In terms of beauty, Ethiopia offers some stunning natural landscape. Beauty abounds in the mountains, waterfalls, lakes, wildlife, and even deserts. Could this be the most beautiful country in Africa? Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however Ethiopia certainly impresses more tourists with its beauty than you could ever imagine.
Historically called Abyssinia, Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in the world. It also holds title as the oldest independent African country. Another interesting fact for help in understanding the land is, except for a very brief stint by Italy in WWII, Ethiopia is the only African country that has never been colonized. Something most people don’t know is that Ethiopia is the second-oldest Christian country in the world. Though Ethiopians enjoy these claims to fame, the country has also experienced a troubled past, from which it is now mostly beyond. However, you’ll find there are many not-so-subtle hints of difficulties, often related to the sad reality of poverty.
Be sure to check on visa requirements for your personal situation before arranging a trip there. Citizens of the USA are required to present a visa to enter Ethiopia, and you shouldn’t need to travel to a consulate or embassy for approval, because they are accepting the easily acquirable e-visa. While confirming entry requirements, also have a look at the current security advisories regarding travel in the country.
Another interesting tidbit of information is that most cities in Ethiopia are not as hot as one might think. Despite close proximity to the equator, most of the cities are at elevations of 8,000 feet or higher, drastically reducing the temperatures. Though temperatures remain fairly steady year-round, summer is considered the rainy season and winter is known to be dry.
Here are some suggestions of things to see and do around Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa is both the country’s capital and largest city, packed with interesting things to see and do. Do not miss the following when visiting:
Spend ½ day visiting Addis’ first churches, St. Mary’s and St Raguel church. From here, take a long and refreshing walk up Entoto Mountain to get an idea of rural living and catch fascinating views of the city from the top!
Start at Meskel Square and sightsee on a walk to the suburb of Sidest Kilo. Along the way you’ll be able to see the National Museum (artifacts within the museum span thousands of years), Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, Africa Hall (home to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the architecture is quite a spectacle), palaces, the Parliament building (built in the 1930’s and used today for the same purpose), and Shengo Hall (world’s largest pre-fab building in the world when built in 1987), among other things.
The Red Terror Museum is a relatively new addition to the city and is known for its educational displays, depicting the horrors of the Derg, which ultimately led to the historic famine in the 1990’s.
Near the airport, you’ll find Medhane Alem, which is the second largest church on the continent of Africa.
Be sure to introduce your taste buds to the interesting flavors of Ethiopian foods. One of the best traditional restaurants is Katenga, which offers meat dishes, many options for vegetarians, and is served from a shared common plate.
Found in restaurants throughout the entire country, you must try Ethiopia’s national dish, Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew.
If you are able to visit beyond Addis Ababa, don’t miss the following:
Fasil Ghebbi is located in northwestern Ethiopia near Gondar. This heritage site features the remains of the previous home to Ethiopia’s emperors.
The Orthodox Church of St. George is a unique monolithic stone church that is built underground and accessed from a tunnel. You’ll find this interesting site in the northern town of Lalibela.
Take a hike in Simien Mountains National Park to take in Ethiopia’s natural beauty. See native wildlife and the photo-worthy rugged terrain including scenic valleys, gorges and prominent mountains.
By Lisa Osborne Blalock
Footloose Travel & Tours