Coming in from the airport, you’re offered a choice -- pay 30 birr for the taxi or stay at their hotel for 80 birr.
I stayed at the Helen Hotel, 30 birr. Didn’t get very high ratings in the guidebooks, but I thought it was all right. Quite a few mosquitoes at night, wish I’d taken a mosquito net, but this was the only place in my travels where I ran into mossies. Helen Hotel has a great restaurant, great food (5 birr for "fasting food") and delicious téj (honey wine, 5 birr per flask). Azmaris would show up most nights. A couple of nights some tour groups would show up and they’d put on a cultural show, but after they left it would just be a local joint.
Apart from the Helen, I also ate at the Blue Lal restaurant -- good food! To go with your tibs (or "fasting food" if you’re vegetarian), ask for their hot sauce, which they call "balo". Lonely Planet map has the Blue Lal wrong -- it’s at the intersection of the road leading to the Asheton Hotel.
North on the LP map corresponds to West on the Bradt map -- I think the LP is correct here.
I arranged for a guide (Ababa) the first day, 50 birr and he gets me through the maze of churches and he’d beat back the crowd who wants me to hire them / give them money / buy them a football / buy souvenirs / change money / buy medicine.
The second day I also hired a guide and went to a 6am mass in the Bét Medhane Alem church. A wonderful service, beautiful to sit in the church and absorb the atmosphere.
Unfortunately my guide (Habtu) didn’t work out well -- anybody who said hello to us, tourist or local, he would hiss at me to stay away from them. Wanted to move me through the churches too quickly and didn’t like it when I wanted to sit and enjoy the view. When I hired him, our plan was to visit Asheton Monastery, but by late morning he said I wasn’t paying him enough (I was paying 50 birr!) and he wanted 140 birr, and I’d have to hire a donkey from his friend. I paid him off and fired him at noon. Spent the afternoon scouting out the trail to Asheton Mariam -- it’s a dirt trail that leads off the road to the right, between the Blue Lal Restaurant and the Asheton Hotel. Follow the track, keep going up. Gorgeous views over the countryside.
The following day I did an all-day walk up to Asheton Mariam. Took cookies, fruit and water for lunch. Admission is 20 birr. The priest, Mersha Tabudja was very welcoming and showed me the monastery’s treasures. Mass started at 1:30pm (this was a Friday).
On Saturday, I went to a mass at 5:30am at Bét Gabriel-Rafael, and visited the Saturday Market.