Hawassa, Ethiopia (also spelled Awasa and Hawasa) is the perfect place to relax on a longer trip to Ethiopia, especially when traveling to the Omo Valley. Here are my recommendations for a romantic and/or relaxing Hawassa Travel Trip.
The fish market is probably the top visited site in Hawassa. It’s best to go in the morning when the fish is coming in and being sold. If you dare, sit in the restaurant with locals and roaming goats and eat raw fish, fried fish, and fish soup (served in mugs).
Amora Gedel Park
This park entrance is next to the fish market. It costs 50 ETB ($2) to get in. Much of the wildlife you can see at other places around the lake can be seen here.
Progressive International Resort
This resort is a bit run down but a great place to spend a few hours relaxing by the lake to see birds, hippos, monkeys, and swimming lizards. Don’t go in the area to the north east of the grounds – the part covered by a wooden fence.
I didn’t take down the name of this place, but you can eat, drink and listen to live music at a cultural house two blocks south of Tasso Italian Ice Cream. Get ready to have funny lyrics sang in Amharic about you, especially if you don’t tip. When I heard “Farangi” and “Habesha” I knew they were poking fun at me. Go with an Ethiopian who can translate.
Lakeside Bars at Sunset
There are loads of bars with great lake views around the jetty that extends from the main street of town. Very cheap beers and drafts. This is the place to be for sunset. If you order fish, expect the huge Maribou Storks to hang around for handouts. But try not to use the restroom here. It brings to mind 3 word: river of poo.
Boat Trips on the lake
For a small price, you can be taken out on the lake for a short scenic boat trip. If you’re lucky, they will find the hippos.
Hawassa seemed to be one of the nicest places in Ethiopia… the harassment level was very low. A local friend did say it wasn’t safe to walk in the central of the city in the night with a bag or camera, and take a Bajaj (tuk-tuk) instead. But the area around the Lake View Hotel seemed perfectly safe for a walk of 10 minutes or less – we could walk to restaurants and the Cultural House.
Hawassa may have the strangest airport I have ever visited. It is very far in the country and there are no signs. I really thought I was going to miss my flight from a wild goose chase. But after many minutes on 13 km of dusty road past mule carts and villages, a small airport with a shed for check-in and waiting. But construction continues on a modern terminal.
Where I stayed:
Lake View Hotel. I cannot recommend this place enough…my favorite hotel in Ethiopia. 650 ETB ($25) per night includes a super clean huge room, king size bed, satellite TV, adequate wi-fi, great bath products, and one of the nicest showers I’ve ever seen. They have a good restaurant with reasonable prices and will do room service too. There is no elevator so consider this if getting a room on the 2nd or 3rd floor. Room 305 has the best view…above the acacia tree and no palm trees blocking the view. We saw (and fed bananas) to two kinds of monkeys and saw many birds and a couple hippos from the balcony. It was great to sit on the balcony and watch the lake while sipping on wine and beer. They seem to be busy every night so I recommend reservations. There is no elevator so consider this if getting a room on the 2nd or 3rd floor.