Things to do on a short layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Are you planning a 15 hour layover in Addis Ababa? Or maybe you are staying a couple of days? It’s not always easy trying to find things to do for such a short time, especially if it’s only a stopover and doesn’t form part of the rest of your journey that you really planned for. Whatever the case may be, you have come to the right place to make the most of your short layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

I just came back from my own short stopover in Addis Ababa and really enjoyed my time there. As an outdoor lover, I focused more on seeing some of the natural beauty just outside the city, rather than staying in the crowded built up areas.
Some people might tell you the real highlights of Ethiopia’s natural beauty are too far away to enjoy in a day from Addis Ababa. Then continue reading because I’m going to reveal you some spectacular spots that I’m sure you’re going to love, within reach of Addis Ababa! And even down to the detail of how you’re going to get there.

When I arrived to Addis Ababa I was lucky enough to bump into a local that went out of his way to ensure I would enjoy myself. Read on to learn about the places we visited.

At 10am in the morning we met up and set off on our journey. First up, as it is on the way and a world famous place to visit, we stopped at the Ethiopian National Museum. It has a beautiful small garden in front of it but apart from that is not a very pretentious place. However, inside, you will be able to witness with your own eyes what some people see as one of the origins of civilisation. The remains of Lucy are found here, which according to modern science, date back 3.2 million years.. Now you might be religiously inclined to know otherwise, like me, but it is nevertheless very interesting to see what all this science is about! Also in the museum you will find ancient (royal) artifacts, slightly more recent pieces of Ethiopian art, and exhibits of dress that have been used in Ethiopia for years and years. Entrance to the museum is 10 Birr which is about 0,30 USD.

Moving on from the Ethiopian National Museum, we made our way onto Entoto mountain. Addis Ababa, being at an elevation of an impressive 2300 meters, can be viewed beautifully from this spot that towers above the city at 2800 meters, about 500 meters higher! The drive from Addis Ababa city center to the Entoto mountain viewpoint is only about one hour.

Having taken in these beautiful views, we continued on to the north, passing the towns of Sululta, Chancho and Muke Turi, finally reaching the Portuguese bridge near Debre Libanos. Now the bridge in itself is quite an impressive structure, thought to be built in the 16th century. But what might impress you even more are the amazing views out over the adjacent valley. Simply magnificent and you can get as close to them as you want to, with big rocky outcrops, perfect for an unobstructed view and just as good for an awe inspiring photograph.

As you cross the bridge and continue taking a slight right turn, you will be able to admire the structure from a different perspective and, depending on the season, will discover a magnificent or peaceful waterfall. In july, august and september the waterfall is usually ablaze and a spectacular sight that you should not approach too closely. But outside of those months you’ll be able to move right up to the waterfall and even stand under the little stream that is left of it.

The journey to Debre Libanos from Addis Ababa is 100 kilometers, but because of the road condition with plenty potholes and some damage, and also some trucking traffic, expect to average about 40 kilometers per hour getting there.

We then returned back to Addis Ababa for the overnight stay, as in my case I was lucky enough to have a 48 hour layover. But the whole trip took us 11 hours from departure to arrival and that’s without any rushing. If this was not enough adventure or you’re looking for something different, read on to find out what I did on day 2.

We agreed to meet again on day 2 of my stay, and were going to head outdoors in a different direction, this time east of Addis Ababa. While driving we much accidentally stumbled upon a really original place to enjoy the local strong coffee that is always paired with some incense. If you keep your gaze slightly to the right of the route, you can’t miss the Boeing 737 restaurant, parked on the side of the road. For a couple dollars you’ll be enjoyng your coffee in business class, taking flight in your imagination and being served by the most friendly staff you’ll have seen in a long time, wearing the traditional Ethiopian dress. It makes for a really nice energy boost before you embark on the outdoor adventure of the day.

A few kilometers down from the B737 cafe, you’ll take a left turn and pass some very friendly small villages, while the road takes you deeper into the original Ethiopian countryside. The road surface worsens a little, but it’ll be worth your destination. We are heading to Suba Menagesha, a forest park with very tall historical trees and a large array of flora and fauna. The entrance to the park is about 160 Birr for foreigner tourists, which means about 5 USD at the time of writing.  You will then be granted access to this park for the day, where you can breathe in fresh air to your hearts desire and admire all the different shades of green in existence. The track slopes upwards a little, so if you are like me not accustomed to the altitude yet, you might initially feel yourself a little older than mentioned in your passsport. But after a bit of perseverance and maybe a powerful snack brought along for the journey, you’ll forget about that and will love being surrounded by nature. Although I didn’t make it as far, it should be possible to hike all the way to the hill top and enjoy some magnificent views from there. Expect at least 2 hours one way to accomplish that for the most fit hikers, probably a bit more if you’re like me of normal fitness.
We were greeted by a large group of Baboons on the way out of the park, which brought us plenty excitement. The baboons are not as dangerous or confident as in some other parts of Africa, so you won’t need to worry too much about them causing you any harm. But of course don’t tempt them, we sure didn’t, other then feeding them some bananas!
As for the journey to Suba Menagesha from Addis Ababa itself, expect about 2 hours without stopping. The distance is around 40 kilometers but the last section of the road is very bumpy and will slow you down a lot, unless you’re driving a hovercraft or something similar.

Of course my trip wouldn’t be complete without taking an excessive amount of video, so I’ve done my best to edit this into a watchable vlog which you can admire here on Youtube.

Can’t wait to see what it looks like, watch this adventure on Youtube!

Would you be interested to do the same and are still looking for a tour guide and or driver to take, I highly recommend getting in touch with Marcos on +251 911 44 0959.

I hope you enjoyed reading this travel article from my personal experience. If so, certainly consider subscribing to my blog here and have a look at my Youtube channel The Ultimate Freggle to see everything live in front of you in 2.7k at 60 fps.

Happy Adventuring from The Ultimate Freggle!