The Panoramic View Hotel is a recent addition to Lalibela (Sept 2013) and, as such, the property, rooms, bathroom, grounds, and garden are very new and clean.
The highlights include the view, value, and the service/hospitality, and while the hotel is about a 15 minute easy walk from the center of town, it’s still in a very good location (nearby to several feature attractions like iconic restaurant Ben Abeba, which I also reviewed) and provides an excellent value for the money. This hotel was honestly one of the reasons why Lalibela was a magical experience and why I would come back in a heartbeat.
Here are some more particulars of my experience of the hotel, so that you can see why I’m taking the time to write a separate blog post dedicated to my experience there.
First, I arranged hotel transport and guide service through the owner, Amdemaryam, in advance, and he showed me door to door service and hospitality. He is responsive over email and was able to put my mind at ease in terms of setting up transportation from the airport, a room reservation, and an itinerary. This is no small feat in Africa – many hotels that I emailed in advance to set up services like these failed to respond to me – EVER.
I was so surprised when he greeted me personally upon arrival. Even though my flight was delayed coming from Gondar, a guide and driver with a private van were waiting for me at the Hotel Stand at the airport with my name on a sign, eliminating any hassle or confusion about how to arrange a taxi or find the hotel (in Gondar the hotel forgot to pick me up). Not only that, my Lalibela experience began right away since we made several photo stops along the picturesque drive to the hotel, as the guide, Kassa, explained the history of the region.
The hotel was located 30 minutes outside of the airport, passing through the heart of the town along the way. I reached the hotel at 1030 and they kindly gave me a room even though it was very early still (in my experience, It’s very rare to get check-in before noon). I also enjoyed getting to know the receptionist over the course of my 2-night stay.
The staff immediately collected my luggage to the room, which was minimalist but clean, appointed with tasteful Ethiopian furnishings, pictures, and carved wood. The other thing I especially appreciated about the room was the multi-adapter power strip provided for me by the hotel so that I didn’t have to find the right adapters to access the local power. The only downside of the room is that they didn’t provide soap or shampoo, but since I had brought my own it wasn’t a big deal – I also feel that if I had asked, they would have provided it as I’m sure it was just an oversight.
In the lobby, the guide, the owner, and I sat down to discuss my program for the next two days. They tailored a non-standard itinerary based on my desire to concentrate on photography and interaction with local people. Based on the attention to my specific needs, I was able to snap some amazing pictures, not only of “old building and artifacts” but also of “living history,” which is much harder to capture because you really have to have a deep knowledge of city, the situation of the local people, and the culture. You can read about my write-up of a local farming family here, threshing their barley, and also view some of my best people shots below:
After a full-day of touring by foot the churches in town, I walked back to the hotel and enjoyed a St. George beer in the hotel garden, perched on the edge of a cliff for a spectacular view. This is a great place to watch the sunset, either from the roof deck, the garden, or from your private patio. Note about the roof deck – bring your yoga mat because it is a perfect space for sunrise or sunset yoga.
The second day we arranged private transport with a guide and driver to a church outside of the main city, on a mountain after enjoying an a la carte breakfast (eggs and toast mostly) with fresh papaya juice included in the room rate. Throughout the entire visit I was impressed with the hotel’s punctuality, as I’ve had bad experiences previously in Africa with guides and transfers being late, as well as food taking way too long, throwing off my entire schedule.
On the second night, I finished my tour early so I again sat on the patio and enjoyed a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which the hotel provided, and then later a beer as I surfed the net on the complimentary hotel wi-fi, which luckily, I was also able to get in my room since it was near the lobby. They also had a full bar with homemade Tej, the Ethiopian honey wine.
I ate dinner in the hotel restaurant the second night and asked the waitress what would come out fast, and she recommended the Beef Tibs and Injera – it was delivered promptly within 15 minutes and was delicious.
The hotel staff really knew where to send me in town for entertainment. Most of the places were ones that I NEVER would have found otherwise, and, other than the two Tejbets (including Torpedo one more time), there were no other Ferengi (foreigners) in them, all Habesha (Ethiopian). There was a mix of Ethiopian music, traditional and modern, and, surprisingly, reggae, which apparently is quite popular. What I did NOT hear was American Pop/R&B, which was prevalent in other African countries I visited. Clearly Ethiopia has a strong sense of cultural and musical identity. This type of experience was exactly what I wanted for nightlife, and were great recommendations.
Finally, the reception desk was always helpful and friendly any time I needed anything for the room or any food or drink (like bottles of water). The restaurant staff was also great and I enjoyed the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies.
And again, I really appreciated the promptness of my airport transport back to the Lalibela airport so that I could make my flight on time. It was also nice to be able to pay with credit card upon check out since I was running low on local currency.
All in all this is one of the best value hotels I have stayed at in Africa so far.