Not many countries manage to impress their visitors in a way that Ethiopia does. The country’s breathtaking natural beauty, diverse culture, soulful people, delicious cuisine, and endemic wildlife are perfect for the traveler looking for different experiences. Here are the top must-see places in Ethiopia for both the budget packer and luxury traveler.
Dubbed the “New Jerusalem,” Lalibela town in the Northern part of Ethiopia, is a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. The town is home to 11 ancient monolithic churches carved entirely out of a single rock with hammers and chisels. Standing at 40 feet high, Bete Giorgis (Saint George’s), is the most impressive of these churches with a roof that has the shape of a cross. Bete Medhani Alem church which you can find across the main road from St. George, is the largest monolithic church in the world. King Lalibela is credited for these spectacular buildings which have been registered by UNESCO as world heritages.
The Northeastern part of Ethiopia is home to the hottest place on Earth, where daytime temperatures soar to sweltering 50°C in Summer. In the heart of the depression lies a place called Dallol that features salt mines and magnificent multicolored landscapes that give you the impression of a carefully painted art book. The Danakil depression is also home to one of the world’s oldest active volcano called Erta Ale to mean a smoking mountain in the local language. After looking at the bubbling lava from the volcano and the unbearable heat, you can see why the Afar people in the area call this place the gateway to hell.
Lake Tana monasteries
The centuries-old island monasteries around Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, are fascinating to explore. A visit to the monasteries will give you an insight into the historical treasures of Ethiopia such as the mummified remains of the country’s previous emperors in Daga Istifanos, one of which is the founder of Gondar, King Fasiledes and close to 200 ancient religious books in Kibran Gebriel. Debre Marima, established over 900 years ago, is the closest monastery to Bahir dar city where the boats set off from. This particular monastery is surrounded by the Blue Nile and Lake Tana. Be aware that some island monasteries are either for males and females only.
Palaces, castles and churches with astonishing structures, a visit to the Gondar city in the Northern Ethiopia, will guarantee you have a royal day. Founded by King Fasiledes in the seventeenth century, Gondar has been the capital of Ethiopia for almost 200 years. The emperor’s castle, a two-story structure, is built of hewn brown basalt stones held together with mortar and has panoramic views of Lake Tana. You should also visit Mentewab’s Castle and the Palaces of Emperor Iyasus and Dawit. Famous for mural paintings on the ceiling, Debre Birhan Selassie or ‘Light of the Trinity’ church is also worth a visit. From here, you can easily head to the Semien Mountains National Park.
Simien Mountains National Park
Ideal for travelers seeking a trekking experience, the Semien Mountains, also called the Roof of Africa, have cliffs that tower as high as 1,500 meters. Ras Dashen, the highest point in Ethiopia, is also found here. Home to the endemic Semien Fox, the Ethiopian Wolf, the Walia Ibex, and the Gelada Baboon, these mountains live up to your expectations of a UNESCO world heritage site. The jagged mountains also boast three endemic plant species and 180 bird species of which five are indigenous. The endangered Lammergeyer, a vulture with a wing of 2 metres and with a different diet of bone marrow, also roams the skies of this part of Ethiopia.