Things to do in Ethiopia
There's no shortage of things to do in Ethiopia. There is such extraordinary variety on offer in Ethiopia that no two itineraries are ever, or could ever be, the same.
Whether you're looking for adventure, to see wildlife, to experience a unique culture, or to marvel at extraordinary vistas, Ethiopia has something for everyone.
Top 10 things to do in Ethiopia
With so much on offer in Ethiopia, it's hard to pick favourites, but to help with your trip planning and to offer a glimpse of just some of the extraordinary experiences available in the country, here's 10 incredible things to do in Ethiopia:
1. Community Trekking in Lalibela or Tigray: charming guesthouses, stunning viewpoints, bursting starlight, and unforgettable local hospitality.
2. Journey into the Danakil Depression: an alien landscape unlike anything you will have ever seen before.
3. Hiking in the Simien Mountains: home to the famous Gelada Monkeys, luxury lodges, and some of the best views in the country.
4. Explore the jungle thickets of the Bale Mountains: cosy cabins deep in the forest and beautiful views await in one of the country's most biodiverse national parks.
5. Explore the 13th century rock-hewn churches at Lalibela: built centuries ago, these churches form the beating heart of spiritual Ethiopia.
6. Meet the indigenous peoples of the Lower Omo Valley: a cultural crossroads for millennia, the Omo Valley is a journey back in time.
7. Discover Ethiopia's historical monuments: from the crumbling castles of Gonder to the towering obelisks of Axum, Ethiopia's historic monuments are a window into a bygone era.
8. Adventure camping in the farthest corners of Ethiopia: from the wild west of Gambella National Park to the banks of the River Omo.
9. Discover the wildlife of Ethiopia: Ethiopia is a country of incredible bio-diverse, and has an impressive number of endemic species.
10. Drive through the Rift Valley: from the croc infested waters of Lake Chamo, to the hippos in Lake Langano, a road trip through the Rift Valley is an unmissable experience in Ethiopia.
1. Community Trekking
Community trekking is one of our favourite things to do in Ethiopia. Community trekking gives local people in rural Ethiopia a stake in the growing tourism industry of the country, and it is a breathtaking experience from start to finish.
Over the course of 2-4 days, you will hike from guesthouse to guesthouse, passing along plateaus surrounded by vistas that extend for miles. The views are simply extraordinary, and much of the money for any trek goes straight back to the local communities who own and operate the guesthouses.
The starlight in this part of the country is stunning, and waking up to fresh Ethiopian coffee at 3000 metres on a mountain top in rural Ethiopia, welcomed by some of the best views you'll ever see, is a total unforgettable experience.
2. Visiting the Danakil Depression
The Danakil Depression is a place unlike anything you will have witnessed before. As you travel through this remote, arid, inhospitable region, you'll begin to feel like you're exploring an extraterrestrial landscape.
The Danakil is famous for its kaleidoscopic landscapes and unique geological structures, and is one of the lowest lying regions in the world sitting at over 100 metres below sea level. It's also one of the hottest places on the planet, and temperatures here regularly exceed 40°C.
3. Trekking in the Simien Mountains
The Simien Mountains are one of Ethiopia's most popular destinations, and one of the best hiking destinations in Africa.
The Simiens are incredibly beautiful, and are home to a number of endemic and rare species like the Gelada Monkey, Walia Ibex, and Ethiopian Wolf. The park has some of the most exciting trekking routes, and they're home to Ethiopia's highest peak, Ras Dashen.
If you want to explore in luxury, you can explore the mountains from your base at Limalimo Lodge, Ethiopia's best luxury lodge.
4. Exploring the Bale Mountains
The Bale Mountains are one of Ethiopia's most bio-diverse national parks. The mountains are home to the Bale Mountain Lodge, a beautiful boutique lodge nestled into the forest.
The mountains are renowned for being the best place to find the Ethiopian Wolf, and endemic species and the world's rarest canid.
Beyond the beautiful landscapes, lodges, and wildlife, the Bale Mountains are an adventure travellers paradise - fly camping, horse riding, mountain biking, and trekking are all possible here, and there's also Ethiopia's second highest peak: Tulu Dimtu.
The villages around Bale are also a great spot to trial Tej, Ethiopia honey wine, and if you head into the rural back roads you can learn about how coffee is produced here.
5. Exploring the Churches of Lalibela
In the small town of Lalibela in the northern highlands lie some of Africa's most extraordinary monuments. Long considered the eight wonder of the world, the rock churches of Lalibela are Ethiopia's most famous travel destination, but they remain a central point of worship and spirituality for local Ethiopians.
Meandering through the subterranean maze that connects these structures, the energy of this place is tangible, and the mind boggles to think about how many have come and gone, while these structures remain standing firm, as they have for centuries.
At their heart lies the Church of Saint George, a free-standing monolith that has captured the imaginations of travellers for centuries.
6. Meet the people of the Omo Valley
In the far south of Ethiopia lies a region steeped in history, culture, and often times, turbulence.
The tribal communities of the Omo Valley retain the way of life they have lived for millennia. To journey through this incredible region is to take a trip back in time, and experience a way of life completely different from your own.
Responsible tourism is extremely important in the Omo Valley, and there are right and wrong ways to visit. Sensitivity and respect is fundamental to a meaningful visit here, and the Omo will leave you with a deep sense of humility, and wonder for the diversity of our world.
Accommodation here is basic, and one of the best ways to explore is by exclusive fly camps on the banks of the Omo River, the flagship of these is Lale's Camp, offering exclusive access into some of the most remarkable areas of the Lower Omo Valley.
7. Discover Ethiopia's History
Along the northern circuit of Ethiopia lies some of the country's most extraordinary historical monuments.
In the old capital of Gonder, you'll find castle ruins that were once the home of Ethiopian royalty, as well as the stunning Debre Birhan Selassie Church and the Fasilides' Bath, and monument that retains a function to this day every year for the annual Timkat celebrations.
In Axum, the original capital city of Ethiopia, ancient grave markers take the form of massive obelisks that tower metres into the sky. The history of these structures is fascinating, both ancient and modern - all of which your local guide can help illuminate as you meander through the fallen stelae, and marvel at those that still stand firm.
You can learn more on our Cultural Tours of Ethiopia page.
8. Adventure Camping
Ethiopia is a playground for the adventure traveller. In the untouched, wild west of Ethiopia lies Gambella National Park. Gambella is Ethiopia's most bio-diverse national park, but also the most difficult to access.
Poor management and lack of access routes has led to only a few operators being able to offer trips here, and we work closely with those that can. Getting here requires a charter flight, and you'll spend the days roaming these expansive grasslands with no one around for miles and miles. The wildlife sightings here are exceptional, and this is the only Ethiopian destination where the word 'safari' applies.
Slightly more convenient is the fly camping opportunities in the Omo Valley, Bale Mountains, and the Simien Mountains.
You can learn more on our Adventure Tours in Ethiopia page.
9. Tracking Ethiopian Wildlife
Ethiopia, while not a safari-style wildlife destination, is home to lots of endemic species, alongside many of the big game you'll find wandering the plains of the Mara or Serengeti.
In the highlands of the Simien Mountains you'll find huge troops of Gelada Monkeys, also known as 'bleeding heart monkeys' due to their iconic heart-shaped chest marking. In the Sanetti Plateau of the Bale Mountains, there is the highest population of endemic Ethiopian Wolves.
Beyond these endemics, the Rift Valley is home to huge numbers of crocs, hippos, and flamingos - and in the Bale Mountains you'll find colobus monkeys, lions, and leopards.
Buffaloes, giraffes and elephants roam the plains of Gambella National Park, and in arid east you can watch hyenas feeding outside the ancient stone walls of Harar.
You can learn more on our Ethiopia Wildlife Tours page.
10. Drive Through the Rift Valley
The Rift Valley in Ethiopia runs south of Addis, providing an excellent road trip route connecting Addis with the Bale Mountains and the Omo Valley.
Driving through this part of the country gives you an insight into local way of life that you cannot get by taking a domestic flight, and there is enough to do along these roads to fill 4-5 days.
There are a number of boutique lodges set up on the shores of the lakes, and plenty of wildlife sightings.
Popular Trips to Ethiopia
Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken…
Hike across electric landscapes of thick forests, Afro-alpine moorland, peaks and plateaus, and jungle thickets. An extraordinary outdoor adventure, with high altitude hikes unlocking staggering viewpoints, beautiful clearings, and endemic wildlife. At night, the sky is ablaze with starlight in…
A true adventure across the northernmost reaches of Ethiopia. Experience community trekking on the plateaus of Tigray, where horizons stretch for miles, distant mountain peaks morph into hazy silhouettes lit by the evening sun, and pockets of light and shadow…
Experience the colourful Timket festival along the sweeping plateaus of rural Amhara on a community trek. Continue your adventure through the classic northern circuit where you'll discover ancient monuments from bygone civilisations, diverse wildlife, incredible views and wonderful people.…
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