Many years ago, before the birth of Jesus Christ, in the Wonchi Crater Lake area, a volcano erupted, destroying everything in the surrounding area. After the devastating explosion, the central part of the volcano collapsed, creating a crater. The communities living in the area, witnessing such a big natural catastrophe, prayed to their God, and, miraculously, 44 springs were created feeding water into the crater and extinguishing the fire. The crater filled up with water, leaving small islands in the lake and a holy place was built on one of them. According to the myth, the communities made a boat from a juniper tree to reach this holy place on the island, to pray and worship their God. They believed that the reason why the island had been saved from fire and ash, was because, inside this holy place, there had been a strong religious tenet originating from ancestors in ancient times.
 

The term “Wonchi” means circular, originating from the word “wechit”, around traditional clay bowl used for eating food.

Introduction

WONCHI CRATER LAKE

The beautiful Wonchi Lake, found inside the crater of an extinct volcano, is located 137 kilometers west of Addis Ababa, in the heart of the Oromia Region, in the Ethiopian Highlands, at an altitude of about 3,000 meters above sea level (masl). The lake is 78 meters deep, with clear and calm waters. Kirkos Island lies in the lake where there is located a Coptic Orthodox monastery and a small museum dedicated to the religious history of the place. The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation that covers the entire volcano cone, forests alternating with farmed land. The crater is inhabited and around its sides hundreds of scattered houses can be found, each with its own piece of land, in part for cultivation and in part pastures. The soil is particularly fertile and well-irrigated, with several natural springs all around the crater. The crater area is reached along a dusty road starting from the small town of Haro-Wonchi, halfway between the two main towns of Woliso and Ambo connected by a road still under construction. Haro-Wonchi is situated just off the edge of the volcano, at an altitude of 3,100 masl.

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Community Hospitality.jpg
Community Hospitality.jpg

Haro-Wonchi Town

The town has developed in an L-shape around the Ambo-Woliso road. Many houses border the main road and usually, nearby, you can find the characteristic and traditional tukul, which serves as a kitchen and where daily activities take place, especially in the rural areas. Along the way there are many small local shops, where, through a window or door, deliveries are made or goods bought. There are also small coffee shops, mostly managed by courteous young women, who offer tea (shay) and coffee (bunna), with the optional rue (tena addam), a typical fragrant plant used in Ethiopian food and beverages. Hot ginger infusions (kashir) are also common, especially for those suffering from common colds.

Many domestic animals roam about freely within the town and in the surrounding countryside. 
In the town, there are also some restaurants, where you can eat local dishes at very reasonable prices.
The population of Haro-Wonchi is mainly of the Orthodox Coptic faith but there are also numerous Protestants, especially in the town. 
The inhabitants are courteous and friendly and the place is quite safe for tourists

WHEN TO GO

It is highly recommended to visit Wonchi Crater Lake during the dry season, which starts in mid-September and lasts until May, with a slightly rainy period between February and April, during the “small rainy season”.
The nights are rather cold, especially in December and January, but during the day temperatures rise considerably making for a pleasant climate. However, the sun is quite intense as solar radiation at high altitudes is very strong (don’t forget that the Wonchi area is located in the highlands above 3,000m), so make sure to use sunscreen and wear a hat.

The rainy season is not recommended for traveling to Wonchi. It is cold with high humidity and excursions can become difficult and unpredictable, with road conditions to reach the area often becoming difficult, as well as the walking path.

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Wenchi Lake View_2.jpg
Wenchi Lake View_2.jpg

HOW TO ARRIVE

The starting point is normally the country’s capital city of Addis

Ababa. From there, it takes about four hours by car for traveling 150 km to reach Wonchi Crater Lake (or 142 km if using the Ambo 2 road). Exiting Addis Ababa takes time, sometimes even more than one hour, as it is an enormous sprawling city with often very heavy traffic. Finally, leaving the city behind, you pass through the pleasant countryside - farms and plantations, pastures with grazing animals, villages with their markets, wilder untamed area, slowly climbing up to Wonchi through mountainous and steep stretches of road.

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WHAT TO SEE

The town has developed in an L-shape around the Ambo-Woliso road. Many houses border the main road and usually, nearby, you can find the characteristic and traditional tukul, which serves as a kitchen and where daily activities take place, especially in the rural areas. Along the way there are many small local shops, where, through a window or door, deliveries are made or goods bought. There are also small coffee shops, mostly managed by courteous young women, who offer tea (shay) and coffee (bunna), with the optional rue (tena addam), a typical fragrant plant used in Ethiopian food and beverages. Hot ginger infusions (kashir) are also common, especially for those suffering from common colds.

Many domestic animals roam about freely within the town and in the surrounding countryside. 
In the town, there are also some restaurants, where you can eat local dishes at very reasonable prices.
The population of Haro-Wonchi is mainly of the Orthodox Coptic faith but there are also numerous Protestants, especially in the town. 
The inhabitants are courteous and friendly and the place is quite safe for tourists

Horse Riding Service.jpg
Community Hospitality_2.jpg
Community Hospitality_2.jpg

WHERE TO SLEEP

There are different possibilities for accommodation, to satisfy all tourist needs.
The first is for backpackers and the more adventurous renting or bringing your own a tent, together with mattress and sleeping bag to enjoy the night in the recently built campsite with its view over the lake and within easy reach of the hot springs for an early morning dip. Firewood is available and you can organize a campfire, roast a goat or a sheep and enjoy the incredible night sky. 
The second, for those who want to sleep in a comfortable bed, but don’t want to spend the night in one of the nearer towns, is to remain in the crater and reserve a room in one of the bed & breakfast in the main village of Dire. Various houses are being renovated through a revolving fund set up by the AICS project. The rooms are clean and cozy but don't expect a 5-star hotel.
The last option is to take a proper hotel room in one of the two lodges available in the two bigger towns, Woliso and Ambo, close to Wonchi Crater Lake. In the first, the Negash Resort is the recommended option, while, in the second, the best option is the Abebech Metaferia Hotel.

AROUND HARO-WONCHI

Chebo cave – Saint Selassie Monastery
Chebo Cave - Saint Selassie Monastery is an old Christian Orthodox religious site, located along the road connecting Woliso to Haro-Wonchi. It can be reached following the road up to the town of Dariyan and turning left around 5 km before reaching Haro-Wonchi town, on the way to Werabu. The Monastery is 15 minutes walking from the junction. The worship site is built in a beautiful natural environment and it is surrounded by big old trees, hills, slopes, and cultivated lands. It is also possible to observe different wild animals while getting there.


Dendi Lake 
A 6-hour walk from Wonchi takes you to another beautiful lake, Dendi, also called the twin lake because of its two expanses of water, equal in size and shape. It is an example of a caldera, as mentioned in scientific literature. There is a loop walking path that takes you around the lakes where you can catch sight of crocodiles.

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