Awash Valley

This national park lies in the dry acacia savannah of the Rift Valley about 200 km east of Addis Ababa.

The main geographical feature of the park is the gorge carved by the Awash River, which has a large waterfall at its head.

North of the Harer Road are the Filwoha Hot Springs and the Fentale Volcano; its dormant crater is notable for its steam vents. Entrance to the park costs US$ 8.50 per 48 hours.

How to get there

It would be very difficult to hitch into Awash as the low tourist traffic would make it unlikely you’d find a lift.

If you are thinking of stopping in the Awash region, the train from Addis is an option. If you are driving yourself head out of Addis on the Dire Dawa road. The entrance gate lies on the main road about halfway between Metahara and Awash towns.

Without your own vehicle the most straightforward way to visit Awash is through an Addis based tour operator. Note that although you are technically allowed to walk within the Awash National Park, travellers arriving without a vehicle may be forbidden from entering the park on foot.


Nearly 80 mammal species have been recorded in Awash. Beisa oryx and Soemmering’s gazelle are both likely to be seen from the main road, but you need to enter the park to see most other species. Predators are seen only infrequently, but a good variety is present including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena.

Close to 450 bird species have been recorded in Awash. Raptors are well represented and many species breed in the gorge. Water birds are abundant on Lake Beseka and at Filwoha, and the gorgeous carmine bee-eater is very common in Awash.

Where to stay

Kereyou Lodge consists of 20 self-contained caravans in a position overlooking the Awash Gorge. Caravans cost around US$ 25 for a double. Cheaper rooms can be found in Awash town and Metahara. There are also two unfacilitated campsites, one near the park headquarters, a short walk from the waterfall, and the other at the hot springs (US$ 2.50 per person).

Awash town – a scruffy and nondescript little town, which appears to have mushroomed around Awash railway station, lies about 30km past Metahara and a short distance outside the park boundary. About 500m behind the station the dusty plain is cut into by the precipitous Awash Gorge, the drama of which is accentuated by a row of low volcanic hills above the opposite cliff.

There’s some good raptor scanning here. A footpath leads to the base of the gorge and the Awash River, and there’s some interesting looking riverine woodland a kilometre back towards the park boundary. Be careful, however, not to step into the park boundary, which lies about 3 km from Awash.

The Buffet D’Aouache Hotel clean rooms starting at Birr 30 for a twin (two single beds) and Birr 40 for a double (two double beds). There is a communal shower and a good restaurant. Of the dollar-a-night places along the main road, the St George Hotel looks the best.

Where to go from there

From Awash you could head in an easterly direction and get a bus straight to Dire Dawa or the walled Muslim city of Harar (see the relevant section on Harar).

Alternatively you could head west and go to Nazret, although there is not much to see here in terms of tourist attractions.

Source: Ethiopia: The Bradt Travel Guide – third edition by Philip Briggs

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