A complete guide to Visiting Ethiopia, when to go , the various attractions to find, getting around the country, Trekking in Ethiopia, flights, accommodation and hotels, food and culture, Ethiopian national parks, the best tour operators, Popular spots such as Simien Mountains, Bale Mountains and Omo Valley.
Why Visit Ethiopia?
Ethiopia is a land of differences, from the cold peaks of Simien Mountains to the hot Danakil desert. Ethiopia continues to be an exceptional destination in Africa.
Ethiopia’s History starts with her most popular ancestor, Lucy, that roamed this country 3.2 million years back. The surge of the Axumite Empire during the First century BC normally marks the start of fairly modern Ethiopian history.
With the introduction of Christianity to this somewhat isolated nation in the 4th century, you can’t help as you watch the vibrant Orthodox celebrations to find out that these acts of faith as well as devotion are most likely close to the very original kind of Christianity as is within the world these days.
In addition to a lively history are enchanting stories plus legends which define the legacy of Ethiopia.
Things to do in Ethiopia
From being known as the cradle of human kind, a home to the hottest place on earth to having the largest number of the UNESCO heritage sites in the world, Ethiopia is one country that is worth visiting because you will be able to:
Delve into the Timket Festival
If you ever want to see different people adorned in colorful robes and some of them in pure white Ethiopian designed robes, then this is the best thing to engage in while in Ethiopia. The festival which is celebrated in commemoration of the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River and it is always celebrated on either 19th or 2oth. It takes three days and you get to see replicas of the Ark of the Covenant where the Ten Commandments are believed to have been kept. In the three days you spend celebrating the Timkat moving matching with the believers and renewing vows of baptism, you will experience something that will never leave your mind.
Explore cultural diversity in the Omo valley
The Omo valley is the best place to visit when you want experience a diversity of cultural practices all in one place. This is a one in a life time experience where you get to see the Hamar people and their bull jumping ceremony which is an initiation of boys into manhood, the houses of the Daasanach people that can be folded, the stone walls of the Konso people, the body painting among the Karo women and the wearing of lip plates for the women which is considered a sign of beauty to them. All these can be experienced once you visit the Omo valley and while enjoying their wonderful culture you also get to enjoy their local delicious food.
Join in the coffee ceremony
Ethiopia is the birth place of the world’s best coffee due to the many coffee farms that are found in the country and these areas include Harar, Jimma, Yirgacheffe and kaffaa. There ae also legends that are told and these show that the first coffee beans were discovered in the highlands of Ethiopia.
The coffee ceremony is one of the many things you can engage in when you get to visit Ethiopia. During the ceremony, the coffee beans are put in a rekbot where they are roasted from before they are brewed and served to the people who are present and they have only one rule for everyone that attends the coffee ceremony and that is you have to take at least three cups of coffee before being initiated into the family.
Go back in time at the rock hewn churches of Lalibela
The rock hewn churches of Lalibela were constructed out of rock and what better way to enjoy the mediaeval times other than by visiting these wonderful churches that are nestled within the hills of Lalibela. The beauty about these churches is that they are all connected to each other through the underground tunnels that lead from one church to another. Many pilgrims can be seen trekking to the churches and some of the churches in Lalibela include the St George church and the Bete Maryam and you get to enjoy the view of the churches as you trek through the ruins.
Get a taste of the coffee and feed hyenas in Harar
Harar city is commonly known for her old stone gates that you can see when you get to the city and it is also the fourth largest holy city in the world with the largest number of people being Muslims. The city has so much to offer and some of the major things that you can do when you get to Harar include visiting the over 40 mosques, the St Mary’s catholic church, feeding the hyenas which is done at night and in the presence of a trained personnel and finally visiting the wonderful coffee farms and getting a taste of the famous Harar coffee brewed straight from the gardens.
Enjoy the trekking and wild life in the Simiens National Park
The Simiens National Park is located in the Northern part of Ethiopia and at the moment it is a potential UNESCO heritage site due to the presence of the unique things that you get to see when you visit the Park. A home to the Simiens Mountain, it offers great hiking routes up the mountain and clearly marked trek routes through the park where you get to see some of the best wild life both birds and animals and not forgetting the vast vegetation that can be seen throughout the Park.
The Simiens National Park is a home to the many animals some of which include the gelada baboon commonly referred to as the bleeding heart baboon, the Ethiopian wolf which is endemic to Ethiopia, the Walia ibex and many more others. The landscape as well around the Park is worth visiting giving you a chance to view the surroundings from a raised point of view.
Make a stop at the Ethiopian Markets
There are a lot of markets in the country where you can get yourself all the souvenirs that you need from Ethiopia, good and fresh vegetables and any other products that you might need. When shopping in the Ethiopian markets, make sure that you leave most of your valuables in your room to avoid pickpockets and you should not go to the markets without a tour guide because these can help you when it comes to bargaining and translation from Amharic to English. And a note before you set out for your market travels within Ethiopia, make sure that you do shopping form the same markets that the locals go to because this might be safer.
Traverse through Lake Tana Holy waters and her Monasteries
Travelling along the largest Lake in Ethiopia will take you back in time as you explore the Lake Tana Monasteries. The Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile which is considered to be the longest river in Ethiopia and the water from the lake is considered holy by the locals because they believe it heals all ailments when someone drinks it. Some of the activities that you can carry out on the Lake and these include fishing, picnics and birding.
Before you get to the monasteries, you will have to use papyrus made boats that are commonly used by locals while fishing and after this, you get to the monasteries by trekking. Although the monasteries are a good sight for all some of them are out of bounds for women and this is due to the Jewish laws of how women and men are not supposed to pray from the same place and that is why you will find monks who will show you which ones to go to. And no to worry all the monasteries that you will go to will go to will be memorable.
Enjoy the food in Ethiopia
The food in Ethiopia is one of the best things that you will ever taste especially the Injera which is the most widely cooked food in the country. The most commonly served dish in the country is the Injera. The Injera has a bitter to sweet taste and is mostly served with fried beef or any other accompaniment of food that is available and it can be found in the different restaurants in the country. The Injera is made from a wheat grain which is grown in the Ethiopian highlands. Since it is a staple food in Ethiopia, it is best to get accustomed to it because it will be served with almost every meal you ask for and you will also get to taste other local delicious dishes prepared in the country most especially if you come for a food tour.
Get a one on one with the Ark of the Covenant
Once you visit the Aksum city you will find out that Ethiopia should be one of the holiest countries in the world. The famous Ark of the covenant in the bible where the Ten commandments that were given to Moses were kept was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I who is believed to be the son of queen Sheba and King Solomon and it is kept in the Church of the ark of the covenant which is also known as the church of Lady Mary of Zion and it is located within the Axum city. You will not be able to get close to the church since it is forbidden but you can take photos of the place from a distance and.
Go for an adrenaline test on the Ethiopian Mountains
Ethiopia is a home to many Mountains that are located in the different corners of this landlocked country and all these offer adrenaline fanatics a chance to have fun through hiking. You will have a chance to explore all this with an experienced tour guide and the best time to do this is during the dry season.
Tourist attraction destinations in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a landlocked country that can be found in the Northern part of the African country. It is mostly known to be an Orthodox state although you will find other religions practicing in the country and it is one of the few countries that has been split into two by the Great Rift Valley and her capital city is Addis Ababa. Ethiopia unlike other countries in Africa was not colonized by European countries despite the Italians living in the country for many years.
Ethiopia has a lot of tourist destinations that will keep you on your toes as they all provide various entertainment and relaxation when you visit them. The destinations range from National Parks, heritage sites, Mountains and in all these places there are several activities that can be carried out like Mountain climbing, birding, trekking, game viewing, boat rides and many more others. We can arrange everything for you to go and have a safari in Ethiopia and get to experience what the country has to offer first hand.
Ethiopia has different safari destinations and we have taken the liberty to note down the different tourist attractions below in the various groups that they fall under.
Heritages in Ethiopia
UNESCO has named some of the tourist sites in Ethiopia as world heritage sites and these are visited by many to get to know more about Ethiopia as a country. Some of the heritage sites found in Ethiopia include the following:
- The Konso landscape
The Konso landscape is filled with villages that can be seen at the hilltop and the best thing to spot when you go to Konso are the Waka which make grave marks using wood.
- The Tiya
The Tiya is located in the southern part Addis Ababa and it is the best archeological site in the country. There are several markings that you can see in Tiya and these show how the Stone Age times were and how the early man lived.
- The Lalibela churches
Just like the name suggests, churches that were constructed during the 12th century can be seen when you visit Lalibela and these amount to two chapels and twelve churches all curved from stone.
- The Fasil Ghebbi
The Fasil Ghebbi is filled with medieval buildings that were constructed during the 17th century and it is known as African Camelot due to the way the buildings are constructed.
- The city of Aksum
Aksum was constructed over 3000 years ago and it was a home to the Ethiopian queen Sheba. It was glamorous to look at but at the moment you will see the ruins of the palace and also get to know more about the queen and the history nestled in the place.
- The Harar Jugol
If you ever want to see a place that has many mosques in one place then this is the right place to be. The Harar Jugol is the fourth largest holy city in the world with over eighty 430 shrines and 82 mosques.
- The Omo River
Down below the Omo River you will find a place where the human fossils were found that were dated back to 2.4 million years ago. A tour guide will be there to tell you more about the fossils and where exactly they were located.
- The Simien National Park
The simian National Park is mostly known as a home to the rare gelada baboon and it was declared a UNESCO heritage because of the good scenery created by the mountain and the greenery that is found in the area.
National Parks in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has numerous National Parks that can be visited and these include the following:
The Chebera Churchura is a good place for game trekking especially elephants. These can be trekked on foot and the park is located in the western part of the country and the trekking is only done with the help of trained tour guides to avoid accidents.
- The Yangudi Rassa National Park
The Yangudi National Park is located near the Yangudi Mountain and is one of the less known national parks in the country. It is filled with a lot of bushes and thickets and wildlife that you can get to see when you visit and enjoy trekking up the Mountain.
- The Bale Mountains National Park
The bales Mountain National Park is a top spot for all those who love birding. The National Park has a lot of trees and its location help in creating a good habitat for the birds and the different wild life that is found in the Park.
- The Gambella National Park
Like the great migration in East Africa, Gambella National Park in Ethiopia has a large antelope migration that happens between March and August and the migration also includes the white tailed Kob. This is one place that you need to visit when you go to Ethiopia.
- The Awash National Park
The Awash National Park is a home to various wild life but most especially the dry country Antelope that is found in the Great Rift Valley. It is also a top spot for birding as it is a home to more than 500 bird species.
- The Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien national Park was declared a UNESCO heritage and it is a home to many wildlife animals and different bird species and you will also get to see the beautiful peak Mountains that create an excellent back drop when you are taking photos.
- The Mago National Park
The Mago National Park is not as big as others and the wild life in the Park is a bit scarce as compared to others due to the constant poaching that is done by the locals. The few animals that can be seen in the park are being protected so that they do not go into extinction in the country.
- The Netch sar National Park
Netch Sar National Park is a home to a number of birds especially the Nechisar night jar which is one of the rarest birds in the world and it is surrounded by the beautiful scenery which is created by the Abaya and Chamo twin lakes and the green plains.
- The Abijatta Shalla National Park
This is located in the southern part of the country and it is a home to various bird species, wild life and a lake which provides water to the animals. It has one of the largest aqua life in Ethiopia and this is one of the few reasons as to why the Park was preserved.
- Omo National Park
The national Park is located in the southern part of Ethiopia in a remote place which makes getting there a bit hard. But even with its remoteness, it has quite a lot to offer like the hot springs, different tree species for all botany lovers, bird species, wild animals and you also get to visit the various locals that live in the area and get to know more about their culture.
As you head into Ethiopia, there are clearly marked routes that lead to the different tourist destinations and this was made so as to avoid congestion on the roads and to make sure that tourists get to the destinations on time without getting lost. The five destination routes that are used include the following:
- The southern route
The southern route passes through the Rift valley into the highlands. It is also referred to as the Rift valley and cultural symbol route and it is filled with good scenery that will make your journey exciting even before you get to your destination. You get to view the Great Rift Valley form a different point of view and carry out some activities along the way like birding, relaxing on the lake shores and also getting to know more about the culture practiced by the locals.
- The Eastern route
The Eastern route passes through the Bale Mountains and that is why it is sometimes called the Bale Mountains route. When you use this route you will be able to see the Holy city in Ethiopia which is considered to be the fourth largest Holy city in the world.
- The Addis Ababa route
This route starts from the capital city of Ethiopia Addis Ababa and is mostly used by all those that have less time when it comes to touring Ethiopia and it has various tourist attractions like Museums, National Parks, restaurants and many other things.
- The Western route
The Western route has a good scenery for all those that use it like the beautiful coffee gardens, the green forests, beautiful birds and the route leads you straight to the Gambella National Park where you will have a lot unlimited fun.
- The Northern route
The Northern route runs through the Simien Mountains and on your way to the various destinations you will be able to see the vast cultures that is expressed in Ethiopia and get to visit the numerous heritage sites that are in the area.
What you need to know before travelling to Ethiopia
Ethiopia is located in the Northern part of the African continent and has a lot to offer when it comes to tourism. From the game parks, Rivers and lakes to the monuments and UNESCO heritage sites, its one place that you would want to put on your bucket list and travel. Planning a trip to Ethiopia has been easy as we are going to look into all the important details so that you get to enjoy your safari to the country without worry.
What Type of Hotels To Expect In Ethiopia
Before you plan your trip to Ethiopia you need to first look into the accommodation facilities that are in the country. The different tourist destinations have accommodation facilities that range from budget accommodations, mid-range accommodation facilities and luxury accommodation facilities. Some National Parks also have camps within them that you can use when you visit them but you need to book earlier on so that you get the exact type of rooms that you want.
When you are visiting the country during the peak season, you will find that there are less rooms available since the county will be over crowded with tourists so you need to get in touch with the right people to get what you want and for those that do not want to love crowds then you should visit the country during the normal seasons where people are few.
And for more information about the accommodation facilities in the country, contact us and we will be able to make all the necessary arrangements and we promise to get the best accommodation facilities in the country which are in close proximity with the tourist attractions destinations that you want to visit.
The safety in the country
Ethiopia is a peaceful country which is safe to visit as compared to some African countries that have been un-stable for some time. Even with the country being safe you will need to be careful with your property especially if you are going to crowded places because you will find many pick pockets who might take your valuable items from you. Therefore it is advisable that you leave all the valuable items in your room or just be extra careful when you are in the city.
Health issues in Ethiopia
Just like any other country in the world, before you visit Ethiopia you need to be aware of the different health sanctions that they have and the necessary vaccines that you need so that you are easily allowed into the country. The different vaccinations and the necessary precautions that you need before you visit Ethiopia include the following:
- Stay clear of the water as it is not safe for drinking and brushing. Even when you want to brush it is safer to use bottled water.
- Get the tetanus vaccine, Hepatitis A and b, measles and rubella vaccines, pneumonia, chicken pox, yellow fever, meningitis, Rabies, influenza, shingles and the polio vaccines because these will be asked for especially if you are travelling outside Addis Ababa.
- Remember to take your anti-malarial tablets so that you avoid falling sick on your safari to the country.
- Also try carrying some wipes that you will use before or after eating food and after visiting the toilets as some rural places will not have running tap water.
Ethiopia is commonly attacked by Meningitis and its spread normally goes from December to June and this is why you need to make sure that you get the vaccine so that you do not get infected.
There are several things that you need to know before you travel to Ethiopia and these have been listed below so that you are not caught off guard.
- Business closes at lunch time
When we talk about business we mean everything closes don from midday to 2:00pm as people head out for lunch. So if you want to buy anything during day, this is not the best time to buy it as you will be wasting your time. The people of Ethiopia treasure their food time and do not like to be disturbed and this is one of the reasons as to why the governing body in the country allowed them to be closing during lunch hours so that they get time to eat, others go to church and finish other personal errands before heading back to work.
- The time and calendar in Ethiopia is different
Unlike any other country in the world, Ethiopians have their own calendar and the way their clock works is completely different from other clocks in the world. Their clock is six hours apart from the western time and this is due to the fact that their day begins at twelve o’clock that is midday instead of the normal 6:00am that is experienced in other countries.
And when it comes to their calendars, they use the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that is used by other counties. Therefore as you are travelling to Ethiopia, make sure you change your time to match theirs and try as much as possible to follow their calendar.
- Ethiopia has nine UNESCO heritage sites
Ethiopia’s uniqueness from the rest of the world has ensured that most of the places in the different parts of the country become UNESCO heritage sites in the country and all the spots that were made into heritage sites are worth the visit. Therefore as you head down to Ethiopia, make sure you visit the nine UNESCO heritage sites where you will have a lot of fun.
- You will need guides on your tour
When most people are travelling, it is extremely hard for them to get tour guides because most of them think that they will be cheated but when you get to Ethiopia you will definitely need to hire one as many of the locals in the country do not speak English but their local languages. Sometimes these guards are used to offer you protection and that is why they are trained and allowed to carry guns and you will need someone who knows the different routes to use when heading out to the different tourist destinations in the country.
- The Ethiopian National language
The National language that is spoken by the Ethiopians is known as Amharic and it has a close resemblance to the Arabic language. There are several other languages that are spoken by the different tribes in the country, a little bit of English which is spoken by mainly the 21th century generation. Learning the Amharic language is a bit hard and if you do not have a tour guide to assist you then you will not be able to communicate with people especially the older generation.
- The Ethiopian tourist Visa
The tourist visa can be got at the airport when you land and most tourist visas go for 50 dollars and this lasts for thirty days but if you want one that can last more days, all you need to do is pay more money and you will be availed with the visa. But before you get to the airport to pick your visa, you need to first confirm with your local embassy to find out whether it is ready.
You can also get an e-visa online before you get to the airport although it takes almost the same time as the one got the airport but you can choose which one works better for you.
- What to pack when visiting Ethiopia
In this section we are mostly going to talk about equipment and clothes that you should have before you travel. The evenings in Ethiopia are mostly cold so you should pack up some warm clothes to keep warm, if you are planning on hiking you will need all the gear that is needed for hiking and as we all know the Ethiopians still put on their traditional wear and are hardly influenced by the western culture. You can therefore come with your own western style and no one will be bothered by whatever you are putting on.
- Your normal expenditure in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is considered to be an expensive country but compared to others it is extremely cheap which makes it a perfect tourist destination for all those that are looking for a safari get away. The food, accommodation and the rest come cheaply although the prices hike for a few times especially during the peak season.
Ethiopia being one of the safest countries in Africa makes it the perfect get away for all those that want to go for a safari and once you get there all you need to do is go with the flow of how the locals live in the area. You will find a lot of chaos in the country from the busy streets, the chaos in the different markets but all you need to do is be flexible with all that is around you as this will be the only way you will enjoy your stay in the country.