A comfortable lodge in a beautiful setting
The Gheralta region is renowned for its chain of mountains, cliffs and hundreds of rock churches.The arid sandstones crimson terrain of the region is different from the more rounded green hills seen elsewhere in the Ethiopian highland. The Gheralta lodge, opened since 2006, takes guests off the beaten path and into an intimate eco experience. Spread over ten hectare in the foothills of the region, the eco-lodge, only 15 minutes drive south of Hawzen and about two hours from Mekelle, is cozy with a five bungalow, a restaurant with leisure area that open onto the sunlit garden filled with cacti, aloes, euphorbia trees, making it the fifth in Addis journal’s list of Top Ten Eco lodges.
General Manager Binyam Ekubastion leads a staff of trained locals who have come to understand the hospitality industry and the idea of ecotourism which is still operating on a very small scale here. He explains how the lodge’s founder Enrica and Silvio Rizzotti have decided to construct a lodge after a disappointed stay in the area when they visited it a decade ago. “The couple took over the property and constructed a family style resort, with good standards, integrating building into the environment. The buildings are all made from sustainable materials with minimal impact on the area. Materials traditionally used by the farmers of the region, stone walls, wooden ceilings, thatched or stone-made roofs are used,” he explained.
The visitors, most of whom are European tourists, are offered what the manager Binyam describes as an “authentic experience.” They sleep in the round-shaped spacious tukul with small solar nights to illuminate the night. The lodge’s green features include everything from energy efficient light fixtures to landscaping practices that are designed to maximize water conservation, using its own potable borehole.
The rock or tree hyrax (a small endearingly fluffy creature whose closet relatives are the elephant and the sea crow), inhabits both the sandstone crevices around Gheralta. It also hosts a ground squirrel colony and a number of rabbits. The area is alive with mysterious rustles and birdcalls during the day and after dark by almost deafening choir of cicadas.
The stand is full of history, geography, culture books, most of them written in Italy and English. Cocktails and canapés are served in the lodge’s lounge area nightly. The cuisine, a local blend of Ethiopian and Italian, sourced from the gardens, is served in the homestead’s formal dining room. Fresh goat meat is served with greatly seasoned rice, vegetable sauce, fresh vegetable salad, home-made bread, cooked beans etc. The traditional veal escalope Milanese is also their specialty. For breakfast, the lodge serves a very tasty honey, from the region which is one of the finest types of honey in the country. More than a few celebs have found their way to Gheralta Lodge—Hollywood director James Cameroon, actor and rapper Will Smith and his wife Jada Smith to name a few.
Gheralta is a truly special place, a comfortable lodge in a beautiful setting that is making a real difference to the lives of the community.