Gheralta Lodge Hawzen Review: Ethiopian Idyll With an Italian Feel

Bungalows of Gheralta Lodge at sunset, with a view of misty Gheralta Mountains in distance, Tigray Region, Ethiopia, photo by Ivan Kralj

Gheralta Lodge in Hawzen, Ethiopia, is an unexpected outcome of international relations that defied historical expectations. On the outskirts of a small town in Northern Ethiopia, Silvio and Enrica Rizzotti built a little hotel.

The truth is that Italy and Ethiopia did not have the best relationship in the 19th and 20th century. That was the age marked by wars and invasive efforts to control this part of African soil.

Gheralta Lodge in Hawzen is a perfect base for exploring the rock-hewn churches of the Gheralta Mountains

Entirely unlike their forerunners in the Battle of Adwa, fought near the same-named Tigray town, which date is today celebrated as a national holiday, the two Italians received a warm welcome. In 2007, they conceived a cluster of fifteen bungalows as a small and unpretentious family-run hotel.

This likable resort is set in the heart of the historical route that many Tigray visitors decide to follow. Gheralta Lodge in Hawzen, located just a two-hour drive from Mekele airport or half a day drive from Aksum, is therefore close to many attractions of the region.

Famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray, especially those in the Gheralta Mountains, are an obvious choice. Their visit is easily organized from the lodge. One should not miss Abuna Yemata Guh at the height of 2.580 meters! But beware – it does require some climbing fitness level!

If you are interested in the fantastic religious architecture of Ethiopia, visit Lalibela churches!

Western comfort – African style

Resorts in Ethiopia are the preferred place to stay for tourists from the West. In a country where the hotel industry is often substandard for the expectations of international travelers, Gheralta Lodge serves you Western comfort in an uncompromised local setting of Hawzen.

The huts at this Italian lodge are constructed of stone, in a simple African style. But their interior offers an accommodating setting for a touristic stay.

Bed in one of the bungalows of Gheralta Lodge, Tigray Region, Ethiopia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Gheralta Lodge offers modern comfort in a traditional setting

With wooden floors, meticulously built stone walls, green-colored beams and ceiling, the rooms exude a rustic and relaxing feeling.

Wooden curved furniture, especially tables, might be more aesthetical than a functional choice. However, it doesn’t affect much the comfort of your stay, as long as your main idea is to recharge your personal batteries.

For those who cannot stop dissipating the batteries of their laptop, the world of internet is available in the lounge area near the reception only. It is also subject to electricity that breaks in Ethiopia unpredictably but the hotel’s generator quickly revives it, at least from 6 to 11 pm.

Bathrooms in Gheralta Lodge come equipped with a separate shower and bathtub, bidet, and double sinks, providing easy hygiene rituals for couples.

Bathroom amenities in the offer are quite basic for a boutique property; securing simple soaps for all your needs, but in abundant quantity nevertheless. Hair shampoo, shower gel, or any other bath treat product is not provided, which cuts down the expectations raised by the bathroom furnishing.

If you want to extend your love for Ethiopian boutique hotels, visit this Simien Mountains lodge!

Just a step away from the good old Italian cucina

Macaroni with spicy cauliflower sauce served for lunch at Gheralta Lodge, in Tigray Region, Ethiopia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Macaroni with cauliflower and, of course, unavoidable Parmigiano cheese

The rooms are scattered over a 10 hectares area, providing enough privacy for all the guests and not compromising the feeling of coziness.

The restaurant is 30-100 meters away from each room, and guests can use a torch for reaching it at nighttime.

The food in Gheralta Lodge is simple and typically Italian. Served in an equally rustic mom-kitchen way, you can expect authentic dishes such as macaroni with spicy cauliflower sauce, spaghetti with tomato sauce, potatoes ravioli, or homemade lasagnas.

Many ingredients are sourced in the lodge’s own garden.

The set menu typically consists of an appetizer, two kinds of the main dish, a salad buffet, and a dessert.

You can soak all of it in Ethiopian, but also South African and Italian wine choices.

The friendly environment of Gheralta Lodge

From the welcome aperitif (try tej, the Ethiopian honey wine!) to an impromptu game of table tennis, Gheralta Lodge in Hawzen emanates a friendly feel-at-home atmosphere.

The hotel also has an impressive book collection that one can consult in the library or enjoy in the sun loungers on the terrace.

Blue feathered bird in the tree at Gheralta Lodge, in Tigray Region, Ethiopia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Gheralta Lodge’s environment is bursting with birdlife – a paradise for bird watchers!

Besides staff and books, you could also try to make friends with the hotel’s cat. It turned out to be an impossible mission for me, probably because it just got the offspring. You will certainly hear it meowing when lunch and dinner scents awake its attention.

The lodge area is actually abundant with small animal life. Birds are delivering free songs every morning, while rabbits and smaller rodents are running around the cacti and other plants in this dry, but charming environment. Besides bicycles, kids can ride the hotel’s horse too.

The only disturbing aspect for animal lovers staying in the lodge might be the leopard’s skin on the bar wall. With this exception, all areas of the hotel are tastefully decorated.

Excellence of services

In Taitu, a famous hotel in Addis Ababa, I waited for the delivery of my laundry for 5 days (five!). I was positively surprised that the washing service in Gheralta Lodge was quick and efficient. My clothes arrived back in my room only hours after I handed them for cleaning!

My friend who recently stayed here was equally surprised when her dirty socks, ripped up while climbing the Gheralta churches, came back not only clean but also – with no holes!

First morning sunshines at Gheralta Lodge with Gheralta Mountains in the backdrop, Ethiopia, photo by Ivan Kralj
With such views, you want your days at Gheralta Lodge to start early and finish late

Another service I am often skeptical about is – massage. In too many hotels I trusted the promo line “the best masseuse in town” and barely got a sloppy topping with essential oils.

I almost entirely lost my trust in female massaging hands, until Gheralta Lodge’s masseuse laid hold of my muscles, uptight from trekking in this stunningly seducing landscape.

One of my best recent massages cost me 260 Bir for 50 minutes (8 Euros!). If that’s not a bargain, I don’t know what is!

They say the African bus provides the best massage. But beware, it can also raise the level of your stress!

Enjoying the idyllic Hawzen sunset from Gheralta Lodge

During the sunset, Gheralta Lodge provides striking views of the misty Gheralta Mountains. The peaceful nature is a perfect surround system.

If you are looking for top lodges in Ethiopia, this should definitely be the one to consider!

It is not only one of the most decent hotel properties in east Tigray; it is the one that has a significant potential to grow.

In the expectedly bright touristic future of Ethiopia, this might be the quality that promises the most!

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Pin it for later!Gheralta Lodge is an Italian-owned hotel in Tigray Region of Ethiopia, providing modern luxury in a traditional setting

Disclosure: My stay at Gheralta Lodge was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.
Ivan Kralj


Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia


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