Every country has its outstanding and special attractions that cannot be missed Ethiopia is not an exception. There are many things to do in Ethiopia but first let us put things to context.
Sitting landlocked on the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is blessed with incredible natural beauty and abundant rare wildlife. It has also nurtured its own diverse cultures and protected its tribal heritage.
All of which means this beautiful country is packed with opportunities to make lifelong memories and enjoy experiences that will take your breath away.
The climate is conducive to exploration and adventures any month of the year, though keep in mind that in the summer the North Eastern area of Ethiopia is officially the hottest place on the planet! Daytime temperatures can reach a mighty 50 degrees C.
One of the joys of having a safari with ASTHO Vacations is the chance to immerse yourself in all that your destination has to offer. This is certainly true when visiting Ethiopia, where the colorful environment and warm local welcome make this ‘once in a lifetime trip’ something you will yearn to repeat.
Top Things to do in Ethiopia
ASTHO Vacations has selected its top 10 things to do in Ethiopia not in any particular order for you to enjoy on your visit to this destination.
Trek to the Erta Ale Volcano
A trek to the Erta Ale volcano is moderately challenging, though keep in mind the need for local guides (this is an active volcano) and make proper preparation to face those year-round high temperatures and summer heat peaks in this part of Ethiopia.
Soak Yourself in the Heat at the Danakil Depression
The Northeastern part of Ethiopia is home to the hottest place on Earth. In this place daytime temperatures soar to sweltering 50°C in Summer.
In the heart of the depression lies a place called Dallol that features salt mines and magnificent multicolored landscapes that give you the impression of a carefully painted art book.
The Danakil depression is also home to one of the world’s oldest active volcano called Erta Ale to mean a smoking mountain in the local language.
After looking at the bubbling lava from the volcano and the unbearable heat, you can see why the Afar people in the area call this place the gateway to hell.
Feed Hyenas in Harar
Harar is the fourth holiest city of Islam, the city of Harar in the Eastern part of Ethiopia is home to 82 mosques. Three of the mosques date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.
Harar city is a UNESCO world heritage site, is enclosed by a wall built in the 13th and 16th century. The wall that stands four meters tall with five entry gates was built to protect the city from an ongoing war at the time.
This is a far more contemporary offering. Who is the Harar Hyena Man? He’s a local character in the Eastern city of Harar, who calls nightly to attract these wild creatures. He then feeds the hyenas, to the joy of fascinated onlookers.
Harar is a fabulous place to visit, famed for its iconic walls and gates, the maze of alleys, and traditional African homes including colorful hanging baskets.
Be Wowed by the Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela
Dubbed the “New Jerusalem,” Lalibela town in the Northern part of Ethiopia, is a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. The town is home to 11 ancient monolithic churches carved entirely out of a single rock with hammers and chisels.
Standing at 40 feet high, Bete Giorgis (Saint George’s), is the most impressive of these churches with a roof that has the shape of a cross. Bete Medhani Alem church which you can find across the main road from St. George, is the largest monolithic church in the world.
King Lalibela is credited for these spectacular buildings which have been registered by UNESCO as world heritages. Lalibela is famous for its churches cut out of rock. These churches carved from within the earth play an important part in the history of rock-cut architecture.
It is thought these Ethiopian Orthodox Christian churches were first built in the 12th and 13th Centuries AD. They first came to be discovered by Europeans in the 16th Century. The churches have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and consist of 11 churches assembled in four groups scattered around the town of Lalibela.
Hike the Simiens Mountains
The Simiens is ideal for travelers seeking a trekking experience and have cliffs that tower as high as 1,500 meters. Ras Dashen, the highest point in Ethiopia, is also found here.
This is home to the endemic Semien Fox, the Ethiopian Wolf, the Walia Ibex, and the Gelada Baboon. These mountains live up to your expectations of a UNESCO world heritage site.
The jagged mountains also boast three endemic plant species and 180 bird species of which five are indigenous. The endangered Lammergeyer, a vulture with a wing of 2 metres and with a different diet of bone marrow, also roams the skies of this part of Ethiopia.
Immerse yourself in Royalty at the Gondar Castles
A visit to the Gondar city in the Northern Ethiopia, will guarantee you have a royal day. Founded by King Fasiledes in the seventeenth century, Gondar has been the capital of Ethiopia for almost 200 years.
You will see the emperor’s castle, a two-story structure, built of hewn brown basalt stones held together with mortar and has panoramic views of Lake Tana.
You should also visit Mentewab’s Castle and the Palaces of Emperor Iyasus and Dawit. There are the famous mural paintings on the ceiling, Debre Birhan Selassie or ‘Light of the Trinity’ church is also worth a visit.
Soak Yourself in the Cultural Pot in the Omo Valley
Untouched by the outside world, the tribes of the Omo valley withtheir chalk painted bodies and unique attires are some of Africa’s most traditional tribes. Residing in the South-western Ethiopia, these tribes have ancient cultural practices such as the cattle jumping ritual of the Hamer tribe which turns a boy into a man.
The area is also known for its contribution to paleontology. In 1980, the Lower Omo Valley was registered by UNESCO as a world heritage site after discoveries of human skeletons that have lived over 3 million years ago. While you are here, you can also visit the Omo River.
Tribal traditions are strong here. The indigenous people are warm, welcoming and accepting of visitor curiosity despite their remoteness and a fierce adherence to an ageless way of life.
Visit local markets to trade, camp by outlying villages and sit by riverbanks or around campfires as tribes-people dance, drum and celebrate their unique African stories.
Size Up to the Mighty Monoliths of Axum
Spending time exploring Axum is highly recommended for anyone travelling to this archaeologically rich African nation.
Axum is a city in the northern part of Ethiopia and was the original capital of the Kingdom of Axum that ruled from around 400 BC to the 10th Century AD.
The major attractions in Axum on an Ethiopia vacation are obelisks which are around 1700 years old. Most of them are situated in the Northern Stelae Park with the largest being 33 metres/108 feet long and 2.35 metres/7.4 feet deep weighing 52,000 kilograms/520 tons.
The obelisks, which have architectural designs, are believed to mark where graves were located. Also of interest in Axum is the old and new Churches of Our Lady Mary of Zion which stand next to each other.
The old one was originally built in 1665 and is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant (wooden chest containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments).
Other attractions in Axum include the archaeological and ethnographic museums and the Ezana Stone written in a similar manner to the Rosetta Stone.
The huge monoliths (stelae) are elaborate tombstones for glorious rulers in Ethiopia’s past. The largest (Remhai’s stele) is an incredible feat of ancient engineering, and would have stood 33m high, weighing 500 tons, when first erected!
Discover the Hidden Beauties of Bahir Dar
Bahir Dar is one of the main tourist destinations on an Ethiopia safari tour. It is characterized by wide avenues lined with palm trees and colorful flowers and attractive gardens. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful and well-planned cities.
It is located on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile Falls are located about 30 kilometres/18 miles to the south. Emperor Haile Selassie had a small modest palace in Bahir Dar which can be visited.
Other attractions are the city’s two markets, the general market which has everything from colorful woven cloth to food and beverages and the roadside market which specializes in baskets. Bahir Dar is home to a number of universities and colleges, the most prominent being Bahir Dar University.
Marvel at Natures Handy work at Sof Omar Caves
Sof Omar is the longest cave in Ethiopia at a little over 15 kilometers. It was formed by the Weib River, is where you can admire nature’s unique architecture skills. With 40 main entrances and exits, it’s also the longest cave system in Africa.
This underground cavern is located in the Southeastern Ethiopia. It’s a sacred place to Islam named after Shiek Sof Omar who used the cave as a mosque along with his followers in the 12th century.
The breathtakingly beautiful cavern which features stones as high as 20 meters can be explored on foot with local guides.