Eritrea, located in the eastern part of the African continent, is famous for its hot climate, clean sea beaches, tropical forests and picturesque mountains.
Things to do in Eritrea
Eritrea is a multinational country, created from small sultanates and kingdoms. The thirty-year war for independence and skirmishes with neighboring states led to the destruction of many cultural monuments. After the signing of a peace treaty with Ethiopia, the clashes have ceased, and tourists can safely explore the sights and enjoy nature.
Eritrea is a unique historical region. During excavations in the Barca Valley, scientists discovered a settlement dating back to 8000 BC. It was here that the famous «Land of the Gods» was located, which in ancient times traded with the Egyptian pharaohs ivory, spices, gold, ebony. Important monuments are the ruins at Adi Keih, Nahari’s house at Massawa, the Turkish Pasha’s imperial palace. Archaeological artifacts and cultural treasures are preserved in the National Museum in Asmara.
The African state boasts the cleanest coast of the Red Sea. Tourists are waiting for white sand beaches, in some places decorated with black volcanic stones.
The best places to stay in Eritrea are in the Dahlak archipelago and around the city of Massawa.
Eritrea has national parks with beautiful landscapes. Protected areas are covered with lush vegetation. Leopards, monkeys, porcupines, hyenas, elephants, African warthogs live there. From birds there are eagles, marabou, vultures. Hiking trails are laid in the reserves, designed for one or several days of travel.
The cities of Eritrea are famous for their noisy markets where they sell original souvenirs: leather goods, reed mats, pumpkin vessels, wooden figurines, drums. The souvenir shops offer gold and silver jewelry instructed with pearls.
Resting in Eritrea, it is worth trying traditional oat cakes, prickly pear cactus fruits with red and sweet pulp, and natural coffee, which is ground by hand, roasted and brewed in a special earthenware jug.
The outstanding attraction of Eritrea is the ruins of the ancient Aksumite city of Kohaito. In total, archaeologists have excavated 20% of the territory. Fragments of streets occupying an area of 2.5 km are presented to the attention of travelers.
Four stone columns and fragments of the Mariam Wakiro temple are well preserved. The pre-Christian church is surrounded by massive slabs. Nearby you can find an underground tomb carved from sandstone of enormous size. Near Kohaito there is a cave with rock paintings and a canyon, inside which a narrow road winds to another ancient city — Adulis.
Massawa, located 100 km from Asmara, is a major city and port on the Red Sea. This is one of the hottest places on Earth with an average annual temperature of 30 degrees. The city is formed in the coastal continental zone and on two islands connected to each other by causeways.
The ancient streets are built up with houses in the Italian, Turkish, Egyptian style. Tourists come to see the salt lakes, the imperial palace, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the old railway station.
The market town of Senafe, on the edge of the Ethiopian highlands, was founded before the beginning of the Eritrean colonial period. It is famous for its historical monuments: the VI century Debre Libanos monastery and the Enda Tradkan rock church. The ruins of Metera in its vicinity are of great cultural importance.
In the Aksumite city, many buildings and the Havulti stone obelisk have been preserved. Senafe itself stands in a mountainous area. It is easy to find a guide among the residents who will help you climb the rocks to enjoy the beautiful view.
There is an imperial palace in Massawa. It was founded by a Turkish pasha in the 16th century, and was rebuilt several times and changed its appearance. In 1872, Werner Muntzinger tore down the walls and built a new Turkish-style mansion.
During the federation with Ethiopia, it was used as the residence of Emperor Haile Selassie. The ruler’s heraldic lions still adorn the main gate. Unfortunately, the castle was damaged during the civil war and remains in a dilapidated state.
House of Mammub Muhammad Nahari
An old house, built in the Ottoman style, flaunts on the main street of Massawa. Its facade is decorated with large arches, spacious windows and columns. The building needs restoration, but despite this, it remains one of the most elegant in the city. Nearby rise the rich mansions of Jewish and Armenian merchants of the 18th century and the Turkish house of Abu Khandum with lattice balconies.
Asmara City Hall is a majestic Italian Art Deco building built in 1897. The palace was intended for the first governor of Eritrea, Ferdinando Martini. During the reign of Mussolini, the mansion was rebuilt, adding a square tower at the entrance.
The three-story town hall is framed by palm trees and is considered an important architectural object of the capital. Her image can be seen on stamps of Eritrea issued in 1960.
Grand Mosque of Asmara
In 1937, a mosque designed by Guido Ferrazza was built in the capital. Its appearance corresponds to the classical Islamic canons. The complex has a high corrugated minaret with two balconies in the Italian Rococo style. The building of the mosque is surrounded by double columns and covered with a wide dome. The mihrab facing Mecca is made of Carrara marble. The courtyard is covered with black tiles with a geometric pattern.
Church of Our Lady of the Rosary
A Catholic church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary appeared in Asmara in 1920. The huge building stands out with a beautiful facade in the Romanesque style. The central dome is crowned with a bronze sculpture of the Archangel Gabriel. Nearby stands a bell tower 52 meters high, in which 8 bells are installed. The largest weighs 3.8 tons.
Inside the temple is the tomb of Bishop Camillo Francesco Carrara, an altar decorated with a painting by the famous artist Carlo Maratta, and a commemorative plaque listing the main sponsors of the construction.
Debre Sina Monastery near Keren is a place of pilgrimage for the Orthodox believers of Eritrea. The building is located on top of a mountain range. Monks’ cells were carved into the rock. There is a village nearby.
Near the monastery there is a small baobab church with a chapel for prayers. Every June, believers come here to spend the night in a holy place and honor the Virgin Mary — according to legend, she once appeared at this place.
In 1920, a magnificent opera house was built in Asmara. The Italian-style building is the center of the cultural life of the capital. Unfortunately, the national opera troupe has been disbanded, but local artists regularly perform on stage, concerts and exhibitions are held. There is a cozy café in the lobby serving organic coffee and delicious pastries.
The building rises on a hill, wide stone steps lead to it. Palm trees were planted along the road and lanterns were installed.
National Museum of Eritrea
The Metropolitan Museum is designed to promote Eretrian culture and art. Until 1997, he occupied premises in the governor’s palace, and after that he was transferred to the mission of the Comboni sisters. The spacious halls contain items found during excavations.
Among the exhibits are ritual drums, national clothes, pottery, stone statues of gods and animals, and weapons. In a special section, paintings by local artists depicting the struggle for independence and objects related to the modern history of Eritrea are exhibited.
Asmara has a large zoo that introduces African animals. Inside the fenced area there is a green area planted with cacti, palm trees and ficuses. African lions, leopards, hyenas, jackals, buffaloes, antelopes live in it.
Spacious cages are equipped for predators, herbivores graze in enclosures. A playground has been built in the shade of trees. There is a café and gift shop nearby.
Natural attractions and parks
Dahlak Marine National Park
The group of islands in the Red Sea, which is part of the Dahlak archipelago, is a protected area — to go there, you need to get permission from the authorities. Tourists are waiting for virgin nature. Islets, overgrown with shrubs and mango trees, are surrounded by coral reefs.
Among the trees live chimpanzees, wild cats, gazelles. Dolphins, dugongs, giant tortoises, sharks swim in the water. The area is popular with scuba divers, divers and nature lovers who come to watch birds and animals.
The town of Filfil to the north of Asmara is framed by a protected tropical rainforest. The unique green belt was formed due to the slope connecting the lowlands and the highlands. Dense thickets consist of endemic species of African tropical plants.
Chimpanzees, monkeys, scaly vipers, leopards, land turtles, a small population of elephants have found a home here. To explore the forest, it is worth hiring a guide in the city — it is easy to get lost without an escort.
The Danakil Desert in eastern Eritrea is inhabited by salt mining tribes. Crystals cover the ground instead of sand, and in some places the deposits go down to a depth of 2000 meters. A huge amount of petrified salt testifies that the ocean raged here millions of years ago.
Danakil is a dangerous place that attracts extreme people. There are several dormant volcanoes, active Ertale and Dabbahu, lakes of sulfuric acid and oil, as well as shallow salty reservoirs spewing poisonous fumes.
Semenavi Bahri National Park
20 km from Asmara, within the mountain range at an altitude of 900 meters, the Semenavi Bahri nature reserve is located. It consists of wide valleys and stunted forests along and across cut by narrow paths. On them you can climb to the top of the ridge and admire the dizzying surroundings.
Traveling requires sports equipment and good physical fitness. Along the way, you can meet wild animals: leopards, warthogs, hyenas, wolves.
The largest mountain in Eritrea is Amba Mossino (3018 m above sea level). It stands near the town of Senafe and is part of the East African Rift Valley. The attraction attracts climbers from different countries.
An asphalt road leads to the bottom. A difficult rocky path is laid from it, ending at a 20-kilometer height. It is always cold at the top, so don’t forget to take warm clothes when you go there.