Things to Do in Hawassa

Hawassa is one of the more advanced and developed cities of Ethiopia located 275 km south of Addis Ababa. Hawassa is the regional capital of the Sothern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS); major nearby towns to Hawassa include Ziway and Shashemene. Taxies, bicycles, horse-drawn carts (Garii) and three-legged motor taxis (Bajjaj) are the means of transportation utilized by locals.

St. Gabriel Church located in the city center is a hugely popular pilgrimage destination for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians who travel to Hawassa in the months of January and July to celebrate the annual commemoration. In contrast, the growing night life is also one feature of Hawassa city that draws people from Addis Ababa and other places. Lake Hawassa, the fish market, hot springs, parks and open air markets in and around Hawassa are the other main tourist sites.

Lake Hawassa

Lake Hawassa is one of the major lakes in the East African Rift Valley which rips through Ethiopia. A glimpse of the Lake Hawassa scenery, including the rolling hills which surround the lake, is seen from most locations in the city. It is also the most studied and the smallest Rift Valley lake in Ethiopia. Lake Hawassa is 16 km long and 9 km wide, with a surface area of 129 square kilometers.

Lake Hawassa attracts many tourists who indulge in the leisure of fishing as it holds different kinds of fish species like Tilapia, African fish and Cart-fish. Visitors find it enjoyable to fish while watching gentle winds move the lake waters in slight ups and downs, washing algae and plankton to the shores to be devoured by flamingoes and fish birds. Fishing outlets can be found at the fish market and Amora Gedel Park.

Smoothened shore lines can also be found on the shores of Lake Hawassa although a bulk of this tends to be within private hotel or resort territories. Lake Langano, a highly frequented nearby Rift Valley lake, has smooth sand beaches behind the series of resort hotels on its shores. The gentle breezes and spectacular sunsets by Lake Hawassa are a feast for the senses to be enjoyed from the shore; or, visitors can hop on one of the small, colorfully painted boats and enjoy a sail into the center of or across the lake under clear blue skies.

Amora Gedel as it is locally known is found in the south western side of Lake Hawassa. It got its name after the flock of bird species that crowd the lake in search of fish. The wide variety of birds ranging from the glorious African Fish Eagle to the Pelicans, Hammer Kop, Kingfisher and Marabous’ create a great spectacle for bird watchers to.

Gudumale is also a special place at the lake where the Sidama cultural and spiritual holiday “Fiche” is annually celebrated. This colorful ceremony is attended by many local followers and visitors.


Home to the Rastafarian Community in Ethiopia, Shashamane is a small town located about twenty kilometers before reaching Hawassa. In some parts of the town, visitors are bound to feel like they are in Jamaica, because the city is inhabited by plenty of Jamaicans who settled in the town after being granted part of the land from Emperor Haile Selasssie in 1948. The Banana Art Gallery and Museum is also open to visitors who appreciate authentic Rastafarian art and culture. The majority of Shashemene residents practice Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and other religions while Islam, Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism make up the remaining. The city is surrounded with ever green forests and fertile land that makes it suitable for agricultural production.

The Fish Market

The fish market or as it is locally called “Asa Gebeya” is located within the city boundaries, easily accessed by taxi or other similar transport.

At dawn, local fisher men arrive with wooden rowing boats brimming with Tilapia and other fishes. The fresh fishes are then distributed to the small eateries dotted alongside the shore who cook mouth-watering dishes. Marabou, Pelicans and other birds are also seen feasting on the remains of the fishes.

Weekly Market days

For visitors who enjoy shopping for authentic goods, Mondays and Thursdays in Hawassa markets are well-suited. In the colorful and crowded markets, traditional pottery, dresses, bags and baskets are found in abundance. Other goods such as clothes, shoes, accessories, fruits, vegetables, grains, butter, pots, pans are displayed for sale.

Tikur Wuha Park

This beautiful park with dense forest is located in the entrance of the city of Hawassa from Shashemene. Its total area is estimated to be 475,037 sq. meter. This park was previously owned by Ras Andargachew Mesay who was a high ranking official in the 1950s. It was handed over to the Hawassa municipality in the 1960s and was renowned as a park ever since.

Amora Gedel Park

This a magnificent park located around the fish market in Hawassa. It occupies about 261.910 sq. meters. It is a perfect place to take an evening stroll while overlooking Lake Hawassa. It was previously occupied by Princess Tenagne Work Teferi but was later reserved as the peoples’ recreation park under the municipality of the city.

Timket Bahir

This is a park where different religious rituals including Epiphany are celebrated. It occupies 35,250 sq. meters.

Spring Waters

Hawassa is a town surrounded with three natural heritages sites with hot spring waters.


The Gedabo spring water is located 41 km south of Hawassa on the road to Yirgalem. It is a great place for relaxation, peace and tranquility.

Wondo Genet

This is a resort town located 39 km from Hawassa. The newly paved road makes it easily accessible by car. The beautiful panorama, forests, wildlife and abundant hot springs make it an ideal place to visit.

The Wondo Genet Hotel was established by the royal family as a recreational site in 1964. Emperor Haile Selassie coined its name, meaning “Wondo Paradise.” The hotel is currently owned and administered by Wabe Shebelle Hotels Enterprise.

The College of Forestry, established in 1978, is also located in Wondo Genet. It encompasses a wide area of natural forest with its wildlife and plantation, for research and training purposes. The College grounds are open to local and international tourists.

A variety of spices, aromatic and medicinal plants are also researched and conserved at the Essential Oils Research Sub-center which is also located in this resort town.


This a hot spring located 12 km in the south eastern direction of the city. The spring water is known for its curative nature and locals are seen taking a swim or long baths.

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