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Carved Churches in Lalibela

Ethiopia Travel Highlights

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Travelers to Ethiopia will not be disappointed with the variety and range of destinations to be seen. Travelers can easily spend up to three weeks or more exploring the country's main attractions and still feel like they are not repeating any aspect of the trip. The country holds some of the tallest peaks in all of Africa, as well as one of the lowest depressions in the world at 100 m below sea level. A variety of endemic wildlife can be seen in the mountain and wilderness areas, and one of the greatest diversity of tribes an be found in her south Omo Valley region. The historic rock-hewn churches and hominid fossil sites will keep historians and archaeologists alike intrigued, and the stunning trekking will appeal to avid backpackers eager for a new adventure. The opportunities are seemingly endless here. Take a look at a snapshot description of the main sites each region has to offer when planning your Ethiopia tour. 

Simien Mountains

Known as the “rooftop of Africa” this mountain range is one of the largest in all of Africa and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Its dramatic mountain scenery provides habitat for numerous endemic species including the gelada baboon, walia ibex, and Ethiopian fox. More than a dozen peaks over 12,000 ft are found here, and trekkers will marvel at the scenery as they hike along steep and high ridgelines. Come here for some hiking around Sanqaber for a day, or do the multi-day Simiens Trek to Bwahit Peak. 


This town in northern Ethiopia is a 'must-see' stop on any Historic Route or main highlights tour in Ethiopia and is famous for its monolithic rock-hewn churches dating back to as early as the 12th century. The layout of the town is believed to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem by local clergy and is one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia and a pilgrimage destination for locals.

Aksum (or Axum)

Another 'must-see' on the historic route, this city is the former capital of the Aksumite Empire, once a large trading power in northern Africa that stretched to Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia up until around the 10th century. The ruins of this great Empire are still able to be seen today, including tall obelisks and stelae erected at gravesites, ruined churches and other structures. It is believed to have once been the seat of power for the Queen of Sheba and is purported to be the resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. Most historic routes or main highlights tours of Ethiopia visit this city for at least a day.

Omo Valley

One of the most unique and culturally fascinating places to visit in Africa, this valley is located in the Great Rift Valley. The Omo River is the primary lifeline water source for the region, and it empties into Lake Turkana on the border with Kenya. The valley is believed to have been an important crossroads for trade causing many cultures to mingle and co-exist in this location for thousands of years. It is an important point of interest in archaeology due to the hominid fossils found here. An estimated 200,000 tribal people live in the isolated region, and Omo Valley tours often come in contact with as many as 15 tribes during a short stay.  Hippo, crocodile, and snake are some of the wildlife that are likely to be spotted on an Omo Valley tour as well, typically in Omo Valley or Mago National Parks.

Danakil Depression

Located in the northern part of the Afar Triangle (or Afar Depression), this is one of the lowest geologic elevation points on earth sitting at 100 m below sea level. This is the hottest place on earth in terms of year-round average temperatures and the region receives very little rainfall. The Awash river dries up here as well, forming a number of salt lakes. Tours to the Danakil Depression often include a stop to see the Dallol hot springs, which is the location for key studies in how life might develop on other planets as well as an important site for archaeologists in search of hominid fossils. Due to security reasons, tours to this area are suspended indefinitely.

Bale Mountains

Also known as the Urgoma Mountains, the Bale Mountain range are part of the Ethiopian highlands located southeast of Addis Ababa. It contains the Bale Mountains National Park, and the area contains one of the highest incidence rates of animal endemicity in the world. Travelers to the area often stop to enjoy the wild alpine scenery and possibly spot some of the mammal species and birds that make this region their home. This area is where travelers can find the largest numbers of Ethiopian wolf, as well as nyalas, bushbuck, lions, leopard, and a variety of antelope. A stay at the Bale Mountain Lodge is highly recommended.

Bahir Dar

Located along the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River, this tourist destination is Ethiopia’s third largest city and a common stop on most Historic Routes tours. The city is a nicely built and organized one for Africa’s standard, and its colorful market, shops and restaurants make for a welcoming atmosphere for urban touring. Take a drive to the see scenic Blue Nile Falls in the countryside or tour some of the world’s oldest churches and monasteries located on the islands of Lake Tana.

Arba Minch

Located at the western side of the Great Rift Valley in the southwestern section of Ethiopia, Arba Minch is the gateway to Nechisar National Park and the Omo Valley. The area is known for its fish farms and variety of fruits. Visitors to the area may spend time in a local village, or go on a crocodile spotting tour on Chamo Lake.

Addis Ababa

The country’s capital, it is the largest city in the country with a population of 3.3 million based on a reserved 2007 census estimate. The area has both the status of being a city and a state, and is the headquarters for the African Union. It is often referred to as the 'political capital' of Africa, and is comprised of a variety of Ethiopian people groups, with the largest being Amhara. A few cathedrals and museums are worth seeing if you have a day to spend in the city, along with the Mercato market. 


Once the royal capital of Ethiopia, the city is incredibly scenic with the remains of many old castles and churches found therein. Some have referred to it as the Camelot of Africa, and it is now the main base from which treks and trips into the Simien Mountains Treks begin. The picturesque ruins inside of Fassil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure) was once the main dwelling of emperors and most of the main buildings lay inside this enclosure, including Fasilides' Castle.

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Wildlife on an Africa safari


Aerial view of Fasil Ghebbi, the Royal Enclosure



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