Ethiopia is not a travel destination for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. With unique food, wildlife and culture, the country will certainly bring a shock to the system, but it is not without reward. Capable of providing visitors with a trip of a lifetime, the African country is home to truly beautiful landscapes, vibrant towns and cities and holds a fascinating heritage that can be seen in every aspect of modern life. If you want somewhere different to explore this year, somewhere you’ll never forget, then Ethiopia may just be for you.
In this article, we’ll be looking at what should be on your travel bucket list for this mesmerising country, featuring the attractions you should visit and the events you should take part in to ensure you have the perfect Ethiopian experience.
1. Visit the Rock-Hewn Churches
The regions of Lalibela and Tigray are home to some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring ancient structures on the planet. Rock-hewn churches are buildings that have been carved directly out of the rock, with little or no additional materials being added to create the structure. This means that the entire building is made out of one gigantic piece of stone, creating a truly mesmerising spectacle. With some dating back to the 12th century, the buildings are, for the most part, still in use today with regular religious ceremonies and gatherings. Something truly unique to this African nation, these churches will blow you away and are more than worthy of being on your bucket list.
2. Visit the Simien Mountains
Located in the north of the Amhara Region, the Simien mountains offer some of the most breathtaking scenery in Africa. Shaped by natural forces such as erosion, the steep mountains that are characterised by sheer drops to the floor below make for a rewarding and unforgettable trek. Coupled with diverse wildlife that inhabits the mountains, such as the walia ibex or the gelada monkey, the route will truly take your breath away. Villages adorn the route through the mountains with friendly locals that are proud to share their homestead with visitors. Walking the route will be like nothing you’ve done before.
3. Live Like Locals with the Hamer Tribe
The Hamer tribe are a community that inhabit the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia, with a population between 40,000 and 50,000. Our Ethiopia Tours offer you the chance to visit the tribe and interact with the locals, having tea with them in one of their village huts and allow you the opportunity to learn about their way of life. The Hamer tribe are often identified by their unique hairstyling which uses butter and red soil to create neatly wrapped and almost ‘waxy’ looking dreadlocks.
4. Feed Hyena’s in Harar
One of Harar’s most enduringly popular attractions is watching its ‘hyena men’ call out to the wild hyenas who lurk in the darkness around the medieval city waiting for the opportunity to be fed the scraps from the butcher’s market and scavenge anything else the city offers up. First, you’re likely to spot the unmistakable sparkly yellow eyes reflecting the light from the headlights of your local transport before hyenas emerge from the darkness. If you’re brave enough you’ll have the opportunity to feed them yourself. Exactly how and when the bizarre practice of feeding the hyenas arose is an open question, but the first recorded witness of the practice was in the 1950s.
5. Visit the Danakil Depression
Like no other place on earth, the Danakil Depression is like something taken from a science-fiction story. The area is home to landscapes caked with orange, yellow and green sulphur deposits and, perhaps most notably, an active shield volcano. Locals work the dry desert region by mining for salt, using small axes to extract deposits from the ground. The desert is truly an extreme and alien place and is a once in a lifetime journey.
6. Discover Ethiopia’s Cuisine
As we’ve covered in a previous article on our blog, Ethiopia’s cuisine makes use of interesting flavour and spice combinations. Injera, a crepe-like flatbread is used as a base for most dishes which can be torn off and used to hold other elements of the meal, typically replacing cutlery. Other parts of the dish can include wat, tibs, dulet and others. We’d recommend embracing these new dishes and flavours while you’re in the country as you may discover your new favourite meal!
7. Witness a Coffee Ceremony
Shown as a mark of friendship and respect, being invited to a coffee ceremony is something you certainly shouldn’t turn down! The event plays an important role in Ethiopians’ social and cultural lives and is an almost obligatory undertaking when hosting visitors. Typically taking around half an hour to produce the first cups of coffee (there are three rounds), the ceremony focuses on conversation and human connection, something that has long been lost in the modern world.
8. Visit the Oldest Human Skeleton
Given the name Lucy because of a Beatles song that was playing during the evening of the discovery, the AL 288-1 skeleton is the oldest human skeleton that has been discovered, dating back 3.2 million years. Found in Ethiopia in 1974, the remains marked an important milestone in mapping out human history and gave birth to the species of Australopithecus afarensis four years later. The skeleton is preserved at the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, with a plaster cast used as a display.
Chances are that there is something on this list for everyone, whether you’re an adventurer, a culture fanatic or a foodie, Ethiopia will offer you something unique. However, if ALL of the things on this list appeal, then why not check out our experiences that cover the highlights of Ethiopia? Click here to see what we offer and how you can experience this amazing country with us.