Colonial Italian Cinemas
A real highlight of my time in Eritrea was visiting the old 1930's Italian colonial cinemas in Asmara. The Art Deco-style architecture is fascinating. To step inside and see the gallery, then go behind the curtain to see the screen area really felt like stepping back in time. There are multiple cinemas, but the two I would recommend are definitely Cinema Impero and Roma Cinema.
The Tank Graveyard
This place is fascinating, but also a real reminder of one of the longest wars on the African continent as Eritrea finally gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after conflict spanning 30 years. Here you will see the remains of military tanks and vehicles piled on top of each other, with easily 200 tanks spread across the outdoor area. This is an area where a permit was required to enter, so I would recommend seeking the assistance of a local. As expected, there were no other tourists there, whereas locals walk past the site with admiration of national liberation.
A scenic 2 hour drive from the capital and you'll reach the port city of Massawa. Upon entering, you'll see three tanks forming a monument to commemorate those who died in the Eritrean Civil War. There's also a stunning cathedral, as well as a huge dose of Italian colonial architecture. This is a bit of a sleepy city, but perfect to walk around and people watch as locals go about their daily business. For me, this is one of the most picturesque spots in the country due to the architecture.
Asmara City Tour
The capital city is very walkable and offers many highlights, especially in the form of Italian colonial architecture. Highlights include the Fiat Tagliero Building, Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral, and Khulafa al-Rashidun Mosque. If your timing is right, you can also catch a glimpse of the local fish market. I spent hours wandering around the city admiring the architecture. It really was like stepping back in time. Even more so when you consider Eritrea has virtually zero public WiFi. This is a city with so much old school charm!
Asmara Bowling Alley
It may seem a little strange for a bowling alley to make the list of top attractions, but this place really is something else. Easily 70 years old and originally established to provide entertainment for American troops serving here, but has since became an iconic landmark. This place really hasn't had a lick if paint since it opened. The bowling has manual handlers in the form of teenage kids who pick up the fallen pins. There's also billiard tables where you'll see local retirees, and one sole surviving espresso machine from the Italian era.
Eritrea also offers a number of hiking options for visiting tourists. Mount Matara and the Canyon of Qohaito are two of the highlights, but there's routes on offer for beginner hikers too. If you take the scenic road journey between Asmara and Massawa, you'll see plenty of green landscape with mountainous backdrops that's perfect for a day hike. Be warned, the local wildlife are ever curious as the below photo shows!
It's hard to explain this place. Yes it's a market, but it's also a recycling centre. Eritrea isn't the easiest country to import new materials and goods, so this place seems to make use with what is available. You'll see materials such as metal, rubber, and wood put to good use. It's a busy place, so there's plenty of hustle and bustle on show. A perfect spot to photograph locals going about their daily trade.
There's not a huge selection of accommodation available, so my aim was to stay in the oldest and most traditional hotel in the country. This was Albergo Italia Hotel, which is officially the oldest hotel (mission complete). This hotel is in true Italian decor which provides a real authentic experience during your stay.
Reasonably priced and well located, so it ticks the boxes. You can reach the hotel directly here.
My chosen restaurant recommendation is Ghibabo, which is a pizzeria and restaurant in the capital. You've got both indoor and outdoor seating available here, as well as an extensive menu, with pizza being the highlight of course. The restaurant has superb reviews online and is a popular spot for locals, which is always a good sign.