Ethiopia Tours and Travel Guide
Ethiopia Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Ethiopia’s roots date back millions of years. Making up the bulk of the Horn of Africa, the country is near the birthplace of modern man and is a popular destination for anyone interested in archaeology. It also has Biblical connections: it was the legendary home of the Queen of Sheba and it’s said that the Lost Tribe of Israel settled here as well. More concretely, you can view its 12th-century rock-hewn Christian churches at Lalibela. The landscape is beautiful and rugged, well suited to an adventurous tour.
Sometimes called the “Roof of Africa,” Ethiopia is famous for its mountains and the Ethiopian plateau. It is also the only part of Africa never to have been colonized.
Visiting the Highlands means seeing a dramatic skyline of fertile flatlands being cut by deep gorges. These undeveloped lands are span the entire Horn of Africa, and are populated with tons of wildlife. Most notably, they are home to the endemic Gelada monkeys, the only grazing monkey remaining on Earth.
Other famous animals include the klipspringer, Ethiopian wolves, and rare birds such as the blue winged goose, golden eagles, and incredible plant life such as the giant lobelias. All of these features make Ethiopia a popular destination for wildlife tours.
Ethiopian highland landscapes are not suited to the typical African safari conducted behind an all-terrain vehicle, nor do you have to worry about the dangers about running into an angry elephant or hippopotamus. For this reason, most wildlife tours of Ethiopia are done on foot. This allows you get even closer to the land, and connect with the landscape.
These types of wildlife tours either take the form of day hikes, or extended treks.
Trekking in Ethiopia
Ethiopia a vast territory with a large wilderness area, and so treks can be quite extensive, and go on for more than two weeks.
Some things you should expect on your trek to Ethiopia is that it will not be particularly easy. You may be walking up to 12 hours on some days, and prepare to leave in the dark if you are planning to scale any serious peaks for a picturesque sunrise view.
Although the trails in Ethiopia are well known and well tended, making it one of the best places to trek in Africa, this does not mean that the campsites are at all luxurious. You will be forgoing hot water showers, comfort food, and your own private room for much of your journey. Many campsites include round stone buildings, built for the purpose of housing visitors.
The upside to treks in Ethiopia is that the landscape is completely unspoiled, and your encounters with villagers will be genuine, and their lifestyles and culture will be very different from your own. Some tips to keep in mind to make the most of your trek are to drink water and to go slowly especially if you’re feeling ill from altitude sickness (consider bringing altitude sickness medicine just in case!).
5 Ethiopia Travel Tips
Prepare to buy a visa upon arrival, the only country whose citizens do not need a visa is Kenya. Your visa will cost $52 US, unless you are staying for more than 30 days.
Yellow Fever vaccines are no longer mandatory to enter Ethiopia, but they are still highly recommended. You should also consider taking anti-malarial pills, or take a preventative vaccine.
If you are planning to trek the Simien Mountains, or visit some of the higher-altitude points on the Ethiopian plateau, plan ahead that it may take you some time to acclimate, and consider packing some altitude sickness medication. Altitude sickness can make you nauseous and light headed, although you will eventually adjust. If you feel either of these symptoms, stop ascending, and rest for a while. It may help you to descend a little, take a break, and then ascend slowly.
Foreign currency isn’t regularly used in Ethiopia, and outside the major cities there are few opportunities to use your credit cards. For these reasons, you are better off exchanging for Birr, the Ethiopian currency, and always carrying some cash. The Birr is very stable, and there is no substantial difference between the standard and black market rates.
On your tour, most of your transportation is likely to be arranged. However, if you have some free time and want to check out some sites on your own, public transportation is safe for tourists in Ethiopia. Be aware that taxis don’t have fixed fares, and you’ll have to negotiate before getting in. Taking a gari, or a two-wheeled horse carriage, is another cheap option, and a great way to travel around like a true Ethiopian!
Ethiopia Festival Tours
Ethiopia’s primary religion is Christianity, and more than half of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox. As a result, Ethiopians celebrate Christian holidays in their own unique way, and often have festivals. If you are interested in observing or even taking part in some of these events, consider going on a festival tour of Ethiopia.
Some of the main festivals in Ethiopia include:
Mekele Timkat Festival
Timkat is the most important day on the Orthodox calendar, and it celebrates the Epiphany in January. The Ethiopians reenact the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. On the eve of the holiday, crowds gather for a joyous and colorful procession to a spring in the city (Addis Ababa, Gondar, and Lalibela are two popular places to celebrate the Timkat).
The whole way, churchgoers sing and chant. Long parades then carry the tabot (a replica of the tablet containing the 10 commandments), which was left at the spring overnight, home.
This is the celebration of Ethiopian New Year and directly translates into “Gift of Jewels.” The Ethiopian New Year takes place at the end of the long rainy season, and partially celebrates the new harvest. To mark the occasion, families burn torches in front of their home, and girls dressed in their finest clothing go from door to door singing songs. If you are particularly lucky, and Ethiopian family may even invite you into their to take part in a huge feast.
This festival takes place on Christmas. Many pilgrims flock to the city of Lalibela to celebrate this holiday. They take part in mass prayers on Christmas Eve, and then celebrate on Christmas day with family and friends.
Things to Know Before You Go
If you're considering a trip to Africa, perhaps plan a visit to Ethiopia. Along with Morocco, Ethiopia has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa with nine in total. When planning a trip to Ethiopia, there are some things you should take into consideration. Most, to all, of these concerns can be resolved by booking a tour to Ethiopia rather than venturing out alone. Ethiopian guided tours are recommended for a number of reasons.
Ethiopian Guided Tours
Firstly, each tour comes with a knowledgeable guide that knows the terrain, history and significance of the country. They are also very aware of current or possible issues that may arise on the trip. And if any hiccup should occur, the guide knows how to handle the issue in an efficient manner.
Secondly, each guided tour to Ethiopia provides a well-researched, thought out itinerary of the trip. Because most of Ethiopia lacks a strong infrastructure, most of the roads are unpaved and difficult to travel on. Tour companies make sure to take this into account when creating its trip.
In order to capture the country’s diverse terrain, some days are strictly reserved for traveling from one destination to another. Each itinerary balances the time spent on a bus with the time spent at the destination, so that it is not overwhelming or tiresome. This is particularly important for short trips to Ethiopia.
Lastly, Ethiopian tours use their knowledge and insight of the country to capture its essence. Ethiopia has three components that each tour makes sure to include. The first is its cultural significance. Most tours visit local villages and towns where you can experience Ethiopian foods, music and art. One of the best ways to soak this up is to go on a tour with a homestay component.
Ethiopia is also known for its wildlife. The best way to experience Ethiopia’s fauna and flora is by visiting its national parks. The third main component is capturing its historical influences. Most of Ethiopia's historical sites are of ancient ruins in the form of fortified towns. Ethiopia also has many historical religious sites like the Church of Saint George, Lalibela.
All Ethiopia tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.7 for all Ethiopia trips.