When I announced to friends that I would be traveling to Ethiopia in March of this year the response was overwhelmingly the same, consisting of one word… “Why?”
For many people, Ethiopia conjures up images of desert wastelands, never ending famines, and depending on age, memories of Haile Selassie. Others have it confused with Somalia. One person told me they had tried Ethiopian food once, and didn’t like it.
What people don’t know is that Ethiopia is home to the dramatic Simien mountain range in the north, a medieval world of rock hewn churches built in the 12th century in Lalibela, ancient treasures ranging from tombs to obelisks in Aksum, 17th century castles in Gondar, some Africa’s most intriguing and interesting tribes living in the lowlands of the south, as well as the skeletal remains of world’s oldest hominid – affectionately nicknamed Lucy by the team that found her (they were reportedly listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the time).
There are no 5 star hotels outside of Addis Ababa. In fact, there are no 4 star hotels either. But nobody is coming to Ethiopia for the hotels. The roads can be rough and the infrastructure fragile at best. But if you travel for adventure, genuine authenticity, and a chance to learn then you are in for a huge treat.
We feel the only way to travel Ethiopia is using a private car and driver, engaging with local archeological experts in each destination so that you get the most out of the trip.
Here are the absolute must see spots:
- Bahir Dar – to see the monasteries on the islands of Lake Tana, the Blue Nile Falls, and a visit to the local market day, where bartering for trade is more common than paying with money.
- Gondar – to see an incredible series of 17th century castles in excellent shape. Aksum (Axum) home to ancient tombs, obelisks, and where the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe the Queen of Sheba lived and the Arc of the Covenant is stored.
- Lalibela – to see the awe inspiring 11 rock hewn churches built in the 12th century
- Addis Ababa – to visit the National museum, home to Lucy. The Ethnological Museum occupies Haile Selassie’s former palace and is part the Addis Ababa University – both essential stops. A visit to Mercato, the main market is a highlight and is reputed to be the largest market in Africa (take your guide along, as you will have a far better experience, more interaction and a great understanding of what you are seeing).
- The Omo Valley – a very little visited area in the south that is home to some of the most vibrant and fascinating tribes in all of Africa. The Mursi tribe is one of only three left in Africa in which women traditionally wear wooden or clay lip plates.
So many of our globetrotters have asked us to plan trips to Ethiopia over the past year that Goway’s Africa Experts has officially launched it as a destination. Check out these Ethiopia tours that are all fully customizable to suite your interests and timing.
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