Ultimate Travel Guide: Things To Do In Eritrea
If you’re looking for a unique destination that’s off the beaten path, then look no further than Eritrea. Nestled in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea is a gem that boasts a rich history, diverse culture, and stunning landscapes. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or simply an adventurous soul, Eritrea has something for everyone. So, let’s dive into the ultimate travel guide to this enchanting country!
A Little About Eritrea
Before we start, let’s get to know Eritrea a little better. With its colonial history and blend of different cultures, Eritrea has an identity that’s distinct from its African neighbors. It is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia, and Djibouti and has an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. The official languages are Tigrinya, Arabic, and English, so communication for English-speaking travelers is relatively convenient.
Explore the Capital: Asmara
Asmara’s Art Deco Architecture
Asmara, the capital city, is often referred to as “Little Rome” because of its Italian colonial history and stunning Art Deco architecture. Make sure to stroll down the main streets and take in the unique buildings, such as Fiat Tagliero Building, which resembles an airplane, and the Asmara Opera House.
Cinemas and Cafés
Eritrea has a deep love for cinema, and Asmara houses some of the most beautiful old-world cinemas. Visit Cinema Impero or Cinema Roma for a nostalgic experience. Afterward, relax in one of the many charming Italian-style cafés that dot the city. Sip an espresso and try some Italian pastries or Eritrean snacks.
Discover the Ancient City: Qohaito
If history tickles your fancy, then a visit to Qohaito is a must. This ancient city dates back over 2,500 years and is believed to have been a thriving trade center. You’ll find ruins of ancient buildings and temples, but the most prominent landmark is the Safira Dam, an impressive construction for its time.
Unwind at the Red Sea: Massawa and Dahlak Archipelago
Massawa: The Pearl of the Red Sea
Next, let’s head to Massawa, a port city that is often called “The Pearl of the Red Sea”. This city is known for its captivating blend of Ottoman and Italian architectural styles. Don’t miss the Old Railway Station and the Imperial Palace. The local seafood here is fantastic, so make sure you indulge in a sumptuous meal by the sea!
Dahlak Archipelago: A Diver’s Paradise
If you’re looking for pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, then Dahlak Archipelago is your destination. With over 120 islands, it’s a diver’s paradise. The marine life is vibrant, and the waters are perfect for diving, snorkeling, and fishing. You might even stumble upon ancient shipwrecks and artifacts while diving!
Experience Traditional Culture: Keren
Another must-visit place is Keren, located in the northwestern part of Eritrea. This city is a cultural hotspot, where you can experience the rich Eritrean traditions. Make sure to visit the bustling Keren Market and take part in the Camel Racing Festival if you happen to be there in February.
Explore Historical Sites
Keren is also known for its historical sites, such as the British and Italian colonial cemeteries and the famous St. Mary of Da’arit. Take a stroll through history and get a sense of the impact of colonialism and the religious culture that has shaped Eritrea.
Trek the Breathtaking Landscapes: Filfil Rainforest
Filfil Rainforest: Eritrea’s Green Paradise
Imagine finding a lush, green rainforest in the middle of the arid Horn of Africa. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, that’s what Filfil Rainforest is! Also known as the “Green Belt,” this area is located to the northeast of Asmara. With its cool climate and stunning natural beauty, Filfil is ideal for hiking, birdwatching, and reconnecting with nature.
Savor the Eritrean Cuisine
Eritrean cuisine is a delightful experience for food lovers. It’s a mix of African, Italian, and Middle Eastern flavors. Injera, a sourdough flatbread, is a staple that is usually served with a variety of meat and vegetable stews. Don’t forget to try Zigni (a spicy meat stew) and Ades (a lentil dish). For the adventurous, Tesmi (herbed clarified butter) and Tsebhi Birsen (spicy red lentils) are must-tries. Complement your meal with some traditional Eritrean coffee, which is often prepared in a beautiful ceremony.
Travel Tips and Precautions
Visa and Documentation
Most travelers need a visa to enter Eritrea, so make sure to check the requirements and apply ahead of time. Additionally, keep your documents handy as you may be required to show them at various checkpoints.
Currency and Transactions
The local currency is the Eritrean Nakfa. It’s good to have some cash handy as not all places accept credit cards, and ATMs can be scarce.
Eritreans are known for their hospitality, but it’s essential to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites, and ask for permission before taking photographs of people.
While Eritrea is generally safe for tourists, it’s always wise to stay cautious. Avoid traveling alone at night and keep your belongings secure. Also, always check for travel advisories and register with your embassy if required.
Eritrea is an undiscovered treasure that offers a plethora of experiences, from its rich history and diverse culture to its stunning landscapes and vibrant marine life. It’s a destination that calls out to the curious and adventurous soul. So pack your bags, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey in this beautiful country!