Beautiful scenery, unique food and experiences, historic culture, and extraordinary people are all attributes tourists look for when choosing a place to travel. Countries that spring to mind when going over this list are commonly destinations like Bali or Italy. While those are definitely great trips to take, consider adding Ethiopia to this list.
The famine of the 1970s and 1980s is likely responsible for the images that come to mind when you read the word Ethiopia. While at the time it was important for that information to be seen by the world so that the great fundraising efforts could be put into place, it has created a branding problem for Ethiopia’s tourism department. Ethiopia is more than four times as large as the United Kingdom. This country is hardly all desert, and is too large and interesting to be depicted by one event from its past.
Beautiful mountains, historic churches, and national parks are just some of the awesome sights worth seeing on your trip to this African country. While you are of course able to pursue your Africa travels on your own, using tailor-made tours can give you more time to focus on the experience while you let local tour operators handle the details of getting from place to place, informing you about the sights, and giving you tips for responsible tourism.
One tip to keep in mind when shopping for any local tour operators is to check for their responsible tourism policy early on in your investigation of the company. Being assured that they have a policy in place and that the policy looks responsible to you, can give you some assurance and relief that this is going to be something you can get behind.
Places to Visit On Your Ethiopia Travels
Are you ready to visit the remains of a fortress city? Travel to Gondar, Ethiopia and you can do just that. This royal enclosure was built in the 17th century by Emperor Fasilides and was the home of many of Ethiopia’s emperors. Fasil Ghebbi was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Sof Omar Caves
Visit the longest cave in Ethiopia. This cave is over 15 kilometers long and was discovered in 1897. This cave can be found in the Bale Province in the southeast.
National Museum of Ethiopia
If you have any interest in history, this museum will be a must visit. While there are many attractions inside, the greatest treasure to be found in is the partial skeleton of “Lucy”, the human believed to have lived over three million years ago. While her remains are only 40% complete, her bones are some of the oldest we have yet to discover, and probably the most famous of our ancient ancestors.
Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela
Eleven churches were built under King Lalibela. This created a maze with tunnels and galleries connecting the places of worship. All of this, created out of red volcanic rock. Where else in the world are you going to see something like this?
Simien Mountains National Park
Ethiopia is hardly just a desert. The Simien Mountains National Park in northern Ethiopia is bound to take your breath away. Whether you have time for a day hike or a tailor-made week-long tour, you will see jagged mountain peaks, deep valley, and sharp drops of 1,500 meters.
This national park is a must visit. Nowhere else in the world will you see the Walia ibex, a wild mountain goat, or the Gelada baboon, or the Ethiopian wolf. The biodiversity found here is not to be missed.
Church of St. George
Many call the Church of St. George the eighth wonder of the world, and not without reason. This church has an astounding architecture that attracts tourists year after year.
Tips for Responsible Tourism in Ethiopia
You want to visit Ethiopia. You want to see those stunning mountains and the local community to experience the history for yourself. But you worry about the negative effects of tourism. This is understandable. Tourism can be great for a country’s economy, or it can destroy a beloved culture and wreak havoc on the environment. These potential problems can luckily be avoided if responsible tourists follow some simple tips. For Ethiopia, keep this list of considerations top of mind.
Shop local. Luckily, this is easy to do in Ethiopia. Most places are going to be local companies, but always be conscious of where you are spending your tourism dollars. Buy your water bottle at a local shop instead of stocking up at your hotel. These small steps can make a real impact. Be fair when you haggle. Always remember that what may be small change to you can make a huge difference to the person you are haggling with.
Always ask before taking photos. While many people will be happy to have their photos taken, it is always polite to ask. If someone says no, then be respectful of that! Don’t zoom in from some distance and snap the photo anyway.
Be aware of the pay per click’ policy. In some places, especially in the south, it is common to pay a few cents before you take someone’s photo. Be sure to be clear about this before you take someone’s photo, especially if you are taking a group photo. When visiting historic churches, don’t complain about the temporary shelters protecting them. Yes, these may be a bit of an eyesore, but they are essential to protect the churches so future generations can see them.
Consider joining Community Tourism Projects
These projects bring tourists to places away from the main highlights, so you can see a unique side of the country. It also brings benefit to the local communities. These projects are few and far between, but very special. You can find local tour operators working on initiatives like this, where many community tourism projects are put together.
Be careful of what you wear. Look around at what others are wearing around you. Customs for modesty will change by where you are. If everyone else has their knees covered then you should, too. Always Remember to Have Fun Enjoy your trip! Meet the local people, snap a thousand or more photos, and bring home some souvenirs to remind you of your unforgettable Ethiopian adventure.