Plan Your Visit
First time Hawassa: top tips for your first visit to the South Nations, nationalities and Peoples Region capital
As one of Ethiopians preferred tourist destination in Southern Part; National Parks, Recreation Centers, Natural Attractions, Delicious and Spicy Ethiopian Dishes and Nightlife are just the starting point for what's on offer to first-time visitors.
Don’t Miss Visiting Sites On the way:
There are very interesting attractions and places you can come across and visit on your way to Hawassa. The following are a few to mention:
There are a number of attractions that are catchy for both local and international tourist in Hawassa and the surrounding areas. As a tourist or visitor to Hawassa, we have listed a number of a must to see attractions and places so that you can learn culture and have wonderful time enjoying alone, with your beloved ones or friends. Please check our Places to Visit link. In case you need further information, please hesitate not to contact us.
Abijatta - Shalla Lakes National Park
The National Park is a combination of Lakes Abijatta and Shalla, and the land between and around them, in East Shewa Zone. The park is 56 km south-west of Lake Ziway and to the west of the main Mojo–Moyale road. Both lakes are without outlets, and the water is alkaline. Lake Abijatta is very shallow (up to 14 m), while Lake Shalla, in the crater of an extinct volcano, is very deep (up to 266 m).
Over 400 species have been recorded from the park. The park is at one of the narrowest parts of the Great Rift Valley, a major flyway for both Palearctic and African migrants, particularly raptors, flamingos and other waterbirds. Among the globally threatened species known from the park are: Aquila heliaca (a rare passage migrant); Falco naumanni (an uncommon passage migrant with a few wintering); Circus macrourus (fairly common passage migrant, with a few wintering); and Acrocephalus griseldis (status unknown). Glareola nordmanni has also been recorded. Fish-eating birds have mostly abandoned the park since the fish in Lake Abijatta died out. However, huge numbers of many wetland species remain, such as Phoenicopterus ruber, P. minor (the numbers of which fluctuate), Anas clypeata andCharadrius pecuarius. The fringes of Lake Abijatta form an important feeding and resting ground for waders and ducks, particularly Anas clypeata, Recurvirostra avosetta, Calidris minuta and Philomachus pugnax. Smaller insectivores, such asMotacilla flava and Hirundo rustica, have also been recorded in massive numbers.
Lake Langano resembles a giant puddle of milky English tea set against the blue curtain of the Arsi Mountains. The water may be brown and unappealing, but it’s one of the few Ethiopian lakes to be declared bilharzia-free and thus safe for swimming. And, like all the Rift Valley lakes, the birdwatching is good.Our best advice: avoid the weekends, when every man and his ghetto blaster make the 180km trip from Addis Ababa.
Visiting villages that are historical and that shows the local way of living of residents in different part of the city is also valuable than staying in common recreation centers and hotels. The following are our recommendations so that you can have wider view about how it looks like living in Hawassa and culture from different angles.
Hawassa as a young city has been in growth progress with people from different parts of the county and the world. There are historic villages or parts of the city where you can find early residents. Arab sefer , is an area where Arabs came here and settled in trade activities. The area is located around the largest open market in the city. This area is also business center in Hawassa where by different whole sellers of both agricultural, factory and major brokers are found. The other areas that worth visiting are Addis Ababa, Korem and Wukuro villages where the first retired soldiers were settled. You can also visit a historic site in different zones and cultures around Hawassa.
Churches, Mosques and Other Religious Values
There are different religious values that are regularly visited by both local and international tourists. These include different Churches, Mosques and other religious organization in Hawassa where you can attend religious ceremonies and visit their sermons.
Hawassa Millennium and Alamura Parks are conserved areas in Hawassa city with different vegetation and they have birds and other wild animals. These areas are in Hawassa city periphery areas where you can enjoy the silence and nature for devotion, camping and other conserved areas related activities.
Where to eat
European and Traditional Ethiopian dishes are served in different parts of the city. However, there are significant variations in quality, price and services offered. It is wise to have a guide or further information so that you can find different dishes.
Even though most hotels in Hawassa list variety of dishes in their menu, there are kinds of preferences among users for specific types of dishes. Traditional Dishes include Sidama Traditional Dishes, generally known Ethiopian Dishes, Ethiopian Special Occasion Dishes, Raw Fish, Raw Meat, Traditional Drinks and Alcohols and others are unique in Ethiopia. Most importantly Raw Fish meat from Hawassa Lake, Sidama Cultural Dishes and Local coffee ceremonies are unique in Hawassa that other parts of the country.
Where to drink
You can find various alcohols and non-alcohol drinks in different bars, café, restaurants, groceries and bars. There is variations in prices and services they offer. In most cases it is not advisable to drink water from public water supply and Local alcohols are in some areas mixed with unwanted ingredients such as excess sugar instead of honey for local alcohol ‘tej’ and other products. However, you can have in those service providers that are known for their preferred products. Larger hotels and service providers are providing genuine services.
Booking and Accommodations
You can find different types of accommodations in different price ranges and packages. You can reserve your hotel on phone taking into consideration their terms of condition. However, there are some complaints regarding online booking and phone reservations for there are limitedness in online booking system in Ethiopia. Therefore it is advisable to contact your agent and confirm firmly your reservation sometimes with third party booking agents.
Several vaccinations are highly recommended when traveling to Ethiopia, they include:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Make sure you start getting your vaccinations at least 8 weeks before you travel. Consult your doctor before your trip for the type of vaccination you may need based on your health status and latest health news in the area.
Ethiopia is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as the dangerousfalciparum strain. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Ethiopia (don't just say Africa) so s/he can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication. Tips on how to avoid malaria will also help.
For the most part traveling in Ethiopia is safe, but you should take the same precautions as you would travel in any African country. It is also wise to avoid all border areas (with Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan) since there's still pockets of political unrest, and kidnapping of tourists in these areas have occurred in the past.
Basic safety rules for travelers to Ethiopia
- Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage or somewhere safe.
- Don't walk on your own at night in Addis Ababa and other major tourist towns.
- Take adequate care to travel during nights: traffic accidents are higher in night times, road signage are not adequately reflective if any, and possibly or getting robbed in dark and hostile areas, though they are rare.
- Don't wear jewelry (if you wear, make sure it is not easy to see by bystanders).
- Don't carry too much cash with you. Take basic precaution to avoid bystander noticing you are carrying significant money with you.
- Wear a money belt that fits under your cloths.
- Take care from being miss led by illegal tour guides, and people who may provide you wrong information about tourism, government affairs or other activities you may need.
- Don't carry a lot of camera equipment or expensive items, especially in the major cities.
When to Go to Hawassa
Hawassa is visited in its summer season (June – September) by local people and some international tourists. The other busy season for foreign tourists is between September – January, where there are many traditional celebrations and relatively medium weather condition. Both seasons are highly preferred by both residents and tourists for they have moderate weather condition, more green and full of flowers season, holidays like Christmas,
Ethiopian Epiphany and Muslim Celebrations and it is harvesting season. The other reason is that that , as a market center for nearby coffee producing zones in SNNPR , Sidama and Gedeo, the local coffee farmers will have higher income after coffee sales and market activities for both Coffee and non-coffee agricultural production will give additional color to the city .
Internet and other communication Technologies
Most hotels and hospitality service providers provide free Wi-Fi Internet service to their clients beside Internet Centers in some parts of the city and 3G and 4G Internet via GSM SIM cards. In addition there are also different Internet packages that are provided with the sole internet service provider in the country. You can visit their website www.ethiotelecom.com .
However, it is advisable to take into consideration a relatively slow Internet connection speed and limitedness in availability of access to Internet. It is recommended to have a copy of your electronic documents on you PC or other storage device in case you might not be able to access your email attachments or other documents you may need to download.
Where to Shop
Hawassa is a market center for Hawassa and nearby areas majorly in agricultural products next Shashemene town. In Hawassa city, you can visit different kinds of shops of marketing cents to purchase commodities. Most of tourist related consumer goods and service providers are located around Piazza areas, where prices are slightly higher than other areas.
You can also visit open market of Hawassa in Market days: every Monday and Thursday, these open markets are mostly crowded yet serve fresh agricultural products and other common household commodities n cheaper price.
You can also find, different areas that are specialized in different items such as, Piazza Behind Yamare hotel many jewelry shops, piazza shopping centers for boutiques and cosmetics, Menehariya gate for fresh fruites, Arab Sefer and Atote for Building materials and there are many ‘specialized’ areas.
Be aware of Ethiopia’s way of telling the time that differs by 6 hours from our own. They state their time in how many hours after sunrise (6 am) it is. So their 1 o’clock refers to 1 hour after sunset = 7 am our time. Or, simply say “habesha time” or “gringo time” – as in “Pick me up at 4 in the morning – habesha time, yes?” and repeat that many, many times.
Bring a cellphone. This is probably the most important tip I can give to people coming to visit Ethiopia for longer than a week. I ended up using my cellphone so much I can’t imagine what it’d be like without. I used it to confirm flights, to reserve flight tickets, to call taxis, to book hotels, etc.