Lake Ziway, Ethiopia - A Serene Escape For Wanderers

By Jenna Jolie

Ethiopia is a truly unique country that stands out from the rest of the world. Blessed with breathtaking natural sceneries, and diverse culture, Ethiopia is worth visiting for an adventure exploring exotic things in the world. The people of Ethiopia are also some of the most hospitable and soulful in Africa, adding to the country's enchanting atmosphere. 

Lake Ziway in Ethiopia may be a less-known destination for many travelers, yet its beauty must be addressed. With its awe-inspiring beauty and unspoiled serenity, Lake Ziway is a hidden gem that will leave you spellbound and longing for more.

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A Glimpse Into Lake Ziway - A Hidden Gem In Ethiopia

Where is Lake Ziway located?

Located just 160 km south of Addis Ababa, Lake Ziway stands as the largest of the northern Rift Valley lakes. The lake is predominantly nourished by two rivers - the Meki from the west and the Katar from the east, and the Bulbar serves as its outlet into Lake Abijatta. Tourists can visit the lake on a day tour from Addis Ababa and enjoy its idyllic beauty.

How to travel to Lake Ziway from Addis Ababa

It is located about 100 miles (about 160km) south of Addis Ababa and is easily accessible on a road trip to Southern Ethiopia. Tourists can reach there by various means of transportation. Among them are two recommended methods:

  • By Car: Tourists can hire a private car or take a taxi from Addis Ababa to Lake Ziway. The drive takes approximately 2-3 hours, depending on traffic.
  • By Tour: There are several tour operators in Addis Ababa that offer day tours to Lake Ziway, usually including transportation, guide, and lunch.

No matter which option you choose, it's recommended to start early in the day to avoid traffic and make the most of your time at the lake.    

What is the deepest lake in Ethiopia?

The deepest lake in Ethiopia is Lake Shala, which has a maximum depth of approximately 266 meters (873 feet). The lake is surrounded by numerous hot springs, and the lake bed contains sulfur springs that add to the lake's character. Lake Shala is a popular attraction for hiking, bird-watching, and picnicking, offering visitors a chance to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake and its surrounding landscape.

Lake Ziway is the largest of the northern Rift Valley lakes

Lake Ziway is the largest of the northern Rift Valley lakes

The area of Lake Ziway, Ethiopia

Lake Ziway, Ethiopia spans 25 kilometers in length and 20 kilometers in width, covering a surface area of 434 square kilometers. It has an altitude of 1,846 meters and a maximum depth of 4 meters. Dotted along the lake are five islands, including Galila, Tsedecha, Funduro, Debre Sina, and Tulu Gudo - the largest among them. According to legend, Tulu Gudo's monastery once housed the Ark of the Covenant during the ninth century.

A Tour of Lake Ziway: Ethiopia's Natural Wonder

The Ark of the Covenant

Although a famous destination in Lake Ziway, the truth surrounding the Ark of the Covenant is shrouded in mystery. According to local folklore, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba are summoned by the distant king to demonstrate the ark's destructive powers, leading them to decide to keep it out of human hands. As a result, the Island of Tulu Gudo was chosen to store it for over 70 years until it was moved to Axum. Until now, visitors can still observe the spot where it was housed - a modest tomb with a small indentation. Over 80 manuscripts and countless relics are found in the Lake Ziway monastery, including some that accompanied the Ark to the island and date back over a millennium.

Exploring diverse wildlife at Lake Ziway

Lake Ziway is a must-visit destination for those interested in observing birds and hippos in their natural habitat. At Lake Ziway, tourists can easily spot grey hippos sunbathing along the lake's shoreline. They are also the lake's most famous inhabitants, followed by many bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers. Over 50 species of birds have been identified on the lake and in the neighboring forests; among them are pelicans, storks, and flamingos. Some more popular include the brightly feathered Yellow Fronted Parrot and the Thick-billed Raven. 

In addition to birds, the lake supports a range of fish species, including tilapia, catfish, and carp, which are vital food sources for local communities. Exploring the lake and its environs offers a unique opportunity to witness the fascinating and diverse wildlife that thrives in Ethiopia's Rift Valley.

There are other fascinating activities to participate in when having a tour of the lake, such as hiking to the top of the big island to enjoy breathtaking views and witness the remains of the original monastery. Additionally, visitors can head to the small Gelia Island, featuring forested hills and a single house. Finally, one can make a stop at Debre Sina Island, where they can explore the historical caves and view the ancient manuscripts belonging to the monasteries.

Exploring diverse wildlife at Lake Ziway

Exploring diverse wildlife at Lake Ziway

Essential Travel Tips to Ziway Lake

When to Go: The Perfect Time to Visit Lake Ziway in Ethiopia

Bird-watching is a common activity for tourists in Lake Ziway, and they can enjoy it throughout the year. However, many travelers typically visit Lake Ziway as part of their itinerary while en route to Southern Ethiopia. The ideal time to visit Lake Ziway is during the dry season from October to January when the weather is generally favorable for outdoor activities.  


As the temperature can vary greatly during the day, it is recommended to bring layers of clothing, including a waterproof jacket, hat, and sunscreen.

Hire a local guide

Hiring a local guide can enhance your experience by providing insight into the area's culture and history, as well as guiding you to the best spots for bird-watching and hiking.

Ziway Lake, together with the ancient city of Lalibela, the Simien Mountains National Park, and the Omo Valley, are among the country's most famous attractions that should not be missed on your Ethiopia tour. Traveling to Ethiopia is much easier thanks to the electronic visa system, making it more convenient to apply for an Ethiopian visa from anywhere in the world. Ethiopia Immigration Services always accompany you on your journey and commits to bringing you the most satisfying experience. Grab your visa right away and be ready for your trip to enjoy memorable moments in Ethiopia!