Road trip to Massawa, Eritrea

Yesterday my mom and I took a day trip to the lovely city of Massawa. It’s a 3-hour drive from Asmara, which would be considerably less if it weren’t for the scary winding mountain roads.

As you leave the city of Asmara, you start to see the beautiful mountains of Eritrea. Yes, the roads are scary to drive on sometimes, especially because other drivers love to pass you up on crazy sharp turns and you keep imagining plummeting to your death. I got car sick and stopped to throw up my entire breakfast over a beautiful mountain cliff at one point. If you’re planning on driving to Massawa, bring extra tissues for pit-stops.

We downloaded the app, which I would highly recommend for any traveler (especially where you don’t have data or internet). We downloaded the entire map of Eritrea while we had wifi and it’s then accessible offline! We took the road through Ghinda because that’s where our travel permits allowed us to go.

Fun fact: expats/tourists in Eritrea can only travel 25km outside of the city of Asmara without a travel permit, otherwise you have to obtain special permission from the government. Permission is usually granted to Massawa.

Though it was raining in Asmara and in the mountains, about 2 hours in (and after our ears popped a bunch of times) the terrain started to change and the weather hiked up. In Asmara, it was about 18C and closer to Massawa it got to 30C.

Fun fact: Asmara is located at about 7,000ft elevation.

Eventually we made it into Massawa. Unfortunately, it was kind of cloudy and blah in Massawa that day, but on the bright side the temperature was only 35, instead of the usual 45-50C for this season! So it was bearable.

So a little bit about Massawa: it’s a port city located on the Red Sea. It’s been a really important place for Eritrea because it gives access to water and goods from other countries. According to Wikipedia, it’s also been an important port for many centuries and was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Italy, Britain, and Ethiopia at some point until Eritrea’s independence of 1991! Massawa was also the capital of Eritrea when it was an Italian colony, until the capital was moved to Asmara in 1897.

Because the war for independence from Ethiopia happened so recently, and the economy hasn’t been that great,  there are so many buildings crumbling in Massawa.


It was so beautiful to see these buildings, and I was fascinated and impressed by the local people’s ability to survive through so many hardships, like the war, and show happiness towards us in Massawa.


We didn’t have a chance to go swimming or take the boat over to the Archipelago or to Green Island, but we have another trip to Massawa planned in the next month – this time for a whole weekend!

Published by gabriellamikiewicz

Gabriella Mikiewicz is a 20-something Polish-American student and writer whose interests are as eclectic as her apartment decorations.

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