Wenchi Crater Lake is less than three hours by car from Addis Ababa, but is very removed from the capital’s din and dust. After a couple of hours on the paved way from Addis to Ambo, the route follows a dirt road which climbs quickly into the rural Ethiopian highlands. The surrounding slopes en route are steep and terraced in sections, with the occasional young shepherd waving to the passing 4X4. Although a beautiful ride, we were happy to arrive at the valley near the lake, as we’d soon be on foot and no longer at the mercy of oncoming cars.
The lake lies at around 3000 m (10,000 feet) above sea level in the crater of an extinct volcano in the Oromia region. After paying entrance and parking fees and purchasing the obligatory guide at the Wenchi Eco Tourism Association office, you drive uphill for a kilometer to reach the departure point. You have the option of hiking the 4 km to the lake shore on your own or descending on horseback.
The downhill trek is full of varied greens on the hillsides and the lake’s surface. Local children joined us as our walk coincided with their chores. A few minutes of smiling and staring at us, then off to collect spring water for the house.
After an hour and a couple of villages, a field opens to the shore and a small dock. Deber, an island with a monastery, is a 20 birr (1 USD) row boat ride and serves as an ideal lunch spot. The architecturally unremarkable church was not open, but a donation was expected/lightly demanded. Some goats roam the island and the local birds have caught on to the daily picnickers that visit Deber.
While the views of Wenchi Crater Lake on the descent were dramatic, the highlight of the trip is viewing the sides of the crater – now lush instead of volcanic – from water level. As the population around the lake is no greater than 4,000, a few hundred meters offshore means a quiet environment (thus the location of the monastery).
The hike back to the parking area can be strenuous, but horses are available if you’ve had enough walking. Thankfully, every difficult hill is rewarded by a look back onto the stunning lake and all that surrounds it.
Getting to Wenchi Crater Lake
You’ll need a 4X4 or an organized group tour to get to Wenchi. We used Boundless Ethiopia Tours for this trip and were very happy with the service, especially their flexibility. I received no compensation from Boundless Ethiopia Tours for mentioning them or for saying something nice about them.