Ancient and glorious, Ethiopia is the “Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine.” This magical country reverberates with a certain fervor, one you’d definitely relish. Ethiopia is deeply rooted in rich religious and economic history, and is even believed to be the actual resting place of the biblical Ark of the Covenant. Plus, did you know it’s also where coffee originated? Every piece of land, every lake, every mountain has a fabulous story to tell, so if it’s an African adventure you’re after, Ethiopia is hands down the place to be.
Since the country is neighbors with popular safari countries, Kenya and Tanzania, you may be wondering what to expect from an Ethiopia safari tour. Fret not, you’re in for a treat from nature. But first, its important you understand that Ethiopia is not a safari destination, if what your after is wildlife, the spectacle of the Great Migration, or predators out for a hunt, then Ethiopia is not the place. What makes Ethiopia special is the amazing scenery, cultural and historic attractions, and then yes also amazing wildlife, however this is not the main attraction. The beauty of Ethiopia’s wild mountains and forests is matched only by the awe-inspiring architecture you’re likely to see at every turn.
From thundering waterfalls to spotting rare animals that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world, Ethiopia richly rewards travelers who are willing to go off the beaten track. Traveling to Africa for most people usually means Big Five spotting in popular safari parks, which is awesome by the way, but because of Ethiopia’s unusual geography, you can actually glimpse species that only a handful of people have ever seen.
Ethiopia has 13 national parks and sanctuaries, and while this is fewer than Kenya or Tanzania’s national parks, it more than makes up for it with 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites and 16 climatic zones. Here are some of the best places to visit if you are looking for the full Ethiopia experience:
The Simien Mountain range is one of the first sites in Ethiopia to be awarded a UNESCO World Heritage status. Its unique formations and amazing biodiversity make it one of the most spectacular sceneries in the world, even earning the nickname “God’s own playground.” The Simien Mountains National Park was established in 1969 and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the Simien fox, the Ethiopian Wolf, and the Walia ibex, a rare goat found nowhere else on Earth. Endemic Gelada baboons and the caracal can also be found within the park, as well as over 50 different bird species, including the rare bearded vulture. In addition to wildlife viewing, visitors to the Simien Mountains National Park can also enjoy village to village walking trips, traditional Ethiopian massage, and some pretty good local beer.
This thick forest is located in the Oromia region of the Ethiopian highlands, south of the Awash River. It is home to a variety of endemic animals like the Ethiopian wolf, the world’s rarest canid with only about 500+ thought to be in existence. There’s also Mountain Nyalas, Menelik’s bushbuck, giant molerats warthogs, and Bohor reedbuck. The Bale Mountains National Park is also one of Ethiopia’s most visited tourist attractions. Here, visitors can even go fishing, hiking, bird watching or visit the museum where they can learn more about the mountain’s rich biodiversity and history.
The Blue Nile River
Known among the locals as Abbay, the famous Blue Nile River is a major tributary of the great Nile river. The best place to experience its magnificence is at the Tis-issat Falls, a 148 ft high body of water surging downstream from nearby Lake Tana before exploding with such force that onlookers standing a few hundred meters away still get drenched. Equally fascinating is the perennial rainforests near the river that are home to multi-colored birds, hippos, and monkeys. The region also boasts many ancient monasteries with holy springs and cultural treasures, including crowns, crosses, parchment manuscripts, murals, and even the mummified remains of some of Ethiopia’s past emperors.
Make Time for Ethiopian Cultural Tours
Make sure there is enough time in your itinerary to explore Ethiopia’s architectural wonders and cultural diversity. Visit the medieval archaeological monuments Axum and Lalibela’s incredible rock-hewn churches. Or descend to one of the driest and hottest places on the planet at the Danakil Depression. To the south, you can go on cultural visits to the Omo Valley, which is home to some of the oldest and most fascinating tribes still in existence.
Ethiopia is one of those magical places you have to see to believe. It may not be the first place you think of when thinking of Africa, but an Ethiopia Tour definitely should be.