Ethiopia is known for having no fewer than nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With pilgrimage cities like Lalibela and Aksum to understand about Ethiopian Orthodox Christian practice, or head toward the deep South to know about the unchanged tribes of the Omo River region.
With such a rich culture and bustling capital, Addis Ababa also offers its fair share of modern culture. With the wildlife-filled Simien and Bale Mountains as the top tourists’ attraction, you will not pull off the extraordinary Danakil Depression, the hottest place on Earth.
Here are the best 6 things you cannot resist doing in Ethiopia.
1. Explore Addis Ababa the Ethiopian Capital
Addis Ababa may not be a very amazing capital, but it still has so many things to keep you engaged for a few days. Apart from being Ethiopia’s cultural and commercial center, it’s also a great diplomatic and air travel hub for the wider African continent. Here you’ll have plenty to explore, with highlights including the National Museum and the Ethnological Museum. Yod Abyssinia Traditional Restaurant and Kategna Restaurant are the most popular food options.
2. Attend the Timkat Festival in Gondar
Gondar, the former capital of the Ethiopian Empire, is popular for its medieval castles and palaces. During Timkat, a three-day celebration of the Epiphany, or baptism of Christ is the best time to travel this place. During this festival, the tabot is carried from all the Gondar’s churches to the royal pool which is known as Fasiladas’ Bath. These processions are attended by thousands of white-robed pilgrims. A candlelit vigil is held on reaching the pool and the next morning the water is blessed and hundreds of the faithful leap in to renew their baptism vows. This festival is observed every year from January 18 to 20.
3. Uncover the Legends and Mysteries of Aksum
Alsum is located in the far north of the country. It is also the capital of the Aksumite Empire and the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Aksum is an important place of pilgrimage and is the focus of several Christian legends. It’s said that Queen of Sheba once lived here, and King Bazen, whose monolithic tomb is a local point of interest, was one of the Three Wise Men.
4. Feed Hyenas in Harar Jugol, Islam’s Fourth Holiest City
Harar Jugol is a UNESCO-recognized city and is also known for its labyrinthine walled city in eastern Ethiopia. It is considered as Islam’s fourth holiest city with maze-like streets, over 82 mosques and 102 shrines, some of which date back to the 10th century. Equipped with African/Islamic architecture and bustling souks, Harar Jugol is a symbol of Moroccan imperial cities like Marrakech or Fez. You can spot hyenas venturing into the city’s outskirts every night.
5. Visit the Blue Nile Falls During the Wet Season
Located in Bahir Dar in northwest Ethiopia, you can easily make a day trip to the Blue Nile Falls, which is one of the country’s top natural wonders. Also termed as Tis Abay (the Great Smoke), it receives over a 138-foot (42-meter) precipice en route from Lake Tana to its confluence with the White Nile in Khartoum. You can view the spectacle on two different hiking routes at an admission costs 50 birrs per adult.
6. Visit Lake Tana’s Historic Orthodox Monasteries
Lake Tana, which is the origin of the Blue Nile, is the largest lake in Ethiopia and also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Here the main attraction is the Ethiopian Orthodox churches and monasteries located on its islands and shores. One of the most sacred, Dega Estefanos, contains a 16th-century painting of the Madonna and the mummified remains of 5 Ethiopian emperors.