As an avid traveler, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as uncovering an unexplored city rich in culture, history and stunning landscapes. One such city is Keren, nestled in the heart of Eritrea. Allow me to guide you through this captivating cityscape, as we dive into its enthralling history, lively culture and jaw-dropping scenery.
1. When to Go:
Eritrea’s moderate climate means Keren experiences warm to hot temperatures throughout the year. But the best time to visit is undeniably the dry season falling between October and March. You can expect pleasant temperatures and clear skies, perfect for outdoor explorations.
2. Where to Stay:
Keren provides a range of accommodation options catering to all types of travelers. Small guesthouses, elegant boutique hotels, and luxurious establishments- Keren has it all. I particularly recommend staying at a locally-owned guesthouse for a taste of the renowned Eritrean hospitality.
3. What To Do:
- Explore the Market: Start your journey by immersing yourself in the bustling atmosphere of the Keren Market. As I meandered through the maze-like alleys, I was surrounded by stalls of vibrant textiles, aromatic spices, and traditional handicrafts. Don’t forget to taste the delectable Eritrean cuisine.
- Visit the War Memorials: Discover the poignant history of the city by visiting war memorials like the Martyrs’ Memorial and the Italian War Memorial. They serve as compelling reminders of the resilience and bravery of the Eritrean people.
- Climb the Steps of Mariam Dearit: Experience spiritual tranquility at Mariam Dearit, a revered Christian shrine overlooking the city. The panoramic view from the top took my breath away and offered a peaceful retreat from the lively city below.
- Trek to the Gash-Barka Region: If you’re an adventurer like me and enjoy exploring off the beaten path, then a trek through the rugged landscapes of Gash-Barka is a must. I was fortunate to encounter traditional nomadic communities and was awe-struck by the untouched natural beauty.
4. Where to Eat:
From authentic Eritrean stews to the internationally inspired delicacies, Keren’s culinary scene didn’t disappoint. Don’t miss trying the injera, a traditional sourdough flatbread with a distinctive tangy flavor, and the aromatic coffee, a staple in every Eritrean meal.
5. Must-See Sights and Tours:
- The Keren Highlands: Explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Keren Highlands. Verdant valleys, cascading waterfalls, and terraced hillsides stole my heart with their untouched natural beauty.
- The Italian Architecture: Dive deeper into Keren’s fascinating history during the Italian colonial period by exploring architectural remnants such as the crumbling facades of colonial villas and the iconic Cinema Roma. Each structure narrates a story of a past era.
- Wildlife Encounters: Venture into the nearby Filfil Wildlife Reserve for a chance to encounter elephants, giraffes, gazelles, and an array of bird species. The diversity of the flora and fauna is truly remarkable.
6. Money Matters and Practical Tips:
- The local currency in Eritrea is the Eritrean Nakfa. It’s a good idea to have cash and traveler’s checks handy as credit cards might not be widely accepted.
- Getting around Keren is quite straightforward with taxis and minibusses readily available. I recommend negotiating fares before starting your journey and consider hiring a local guide like I did for an enriched experience.
- Respect Local Customs:
- Eritreans hold their traditions dear and as a visitor, I always ensured to dress modestly and show respect while visiting religious sites or interacting with locals.
7. Nightlife and Shopping:
Although Keren might not have a lively nightlife, it offers a few local spots where you can unwind after a day of exploration. I fondly remember sipping traditional tej, a honey wine, while enjoying live music performances. Shopping enthusiasts will find local crafts, textiles, and souvenirs at the bustling marketplaces. I recommend purchasing handmade goods and traditional instruments to support local artisans.
With its rich history, friendly locals, and mesmerizing landscapes, Keren offers a journey you won’t forget. Whether it’s strolling through the vibrant market, climbing the steps of Mariam Dearit, or venturing into the wilderness of Gash-Barka, Keren ignited a sense of adventure within me. It’s time you let this enchanting city unveil its secrets on your journey of exploration.