Its natural assets are numerous, including the drama of the Rift Valley and its lakes, as well as the Blue Nile falls and the Baile mountains.
It may not be the land of the Big Five, but an Ethiopian adventure could deliver sightings of rare creatures such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex which is found nowhere else on the planet.
Its people too are a diverse bunch, with more than 80 linguistic groups in existence in Ethiopia. Their rituals, myths and symbols all bear the influence of the ancient civilisations of Asia, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean.
The country has a fascinating history which encompasses the 2000 year old Axumite empire, the ancient city of Harar, the medieval city of Gonder and the legacy of controversial Emperor Haile Selassie.
Then there are its religious landmarks such as the mosques of the ancient walled city of Harar, and the rock-hewn temples of Laliba and Tigray. Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian civilisations in the world with Christianity in the country dating back to the 1st century AD.
This is not the destination for anyone looking for a bit of flop and drop relaxation – this is no easy travel destination. But the challenges of traveling here are matched by the rewards.
Places to Visit in Ethiopia
- Addis Ababa
- Omo Valley
Unique Things to See and Do in Ethiopia
- Hike the jagged landscapes of the Simien Mountains
- Explore the medieval monolithic cave churches of Lalibela and Northern Tigray
- Meet the tribal people of the Omo Valley
- Visit the spectacular Danakil Depression
- Discover the ruins of the ancient civilisation of Aksum
The Lowdown on Ethiopian food
Ever heard of injera? This spongy, tangy flatbread is made of teffe – a grain that is rich in calcium, iron and protein. It’s essentially the country’s national dish, upon which are served a variety of cooked meats, vegetables and pulses. Sauces are generally flavoured with an Ethiopian spice mix called berbere.
Vegetarians won’t find themselves going hungry in Ethiopia either. They simply need to order some of the “fasting food” that is eaten by Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians on the fast days that make up nearly half the year. These dishes generally include salads, vegetables and pulses.
Need something to wash down your dinner? Try a glass of t’ella, the local beer, or go for some t’ej which is a type of honey wine. Ethiopia has also its own vineyards, so be sure to try a drop of the local vino. If dry reds are your thing, give either the Dukam or the Gouder a try. If you prefer you reds sweet, then try Axumite. But if you prefer white, then go for the Crystal.
Getting Around Ethiopia
Getting around Ethiopia, just as in many other parts of Africa, can be quite a challenge due to the lack of infrastructure and poor public transport.
The roads here are among the worst to be found on the continent, with the country holding one of the highest rates of traffic fatalities per vehicle in the world. As a result, a self-drive holiday is really only advisable for the strong of nerve, and even then a 4WD is highly recommended.
There are plenty of bus companies which between them cover all of the major towns. Passengers are not allowed to stand in the aisle of long-distance buses here which means the journey is a little less painful.
If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, then you’re better off taking to the skies. Ethiopian Airlines has a good domestic network which will get you to most of the main tourist sights in a jiffy.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Ethiopia
The main rainy season lasts from June until the end of September in most parts of the country, although there is also a short rainy spell in March.
Did you know…?
Ethiopia is the only country in the world to have 13 months in a year. Ethiopians also celebrate New Year in September, meaning that while we are in 2016, they are in 2008.
Did you ALSO know…?
In Ethiopia, time is measured from sunrise and is counted on the opposite side of the clock. So when the sun rises at what we think of as 6 o’clock in the morning, in Ethiopia it is actually 12′o clock which is when the day begins.
However, the coming of the rains doesn’t have to mean you have to rule out travel – airport upgrades along the popular historic route of Axum, Lalibela, Gonder and Bahir Dar mean that you can now visit northern Ethiopia even in the rainy season. Downpours are frequently followed by sunshine and the wetter conditions deliver a well-watered green and floral landscape with far fewer crowds.
Ready to plan your visit to Ethiopia? Check out these popular guides and trips.