Submitted by Heather Demars on July 30, 2016
Ethiopia is a humble country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the oldest independent country of the continent and is also one of the most populated regions. Considered as Africa’s 10th richest country, Ethiopia prides itself of its medieval world carved stones in Lalibela to the fertile highlands laden with historical treasures. There are obelisks and ancient tombs scattered around the country as well as 17th-century castles and burnt-out Russian tanks. The capital city, Addis Ababa also holds the majestic Lion of Judah Statue in front of high-rise office buildings.
The country’s landscapes cannot be ignored with the dramatic range of mountains in Simien which promise a challenging trek coupled with untold interactions with dozens of animals and birds seen nowhere else on earth. Vacationing in Ethiopia will also let you take part in some striking Christian ceremonies that haven’t changed in a thousand years.
In the southwest part of the nation, remote lowlands are also home to countless of exciting adventures and house some of Africa’s most fascinating tribes.
Touching and inspiring – a vacation to Ethiopia is something that is sure to create lasting memories.
When to Travel
The country’s climate is typically mild with the varying temperatures in the highlands and lowlands. Highlands can have temperatures averaging just below 70°F and lowlands in the western, eastern and southern region of the country can have temperatures onwards of 85°F. Ideal temperature really for any vacation.
The modern capital of Addis Ababa has a healthy and pleasant climate all year round. The seasons are defined largely by rainfall, with a dry season from October to February and a light rainy season during the months of March to May. The heaviest rains normally falls from June to September, making the rest of the year an excellent time to vacation Ethiopia.
The dry season is the sunniest time of the year though even at the height of rainy season in July and August there are several hours per day of bright sunshine. After the rainy season, highlands are delightfully green and covered with wildflowers. It's a perfect time for some Ethiopia walking and hiking trips during this time of the year.
Cuisine and Drink
Ethiopian food is considered as a respected gift from God so eating with the left hand is a sign of disrespect. Eating should be done with the right hand, especially when eating the country’s national food which is injera. Any trip to Ethiopia, travelers should make a point to try injera. It is spongy, tangy tasting bread made from a grain called teff which is grown mostly in Ethiopia’s highlands. It is served usually with the traditional stew made with spices, meat or legumes called wat or wot. Common wats are doro wat made of chicken, key wat made of lamb and asa wat made of fish. Injera is served typically in a large round plate and is covered with wat placed symmetrically around a central item. There is also the firfir, a fried shredded type of injera. It can go with or without meat and all sorts of veggies. For a more charming effect, you rip a large piece of injera and use it to pick up one of the various flavors of wat in the main platter. Ethiopians prefer meat in their food but if you are a vegetarian, you can specifically ask for shiro wat which is a vegetable stew served with injera.
Another popular dish is Tibbs, a spiced beef fried in butter. It can be cooked to burn to a crisp or served juicy and delicious. Most fancy restaurants served this dish but the Holiday Hotel in Addis Ababa supplies the most delicious.
Kitfo is also one common Ethiopian dish. This is crushed meat and is spiced with chili. Tourists can have it raw, lightly cooked (leb-leb) or fully cooked. It comes with a local cheese “ayeb” and spinach.
For some picky travelers, there’s also spaghetti in almost every place in the country. Restaurants in Addis Ababa like Blue Tops and Top View restaurants serve excellent spaghetti. Thanks to Italian influence. So for you picky eaters vacationing in Ethiopia...don't be affraid!
Vacationers who need cofee will be delighted as well with Ethiopia’s coffee ceremony. It is a special honor and a mark of respect to be invited into someone’s home to join this ceremony. It involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. Coffee in the region is served black with sugar.
Wines and a variety of Ethiopian beers are also available. One popular honey wine is Tej. This is quite similar to Mead and is often drunk in bars (tejbeit).
Lalibela - Lalibela located about 500 miles from Addis Ababa is internationally known for its eleven rock-hewn churches, dimly lit passageways and hidden crypts and grottoes. The churches were sometimes tagged as the “Eight Wonder of the World.” They are truly a must-see for tourists and adventure travelers on Ethiopian vacations. The churches were divided into three clusters.
THE NORTHERN CLUSTER– this group consists of Bete Medhane Alem where Lalibela Cross is kept. This is also known to be largest monolithic church in the world. It is connected to possibly the oldest of the churches, Bete Maryam. Included in this group is Bete Golgotha (known for its arts and said to contain the tomb of King Lalibela), Selassie Chapel and the Tomb of Adam.
THE WESTERN CLUSTER - found here is the Bete Giyorgis, the most finely completed and best preserved church.
THE EASTERN CLUSTER – this faction consists of Bete Merkorios, Bete Amanuel, Bete Gabriel-Rufael and Bete Abba Libanos.
Gondar - A few miles from Addis Ababa lies the charming city of Gondar. The city is famous for its centuries-old castles and palaces. Tourists will be awed to discover that beneath the 17th-century African castles are classic Italian arts. No wonder that Gondar earned the so called “African’s Camelot” title.
Besides the famous palaces, travelers can also visit the so-called “Bathing Palace of Emperor Fasilidas” which is used for the annual Timket or Epiphany celebrations.
Simien Mountains - The Simien Mountain is one of the major attractions of Africa, rising to the highest point in Ethiopia. Travelers and adventurers from all over the world visit these mountains in Ethiopia while vacationing. Although the mountain is located not far from the equator, snow and ice appear on the peak and temperatures during the night can fall down below zero.
Higher lands are carpeted with immense grasslands, fescue grasses with heathers and fabulous Red Hot Pokers. Over one thousand Walia Ibex are currently protected in these areas. Also, found here are the bewildering “bleeding heart” Gelada Baboon named because of the scarlet spot on its chest and the rarely seen Simien fox where the place was named after. Bird watchers will also enjoy gazing at over 50 species of birds reported seen in the vicinity. What a spectacular treat for vacationers to Ethiopia!
Lake Tana - Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and is the source of the Nile from where it starts its long journey to Khartoum. There are also 37 islands that are scattered about the surface of the lake and shelters some of the most fascinating churches and monasteries in Ethiopia.
A sail or cruise on Lake Tana is an ideal excursion particularly in the heart of the summer. Bird watchers will also enjoy the lakeshore bird life where there’s a wide variety of birds both endemic and visitors. The diversity of the surrounding environments, from rocky terrains to rainforests and wetlands guarantee that many other different species should be spotted.
The Sof Omar Cave - This site is one of the most stunning and extensive underground cave systems in the world. During your vacation in Ethiopia, make time f This phenomenon cavern of breathtaking beauty is now considered as an important Islamic shrine. It was named after the devout Sheikh Sof Omar who took refuge in the area centuries ago.
National Parks - National Parks are common in Ethiopia. Most known are the Omo National Park, Mago and Gambala National Park. The Omo National Park is one of the most beautiful parks bordered by the Omo River. It houses an amazing range of wildlife and some three hundred plus species of birds. You will also be familiarized with large herds of eland, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, some buffalo and Burchell’s zebra in this park. Unlike Omo Park, the Mago National Park is relatively undeveloped for tourists. Located on the banks of Omo River, the immense grassland is loaded with herds of buffalo, giraffe, kudu and elephants and sometimes travelers are lucky enough to see lions, and leopards. There is also an abundant bird life here. The Gambala National Park is another park home to various wildlife including hundred species of birds and some seasonal migrants in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s currency is birr although US dollars are the best to carry both in cash and traveler’s cheques. Euros are also gaining popularity in the country. Exchanging cash in most cities is not a problem but ATMs are not accepting foreign cards. Credit cards can also be used in some cities like Addis Ababa but it will likely cost you a heavy commission. Birr to US dollar or Euro conversion is only possible for people holding exchange receipts and onward air tickets from Ethiopia.
Traveling with a "Trusted" Source
While learning more and investigating about traveling to Ethiopia, make sure to choose a vacation to Ethiopia that comes from a trusted source and reputable tour company. Trusted Adventures, through our members, offer trips to Ethiopia and we invite you to explore those options. Feel free to contact us or inquire about Ehtiopia at any time.