Gonder Things to Do

  • view from simien mountains
    view from simien mountains
    by hanspeter_W.
  • inside Fasilidas bath
    inside Fasilidas bath
    by hanspeter_W.
  • exit/entrance from Fasilidas bath
    exit/entrance from Fasilidas bath
    by hanspeter_W.

Best Rated Things to Do in Gonder

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Royal Enclosure, Fasilades Palace

    by sachara Updated Aug 22, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Fasilades Palace

    Gonder is attractive because of its castles and churches. Gonder became the capital of the country in 1636 for the next 200 years, started by Emperor Fasilades. The Gonderine period in Ethiopia is one of the most colourful ones.

    The recent restored Fasilades' Palace is the most striking place in the Royal Enclosure in the towncentre of Gonder. The area of the whole enclosure is about 75.000 sq metres and a nice and shady place to look around for some hours.

    Opening hours:
    daily 8.30am - 5.30 pm
    lunchbreak 12.30 - 1.30pm
    Admission: 50 Birr.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Castles and Palaces

    Was this review helpful?

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Debre Berhan Selassie Church, paintings

    by sachara Updated Sep 2, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Debre Berhan Selassie Church

    Not only the famous ceiling of the Debre Berhan Selasssie Church makes it worth to visit the interior. At the walls you can also find beautiful and colourful paintings of almost all the Ethiopian saints and martyrs. For an explanation about the Ethiopian saints you can have a look at my Bahir Dar page.

    The ceiling and the wall paintings are made by the same artist, Haile Meskel. You can also find a portrait of Emperor Iyasus, the founder of this church. And look out for an image of the prophet Mohammed on a camel being led by a devil and the depiction of hell, looking like the paintings of Jeroen Bosch.

    Opening hours: daily 5am - 6pm
    Admission: 15 Birr

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Gonder, Fasilades Bath

    by sachara Updated Sep 2, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Fasilades Bath

    Fasilades bath lies just outside of town. When you enter this historical site, the first thing you see is the two storeyed tower, overlooking the rectangular pool.

    The pool is not the bathing pool of Fasilades, but is constructed for religious celebrations like the annual Timkat ceremony. During Timkat they fill the pool with water, so the people can jump in. The ceremony replicates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.

    The opening hours are the same as the Royal Enclosure. The entrance fee is included in the ticket for the Enclosure.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Debre Berhan Selassie Church, ceiling

    by sachara Updated Sep 2, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Debre Berhan Selassie Church

    The Debre Berhan Selasssi Churchin Gonder, meaning ''Trinity at the Mount of Light'', is one of the most famous churches of the country and one of the highlights of Gonder, because of its ceiling.

    At the ceiling you will see the heads of 80 Ethiopian Cherubs. All the faces have a different expression. I allready saw pictures of this ceiling many times, but to be there and see it yourself was very impressive.

    Opening hours: daily 5am - 6pm
    Admission: 15 Birr

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo

    QOUSQUAM CASTLE

    by Elisabcn Updated Dec 16, 2010

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The castle of love . . .
    4 more images

    The construction of this residential complex on the hills, at 4km north west of the city, is attributed to Queen Mentwab. Some texts say that the widow empress (her husband was murdered by his enemies) decided to build this castle to escape from the court’s intrigues and conspiracies. Other texts say that Mentwab was very keen of young boys and this castle allowed her to stay far from the court’s gossip. I prefer the “castle of love” version which is more folkloric ;-)
    You arrive to the complex through a steep and unpaved path. People enter the surrounding wall from the west and the first thing that one can see is a modern round church without any indications so some visitors can get confused. Go on walking and behind the church you will see some distinct Gonder structures (picture 2). The complex was damaged by British bombing but you still can distinguish a chapel, the castle and the queen’s rooms. The most beautiful building is the palace, where banquets and receptions took place (picture 1). There is nothing inside and some restoration /reconstruction works are in progress but its main façade is very interesting with some decoration made with volcanic tuff (picture 3). Ask the guardian to open the oratory for you: inside the skeletons of Queen Mentwab, her son and grandson will greet you (picture 4).
    The visit of both Qousquam Castle and Fasiladas’ Baths can be a nice excursion from the city centre that will keep you busy for few hours. If you are in a hurry or it is very hot, contract a rickshaw in Gonder but be sure that the driver knows the way: Fasiladas’ Baths are well known by locals but Qousquam castle is a little off the beaten path. Be also ready to jump out the rickshaw from time to time on the way to Qousquam: some parts of the path are really steep! (picture 5)

    Was this review helpful?

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Royal Enclosure, other buildings to see

    by sachara Updated Sep 2, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Royal Enclosure, the marriage house of Dawit

    In the compound within the walls are more ruins and buildings of later periods. So we saw the ruins of a bathing pool, the remains of the Emperor Dawit's Hall and the House of Song. Dawit, ruling from 1716 till 1712, has built also a Lion house, where the Abyssinian lions were kept.

    After Dawit was poisoned the next emperor Bakaffa built a huge banqueting hall and stables. The last castle that was built, is the Mentewab's castle, which is now used as a public library.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Castles and Palaces

    Was this review helpful?

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo

    THE "G POINT"

    by Elisabcn Updated Dec 16, 2010

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Gonder

    The history of Gonder is related to the "G point”. Emperor Fasiladas’s predecessors did not have a fixed capital. The Emperor and his court lived in tents and moved from one place to another depending on the grain of the close villages and the wood from the forests.
    In 1636 Gonder, a small and secondary village, was chosen by King Fasiladas to build his empire. Tradition tells us about an archangel who prophesied to King Lebna Denguel the future of his dynasty and told him that the initial letter of their new capital would be letter “G”. King Sarsa Denguel chose the city of Gouzara and King Susenyos moved the capital to Gorgora. It seems that King Fasiladas found his capital following a buffalo until Gonder when he was hunting. He converted Gonder in a beautiful and wealthy city with several imposing castles and forty four churches. King Fasiladas (1632-1667) was a good king and warrior who re-established the traditional faith (his father had converted to Catholicism) and built many constructions and bridges to improve the communication in the country. His successors went on with the construction of the royal enclosure (Fasil Ghebi) and beautiful gardens, banquet halls, and libraries were added during the following years. Gonder became the city of arts, crafts and impressive feasts attracting visitors from all the world. But this Camelot in Africa was also the city of intrigue, conspiracy and assassination. In fact, only four monarchs were in the power during the so called Gonder Period.
    Gonder was the capital of the Ethiopian empire from 1636 until 1864, when Emperor Texwdoros II moved the capital to Magadala in 1885.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo

    DEBRE BIRHAN SELASSIE CHURCH

    by Elisabcn Updated Dec 16, 2010

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Angels-voyeurs
    4 more images

    This church is a real wonder and if you visit Ethiopia you cannot miss it. Built at the end of the 18th century on the top of a hill, it is famous for its stunning pictures that decorate the inside walls. Like all the buildings that I visited in Gonder, this church is surrounded by an enclosure with several towers covered with egg-shaped domes (picture 2). In this case the number of towers is 12 symbolising the 12 apostles. The 13th tower, the biggest one, represents Christ and it is used as entrance gate. Take your time and walk around the walls before going inside: hidden among exuberant vegetation there are some surprises (picture 3).
    The church corresponds to a basilica type –which is very common in the north of the country- with a quadrangular plan lined up direction west-east (picture 4). It is surrounded by a beautiful veranda and has doors on three sides: west, north and south while the east side is sacred and closed. People enter to the church from the main door in the west side (the darkness) and move forward to the sancta sanctorum in the east (the light) where the tabot is kept but only opened to clergy. Inside, the main wall shows the Trinity -always represented by three old bearded man- surrounded by the symbols of the apostles (picture 5). Above, the scene of the crucifixion and king Egwala Seyon at the foot of the cross. Other remarkable paintings are the knights- saints, Christ’s life on the north wall and an enchained devil on the south. But the most famous paintings in this church are the uncountable winged cherubs that invade the wooden roof looking at the four directions with their almond eyes (picture 1). Try to count them!
    Flash is not permitted inside but the impassive priest will accept all kind of immobile positions to get good pictures. It seems that he is used to it!

    Was this review helpful?

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Rooftop of the Fasilades Palace

    by sachara Updated Sep 2, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Fasilades palace

    You can visit the just restored Fasiladas' Palace. The palace is built of roughly hewn brown basalt stones and has two storeys and four small domed towers. The palace is designed by an Indian architect and shows an unusual mixture of Indian, Portuguese, Moorish and Aksumite influences.

    On the groundfloor you can see the dining room and reception area. On the first floor is the prayerroom of Fasilades with four windows, having a view at one of the churches in Gonder. On the rooftop Fasilades held religious ceremonies. From here and from the tower at the south west corner you have great views at the enclosure and the surrounding area.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Castles and Palaces

    Was this review helpful?

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Royal Enclosure, Library and Chancellary

    by sachara Updated Aug 22, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Royal Enclosure, library (R) and chancellary (L)

    From the rooftop of the Fasilades Palace we had a great view at the other buildings of the Royal Enclosure, especially the library and the chancellary.

    The library of Yohannes, Fasilades' son (ruling from 1667 till 1706), is a two-storeyed quadrangular building. The chancellary has a tower and was once an impressive decorated palace.

    Related to:
    • Castles and Palaces
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Fasilades bath, entrance at the back

    by sachara Updated Sep 2, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Fasilades Bath

    Fasilades bath lies just outside of town. It's a lovely and peaceful place. Around the bath, empty at the time of our visit, is a wall> At some places this wall is covered with the roots of the surrounding trees. It's amazing to see, so walk around and have a look at the backside of the bath.

    Walking around in this almost serene place, you can hardly imagine the crowds, visiting this place at the Timkat ceremony. Then you have to take care, that other people don't step on your feet.

    The opening hours are the same as the Royal Enclosure. The entrance fee is included in the ticket for the Royal Enclosure. So bring this ticket with you, because there is no possiblity to buy tickets at the Fasilades' bath site.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo

    FIRST IMPRESSION

    by Elisabcn Updated Dec 16, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    busy city centre

    We arrived to Gonder by road from Lalibela, changing bus in Debre Tabor. It was a 7-8 hours trip and the last kilometres were through an unpaved road with some construction works so I did not arrive in my best conditions. The bus station was very chaotic and as we got off the bus some locals came to offer their taxi and other services. We escaped from there by foot and after walking few metres we reached the city centre. The centre corresponds to the old Italian quarter. It was very busy and noisy, with lots of cars and Bajas (motorised rickshaws) everywhere. Some Italian style buildings must have been beautiful some time ago but they did not attire my attention that day. Improvised stalls on the sidewalks offered some fruits and vegetables which put some colour in the street scene. In the middle of this “bordello”, the royal enclosure appeared as a sleepy oasis from other times.
    Gonder is an easy walking city and as soon as you take the hilly streets that leave the centre, crowds disappear, colours become more green and you can breath fresh air again. I did not find Gonder very touristy and, like in Bahir Dar, locals have many facilities to spend their free time: gardens and terraces, restaurants or local pubs. I found it also very equipped with many churches (not for tourists), pharmacies, post office and even some specialised bookshops. Gonder was a good choice to spend some time before the big hike.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo

    FASIL GHEBI

    by Elisabcn Updated Dec 16, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Bakaffa's palace
    2 more images

    Fasil Ghebi is the royal ensemble in Gonder. Its more than 900 m long walls close inside different palaces and buildings built by Emperor Fasiladas and his successors, from 1632 until 1770. Fasil Ghebi is the most important example of a unique architectural style called “Gonder Style”: a mixing of Arabic style with Baroque influences brought by Portuguese missionaries using Indian construction techniques brought by masons from Goa. This style will mark the architecture of the city in the 17th century and visitor will find massive constructions with egg-domed towers everywhere. The result looks a piece of Medieval Europe moved to Ethiopia.
    The most interesting buildings are Fasilada’s palace (picture 2) and Iyasou’s palace, Fasilada’s archive(picture 3 ) and Bakaffa’s palace with its impressive banqueting hall and stables (picture 1). The most curious site is for sure the Lions’ house with some lion cages still left (don’t forget a commemorative picture playing the lion here!). The three churches of the ensemble have separated entrance gates and maybe separated entrance tickets but I am not sure about that because I was not interested in visiting them.
    The site of Fasil Ghebi is huge and there are not a lot of indications inside. Although it is funny to pop from one construction to the nearest one trying to imagine how the king and his court lived, you can miss like this a lot of interesting details and maybe some stories of love and intrigue. A good guidebook with a site map and some descriptions could be a good idea for your walk. If not, at the entrance gate there are always some university students ready to play the guide for some Birrs.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo

    FASILADAS' PALACE

    by Elisabcn Updated Dec 16, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Fasiladas' castle main view
    2 more images

    With its four egg-domed towers, this is the most imposing monument and also the oldest one. You can see the shape of its quadrangular tower, nowadays decorated with the Ethiopian flag, even before entering the site. This castle was built by king Fasiladas to be used as residence and reception palace. No doubt that by that time the palace was a good presentation card: the entrance gate with its huge stairs is very imposing and for sure left Fasiladas’ visitors breathless. The main floor was used as dinning and reception room. There is no furniture and only some faint frescoes are still visible (picture 2) but its past grandeur is still perceptible. The first floor had a private character and was used as Fasiladas’ prayer room. This space has 4 windows looking each one at four important churches in the kingdom. The huge terrace seems to have been used for religious celebrations too. The second floor corresponded to Fasiladas’ bedrooms but I did not find the way to climb so I could not visit them. From the entrance gate we saw some people on the roof but I don’t know if they were visitors or workers.
    Go around the castle before leaving. There are small but interesting egg-domed constructions of unknown use (picture 3). Maybe there were ovens or food stores.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo

    ETHIOPIAN CHURCHES

    by Elisabcn Updated Dec 16, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    classical round type
    1 more image

    The religious architecture in Ethiopia is unique with a strong personality. Ethiopian Orthodox churches follow the same patterns since the 16th century. In the South of the country they have circular, hexagonal or octagonal shape which reflects the native building tradition in their round shape, materials and building techniques (picture 1). In the North of the country instead, the most used type is the basilica with quadrangular plan(picture 2). Both types are surrounded by a covered veranda. They usually have three doors –at west, north and south- while the eastern side is sacred and closed. Around the churches there is always a wide open space where people can pray and attend to ceremonies, usually with benches and exuberant vegetation. Big trees offer shady corners for the hottest months. The interior is reserved for the pure ones and the sancta sanctorum (the innermost part) at the centre of the building - or at the East in the quadrangular types - is open only to clergy. Inside it is kept the tabot, a replica of the Tables of the Law given to Moses, on a kind of wooden box.

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Gonder

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

79 travelers online now

Comments

Gonder Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Gonder things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Gonder sightseeing.

View all Gonder hotels