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You are here: Home | Africa | Ethiopia | Best Places to Visit in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has so much beauty, culture, and history that it is really worth a visit. There are more UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia than anywhere else in Africa. Ethiopia is one of the oldest living civilizations in the world, dating from the early first century. Wherever you go, there is evidence of ancient civilizations doting the landscape. There is truly nowhere on earth like Ethiopia and we invite you to join us in this incredible adventure.
Lalibela is one of the most impressive human accomplishments I have ever seen. Lalibela consists of 11 rock-hewn churches that were constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries. These churches stand about 43 feet high and were freed from the rock with just hammers and chisels. You are allowed to walk inside the churches and marvel at the complex detailing on the windows, columns, and roofs. The churches are still in use by priests and their apprentices. The layout of the churches is understood to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. Lalibela has become a pilgrimage site for many Ethiopian Orthodox believers. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
Aksum is a city situated in the highlands of northern Ethiopia and it symbolizes the wealth and importance of the ancient Aksumite kingdom, which is ground in the first century AD with Menelik I, who, according to tradition, was the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Soloman or Jerusalem. The ruins of the ancient Aksumite Civilization are evident all around this area. These most impressive monuments are the monolithic obelisks, royal tombs, and the palace ruins. The stelae pictured above were built during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. The largest standing obelisk stands at over 75 feet. The largest obelisk fell, possibly during the process of erection, but it would have been around 108 feet tall. You can explore the tombs beneath the stelae, just make sure you bring a flashlight!
This was the highlight of my trip and maybe the highlight of my life! But be warned, this is not for the faint of heart. Abuna Yemata Guh is a rock-hewn church built in the 5th century. However, it is situated at a height of 2,580m (8,460 feet) and the only thing to get there is to climb. Getting to the top is non-stop adrenaline, but the views are completely worth it. You start with climbing a vertical ascent with hand and footholds in the rock. Then, you cross a natural stone bridge with a steep drop of approximately 250m (820 feet) on either side. If you continue up, you will then walk over a 50 cm (20 inches) wide ledge facing a cliff or 300 m (980 feet) sheer drop. Inside the church, there are frescoes on the walls from the 15th century that have been perfectly preserved due to the dry air and lack of humidity. Check out this incredible BBC video to get a feel for the overwhelming majesty of Abuna Yemata Guh: The most hardcore baptism you will ever see .
Fasil Ghebbi was a fortress-city founded by 17th century Emperor Fasilides. For 200 years, this was the home of Ethiopia's emperors. This complex includes Fasilides' castle, Iyasu I's palace, Dawit III's Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Empress Mentewab's castle, a chancellery, library, and three churches: Asasame Qeddus Mikael, Elfign Giyorgis and Gemjabet Mariyam. In 1979, this site was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is beautiful to walk around, explore the ruins, and imagine being Ethiopian royalty.
Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and is the source of the Blue Nile. There are several islands on the lake that have important cultural, historical and aesthetic value. You can take a relaxing pontoon-boat ride to numerous monasteries and churches dating back to the 13th century. Inside the churches are rumored to hold valuable treasures of the Ethiopian Christian faith. You will see Ethiopian people crossing the lake and carrying all sorts of things on their makeshift boats.
The Blue Nile Falls are an incredible sight during the end of the rainy season in August and September. There are two hiking routes to get the falls that take about 2.5 hours. You can see birds, monkeys, Nile crocodiles, and serval cats in the area. During the dry season (late January to March) the waterfall is reduced to little more than a trickle. However, the surrounding area is still beautiful and the hike is well worth it.
I didn't get a picture of this unfortunately but this museum is really worth a visit when you are in the capital city. The National Museum of Ethiopia opened in 1936 and displayed ceremonial costumes donated by the Solomonic dynasty. Starting in 1958, the museum, along with the Institute of Archeology, promoted and facilitated archaeological research in Ethiopia. Today, the main attraction at the museum is the Lucy skeleton, which was discovered in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia and dates to about 3 million years ago. The Lucy skeleton is important because it has changed our understanding of human evolution. In addition, you can see objects from ancient and medieval periods, as well as traditional and contemporary art, weapons, jewelry, utensils, clothing, and musical instruments. If you are interested in an overview of the cultural richness and variety of the people of Ethiopia, then you should definitely check out this museum.
Simien Mountains National Park is so astonishingly impressive. The rugged mountain peaks, deep valleys, and sheer cliffs create one of the most spectacular sceneries in the world. The park is home to rare species of animals such as the gelada baboons, Walia Ibex, and Ethiopian wolves. You can choose to walk around or drive in the park to take in the beautiful sites. More experienced hikers can do 2-14 day treks along the ridges but must be accompanied by a guide. On our trip, we drove through the park on our way from Gondar to Aksum. We stopped multiple times along the way to snap pictures and soak in the stunning natural beauty. Simien Mountains National Park was named as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.
Many people are wondering, "Is Ethiopia safe to visit?" And the answer is yes! Over the past 20 years, Ethiopia's GDP has increased considerably and it has become much more stable. There are occasional protests, but they are generally not in the tourist areas. As a foreigner, you will have people asking for money, but saying no and confidently walking away is all it takes for them to leave. Addis Ababa has some petty crime, but violent crime is extremely rare. Outside of the capital, even petty crime is pretty rare. Ethiopian people are generally very kind and hospitable. Most people you meet will be proud that you decided to visit their country.
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We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.