by Alex Skinner for letsg.ooo.
Ethiopia is one of those countries which you rarely hear very much about, which is a shame as it is home to TONS of incredible sights! The good thing about it flying under the radar however, is that you’ll often find yourself visiting a jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape or astonishing UNESCO World Heritage Site with absolutely no other tourists around.
What to expect:
One of the oldest countries in the world, Ethiopia is often described as the ‘cradle of mankind’ and so on your journey you’ll come across ancient monasteries, impressive castles and mysterious rock-hewn churches while the scenery is not too bad either!
Add in its rich cultural heritage, delicious food and…feeding hyenas with your mouth (?!!) and, well, you’ve got quite the package!
All in all, it is a very affordable country to visit with some amazing sights which you can’t see anywhere else in the world.
To get around, you can either opt to take a short, comfortable flight or a series of long and uncomfortable (but scenic!) bus journeys. Strangely enough, I’d actually recommend the latter as you nearly always end up making friends on the bus and, well, getting there is part of the experience!
That being said, if you’re pressed for time then you’re probably better off taking a flight and Ethiopia’s numerous cities are very well-connected.
Where to head to:
There are a number of places which you just have to make sure you visit when in Ethiopia and I can almost be certain that you’ll come away awestruck at what you’ve just seen.
First up is Lalibela. Now, it is almost impossible to convey how impressive Lalibela is but if it were in the US or Europe, the site would undoubtedly be teeming with visitors and there would be a queue to enter. As it is you’ll find yourself almost alone and this makes visiting even more memorable.
Ok, so Lalibela is a complex of eleven monolithic churches that are hidden away amongst some remote mountains in Ethiopia. Built between the seventh and thirteenth century, the architecture on show is absolutely incredible and they are remarkably still in use to this day. The churches were designed to be the ‘New Jerusalem’ and lots of underground tunnels snake their way between the different churches which are built deep into mountainside.
Another place which is well worth visiting is Gondar. Nicknamed ‘the Camelot of Africa’, the city is home to some amazing fairytale castles which are very well-preserved and the surrounding area also has some centuries-old churches and monasteries for you to enjoy. While in Gondar, try and give learning the local dance a go. You will probably have to ask someone from the city to teach you as it mostly involves using your neck, shoulders and head!
Not far from Gondar lies yet another must-see sight: the stunning Simien Mountains. This breathtaking mountain range lies mostly 3,000 metres above sea-level and is so beautiful that it has been nicknamed ‘the Chess Pieces of God’. Trekking through its sweeping valleys and along its plummeting cliff faces is an awe-inspiring experience – just remember to bring some suncream as the sun is stronger at this altitude! While passing through the spectacular scenery, you may be invited into a local home to eat some injera – Ethiopia’s national dish. Although this is certainly a kind gesture, by this point on your trip around the country you may be a bit fed up of it as you’ll have been eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Now you may remember that I mentioned something about feeding hyenas with your mouth. Outside the walled-city of Harar, hyenas congregate every evening and feeding them is now a popular (if hair-raising!) thing to do. Simply spear some meat on a stick, hold that in your mouth and in no time at all you’ll have a hyena eating off of it! Besides this, Harar is a beautiful city to explore with lots of lovely old mosques and ancient buildings for you to enjoy.
Very much off the beaten path, Ethiopia is definitely worth visiting if you have the chance and Lalibela, Gondar, the Simien Mountains and Harar are just some of its fabulous sights. To not ruin the surprise, I’ll leave it up to you to discover the rest of what Ethiopia has to offer!