Ethiopia’s spectacular Blue Nile Falls

For those new to the blog, Catherine and I are traveling some 5,000 miles on who-knows-how-many buses from Ethiopia to South Africa 🙂

We arrived in Ethiopia a few days ago and made our way to Bahir Dar, on the shore of Lake Tana, some 550km north of the capital, Addis Ababa. It was a wonderfully scenic two-day multiple bus and mini-bus journey through a vibrantly post-rainy-season green countryside dotted with patchworks of crops and wild flowers.

40km outside Bahir Dar are the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tis Isat – ‘Water that Smokes’. We were debating whether to visit as we’d read that a hydro dam now diverted much of the water but seeing that everything was so lush and green, we decided we would.

We hopped on an early morning bumpy, and very crowded, bus to the village of Tis Abay and decided to take a guide from the park office. As we headed out of the village on our circular walk, we passed the morning traffic of people with their laden donkeys heading into town to grind their grains.

We first descended to the river before crossing an old stone bridge and following a well-trodden path back up the hill through lush countryside. We heard the waterfall thundering before we saw it and as we rounded the corner,  we were surprised to see not one but three waterfalls!

Our first view of the falls!

Despite the dam, there were huge volumes of brown frothy water. It was the first brown waterfall I’d ever seen and their noise and sheer power were amazing. They stretched wider than we had imagined and it was so lush and green all around them.

The spray formed beautiful rainbows and we enjoyed our bread and banana breakfast under a shady tree admiring the view. It was pretty spectacular!

We headed across the river over the new suspension bridge and edged nearer to  where we could feel the spray and stand in our own part of a full rainbow. We walked back up the to the bank to be almost eye level with the main waterfall, which really gave a sense of their power. We continued walking a little upstream then jumped on a motorboat across the river and walked back into town to wait for bumpy bus back to Bahir Dar.

Can you visit independently?

Absolutely! There are a number of buses running from Bahir Dar to Tis Abay but it’s best to go early to ensure you’re able to catch a bus back. The road isn’t paved so it took about two hours to go 40 kms.

The advantage to a tour would be to travel far more comfortably but you’ll pay 350 Birr  (roughly $15 today) vs 30 Birr on the bus.


  • Entrance – 50 Birr/person
  • Guide – 90 Birr (up to 5 people)
  • Boat ride back – 100 Birr/person


  1. posted by
    Oct 6, 2017 Reply

    Super interesting u make us feel part of u

    • posted by
      Jumping Jazza
      Oct 18, 2017 Reply

      Thank you 🙂 that’s lovely to hear.

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