Ethiopia is a vibrant county whose storied history can still be seen today in the historical tombs and treasures scattered throughout the country and set against the diverse landscape. Of the countless reasons to put Ethiopia on your radar, below are five of the most notable reasons to visit Ethiopia; the rest is up to you to discover!
1. A Visit to Lalibela
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela glows red and orange during sunset; it is a truly magical sight. Until the sun sets, you can walk around in the maze-like system that connects the 11 churches; some are even connected by dark underground tunnels. Inside the churches you can find old paintings and–if you are lucky–a priest with a big wooden or metal Lalibela cross will be having a sermon for the devout locals. The most spectacular church is the cross shaped St. George, which is carved from solid rock and referred to as ”The Eight Wonder of the World.” Sitting down at the edge, looking down at the locals singing and dancing, is something you will never forget. After a day of sightseeing, you can wind down with a drink or some food at Ben Abeha restaurant–a very surreal looking place on the outskirts of Lalibela that offers some extraordinary views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
2. Ethiopian Food & Coffee
Despite what many Westerners think, Ethiopia does not lack food. On the contrary, Ethiopia offers one of the best cuisines in Africa. Their trademark dish is the injera bread, which is feasted upon at almost every meal. It is a pancake like bread which usually comes in rolls, which you unfold on your plate and put curries, lamb, chicken, potatoes or even pasta in. You will find a variety of different dishes in Ethiopia but the injera is the most memorable delicacy you will try.
Another thing Ethiopia is famous for is their coffee as it is home to arguably the best coffee in the world. A fun thing to be part of is the local coffee ceremonies–either at a homestay, a restaurant or just at the coffee place around the street corner. Usually a beautiful looking lady will prepare the beans in front of you, grind them, roast them and then put the coffee in a clay pot for boiling. While waiting for the delicious coffee to be ready, you will likely be offered some popcorn to eat as well. Smelling the boiling coffee and some burning incense, makes your mouth water–it is an experience not to be missed.
3. Discovering the Diverse Landscape
Before coming to Ethiopia, I had an image in my mind of how the country would look like: empty and dry with yellow and brown fields, scarce water and lacking any green. I have never been more wrong in my life. Of course, there were parts of the country that looked just as I imagined but those areas were far and few between. Other areas were green, had flowing rivers and waterfalls such as Lake Tana, and were surrounded by lush jungle or the mountains in Simien with the desert near the Eritrean border. During a 12 hour road trip from Mekelle to Lalibela, I spotted rivers, lakes, farms, fields, green meadows and yellow and orange desert. I even saw snow and ice on one mountain road! Ethiopia has it all and seems as though it might be have one of the most diverse landscapes in Africa.
4. Meet the Locals
The people of Ethiopia might be the friendliest I have ever met; I was stopped many times on the street by someone asking me if I could take a photo of him or her. Expecting nothing in return, the locals just wanted to be remembered in a foreigner’s photo. Everyone smiles, everyone is helpful and not even the tour guides try to trick you, like they do in so many other places. You feel well taken care of by the locals as they welcome you to their country with open arms.
5. A Trip to Danakil Depression
No words can describe the feeling of a visit to Danakil Depression. It is said to be the hottest place on earth, yet it is amazing. Booking a four day tour to Danakil is the best thing you can do while visiting Ethiopia. You will find yourself on an adventure from the first minute of your trip to the last. The landscape switching from lush green mountains to desert and salt lakes to lava rocks; showing a brilliant array of colors–orange, green, white and yellow–in Dallol. Besides nature’s funny looking shapes and colors, you will get to meet people from the Afar tribe–a nomadic tribe of locals who walk with long camel caravans on their way to the distant salt lakes to harvest their precious salt. The peak of the four day adventure is a trek up the active volcano Erta Ale. Erta Ale is one of five volcanos in the world that has an active lava lake. Imagine being three meters away from the moving and bubbling lava with fire and sparks shooting up in the air, landing a few inches from your feet.
About the Author
Guest blogger, Marcus Eriksson, hails from Sweden and is a travel addict since 2010. Since deciding to quit his job to travel the world, Marcus has been living in Malta for the past year, working as a programmer. Before venturing abroad, Marcus began his blog, Earth Seeing, to share stories from his adventures around the world.