Top Ethiopia Cities- Discover and Visit on Budget

Most Ethiopia cities are rather new and under development. However, the ancient cities are hidden gems, away from civilization. Ethiopian cities and towns such as Lalibela and Axum are tourist attraction cities for their historic artifacts. The rest of Ethiopia cities have their own modern character that makes present-day Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the horn of Africa.

It’s the second-most populous country in Africa as well. It has a long history as it is named the “land of origins”, as an origin of humankind or as an ancient civilization. The history dates back to more than 3 million years as it has an archaeological founding, thus this long history has been one of the forcing elements for it to have a varying ancient culture.

It’s a well-known fact that Africa is rapidly changing and Ethiopia has been a leading country in this exponential growth. Ethiopia’s population has nearly tripled since the past three decades, thus creating rapid and dramatic urbanization that made it somehow uncomfortable to live in as it was sudden and not planned well. These kinds of cases are seen widely in the developing world. Based on the last population data Ethiopia has a number close to a hundred million of which around 84% live in the rural area and the rest in the fast-growing urban areas.

After a long war and struggle, Ethiopians have created a Federal Democratic Republic system composed of nine National Regional States: Tigray, Afar, Amhara, SNNPR, Somali, Oromia, Harari, and Benshangul-Gumz. These states are further divided into Kebeles and Woredas.

Based on the researches done this paper mainly covers some major issues that relate to the in Ethiopia cities (a description of major cities) and the current and future urban situation, problems, and possible solutions.

How Many Ethiopia Cities are there?

There are 94 Ethiopia cities, almost 9 of these with a population between 100,000 and a million and one above a million population and 84 with a population between 10,000 and 100,000. The capital of Ethiopia city Addis Ababa has the largest population in the country.

What Are Some Major Ethiopia Cities?

Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa Is the capital of Ethiopia Cities, the capital of Ethiopia, is the largest and most populous one? The history of this city began when Taitu and Menelik came to the site in 1889. The landscape and the mineral water around were one of the greatest attractions that made this site to be the capital. Before Addis Ababa, the king was seated in a mountainous area named Entoto, but as a result of the site’s difficulty to expand because of lack of water and firewood, they chose the current location to stay.

The first community that was built in the new city was Taitu’s. She and the royal court used to take mineral baths. Then soon after her settlement, the members of the royal courts and other nobilities began to settle along with their staff and families. After these settlements, the new city started to boom, by the year 1910 the population of the city reached around 70,000.

In the colonization period, Italian troops occupied Addis Ababa from 1936 – 1941. In these five years the cities development was booming, the Italians built hospitals, stadiums, roads, and other important elements. Then after the defeat of Italy Emperor Haile Selassie re-established the city and invited new organizations like OAU to make their headquarters and establishments here in Addis Ababa, which has helped the city to gain the name it has now, The Capital City of Africa.

Addis Ababa Only since the late 19th century has Addis Ababa been the capital of the Ethiopian state. Its immediate predecessor, Entoto, was situated on a high tableland and was found to be unsatisfactory due to extreme cold and an acute shortage of firewood. The empress Taitu, the wife of Emperor Menilek II, persuaded the emperor to create a house near the recent springs at the foot of the tableland and to grant land within the area to members of the nobility. the town was thus founded in 1887 and was named Addis Ababa (“New Flower”) by the empress. In its first years, the town was more sort of a military encampment than a town.

Until know, Addis Ababa is that the educational and office of Ethiopia. Several international organizations have their headquarters within the city; the foremost important is the African Union and therefore the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, both located in Africa Hall. Addis Ababa’s manufactures include textiles, shoes, food, beverages, wood products, plastics, and chemical products. Most of Ethiopia’s service industries also are located within the city. Banking and insurance services are concentrated in Addis Ababa, and therefore the nation’s major newspapers are published there. Addis Ababa is the hub of the nation’s transportation network. Several roads connect it to other major cities; the sole railway runs to Djibouti. the town is additionally served by a world airport.


This city is mainly known for the Battle of Adwa, which was fought between Italy and Ethiopia as mentioned earlier. It’s a town that is part of Tigray, thus located to the north of Addis Ababa which is close to the center. Besides the history of the battle, this site is also known for the churches it has and the trade routes.

Adwa was established following Gondar. At the beginning of the 16th century because of its market potential and other factors, the governor of Tigray settled in this area that it overshadowed the previous main city Debarwa. Currently, based on the last census the population of the city is around 40,500.

Ethiopia cities 1 Adwa

Afar Ethiopia 101: A full on the road guide to visiting Afar region

Arba Minch

It’s a city that is located in the southern part of Ethiopia and is the second-largest city in the SNNPR next to Awassa. As its name suggests (Forty Springs) the city has remarkable resources, it has the two largest lakes in Ethiopia; Lake Chamo and Abaya in addition to these it also hosts Nech Sar National park, 40 spring all around and also produces several types of fruits including banana, apple, mango and the like.

Arba Minch was founded by Fitawrari Aemeroselasie Abebe in the 1960s, it succeeded the Chencha (previous capital of Gamo Gofa). After the settlement, the city grew firstly because of the Norwegian Lutheran missionaries in the 1970s then after a textile industry was established along with supporting infrastructures like roads and electricity. Currently, based on the last census the population of the Ethiopia cities is around 74,900.

Ethiopia cities 2 Arba Minch

bole medhanialem church addis ababa ethiopia


Similar to Arba Minch Awassa is also located in the south and is the capital of the SNNRP. The city is more or less surrounded by a lake called Lake Awassa. The city being new it does not have a long history like the others mentioned. It started based on the political unrest of the 1990s. Currently, based on the last census the population of the city is around 70,000.

Awassa is a city in Ethiopia, on the shores of Lake Awasa within the Great Valley. it’s located 273 km (170 mi) south of Addis Ababa via Bishoftu, 130 km (81 mi) east of Sodo, and 75 km (47 mi) north of Dilla. The town is the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, and maybe a special zone of this region. It lies on the Trans-African Highway 4 Cairo-Cape Town and an elevation of 1,708 meters (5,604 ft) above water level. Its name comes from a Sidamic word sense “wide body of water”.

Ethiopia cities 3 Awassa


Aksum is an ancient town in northern Ethiopia. It lies at an elevation of about 7,000 feet (2,100 meters), just west of Adwa. it had been founded within the 1st century. The economy trusted agriculture, cattle herding, and control over trade routes which saw gold and ivory exchanged for foreign luxury goods, it had been the primary sub-Saharan African state to mint its coinage and, around 350 CE, the primary to officially adopt Christianity. Axum even created its script, Ge’ez,

Yeha is a town within the Central Zone of the northern Tigray Region in Ethiopia. It served because of the capital of the pre-Aksumite kingdom of D’mt. Yeha is taken into account the birthplace of Ethiopia’s earliest known civilization nearly three millennia ago. Many features here, like the immense, windowless, sandstone walls of the so-called Great Temple, are just like those found in temples in Saba, Yemen, and the debate continues among scholars on whether it had been founded by Sabaean settlers from Arabia or by Ethiopians influenced by Sabaean ideas. The present thinking is that it had been created by a mixture of the 2 groups.

Ethiopia cities 4 Axum

seimen mountains

Bahir Dar

It is the capital city of the Amhara Region and is located in the northwest of Ethiopia. It is one of the main tourist attractions sites in Ethiopia, as it has Lake Tana and Blue Nile River within. in 1891 Bahir Dar was considered as a village, it was estimated to have around 1,500 people. But the current situation tells another story, because of the rapid urbanization the population of the city has now reached close to 330,000.

Ethiopia cities 5 Bahir Dar


Like the others stated above, Dessie is also located in the Amhara region towards the central north. During the reign of Emperor Yohannes IV in 1882 there was a voyage to convert the Muslim Wello people to Christians, thus Yohannes had to stay there for the night in that night he saw a comet and imagined it to be the havens and called the place Dessie “My Joy”. Starting from that day Dessie was a refuge for multiple emperors and also was an important administrative center during the Italian occupation. Currently, based on the last census the population of the city is around 150,000.

Ethiopia cities 5 Dessie

Dire Dawa

It is located in the eastern part of Ethiopia. There where stone paintings found a few kilometers away which suggests that the history of this city started in the Stone Age era. Several rulers have been part of the history, first was the Adal Sultanate in the medieval times which were a Somali tribe and the Oromo took over after weakening the Somali tribe.

Dire Dawa (which means “empty plain”) is one among two chartered cities in eastern Ethiopia (the other being the capital, Addis Ababa). Dire Dawa was founded in 1902 after the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway reached the world and its growth has resulted largely from trade brought by the railroad. The railroad couldn’t reach the town of Harar at its higher elevation, so Dire Dawa was built nearby. it’s a serious hub for several ethnic groups in Ethiopia, especially the Afar, Oromo, and Somali. The city is an industrial center on the Dechatu River, and residential to many markets.

The Dire Dawa we know now has been mainly boomed because of the train line that was built for market and transport purposes. This train route started from Addis and extended to Djibouti through Dire Dawa. So, because of this trade route, the city was attracting not only Ethiopians but also the French, Americans Greeks and other nationalities to establish their businesses (hotels and shops). Currently, Dire Dawa is trying to gain its historical name back.

Ethiopia cities 6 Dire Dawa


Located in the semen part of the Amhara Region. It’s a Christian city in the north of Lake Tana. This city has served as a capital for many emperors and also includes castles like Fassile Gimb. Gondar is currently a popular tourist destination it has buildings that have a long history like the castles and also a different kind of civilization that came during the time of colonization. Based on the current data Goder has 200,000 residents within it.

Ethiopia cities 7 Gondar


Harar is one of Ethiopia’s unique cities. It is a walled city found in the eastern part of Ethiopia. It is home to 76,300 people according to the latest data. Before Dire Dawa Harar was one of the major routes that connected the trade activity of the Horn of Africa and the Arab Peninsula. The Jegol Gimb, the old wall surrounding the city is now registered in the list of World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Harar 7th Century: a part of Coptic Christian Kingdom of Axum, area adopted Islam.1007: Harar city founded.16th Century: Capital of Harari Kingdom, a serious center of regional trade and Islamic learning. Said to be the primary city Muslims migrated to from the Arabian Peninsula With 368 alleys squeezed into only one sq. km, the old walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia maybe a colorful maze that begs exploration.

Its thick, five-meter-high walls were erected within the 16th century as a defensive response to the neighboring Christian Ethiopian Empire, but today Muslims and Christians share the town in peace. Harar grew into a crossroads for commerce between Africa, India, and therefore the Middle East and was a gateway for the spread of Islam into the Horn of Africa. With its 110 mosques and 102 shrines, Harar is usually mentioned because of the fourth-holiest city in Islam.

Ethiopia cities 8 Harrar


Mekelle is the capital of Tigray Region located in the northern part of Ethiopia. It is the fifth-largest city following Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Adama, and Gondar.

The credit for Mekelle’s growth into a regional capital goes to Yohannes IV who made Mekelle political capital of his expanding state. He must have chosen the place for its strategic proximity both to rich agricultural areas (of Raya Azebo) and to the Afar salt country. Mekelle’s position on the route to Shewa, the facility base of Yohannes’s main rival Menelik could are another factor. Three institutions still important for contemporary Mekelle were founded by Yohannes: The grand palace inbuilt 1882-84 by his architect Giacomo Naretti, alongside the engineer Engedashet Schimper and still forms the nucleus of Mekelle.The large market Edaga Senuy (“Monday Market”). The church, at Debre Gennet Medhane Alem, built after the return from Raya Azebo campaign in 1871.

Ethiopia cities 9 Mekelle


Lalibela (c. 1185-1225) is the most documented and marveled of all the Zagwe kings. he’s credited for building the eleven famous rock-hewn churches in his capital city, known originally as Roha but renamed as Lalibela after his death. Lalibela was the capital of Ethiopia until the 13th century. Know maybe a town in northern Ethiopia within the Amhara region.

At an elevation of two ,500m/8,202ft. Gondar Fasilides established a replacement capital at Gonder, a trading center north of Lake Tana that connected the inside to the coast. At its height about 1700, the town supported the humanities and academic, religious, and social institutions also as Beta Israel craftspeople, Muslim traders, and an outsized population of farmers, day laborers, students, and soldiers.

Ethiopia cities 10 Lalibela

national bank of ethiopia in addis ababa

Which Ethiopia Cities is the best?

Every Ethiopia city has its own unique character. Some are green, while others are arid, some have good infrastructure while others have gravel road and mud huts. Some are tourist attractions places while others are places you need to run from.

Addis Ababa is one of the best Ethiopia cities. This is because of the superior quality of services and infrastructure above any other city in the country. Addis Ababa is yet a slum city, by UN standard, and more than 70 percent of the city is not suitable to live in. The developed part, however, has world-standard services, hotels, spas, and even good transportation systems.
Cities like Awassa and Bahir Dar and Gondar are preferred by some as entertainment and tourist destinations. Lalibela is also a small town, on a very high altitude, that brings a large number of tourists every year.

Most Afar and Somali cities are underdeveloped and the climate is harsh by Ethiopia city standards. These Ethiopia cities, however, are developing and are attracting investment. This may change the face of the cities in the near future.

Are Ethiopia Cities Urbanized?

As stated earlier, Ethiopia has a predominantly agricultural economic system, however, the cities of Ethiopia are growing at a fast rate that it is becoming hard to provide enough infrastructure such as housing. The urbanization process of Ethiopia started in the Axumite era. Although not much of the city is not left to witness, the dugout findings and artifacts show how civilized the town used to be. In the twentieth and twenty-first century, the growth has been accelerating even faster. The World Bank has stated that the annual growth rate exceeds 4.5% which is faster urbanization than Sub-Saharan Africa which is considered among the world’s fast urbanizing areas.

In response to this rapid urbanization of cities, professionals are trying to come up with the best urban plan that would make this transition comfortable. The professionals are considering three different possible causes, which are: creating large cities, medium-sized cities, and small cities. All of these possibilities have their pros and cons. The large cities have the potential to offer a wide range of jobs and innovation, thus aiding the rapid economic growth. But on the contrary, it is also apparent to see that the wider a city is the more it’s hard to address basic infrastructural needs like transportation, housing, water, and electricity.

The second group of professionals argues that medium-sized cities and small cities are favorable for a country that is in this kind of urbanization process. It is explained that these smaller cities could be the solution as jobs can be created as easily and the urban centers, won’t be as segregated as the large cities and also can be integrated with the rural parts of Ethiopia as they can be widely spread across the country, thus making it easily accessible.

The current organization of Ethiopia’s urbanization consists of a high number of small cities, a lesser number of mid-sized cities, and very few large cities. The formation of these types of urbanization is mainly dependent on the creation of mandatory infrastructure and services which depends on the central government system. The suburbs of Addis Ababa like Hayat and Betel are growing in a rapid rate and are regions that host thousands of urban settlers, so it is possible to observe that there is a huge say from the government as it aids the growth by providing infrastructure and services, in this case mainly focused on housing.

The urban growth of Addis Ababa came forth mainly because of the rural-urban immigration from across the countryside seeking employment and a better life. This rapid internal moment has forced the city to host different kinds of living conditions, to mention some of the important ones: it has created multiple slum areas that offer below standard lifestyle, created suburban areas with a high density of people that there is the problem of transportation and discomfort.

This kind of urbanization problem occurs when there is an imbalance between the internal human movement and the central government planning. The government in this state couldn’t provide an urban plan and structure fast enough to host the demanding population growth.

Which Ethiopia Cities Are a Must-Visit?

There are tourist destination Ethiopia cities such as Gondar and Lalibela and Axum. These cities are historic cities and are UNESCO registered. Because of this reason many tourists prefer to visits these places.

Addis Ababa is a primary destination, as the main airport is located in this city. Addis Ababa is also a good start to understand the past of the country. The museums and the landmarks teach you a lot about the country.

Places in the south and in the Omo region are natural places with immense mountains, landscapes, and wild animals. Afar is the birthplace of mankind. Many skeletons of hominids are found in this place. The landscape, the volcanic lava, colorful landscape, make the place to visit. The climate, however, is harsh and need further care.

Here are few Ethiopian cities, and places that you must visit: Danakil Depression, Lalibela Ethiopia Cities, Harar Ethiopia Cities, The Blue Nile falls Ethiopia Cities, The Omo Valley Ethiopia Cities, Axum Ethiopia Cities, Gondar historic Ethiopia Cities, Addis Ababa capital Ethiopia Cities, Simien Mountains North Ethiopia Cities, Bahir Dar Ethiopia Cities