10 Places You Should Visit in Ethiopia

10 Places to Visit in Ethiopia, erta ale lava -

Ethiopia is the “Land of Thirteen Months”. It’s a magical country with ancient and spiritual roots, rich in significant religious history and that has a fabulous story to tell.

The beauty of wild mountains is only surpassed by the awe-inspiring religious architecture that draws visitors to this amazing country.

It’s where legends of the Ark of the Covenant live side by side and in harmony with ancient Islamic mosques. From thundering waterfalls to its vibrant and modern capital city, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a place you have to see to believe.

Here are 10 of the best and most incredible places to visit in Ethiopia.

1- Simien Mountains National park –Natural places to Visit in Ethiopia

They now draw people here to learn about ancient religious sites and to witness the jagged peaks and seemingly endless vistas.

Nestled in the highlands of northern Ethiopia you will find the spectacular Simien Mountains. This jewel of an area makes you feel lost in time with its remarkable rock-hewn churches and medieval castles.

These majestic mountains seemed to have been hand-shaped by nature and are home to a rich cultural heritage.

The Simien Mountains are also home to a unique but endangered ecosystem, complete with rare and unusual animals like the Gelada baboon, Walia ibex, and Ethiopian wolf.

The natural beauties of this region have always been an interest to visitors from Ethiopia and abroad with awe.

Gentle highland ridges at altitudes above 3600 meters above sea level (m asl), covered with grasses, isolated trees (Erica &bored), and the bizarre Giant Lobelia (Lobelia rhynchopetalum) are found on the high plateau that ends abruptly at 1000- to 2000-m deep escarpments.

The Simien Mountains National Park in Northern Ethiopia is an exotic setting with unique wildlife and breath-taking views on a landscape shaped by nature and traditional agriculture.

The spectacular views(one of the best places to visit in Ethiopia) from the observation points at Gidir Got and Lmet Gogo in the center of the Park offers unparalleled panoramas along the high plateau and down to the lowland areas.

The margins of this high plateau consist of precipitous cliffs and deep, canyon gorges. In some places, the escarpment forms small elevations that offer splendid natal lookout points.

Given the right meteorological conditions, views reaching up to a hundred kilometers over the valleys and the terraces of the Tekeze lowland basin are no exception.

They alternate and constitute a massive complex that is more than 3000 m thick. Geologically speaking, the entire highlands of the Simien mountains consist of dark Trapp basalt and bright, soft turf.

This complex was formed by volcanic eruptions in the Tertiary Oligocene-Miocene Age some 20-30 million years ago. Ever since it has been going through processes of uplifting and erosion.

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Despite the severe restriction of their habitat over the last centuries, several hundred animals have survived up to the present.

The main attraction of the Simien Mountains National Park is its biosphere. The steep cliffs and the cool climate at the altitude of the Erica tree line (3600 to 4000 m ash) have created conditions that are appropriate for the survival of an ibex species (Capra ibex wee) endemic to the Simien Mountains.

The rareness of these species formed the backbone of the concept for conservation of the area, which led to the establishment of the Simien Mountains National Park in 1969, and its listing as a World Heritage Site in 1918.

Apart from the Walya ibex, many other animal species are found in the Park. The endemic Seimen fox or Ethiopian wolf (Canis .071817,51-3 simony’s), several birds of prey, the endemic Gelada baboon ( Theropithecusgelada), the Klippspringer (Oreotragus omotragus), and the bushbuck.

The human population living in the area adds to the distinctiveness of this special natural environment.

The traditional lifestyle of the rural population and their survival in a rather harsh climate and with scarce natural resources make for the most striking impressions a visitor will have when trekking in the Park and its surrounding rural area.

Simien Mountains National park- Natural places to Visit in Ethiopia

2- Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela – Religious Places to Visit in Ethiopia

Today it is still a popular pilgrimage site for Coptic Christians. The most fascinating of the ancient churches in the House of Saint George, or Biete Ghiorgis.

Near the small town of Lalibela, there are eleven medieval churches, which are all carved out of massive slabs of volcanic rock! The churches were built in the 12th-century under the direction of King Lalibela.

He had a vision of a “New Jerusalem” for Christians who were prevented from making the pilgrimage to the Holy Land because of Muslim conquests across the region.

This church is famed for its cross-shaped design and network of trenches and ceremonial passages that connect it to the other churches.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly one of Ethiopia’s incredible places to visit in Ethiopia and will leave you in awe of the faith that can move mountains.

They are the biggest monolithic temples in the world, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, yet much mystery still surrounds their construction.

In the heart of Ethiopia is situated one of its holiest towns, known as Lalibela, where a group of eleven monolithic rock-hewn churches stands.

The age of these buildings is unknown, but legends mention that they were excavated during the reign of GebreMesqel Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia at the beginning of the 13 th century AD.

things to do in lalibela

His name meant ‘the bees recognize him as a king’.

However, David Phillipson, professor of African archeology at Cambridge University, has proposed that the churches of Merkorios, Gabriel-Rufael, and Danagel were initially carved out of the rock half a millennium earlier, as fortifications or other palace structures in the waning days of the Axumite Kingdom.

Lalibela’s name simply came to be associated with him after his death.

All eleven churches are arranged in two groups and are connected with passageways 11 meters (36 feet) deep.

The largest church, the house of Medhane, stands at a height of 10 meters (33 feet) and is 33 meters (108 feet) long and 22 meters (72 feet) wide.

According to legends, an angel came and asked Lalibela to build the churches. Men and angels worked together to construct them, the men working through the day and the angels working through the night.

The churches were hewn out of solid rock from top to bottom, excavated externally and internally, and carved in different styles.

All eleven churches are arranged in two groups and are connected with passageways 11 meters (36 feet) deep.

The largest church, the house of Medhane, stands at a height of 10 meters (33 feet) and is 33 meters (108 feet) long and 22 meters (72 feet) wide.

One of the churches, the Bet Giorgis, was devoted to Saint George and, supposedly, the Saint overlooked the building of this church, directing its very construction.

One of the churches, the Bet Giorgis, was devoted to Saint George and, supposedly, the Saint overlooked the building of this church, directing its very construction.

According to legends, an angel came and asked Lalibela to build the churches. Men and angels worked together to construct them, the men working through the day and the angels working through the night.

The churches were hewn out of solid rock from top to bottom, excavated externally and internally, and carved in different styles.

Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela – religious places to visit in Ethiopia

3- The City of Harrar- Exotic Places to Visit in Ethiopia

Harar is a city in Northeast Ethiopia near the border with Somalia and a great seat of Islamic culture.

Its walled city dubbed “Africa’s Mecca” is home to more than 100 mosques and is also considered the “fourth holy city of Islam”. Harar was built in the 16th century to protect the city against religious invaders.

As you stroll down the city’s cobbled and narrow alleys, you will be greeted by friendly Harari women dressed in brightly colored dresses.

It won’t take long to be told about the legendary “hyena man of Harar”. At the Fallana Gate the “hyena man’ will call out to the hyenas by name in Harari.

They come up, one-by-one and take a piece of meat from a stick he has placed in his mouth. If you have the nerve, you can also take a turn hand-feeding these wildly beautiful, but dangerous African predators.

The City of Harrar– Exotic Places to Visit in Ethiopia

gondar castle

4- Gondar- Historic Places to Visit in Ethiopia

Nestled in the highlands of Northern Ethiopia, you’ll find the fabled city of Gondar.

Once you have reached Ras Dashen, the highest peak in the spectacular Simien Mountains, you will be able to marvel at Gondar, the “Camelot of Africa”.

The castle was the medieval home to Ethiopian Emperors and Princesses who led the country for nearly 1000 years.

Once you have reached the main site, check out the Royal Enclosure which is home to the main attractions in the city.

Another site not to miss is Fasiladas’ Bath. This is where the annual Timkat celebration takes place.

The water is blessed by the bishop and splashed on the crowd of pilgrims that come to renew their faith and to take part in the ceremony that replicates Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River.

Whilst here don’t forget to visit Debre Berhan Selassie, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in all of Ethiopia.

Gondar– Historic Places to Visit in Ethiopia

5- Blue Nile Falls- Natural places to Visit in Ethiopia

Close to the city of Bahir Dar, you will find the incredible Blue Nile Falls. The locals call it Tis- Isat Falls (translated as “Smoke of Fire”) and it is the most impressive sight on either the Blue or White Nile.

The falls stretch a quarter-mile wide during the flood season and drops into a gorge of more than 150 feet deep.

You can see how the falls got their name because it throws up a persistent mist that drenches sightseers from half a mile away.

blue niles

The rainbows produced are awe-inspiring and creates an Eden-like perennial rainforest of lush verdant foliage.

You will not be alone in this paradise; the forest is home to a wide variety of monkeys and exotically colored birds.

Blue Nile Falls- Natural places to Visit in Ethiopia

6- Addis Ababa – Historic and cultural places to Visit in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa is the fourth largest city in Africa and is the diplomatic home to the African Union.

This vibrant city sits atop the Entoto Mountains and has both an African and international feel.

Addis has a mystical aura that seems to act as a portal to the past. It’s a place where you can explore the beautiful orthodox churches and museums.

Make sure to check out the National Museum where you will find the 2.3 million-year-old fossilized hominid “Lucy”.

Also visit the Merkato(Chaotic Places to visit in Ethiopia, really), which is the largest open-air market in Africa.

Here you’ll have your senses awakened with the smell of pungent spices and roasting coffee.

At night, the city comes alive with a vibrant nightlife with restaurants serving exotic Ethiopian cuisine.

Day trips from Addis should include the Entoto Mountains, the crater lakes at Debre Zeyit, and the hot springs at Awash National Park. Pamper yourself by staying at the Sheraton Addis where you will be treated like royalty in one of Africa’s few 5-star resorts.

Addis Ababa-Historic and cultural places to Visit in Ethiopia

7- Axum– Historic and religious places to Visit in Ethiopia

Head to Aksum and you will see a more ancient history that you can imagine. Aksum is one of the oldest cities in all of Africa and is rich in legend and mystery.

It is believed to be the home of the Queen of Sheba and the final resting place of the legendary Ark of the Covenant.

Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed into the church where the Ark is said to be, but you can still check out the ancient Aksumite obelisks found in the Northern Stelae Field.

Aksum -

The largest obelisk was recently returned to Ethiopia by the Italian government where it sat for decades after it was taken to Italy during WWII.

It’s ruins and ancient legends will fascinate any lover of history. In addition to legends of Sheba and the Ark, locals believe that the roughly hewn tomb of the solid rock of King Bazen was actually Balthazar, and the magi carried news of Christ’s birth to Ethiopia.

Axum- Historic and religious places to Visit in Ethiopia

8- Arba Minch- Natural places to Visit in Ethiopia

Views from the church are remarkable and inside this ancient holy church, you will find beautiful and well-preserved frescoes that adorn two cupolas.

The most incredible sight in Arba Minch is the cliff top holy spot of Abuna Yemata Church.

This rock-hewn church is found only after a mildly challenging climb up the sheer cliff wall. It requires a bit of nerve and a lack of vertigo, but your effort will be greatly rewarded.

You can see many of them as you hike through Nechisar National Park. On the shores of Abaya Lake in Southern Ethiopia, Arba Minch is full of natural wonder and beauty.

Arba Minch in Amharic means “forty springs,” and the area is rich in many tiny springs that bubble up from the ground.

Arba Minch- Natural places to Visit in Ethiopia

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9- Danakil Depression– Exotic Places to Visit in Ethiopia

The Afar people call this north-eastern part of Ethiopia home and against all odds, have not only existed for centuries but still have a thriving community.

But beware, the climate is unforgiving and widely considered the hottest (average temp of 94F), driest (4 – 8 inches of annual rainfall), and lowest spot (400 feet below sea level) on the planet.

Having said all that, this unearthly landscape is an incredible place to visit.

If you are up a really hot time, then make your way to Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression.

The Depression overlaps the borders of Eritrea and Djibouti and is part of the great East African Rift Valley.

The lava lake at Erta Ale is one of only six lava lakes on Earth and will leave you in awe. The multi-colored hydrothermal bubbling lakes and great salt pans will amaze you and have you question if you are still on Planet Earth.

The site is also rich in fossils of ancient hominid. The famed fossil of “Lucy” was found in this area in 1974.

Danakil Depression– Exotic Places to Visit in Ethiopia

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10- Omo– Exotic and Cultural places to Visit in Ethiopia

If you want a cultural experience that you will never forget, then plan a trip to the Lower Omo Valley.

Here you can connect with one of more than a dozen indigenous peoples that live in the region.

The Mursi and Hamar are proud people who adorn themselves in unusual body art and jewelry and cattle are vital to their existence.

The valley is dependent on the Omo River to live as it feeds the dry savannah that supports the local communities. Each of the villages has their own customs and language and have lived basically the same lifestyle for centuries.

They are also very territorial and will fiercely defend their land and way of life. Just be prepared for a pricey and challenging trip–both logistically and physically.

Even though the region is remote, many tour companies operate treks to the Lower Omo Valley and several of its villages.

Ethiopia is like nowhere else on the planet, a beautiful country blessed with a peerless history, fabulous wildlife, and some of Africa’s most soulful peoples.

Omo- Exotic and Cultural places to Visit in Ethiopia

Finally, there are more places to visit in Ethiopia. These are in the must be seen category.

LolFrom the Seimen mountains, that are natural places to visit in Ethiopia to Lalibela, historic and religious places, to Addis Ababa that is all in one type of places to visit in Ethiopia.

Of all the places to visit in Ethiopia, it is always to plan in advance so that you will have a few hours to get transport and places to rest.

After visiting Addis Ababa, for example, you can fly to Mekele city, one of the places to visit in Ethiopia, to move to Afar, Danakil depression early in the morning.

Or you can fly to Lalibela, a religious place to visit in Ethiopia, then take the road to Gondar, another historic place to visit in Ethiopia, or even to Bahir Dar to visit Tana, Abay, and the monasteries.

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