meters deep, Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia. The Blue Nile, a major tributary to the world's largest river, the great Nile, starts its journey from Lake Tana. 

Some of the world’s oldest churches and monasteries can be found on some of Tana’s 37 islands and peninsulas, the most famous being the Kebran Gabriel. Believed to be built in the 14th century, this ancient church contains a museum with old paintings and manuscripts. Note that only men can enter and visit this monastery, and at the time of writing it is no longer open to the public.

Not as popular as the Kebran Gabriel but certainly the most attractive church in the Lake Tana region is the Ura Kidane Mehret. Founded by Saint Betre Maryiam, this 14th-century church has a stunning interior ornamented with frescos of the then ruler of the Gojjam province, Tekle Haymanot. Unlike the Kebran Gabriel, all genders are permissible to enter and visit, and the church is open to the public.

Lake Tana is also known for its selection of fish, of which more than 70% are endemic to the lake. Birds are also found aplenty around the lake. Recognizing its natural and cultural importance, UNESCO welcomed Lake Tana to its Biosphere Reserve list in 2015.

Lake Ziway

Great Lakes of Ethiopia

Ziway is a freshwater lake that is located on the border between the Oromia Region and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, about 100 kilometers south of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Lake Ziway contains 5 islands dispersed on its freshwater surface, the largest being Tulu Gudo. Legend has it, this island was the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant, the powerful relic King Menelik I brought to Ethiopia in the 4th Century. Then in the 10th Century, when Queen Gudit, the then ruler of Axum, threatened to destroy the relic as part of her crusade to annihilate the rulers of the Axumite dynasty, the Zay people brought the relic to Tulu Gudo and it remained here for about 70 years before being returned to its home, Axum. 

Ziway is also known for its prolific birdlife and hippopotamuses. If you’re spending time in the Rift Valley, we recommend booking yourself on a boat ride around the lake to explore the wildlife under the expert guidance of local fishermen.

Lake Langano

Great Lakes of Ethiopia

3 hours south of the capital lies Lake Langano, an idyllic lake perfect for a night or two of relaxation during a longer tour of the country. 

Just to the east of Lake Langano is the Langano Nature Reserve. This forest is filled with a wide variety of birds and mammals, with some being endemic to Ethiopia. Baboons, hippos, and warthogs are a common sight at this lakeside forest. Two neighbouring eco lodges on the far side of the lake loan modern mountain bikes so you can explore the network of trails that wind through the lake’s nearby forest.

Langano is one of the principal swimming harbors for the locals. Tourists also come here from all over the world to either sail or waterski in the soft brown waters of Langano. Some swim, while others lie in the blazing sun on the sandy shore of the lake.

The Wabi Shebele and Bekele Mola Hotels can be found on the western shores of the Lake, offering decent lakeside beaches, whilst the Bishangari and Sabana Lodges offer the best value for money. We’ll always select the accommodation that’s right for you.

Lake Awassa

One of the best lakes to fish in Ethiopia, Lake Awassa is located 270 km to the south of Addis Ababa, and is the smallest of the Rift Valley Lakes.

With beautiful views, come beautiful hotels. There are many luxury resorts built around the lake, with Haile Resort Awassa being our favourite. The hotel is owned by the famous Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie.

Great Lakes of Ethiopia

Lake Abaya and Chamo

Originally known as Lake Margherita, Abaya is a red lake located east of the Guge Mountains in the Southern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region of Ethiopia. Sediment suspended on the surface of the lake is responsible for the lake’s characteristic red hue. 

Lake Abaya is famous amongst birdwatchers. A breadth of bird species are found here, with white pelicans, black heron, and bright pink flamingos among the most common sightings. 

Located just south of Lake Abaya is Lake Chamo. With a catchment area of about 18,000 sq km and a depth of only 10 meters, this lake is known for its large population of crocodiles.

Great Lakes of Ethiopia

Lake Afdera

Lake Afdera (Afrera as the locals call it) is a saline lake that is in the Danakil depression in the Afar triangle. Barely visited, this lake has a 160m depth and is fed by underground streams.

Salt has been extracted from Lake Afdera for centuries and during your visit there you might see dozens of camels carrying up to a hundred kilos of salt ambling around the Danakil depression. 

Great Lakes of Ethiopia

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