Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is an ancient, diverse, and naturally beautiful country. Home to the oldest evidence of modern humans, Ethiopia is also the birthplace of coffee and the inventor of one of the oldest alphabets still in use.Ethiopia’s impressive resume doesn’t end there. This powerful nation is the only African country to resist European colonialism and remain sovereign throughout its history.
Ethiopia has a rich and colorful past matched only by its spectacular natural beauty. This country is jam-packed with ancient sites, glorious parks and wildlife refuges, and a bustling capital city, all worthy of exploration and admiration. Check out our list of the top sights for Ethiopia tourism.
Addis Ababa: Ethiopia Tourism
Sitting at the helm of one of the world’s fastest growing economies, Africa’s diplomatic capital and fourth largest city will confound all expectations. This urban center serves as the gateway to Ethiopia’s mythical and ancient world, and continues to earn its reputation for friendly people, delicious food, and the world’s best coffee.
Drink Ethiopian coffee. Coffee was invented in Ethiopia and the country makes some of the best coffee in the world. Addis Ababa has many great coffee shops.
Visit the Red Terror Martyr’s Museum. The Derg is the military regime that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. This period was a dark of Ethiopia’s past and many people suffered and died because of the regime. Their rule and the atrocities are highlighted in this museum.
The main market of Addis Ababa, or Merkato, shows you the real hustle and bustle of Ethiopia. This market has an abundance of life and color packed into the smallest of passage ways. You will see every animal, spice, and vegetable that you will be eating. It’s where a lot of the locals do most of their shopping, so it’s huge.
Eat Ethiopian food. The center of the Ethiopian cuisine is injera, a spongy pancake-like flatbread. The diverse and delicious dishes are made with lots of spice (especially berbere) and include varieties of meats, vegetables, lentils, and more. It’s all eaten with your hand or using injera bread to scoop up the meal. Food should be an essential part of any Addis Ababa tour.
Take a food tour. Our good friends at Go Addis Tours collaborated with us to create the TripScout mobile travel guide for Addis Ababa and they’re the best. They’re the highest rated tour company in the city and when Anthony Bourdain came to Addis Ababa for Parts Unkown, guess who advised them on where to eat? They run an awesome food tour which will be a great addition to the restaurants and sites they teach you about on the TripScout audio tour. Here’s a picture of TripScout with the Go Addis founders when they traveled to from Ethiopia to Somaliland together:
Visit beautiful and historic churches. Christianity was actually in Ethiopia long before Europe. There is a lot of religious history and beauty in the country, including St. George’s Cathedral and Holy Trinity.
Harar: Ethiopia Tourism
Harar is a fortified historic town located in the deserts and savannah of eastern Ethiopia. This sacred city is considered “the fourth holy city” of Islam and holds 82 mosques and 102 shrines. The walls surrounding Harar were built between the 13th and 16th centuries and divide the city into five distinct neighborhoods. Both African and Islamic traditions influenced the development of Harar, and the present layout of the city is a 16th century design for an Islamic town. At the center of the city are commercial and religious buildings, and narrow alleyways create mazes.
At the end of the 19th century Indian merchants began to influence Harar. These merchants built new houses and their architectural and ornamental qualities are now part of the Harari cultural heritage. In 1887, Harar was integrated into Ethiopia. The Harari people continue to preserve their cultural traditions and handicrafts, including weaving, basket making, and bookbinding.
Lalibela: Ethiopia Tourism
Lalibela is a place of pilgrimage and devotion for Coptic Christians. Located in a mountainous region, this site includes 11 medieval monolithic cave churches. In the 12th century, King Lalibela attempted to build the ‘New Jerusalem’. These churches were carved from the rock into monolithic blocks. These blocks were chiseled down to include doors, windows, roofs, and columns. The largest monolithic church in the world is located here, as well as two monolithic structures that were believed to have been royal residences.
Simien Mountains: Ethiopia Tourism
Thousands of years of erosion have sculpted the jagged peaks and deep valleys of the Simien Mountains. This magnificent landscape is home to some of the most rare and endangered animals in the world. The area is beautiful and worth exploring, especially if you spot any of the critters who exclusively call the Simien Mountains home, including the Walia ibex, the Ethiopian wolf, or the Gelada baboon.
Gondar: Ethiopia Tourism
Gondar, the former capital of the Ethiopian Empire, is home to several royal castles. Its crowning jewel is Ghebbi, also known as the “Camelot of Africa” or the Royal Enclosure. Ghebbi includes a collection of buildings such as Iyasu’s palace, Dawit’s Hall, and three churches. Gondar also holds religious significance in Ethiopia—the city is a center of learning for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and Gondar and the surrounding area is the homeland for most Ethiopian Jews. Influences of the Italian occupation in the 1930s can also be seen in Gondar’s downtown.
Rock-Hewn Churches of Tigray: Ethiopia Tourism
Nestled in the desert landscape of Tigray are about 120 semimonolithic churches. Monolithic churches are carved out of ground, while semimonolithic are only partially separated from the rock or built into existing caves. Many of Tigray’s churches are perched on high cliffs. Viewing some these beautiful structures involves long hikes that some visitors find nerve wracking.
Bale Mountains: Ethiopia Tourism
Bale Mountains National Park is extraordinarily diverse in both geography and wildlife. This national park is enormous (1336 square miles of land) and holds five unique habitats: grassland, woodlands, meadows, moorlands, and forests. The Bale Mountains are a land of endemism, which means there are species unique to this area. There are 20 endemic species that call the Bale Mountains home, including the gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf.
Lower Valley of the Omo: Ethiopia Tourism
The lower valley of the Omo is significant in the study of prehistoric man. Fossil discoveries made here have shed light on the evolution of Homo sapiens. Explore the vast landscapes of the lower valley of the Omo and learn about ancient tools and fossils uncovered here. Step back in time in this beautiful and prehistoric environment, where you can witness evidence of the oldest known activities of prehistoric men.
Aksum: Ethiopia Tourism
Near Ethiopia’s northern border, you can the ruins of the ancient city of Aksum (also spelled Axum). Once the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia, the Kingdom of Aksum is now an ancient ruin that dates from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D. Explore royal tombs, ruined castles, and massive obelisks, including one that stands over 75 feet tall.
The Kingdom of Aksum lasted from the 1st to the 8th centuries A.D. and controlled the Red Sea trade. Christianity was introduced here in the 4th century A.D. Saint Mary of Zion church stands here and is believed to hold the Ark of the Covenant.
Enjoy Ethiopia Tourism while on your Addis Ababa Tour!
Addis Ababa Tour Benefits
- Curated Sites
- Audio Tours
- Offline Map