Ethiopia is a huge country so if you’re trying to see everything in the country in one visit you will need around 1 – 2 months. For those of you coming for just a couple of weeks, it’s possible to see lots, if you use the great internal network of flights provided by Ethiopian Airlines.
There are two main loops that most people do – The northern Loop takes in Lalibela, Axum, Simien Mountains, Gondar & Bahir Dar. The Southern Loop focuses on the tribes of the Omo Valley as well as the Great Rift Valley Lakes.
If you have more time you can check out the Danakil Depression in the North East, the Walled City of Harar in the East and the Bale Mountains in the South.
So here is our Top 5 destinations that we think you should visit in Ethiopia..
The famous rock churches of Lalibela have to be seen to be believed. Built in the late 12th or early 13th century, the small town of Lalibela is home to 11 incredible rock-hewn monolithic churches which were built by King Lalibela. The churches are listed as part of the UNESCO world heritage sites and can be explored easily in one day. For those with more time, there are also a number of unique churches on the outskirts of the town that can be explored. The thing that makes Lalibela so special is that all the churches are still used on a daily basis by the Ethiopian Orthodox community. If you get a chance to visit Lalibela during one of the Ethiopian Orthodox festivals (such as Gena and Meskal) you will see thousands of pilgrims descending on the churches to pray and celebrate.
2. The Danakil Depression
National Geographic describe it as the “Cruelest Place on Earth” but for the Afar people of Ethiopia, the Danakil Depression is home. A tour of the depression will bring you through an amazing variety of landscapes: from high mountain passes to salt flats below sea level and of course to the top of an active volcano! When you are standing on the edge of the Erta Ale lava lake it’s somewhat incomprehensible to understand what you are seeing; In the searing heat and brightness of the Dallol salt flats, you will wonder how anyone can survive and make a living in such a harsh environment; A trip to the Danakil Depression will definitely be one trip that you will remember for the rest of your life.
3. Tribes of the Omo Valley
The Omo Valley is a remote region in the South West of Ethiopia that is home to more than 10 tribal groups each with their own unique rituals and traditions. This part of the world has remained largely untouched by outside factors so if you are looking to encounter a culture markedly different from your own, then this is the place to come. On a trip to the Omo Valley, you will see Hamer people performing a Jumping of the Bulls ceremony; be amazed at the Mursi’s mind-blowing lip plates and see local people performing ancient traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. A trip to the South Omo valley will stick with you for a lifetime.
4. Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien Mountains National Park is another one of Ethiopia’s UNESCO world heritage sites and the views that it offers are second to none. The park can be visited as a day trip or if you are into hiking, it’s possible to hike between one and fifteen days through the park. The parks most spectacular views come when you are walking along the edge of the escarpment and staring down into the valleys below. Think of it somewhat like the Grand Canyon in America – just bigger! The park is home to Ethiopia’s highest mountain – Ras Dejen (sometimes called Ras Dashen) as well as a large variety of wildlife including gelada monkeys, walia ibex and the simien fox.
- Simien Mountains National Park – 7 Day Trek
- Simien Mountains National Park – 1 Nights Camping
- Simien Mountains National Park – Day Trip
5. The Walled City of Harar
Harar is different to any other Ethiopian city, a walled town, with over 360 twisting and winding alleys squeezed into 1 square kilometre. Harar is the Islamic capital of Ethiopia and the fourth most important city in the Islamic World. It is crammed with mosques, colourful markets, coffee shops and crumbling walls. The city also has a major attraction in the ‘Hyena men of Harar’. This unique event sees local men feed hyenas with raw meet from their mouths on a daily basis… definitely a unique experience.