Not many countries can manage to leave their visitors awestruck in the way Ethiopia does. This landlocked country in the Horn of Africa boasts an array of breathtaking natural beauty, peerless history, diverse culture, soulful people, delicious cuisine, and fantastic wildlife. What’s not to love? The ancient and fascinating history of Ethiopia stretches as far back as 3,000 years to the reign of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and it currently houses seven UNESCO World Heritage sites within its borders. Put quite simply, even though it is not your typical safari country, it is definitely worth visiting Ethiopia over other popular African destinations like South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Morocco, and Uganda. Here’s some of its most compelling sights and natural wonders to include in your itinerary:
Blue Nile Falls
The Blue Nile Falls surges downstream from the famous Lake Tana in Bahir Dar and over the side of a sheer 45m-high chasm before exploding into a medley of mists, rainbows, and a continuous spray of water, which drenches visitors even a few hundred meters away. The region is also home to several ancient monasteries full of cultural treasures, including murals, parchment manuscripts, crowns, crosses, and even the mummified remains of some of Ethiopia’s past emperors. There are many monkeys, hippos, and pelicans inhabiting the area as well.
Not for the fainthearted, but worth visiting nonetheless. Bubbling volcanoes, sulfurous yellow mounds, and mirages of camels across lakes of salt await you at this exceptional geological shaping. Danakil hosts around 40% of Africa’s volcanoes and the temperatures are so high that you have to embark on your hike at night or in the early morning, At about 116 meters under sea level, it is considered to be the lowest located place in Africa, so be ready for a genuine, raw expedition. That said, be sure to come prepared with enough water, first-aid kit, torchlights, and any other necessary supplies.
The Simien Mountains National Park was established in 1969 and is one of the first sites to be made a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1978. It is home to a number of unique endangered species including Gelada baboons, the Ethiopian wolf, and the Walia ibex, a fascinating mountain goat. Over 50 different species of birds including the lammergeier or the bearded vulture can also be found within the Simien Mountains.
Did you know that coffee originated from Ethiopia? And you can’t come to the coffee origin of the world without checking out the plantations and museums in the area. You can schedule a tour of the coffee plantation through the Coffee Plantation Development Enterprise (CPDE) or at the plantation itself. In some cases, you may even be privy to the famous coffee preparation ceremony where you not only get a new appreciation for this popular beverage, but also get to sample along with popcorn and other snacks. If you’d like to know more about the history of coffee with a focus on Ethiopian production, the Kafa museum in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve is the place to be.
Lalibela (Rock Churches)
Orthodox Christians from the end of the 12th century chose Lalibela as their place of pilgrimage because going to Jerusalem was impossible at the time since the lands between Jerusalem and Ethiopia were controlled by Muslims. The ancient city boasts 11 ancient monolithic churches carved entirely out of a single pink granite rock using just hammers and chisels. These churches have since been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Bete Giyorgis cathedral being the most impressive thanks to its cross-shaped roof.
Aksum (sometimes spelled Axum) – The Cradle of Civilization
The origins of the Aksum Kingdom date as far back as the 5th century BC and is believed to be the start of Ethiopia’s history. At the peak of its prosperity, the kingdom was said to have maintained political contacts with the Romans and Greeks, and engaged in bilateral trade with China and India. Here you will find many impressive monuments (royal tombs, castles, monolithic obelisks, and other historical artifacts), all of which point to the fact that Aksum was once home to a great civilization.
Prospects for the Ethiopian Tourism Sector
Ethiopia has for some time, been relegated to the rear when it comes to the culture and tourism sector in Africa. Recently, however, the Ethiopian government has taken key steps to make the country a leading destination on the continent. In addition to favorable government policies like exemption of customs duties for capital goods and construction and land access at competitive prices being put in place, infrastructure is being upgraded to be at par with expected standards. So Is it worth visiting Ethiopia over other African destinations? Absolutely! Get in touch with an expert tour operator to discuss your travel plans to Ethiopia today.
Curious about Ethiopia? Check out some of our tours below:
- Best of Ethiopia Tour
- Charming Ethiopia Tour
- Omo Valley Cultural Express Tour
- Omo Valley Highlights Tour