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Ethiopia is an enchanting world of breathtaking scenery, rich historical heritage and extreme cultural diversity. A one-of-a-kind cultural experience encompassing rock-hewn churches, colourful tribes and the source of the Blue Nile.
Ethiopia is known as the Cradle of Humankind, and provides stunning landscape, abundant wildlife and cultural attractions for the adventurous
With some of the only links to ancient Mediterranean civilizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, as large a variety of wildlife as Kenya and Tanzania,
and some of the most incredible architecture to explore, Ethiopia is the ideal country to visit over an eight- to ten-day break. It’s also home to a broad range of tribal groups who’s lifestyle is further from mainstream modern life than any others in Africa.
Highlights include Bahir Dar in the north, on the edge of “the jewel of Ethiopia”, Lake Tana, with easy access to the Blue Nile Falls, the source of
the Blue Nile and historic monasteries around the shore and on islands in the lake. The Ethiopia Rift Valley Lakes, among the deepest and oldest lakes in the world.
Rock-hewn churches; some of the most unusual and unique man-made structures in the world; can be admired at Lalibela. The town itself is
worth a visit, with unusual circular two-storey stone houses at altitude – the mountainous vistas alone justify the trip.
Culture-junkies can get their fix in the Omo Valley, where numerous colourful Ethiopian tribes can be found on a road safari out of Addis
Ababa, fully guided with visits to traditional villages and markets. A visit to a local national park will complete the trip.
It’s not a traditional safari destination by any stretch of the imagination. It’s inexpensive and offers some of the most extraordinary experiences and diversions left to African safari adventurers.
The historical circuit is a mind-numbing experience that brings you to the roots of human existence, and is a fascinating way to learn about the start of it all. There is an opportunity to do a set trip in January 2009, which does a tour of the historical circuit that includes looking at the 3.5 million year old humanoid fossil “Lucy”, the endemic Gelada baboons, the palace of the Queen of Sheba, a stunning experience where Epiphany is celebrated at the Queen of Sheba’s bath and the stunning rock-hewn churches, among many others.
For wildlife enthusiasts, especially birders, it is also a unique opportunity to those species that you will only find here.
With 20% of the country’s revenue coming from tourism alone, supporting the infantile industry is one way of improving the economical situation of what is famously the poorest country in the world.
Best time to go to Ethiopia
- October to January – a popular time when the rains are over but the land is still green.
- Mid-June to mid-September – rainy season.
- February to March – intermittent showers from
- September to February and April/May – generally dry.
Ethiopia has a large range of altitudes which means that it has an enormous ecological diversity. The altitudes give three climatic zones; the cool zone is above 2,400 m, and the temperature range is from near freezing to 16°C, a more temperate zone from 1,500 to 2,400 m with temperatures from 16°C to 30°C and finally, a hot zone below 1,500 m with both tropical and arid conditions, where the daytime temperature can be anything from 27°C to 50°C.
These different climates give us deserts along the eastern border, tropical forests in the south and Afromontane in the northern and southwestern parts. The variety has resulted in a number of ecologically distinct areas that has helped encourage the evolution of endemic species in ecological isolation.
How to get to Ethiopia
Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s oldest airline, and it has the most extensive network of intra-African flights of any airline in the world. It serves most major Middle Eastern, European and North American cities as well as Bombay, Delhi, Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing in Asia.
It is also possible to get there by land; the Nile Route is from Europe through Egypt and Sudan – it isn’t possible to enter through Eritrea. From the south you can get to Ethiopia from South Africa to Kenya via Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania.
Some of these endemic species such as the Gelada Baboon and rare Simien Fox can be found in the largest chain of mountains in Africa; the Simien Mountains. These are also home to the colourful Amharic tribes. Even without the people and wildlife, however, the mountains can impress with just the spectacular views of granite columns, towering escarpments and plummeting valleys.
Other areas of special interest include the Omo Valley and the Bale National Park, as well as the Rift Valley Lakes, which have unique conditions that are a result of the way in which they were formed and evolved.
Located in the Horn of Africa, it shares borders with Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea.
Bahir Dar is situated on the edge of Lake Tana, described by the ancient Greeks as a “copper-tinted lake … that is the jewel of Ethiopia”, and it retains an air of the ancient as papyrus boats sail on it. 30 km south of the lake on the outlet that is now the Blue Nile, the water falls over a 45 metre-high rock face in a curtain of water that is impressive and worth a look. These are the Blue Nile Falls, and are known as Ethiopia’s premier waterfall.
With around 37 islands on it, about 19 of which have, or have had, churches and monasteries on them. These establishments have the remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian church, which was founded in the 14th-century rule of Amda Tsion. Daga Istafanos has the mummified remains of five former Ethiopian emperors which can be visited, whilst Tana Chirkos has three Judaic sacrificial pillars on it that are claimed to support the legend that this island was used to store the Ark of Covenant for 800 years.
The Ark of the Covenant is rumoured to be stored at Axum, according to the legend of the Queen of Sheba’s son, Menalik. It is apparently stored in the Church of St Mary at Zion, but only one living person is allowed to see it; the guardian of the ark. It is a good story, however, and any Ethiopian will assure you it is true!
Set into the sandstone rock cliffs at Tigrai are some stunning rock-hewn churches that have been described as ‘the greatest of the historical-cultural heritages of the Ethiopian people’. These do not feature primarily as tourist attractions, but there are about 20 which can be visited, and the spirituality of these functioning religious establishments is breathtaking. To witness these, the town of Lalibela is the best place to stay.
Ethiopia History Tour
A 7 day fly-in tour of the main historical circuit of northern Ethiopia. Our small group or privately guided trip showcases Ethiopia’s rich historical past.
Omo Valley Safari
An 11 day trip into the Omo Valley to visit the tribes and explore cultures of Southern Ethiopia in 3 World Heritage Sites and 2 National Parks
Wherever in the world you are, our Zambezi community is full of easy-going travel-minded friends who take their fun seriously. Come and join the adventure.
Ethiopia's hot spots
Addis Ababa, safari gateway to historical sites, obelisks of Axum, churches and Coptic monasteries in the Tigre, Lake Tana and Lalibela
Bahir Dar and Lake Tana are on the historic route - famed for 20 monastic churches and the source of the Blue Nile. Just a one hour flight from Addis Ababa
Bale National Park has wild alpine scenery that has around a dozen endemic birds living on the slopes, as well as the Ethiopian Wolf and a mountain nyala
The Ethiopian Rift Valley Lakes provide a rich resource for people and animals
The 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are a World Heritage Site often described as the 8th wonder of the world - venue for famous church festivals.
The Simien Mountains are home to gelada baboons and located in one of Africaâ€™s largest mountain ranges and contains the country's highest peak Ras Dashen
The Omo valley has been described as a living museum with around 18 ethnic groups representing 4 of Africa's major linguistic groups