Ethiopia is the “Land of 13 months of sunshine”. It’s a beautiful country with a very old history and spiritual roots, rich in significant religious history and that has an amazing history to tell. The absolute beauty of the wild mountains is only surpassed by the jaw dropping religious architecture that attracts tourists to this beautiful mountainous country. It’s where the Ark of the Covenant keepers live side by side and in harmony with the old Islamic mosques. From mesmerizing waterfalls to its colorful and modern capital city, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a place you have to see to believe.
The Simien Mountains
In the highlands of northern Ethiopia there is the famous Simien Mountain. This beautiful area makes you feel lost in time with its amazing rock-hewn churches and medieval castles. These mountains looks to have been shaped by nature and are home to a rich cultural history. They now attract different people here to understand about a very old religious sites. The Simien Mountains are a home to a very unique but endangered ecosystem, complete with rare and unusual animals like the Gelada baboon, Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf.
The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela
Lalibela is a small town in northern Ethiopia. There are eleven ancient churches, which are all built out of massive slabs of volcanic rock! The churches were built in the 12th-century under the rule of King Lalibela. He had a purpose of of a “New Jerusalem” for Christians who were not able to afford to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land because of Muslim dominance across the area. Today it is still a famous pilgrimage site for Christians. The most amazing of the ancient churches is the House of Saint George, or Biete Ghiorgis. This church is named for its cross-shaped design and network of trenches and ceremonial passages which connect it to the other churches. This church is recognized by UNESCO for its spectacular look and shape.
The Holy City of Harar
Harar is a city in North east of Ethiopia near the border with Somalia and a great home for an Islamic culture. Its walled city dubbed “Africa’s Mecca,” is home to more than 100 mosques and is also recognized as the “fourth holy city of Islam”. Harar built in the 16th century to defend the city against religious intruders. As you walk down the city’s cobbled and narrow alleys, you will be welcomed by friendly Harari women dressed in brightly cultured dresses.
It won’t take long to be told about the legendary “the hyena man of Harar “ .At the Fallana Gate the “hyena man’ will call out to the hyenas by name in Harar. They come up, one-by-one and take a piece of meat from a stick he has placed in his mouth. If you have the courage and nerve, you can also take a turn hand-feeding these wildly beautiful, but dangerous African predators.
Gondar is a beautiful city in northern Ethiopia, you’ll find the famed city of Gondar. Once you have reached Ras Dashen, the highest mountain in Ethiopia in the spectacular Simien Mountains, you will be able to wonder at Gondar, the “Camelot of Africa”. The kindgdom was the medieval home to Ethiopian Emperors and Princesses who ruled the country for almost 1000 years. Once you have reached the main site, check out the Royal Enclosure which is home to the main tourist attractions in the city.
Another wonder not to miss is Fasiladas’ Bath. This is where the annual Timket celebration took place. The water is blessed by the bishop and splashed on the crowd of pilgrims that come to renew their faith and to take part in the ceremony that replicates Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River.
Addis Ababa is the fastest growing economy in Africa and the largest city in the horn of Africa. Addis is home to the African Union. This fabulous city sits at the top of Entoto Mountains and has both an African and international feel. Addis has a mystical aura that seems to act like a portal to the past. It’s a place where you can explore the beautiful orthodox churches and museums.
Make sure to check out the National Museum where you will find the 2.3 million-year-old fossilized hominid “Lucy”. Also visit the Merkato, which is the biggest open-air market in Africa. Here you’ll have your senses awakened with the smell of pungent spices and roasting coffee.
At night, the city comes alive with a vibrant nightlife with restaurants serving exotic Ethiopian dishes. Day trips from Addis should include the Entoto Mountains, the crater lakes at Debre Zeyit and the hot springs at Awash National Park.
Blue Nile Falls
Bahir Dar city is the capital city of Gondar in the amhara region . you will find the incredible Blue Nile Falls here. The locals call it Tis- Isat Falls (translated as “Smoke of Fire”) and it is the most impressive sight on either the Blue or White Nile. The falls stretch a quarter-mile wide during the flood season and drops into a gorge of more than 150 feet deep. You can see how the falls got their name because it throws up a never-ending mist that drenches sightseers from half a mile away. The rainbows produced are awe-inspiring and creates an Eden-like perennial rainforest of lush verdant foliage. You will not be alone in this paradise; the forest is home to a wide variety of monkeys and exotically cultured birds.
Aksum is the oldest cities in all of Africa. Here you will find the most ancient religious history and traditions rich in legend and mystery. It is believed to be the home of the Queen of Sheba and the final resting place of the legendary Ark of the Covenant. Unfortunately, visitors are not permitted into the church where the Ark is said to be, but you can still check out the ancient Aksumite obelisks found in the Northern Stelae Field. The largest obelisk was recently moved back to Ethiopia by the Italian government where it sat for decades after it was stolen by Italy during WWII. It’s ruins and ancient legends will wonder any lover of history. In addition to legends of Sheba and the Ark, locals believe that the roughly hewn tomb of solid rock of King Bazen was actually Balthazar, and the magi carried news of Christ’s birth to Ethiopia.
Arba mich is a beautiful city in southern Ethiopia. Arba Minch is full of natural wonder and beauty. Arba Minch in Amharic means “forty springs,” and the area is rich in many tiny springs that bubble up from the ground. You can see many of them as you hike through Nechisar National Park.
The most amazing sight in Arba Minch is the cliff top holy spot of Abuna Yemata Church. This rock-hewn church is found only after a mildly challenging climb up the sheer cliff wall. It requires a bit of nerve and a lack of vertigo, but your effort will be greatly rewarded. Views from the church are remarkable and wonderful inside this ancient holy church, you will find beautiful and well-preserved frescoes that adorn two cupolas.
Danakil is the hottest and lowest spot on planet earth in the afar region in North east Ethiopia.. The Depression overlaps the borders of Eritrea and Djibouti and is part of the great East African Rift Valley.
The Afar people call this north-eastern part of Ethiopia home and against all odds, have not only survived for centuries but still have a thriving community. But beware, the climate is unforgiving and widely considered the hottest (average temp of 94F), driest (4 – 8 inches of annual rainfall) and lowest spot (400 feet below sea level) on the planet. Having said all that, this unearthly landscape is an amazing place to visit.
The lava lake at Erta Ale is one of only six lava lakes on Earth and will leave you in awe. The multi-coloured hydrothermal bubbling lakes and great salt pans will amaze you and have you question if you are still on Planet Earth. The site is also rich in fossils of ancient hominid. The famed fossil of “Lucy” was found in this area in 1974.
The People of the Lower Omo Valley
If you want a cultural and very traditional experience that you will never forget, then plan a trip to the Lower Omo Valley. Here you meet with one of more than a dozen indigenous peoples that live in the region.
The valley is dependent on the Omo River to surivive as it feeds the dry savannah that supports the local communities. Each of the villages has their own customs and language and have lived basically the same lifestyle for centuries. The Mursi and Hamar are proud people who adorn themselves in unusual body art and jewellery and cattle are very important to their existence. They are also very territorial and will fiercely defend their land and way of life. Even though the region is remote, many tour companies operate treks to the Lower Omo Valley and several of its villages.