Travel Guide Africa Ethiopia Aksum





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Aksum is one of the cultural highlights of Ethiopia and the ruins of this ancient city form the heart of historical Ethiopia, found in the north of the country. The ruins date back to the first century A.D. but much of it is of later times during which the Aksum Kingdom was one of the most important kingdoms in this part of the world.



Sights and Activities

A 100 birr ticket from the tourist commission, located off the roundabout 400 m south of the Northern Stelae Field, is valid for three days and covers admission to all sights that require it, except Tsion Maryam (the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion complex) which costs 200 birr for the whole ecclesiastical compound.

  • The Northern Stelae Field with numerous stelae, including the fallen Giant Stele and the standing Ezana Stele, tombs and a very interesting museum.
  • The Tombs of Kings Kaleb and Gebre Mes'kel.



Getting There

By Plane

Given the often trying conditions of Ethiopian roads, flying into Axum is a much more reasonable option. There are daily flights from Addis Ababa, Gondar and Lalibela to Axum Airport, 7 km to the east of town. Some flights are direct, others make stops along the way. At the airport, there will be taxis eager to drive you into town. Many hotels also offer van service to and from the airport.

Note that it is likely that you will be security checked 3 times before getting onto your flight out of Yohannes IV/Axum Airport - as there is a security check on the road to the airport, a security check as you enter the airport and a security check after check-in.

By Car

It is theoretically possible to get to Axum from Addis Ababa in one long day (and vice-versa), though two days is more likely. Drivers can be arranged through hotels or touts and, while not certainly the cheapest option (especially if you are able to take advantage of the Ethiopian Airlines discounts), can be faster and/or more comfortable than other means of public transportation.

By Bus

Buses from Addis Ababa take a minimum of three days to travel via Dessie and Mekele. It is a very taxing ride over rough roads. Via Gondar and Shire, the section of the bus ride from Debarik/Debark to Inda Aba Guna (70 km before Shire/Inda Silasie), is just as gruelling - but spectacular - but then it is technically possible to complete the 90 minute journey from Inda Silasie to Axum on tarmac by minibus the same day.

From Gondar, take the dawn bus to Inda Silasie and change there for Axum – you can usually get through in a day. To travel to Gondar, you must take an afternoon bus to Inda Silasie spend the night there, and catch the dawn bus to Gondar. The road between Shire and Gondar is one of the most spectacular in Africa, but currently, North of Debarik until Mai Tsebri, also one of the roughest as the road is being re-made - a process likely to take about 2 years.

From Debarik and the Simien Mountains, there is only one bus heading north to Shire. That is the Gondar bus, and it is often full when it passes through Debarik. You can either take your chances (it isn't always full), or hire someone from Debarik for about 150 birr to go into Gondar the day before and ride the Shire bus to Debarik for you, guaranteeing you a seat. (Note that you must make arrangements the morning prior to the day you want to leave. If you are going trekking, you can make arrangements before you leave for your trek.) There are many buses travelling between Inda Silasie and Axum. To travel to Debarik, go to Inda Silasie in the afternoon, spend the night there, catch the Gondar bus the next morning, and get off at Debarik. You will probably have to pay the full fare to Gondar (about 50 birr).



Getting Around

Bajaj (blue, three wheeler motorised rickshaws with 250cc two stroke engines imported from India) charge tourists about 20 birr for short trips around town. For the Lioness of Gobodra and the Judith (Gudit) Stelae Field, instead of hiring one of the ultra-expensive tourist minibuses, you can catch a minibus going in the direction of Shire (there are many early in the morning) and ask them to drop you at the Lioness of Gobodra turnoff and catch another one back. The Lioness is not easy to find on your own but a group of children will soon appear who will guide you, and they should be compensated appropriately.



Keep Connected


Internet is slow and is better early in the morning or middle of the night. There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Awasa and other cities; however their speeds are often dial-up at best, and some operate illegally. In Addis Ababa, connection speeds are more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking e-mail most of the time.


See also International Telephone Calls

Ethiopa's international telephone code is 251.

For all travellers, having a mobile phone is a must. It is cheap and easily available. There are only a few stores renting SIM cards including ArifMobile. However, purchasing a SIM is inexpensive, and can be done anywhere that sells phones. The best spot is to buy it at a Ethio Telecom shop to not get ripped of. A SIM card costs 15 birr and the system requires the seller to take a photo of you and your passport information to activate your SIM. You'll have to sign an agreement that you will not commit any crimes with your phone. All local stores will have calling cards you can purchase to call internationally. For domestic calls, phones are topped up with a prepaid card, available in denominations of 2000, 500, 100, 50 and 25 birr and smaller.


The Ethiopian postal service is one of the most efficient postal services in Africa.


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This is version 5. Last edited at 14:52 on May 18, 18 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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