Ethiopia Travel Advice and Guide, Tips and Inspiration
Ethiopia recorded world’s highest tourism growth (48.5%) in 2018.
Ethiopia is one of the fascinating destinations in Africa. As the second most populous country in Africa, it offers tons of exciting things to do and see. Each section of Ethiopia will blow your mind away. The country has a rich history, culture, and exciting Ethiopia travel. When you stroll around the major cities in Ethiopia, it won’t be hard to notice historical sites there. Not to mention that the country presents the natural beauty, waterfalls, outdoors, natural reserves, local delicacies, attractions, leisure, and so on. People flock the country for many reasons. Whether you are a naturalist or adventurer, escapist, or just regular traveler, the Ethiopia travel won’t fail you at all.
Facts and Figures
Area: 1,104,300 km2 (426,400 sq mi)
Population: 109,745,687 (2019 est.)
Language: Official languages: Amharic (federal)
Regional languages: Afar Amharic Gurage
Harari Oromo Tigrinya Sidamo Somali Wolaytta
Foreign languages: English, Italian, Arabic
Religion: Christianity (62.7%), Islam (33.9%), Traditional faiths (2.7%), Others (0.6%)
Population density: 110 per Km2 (285 people per mi2)
Administrative Capital: Addis Ababa.
Addis Ababa has about 3,384,569 according to the 2007 census
Currency: Birr (ETB)
Vehicle registration: ET
International dialing code for Ethiopia: +251
Form of government: Federal dominant-party parliamentary republic
Largest city: Addis Ababa
Leddet (Christmas) 6 or 7 January
Timkat (Epiphany) 19 or 20 January
Victory of Adwa Commemoration Day 2 March
Good Friday March or April
Easter Saturday March or April
International Labour Day 1 May
Ethiopian Patriots’ Victory Day (also known as Liberation Day) 5 May
Downfall of the Derg 28 May
Kiddus Yohannes (New Year’s Day) 11 September
Meskel (Finding of the True Cross) 27 September
Emergency numbers: Police: 991 Ambulance: 907
Time zone: UTC+3 (EAT)
Entry requirements: Visa and valid passport
220V, 50Hz (European & Italian plugs)
Driving side: right
History and Culture
This country is where scientists found hominid fossil Lucy. Cited as the oldest fossil in the world, many believe that it is the place for early humanity.
Back in 5000 years ago, the country was the trade center of ancient Egyptians until 3500 years ago the first Ethiopian civilization arose.
It has a long history of the kingdoms, but the most popular one is the Aksumite Kingdom which ruled from 100 AD to 940 AD.
The fun fact is that it is the country in Africa that has never been fully colonized. Several civil wars and Italian colonization ever happened though they claimed to be the independent at first.
Ethiopia is a religious country. 43% are Orthodox Church, 35% are Islam, the rests are traditional religions and protestants. Religion dictates how the civilians live in society and life. They also mix the religious tradition with their country tradition. That is what makes Ethiopians secure as a nation. Most of the folks are also sociable. They are fond of the visitors so you will feel warm welcoming from them.
Be respectful with the rules of society in Ethiopia.
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia. However, English often comes as the mother language. In case you get lost in the country, you won’t need to worry. Many locals can help you.
If it is your first time for Ethiopia travel, you surely want to cover all the major exciting parts of the country. You can’t go wrong with the highlights in Ethiopia. The recommended highlights include Axum Town, Gondar, Harar, rock churches, outdoor activities, national parks, and so on.
Ethiopia has various national parks that you can include in your holidays to Ethiopia list. Most of them spend multi-day hiking and trekking. But you won’t feel hardly conduct it since the country grants you with such beautiful landscape plus magical animals.
Here are the highlights that you could consider:
- Explore the reserves and parks with a local expert guide
- Visit churches in Lalibela and castles in Gondar
- Sightseeing of Lake Tana monasteries
- Historical Axum
- Boat trip
- Asheton Maryam Hike
- Mekelle City tour
- Excursion of Blue Nile Falls
- Keep in mind that those highlights are optional. Ethiopia has tons of exciting stuff. You’d like to explore every option possible for you and your group. It does not hurt to check on your Ethiopia travel agent too.
Ethiopia Tourist Attractions / Sights
It is the place of museums in Ethiopia. Amongst many of them, you will want to start from Ethiopian National Museum which hosts the humankind’s oldest ancestor, Afriса Hаll, Parliament Building, St George’s Cаthеdrаl, Mеnеlik’ѕ оld Imреriаl Pаlасе, Netsa Art Villаgе, Derg Mоnumеnt аnd many more such fаmоuѕ соnѕtruсtiоnѕ givе a rеаѕоn to уоu to еnd uр hоlidауing in thiѕ magnificent сitу оf Ethiopia. When the time goes dark, it is time to enjoy the local entertainment like traditional music and dance along with mouth-watering cuisine. When the time goes dark, it is time to enjoy the local entertainment like traditional music and dance along with mouth-watering cuisine.
If you are familiar with the Queen of Sheba from the Old Testament, you must add this to your Ethiopia holidays list. Folklore suggested that it was the home of the queen. Make sure you come in the right time, which is the first seven days of each month so that you could witness the sacred St Mary of Zion’s replica Ark paraded through the streets.
It is an excellent destination for nature lovers and adventurers. A day trip in Babile will bring you to the unusual presentations of the bird life, gazelles, lions, cheetahs, and so on. You can also track the amazing elephants on foot.
The Bale Mountains are high for a place for hikers. These will reward you with such beautiful mountain scenery. You can also ride the horse to explore the site if you prefer to.
Danakil Depression is out-of-the-box Ethiopia travel experience. It is considered as one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. You will see extreme objects like lava lakes, twisted rocks, and many more. Make sure to bring your camera to capture all of the Maleficent images there.
It is a UNESCO World heritage site you shouldn’t miss. It is a 7-hectare museum complex which offers you the aspiration of Ethiopian history and culture. The objects will blow your mind.
Konso cultural landscape
The town of the condo is one of the preserving places in Ethiopia travel. You will have the chance to get close to the Konso locals life and culture. Villages recommended visiting in the Ethiopia holidays are Gamble, Macheke, Dotaku, and Buso.
Lake Chamo is an exciting place for everyone. But at the same time, it is perfect sightseeing of crocodiles. Located in the Nechisar National Park, the highest altitude lake hosts fantastic beast crocodiles which you can find easily there. Hippos are there too.
Lake Tana is an ancient world that you won’t probably see in another part of the world.the locals use traditional papyrus boats to glide. It hosts the monasteries, murals, and the local huts. Try several old recipes provided by locals.
If you are interested to see the structures in Ethiopia, you must visit this massive churches complex. The church complex is so abundant so that it may take you a day to finish your Ethiopia travel.
National Parks in Ethiopia
Awash National Park
The UNESCO registrant boasts fantastic landscapes like Awash river, vegetation, and exotic wildlife including crocodiles, lions, leopards, oryx, warthogs, etc.
Omo National Park
Located in the western shores of River Omo, the park offers the spectacular river which accompanied by savannah, shrubs, and grasslands. The landscapes include rivers, mountains, plateaus, and springs. It won’t be hard to find fantastic wildlife including baboons, zebra, elephant, buffaloes, warthog, Oryx, lion, and so on.
Gambela National Park
The park covers the river systems Gilo, Akobo, and Baro. The landscapes include savanna, grassland, river, and forest. You must try its higher rocky regions to enjoy it from a different perspective. The wildlife is superb! You can easily find monkey, leopard, giraffe, elephant, buffalo, waterbuck, etc. it is a park that you want to add in your Ethiopia travel plan with your companions.
Simien Mountains National Park
Located in the Amhara region, it is popular because of its Simien Mountains, the highest peak. Don’t miss its beautiful landscapes which cover the precipices, valleys, cliffs, and gorges. The iconic fauna like Ethiopian wolf is easily found there. Besides, you could also see the golden jackal, bushbuck, Walia ibex, and so on.
The other national parks are:
- Bahir Dar Blue Nile
- Borena Saynt
- Bale Mountains
- Abijata Lakes
- Nech Sar
- Chebera Churchura
- Dati Wolel
- Gibe Sheleko
- Loka Abaya
The Largest Cities In Ethiopia
Ethiopia capital, it is one of the most significant shopping areas in Africa. You can find a lot of stuff to bring home from there.
It is also known as Nazareth. Traceback your religion view from this city. Pilgrims flock this for the entire year. Add this to your Ethiopia travel list so that you can get closer to your religious beliefs.
Located north side, it hosts the unique tombs made in ancient times. This will take you back to centuries ago.
Located nearby Blue Nile Falls, it hosts the monasteries on the islands of Lake Tana.
Located on the east side, it is the second largest city in the country. It also has a shopping district, restaurants, accommodations, and attractions.
Find the castles in Gondar.
Harar is a preserved ancient city. What makes this unique is the wall which covers the entire city.
The city hosts 11 incredible rock-hewn churches.
Mekele is the capital city of the Tigray region.
Hawassa is a city in the Great Rift Valley of central Ethiopia.
The biodiversity of the environment in Ethiopia is exhilarating. It is heaven for nature lovers and adventurers.
You can quickly encounter wild creatures like giraffes, elephants, lions, and many more safari animals. Not to mention that you can find the iconic fauna of the country including Ethiopian wolf, Walia ibex, and baboon. Besides the land animals, the country is also the house of the vast array of bird species. It boasts around 860 different species. Eighteen of them are exclusively found in Ethiopia.
The country also has dynamic landscapes which offer the adventurers the vibrant challenges for them. If you are a coffee lover, the Coffee Forest tours can be an excellent option for you and your group.
Things to do in Ethiopia / Leisure Activities
Trekking and camping are everyday activity in Ethiopia. Most of nature is unspoiled one. So, you can come to Ethiopia travel all-year round and aspire the origin of Ethiopia. There are many campsites that you can visit.
An extreme sport like this is possible in Ethiopia. Rock climbing has been the long tradition for locals too. So, you won’t be surprised to meet some friendly locals there.
Ethiopia is blessed with many peaceful and beautiful lakes. These lakes are the perfect spot for your boating experience. You can start in the early day when the water is calm. Many folks elope to these lakes to enjoy nature.
Horse riding is possible in Ethiopia since it has many highlands. The exploration by horse in Addis Ababa will reward you with fantastic views and scenery.
Of course, it is the thing that you can’t miss in Ethiopia travel. Safari tour will enable you and your group to witness the fantastic creature and their environment in this country.
Dining and Drinking
Ethiopia has different foods and drinks. As mentioned, the country was never colonized. So, the cuisine is mainly originated from the cultural and religious perspectives of the country. It has abundant livestock so that you can easily find a meat menu from goats, sheep, and cattle. You can also find a lot of dairy products in the country. The cuisine is unique and flavorful.
Some foods that you’d like to taste are:
A sourdough flatbread consumed by vegetarians. But the costume has been switched to be a border. You can find this item in almost any food stall in standard sections.
Wat is stew made of veggies, meat, fish, chicken, chickpeas, and lentils. In the vegan version, it excludes all of the meaty ingredients. It is usually paired with Injera.
It is a pan-fried goat or beef menu which you usually pair with Injera. A lot of spices are going on this dish plus the aromatics from garlic, onions, and butter.
Kitfo is usually prevalent for a special event. It is a beef tartare made of raw meat mixed with hot chili powder. Injera is the perfect pair for this menu.
Ethiopians are creative when crafting the beers. They have the best breweries in Africa. There are some famous names like Dashen, Habesha, Bedale, Hakin, Walia, and St George.
If you are more wine person than beer, Tej is one thing for you. It is a fermented wine mixed with honey, water, and gesho leaves. Ethiopian wine is fantastic. The product is made of the best grapes from the country. You can expect to try red or white wines as you desire.
Or you could pick Talla, which is the home-brewed sour beer made of wheat, barley, or millet. Each ingredient can pose a different taste. So, make sure you try all of them.
In the lowlands, the temperature can be hot. Meanwhile, you can feel the cold weather in the plateau. Rainfall happens mostly in the southwest from June to September. But not all the areas are affected by the rains. Conducting Ethiopia travel requires a basic understanding of climate information. But you can always rely on the local weather forecast which will accurately inform you of the climate.
Eastern Ethiopia is mostly warm and dry. If you are looking for wetter and colder climates, you may go to the Northern Highlands.
Arriving in Ethiopia
(ADD) Addis Ababa Bole International Airport
Transport in Ethiopia: Bus, train, flights
Getting around Ethiopia by bus
It is straightforward and easy to find the bus to transport from one place to another. The reliable bus services link the provincial centers to the capital. You might want to take a cab or taxi to reach to the centers first.
Train travel in Ethiopia
Railways draw the line from Djibouti to Addis Ababa. It is 880 km length in total. Tickets are available on the spot, or you could purchase them through an online marketplace.
Flights to Ethiopia
Speaking of the trips, Addis Ababa airport hosts international flights including National carrier and jet transportation. Ethiopian Airlines are the prominent airlines that handle many Ethiopia flights from around the world.
Ethiopia Holidays – Entry Requirements
Make sure your passport has at least six months until the expiration date. The tourist visa is easy to get. You would get permission for three months if your application approved. You can obtain the Visas at Bole Airport upon the arrival. But if you purchase the visas from Ethiopian embassies and consulates, you can get two years visa.