Historical Ethiopia


In this section we will be highlighting the historical attractions of Ethiopia, by taking you along what is commonly known as the ‘Historic Route’.

When one talks about the history of ‘Ethiopia’, it helps to understand the various contexts the term ‘Ethiopia’ is used in.
In the Bible and Greek manuscripts, the term ‘Ethiopia’ is frequently used to represent the ‘burnt-face’ or black people and land south of Egypt.
The north portion of the present-day Ethiopia was called Abyssinia, with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) as the main religion.
The other parts of the present-day Ethiopia had their own kings and kingdoms, like the Sidama, Keffa, Five Gibe Kingdons, City State of Harer, etc.
Later on all these kings and kingdoms were consolidated into the Ethiopian Empire, during the reign of Emperor Menilik.


The Ethiopian History therefore, is much more than what is presented in this brochure.
It is beyond the scope of this brochure, to go into the detailed histories of various peoples and cultures of Ethiopia.

This brochure is a tourism promotional material, and as such uses the most documented samples of Ethiopian history related to the available historic attractions.

Tracing the Foot-Steps of Time and History

While we are moving from one historical site to the next, our minds will also be tracing the foot-prints of time and history along those lines. Whenever one visits a historical site, the traveler goes back in time and tries to imagine how that civilization and the world surrounding that site used to live.
The traveler endeavors to paint a complete picture using the physical monument being visited, documented facts and legends regarding that site and its builders.


Pre-Historic Ethiopia


The starting point of all histories?

All journeys must always start from somewhere. Ours is somewhat unique, because it starts from Hadar, perhaps the very origin – ‘the cradle of mankind’
Hadar is located in the Afar region. It is an archeological site with various finds to its name.
The main discoveries are :
1974 : the most complete remains of the ‘first’ humanoid, Lucy or Dinknesh that lived some 3.8 million years ago.
1994 : fossilized remains of a chimpanzee0sized ape 4.4million years old, at a site 75 Km south of Hadar.
2006 : humanoid baby, named Selam, that lived some 4 million years ago, i.e. even older than Lucy.

Melka Konture

Regarded to be one of the most important Stone Age archeological sites of Ethiopia.
Two million years ago, the earliest ancestors of mankind had a home here. They left behind tools as well as traces of meals and shelters.
Tools in the form of hand axes and cleavers found here are dated back to 1.5 million years old.

Tiya : UNESCO’s World Heritage Site

This is a prehistoric monoliths or stelae site partially administered by UNESCO.

Queen Sheba – 1000 BC

Queen Sheba, Makeda or Azeb

Legends of the Queen of Sheba are common throughout Arabia, Persia, Ethiopia and Israel. They all have similar and contradicting accounts of the Queen and her relationship with King Solomon. Some are dubious others are full of fanciful stories.
Most historians agree that the more realistic portraits of the Queen of Sheba appear in the Bible and the Kebre Negest-‘The Glory of Kings’, a 14th Century Book that chronicles the Solomonic Dynasty.

The legend of the Queen of Sheba, Makeda in Kibre Negest, is intimately tied to the history of Ethiopia. Ethiopians believe that the son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba, who was named David Ⅱ by his father, and who later called himself Menilik, was the first king of the Solomonic dynasty.

Pre-Christianity Axum

The monolithic Stella

No one know when these obelisks were erected, all aligned to the rising sun.

The workmanship however, testifies to the sophistication of the civilization.

Like many other monolithic Ethiopian works, these are carved to resemble conventional buildings, in this case a nine-story tower house.

Yeha 500 BC

Temple of the Moon at Yeha

The tantalizing and towering ruins standing in Yaha is filled with magnificence but surrounded in mysteries.

The walls built with precise-fitting blocks of smoothly polished yellow limestone carefully placed without the use of mortar, leave no doubt of the superb quality and craftsmanship involved, and that it is the works of Ethiopian’s earliest high civilization.

Apart from the temple, however, little or nothing is known about the people who built his great edifice.
Are there similar buildings somewhere nearby, s yet undiscovered, or is it a lone shrine built at a remote site?

The archeological excavation in 1909 found inscriptions and fine objects of bronze and other artifacts, but could not shade light on the above mysteries.

Axumite Kingdom

Ethiopia’s first civilization

The Axumite Kingdom

Rising to importance around the time of the birth of Christ, the time of the earliest historical records, Axum was the capital of the far reaching Axumite Kingdom, a great commercial civilization that traded with distant lands and dominated the vital crossroads of Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years.

It was a kingdom of great wealth and sophistication, whose kings minted a gold coinage when almost no one else in the world was rich enough to afford it or sophisticated enough to require it.

Religion in Axum

Various religions were introduced to Axum at different points in its long history.
It is assumed that Judaism was introduced during the times of Queen Sheba at least to the court of the Queen.

Axum and Christianity

Axum was introduced to Christianity as early as 333 AD. It became the official creed of the Axumite state. Many churches and monasteries were built all over Tigray, the oldest of which are St. Mary of Zion, (Axum- Tsion), and Debre Damo respectively.
Axum-Tsion is the holiest site in Ethiopia, because according to the legends of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it is the sanctuary of the original Ark of the Covenant.
Debre Damo is found on a cliff 24 meters high, and the ascent to this monastery is an event by itself. Monks lower ropes, which one has to tie around one’s waist.
The same rope is used to climb with.
This lack of access, may have protected Debre Damo from plundering hands all through out its 1400 years history.
The monastery has a remarkable reservoir that served as a prototype for those later built in the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

Axum and Islam

During the first years of Islam, the Christian king of Axum of the time gave sanctuary to the followers of Islam from their persecutors. The Muslims were allowed to worship freely, and the Negash Mosque, on of the first mosques ever to be built outside Arabia, was built.
Related Pages: Video Clip – Northern Ethiopia/Axum

Zagwe Dynasty

The Zagwe Dynasty

The fall of Axum resulted in ‘Ethiopia forgetting the world, and being forgotten by the outside world’.
A new dynasty, comprising of six kings and one queen, came to power in the Christian highlands, based in the Agew district of Lasta.

The Agew language was the result of long time cultural and political interactions between Cushitic and Semitic Speaking peoples in the northern highlands.


Altitude: 2630m
The Eighth Wonder of the world
The 2nd Jerusalem

To fill the spiritual void created by the inability to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, King Lalibela, took it upon himself to construct ‘New Jerusalem’ here at home and built a number of churches.

The churches were often modeled after Christian religious edifices in the Holy Land.
The eleven churches at Lalibela, were excavated from solid rock with an immense underground maze of tunnels and passages.
There are two main groups of churches, with another church dedicated to Saint George a short distance away.
The style is remarkably similar to the numerous rock-hewn churches of Tigray, but the sheer masterpiece in craftsmanship is quite wonderful.

These churches were so perfect that they were considered by some as ‘The eighth wonder of the world’, and became one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

Lalibela is still revered as a saint. His tomb and the city itself draw thousands of pilgrims every year.

A volume could be said about Laibela and the churches he built, but this is one of those things that have to be seen to be believed.
It is understandable why the believers attribute the site selection, speed of building, and superb architecture to divine intervention.

Other Zagwe Churches

The following rock churches can be visited with an Excursion from Lalibela.

Asheten Mariam monastery

This 13th century monastery is built on a ridge, at an altitude of 3150 metres, about 8 kms from Lalibela.
The road to this monastery is steep, but the beautiful scenery is rewarding.
Inside the monastery you find the many hand and processional crosses of King Naakuto Leab who ruled Ethiopia for 40 years just after king Lalibela.
Mule ride to this rock hewn monastery takes about 4 hours.

Naakuto LeAb Monaster : 1270 AD

This church is built, rather than excavated, within a cave : it is carved into the face of a cave.
King Naakuto Leab abdicated his throne in 1270 AD and went to a cave to lead the life of a hermit. This cave has ever since become a monastery and has a dramatic setting.
It houses one of the most interesting collections of ancient crosses, illuminated manuscripts and other icons some of which are attributed to its founder, Naakuto Leab.

Yemrehane Kristos – Let Christ show us the Way : 1087 – 1127

This church is built, rather than excavated, tithing a cave and is located 42 Km north-east of Lalibela town.
The church is similar to the Axumite wood and stone construction.
It is celebrated for its interior decoration. It sites atop a foundation of olive-wood panels and features white-washed marble panel exteriors.
It is one of the most incredible churches outside of Lalibela.

Harar City State

Historic Harar

Altitude: 1850 m
Population: 120,000
Area: 400 sq Km
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Harar enjoys a mild climate throughout the year.
Sir Richard Burton, who was the first European visitor to enter the ‘forbidden city’ incognito said, ‘Harar is not hot, cool but not cold.’

Harar is considered as the original cultivation center of the world famous coffee Arabica and the mild stimulant leaf called chat (cath edulis).

Both are lucrative export items, which provide the Ethiopian economy with substantial financial resources.

With its numerous mosques and shrines, Hara is considered as the ‘fourth holy city of Islam’ after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

It is also considered to be one of the holiest centers of Muslim learning in the Islamic world.


Medieval Capital of Ethiopia

Medieval Gonder : 1632 – 1850 AD

Ethiopia went through a long period without a fixed capita. When it was time to have one, there was no better settlement than the one at Gonder. Besides being the largest settlement in the country, it was an important administrative, commercial, religious, and cultural center. It was also noted for the skills of its many craftsmen.

Gonder became the capita of Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Faciladas (1632-1667)


Faciladas was responsible for the building of the fist castle-like palaces, the most magnificent of all the castles.

In most European cases, the single castle such as the above would have been sufficient to serve as place for successive generations.

In Gonder, however, it seems that each emperor built his own castle, ignoring those of his ancestors.

Thus, additional castles were built by Faciladas’s successors:

His son, Yohannes, added a chancellery and library.
Lyasu built his own palace, which is said to have been the most orate of all.
Bakaffa and his clever wife Mentewab, built castles surrounded by a massive crenellated wall with twelve gates at the center of the town.
Lyasu Ⅱ, the last of Gonderine kings, built his own palaces to the west of the city.

The defensive walls found around most castles are more for display rather than actually withstanding military assault.

Commerce & crafts

Gonder was a junction along important caravan routes between the north and the south, and most of the trade was in the hands of Muslim merchants.

Gonder was also home to Beta Israel, ‘the House of Israel’ who claimed to be Jews. They are also known as Felasha, a word that seems to refer to their separation from the rest of Ethiopian society. Falasha craftsmen provided many essential skills that Ethiopian Christians found too demeaning and were unwilling to perform, from pottery to metalwork. Most of the Felasha are now expatriated to Israel.

Decline of Gonder

Gonder declined during the chaotic Era of the Princes (1706-1853 A.D.), when powerful local warlords dominated the emperors who lived among the crumbling palaces. The emperor Tewodros Ⅱ, whose supremacy ended the anarchy of the Princes, sacked Gonder twice during the 1860s, removing the treasures of its churches.

The troops of the Mahdi, the Islamic reformer who founded a state in neighbouring Sudan, also burned the city during the 1880s.

Despite the fact that some of the castles were destroyed by the invading Sudanese Dervishes, while others were bombed by the British during the Ethiopian Liberation Campaign of 1941, most of the famous castles, churches and other imperial buildings have survived the rampage of time and are still regarded as one of Ethiopia’s best attractions.

One of these, a charming pavilion known as the Bath of Fasiladas, is still where the whole of Gonder celebrates the festival of Timket every year.

Addis Ababa

Altitude: 2200 – 2600 m
Population: 5 million

Addis Ababa enjoys an ideal climate with brilliant African sunshine and clean cool air at an altitude of 2200 – 2600 meters, making it the third highest capital of the world.

A City of Contrast

Addis Ababa is a city of modern office and apartment blocks, broad avenues, fine hotels and restaurants.
Modest dwellings of the less well to do can be seen between and around the modern buildings, with cattle, donkeys, sheep and goats finding their ways through the narrow streets.

Addis Ababa is also a sample of the integeration of the Ethiopian peoples. It has various communities, groups or individuals from most of our ethnic cultures, It is a real African city, with real experiences and aspirations, Addis is the starting and ending point for the vast majority of trips to the historical, cultural and natural sites of Ethiopia. A serious traveller reserves a day to visit and explore the various attractions Addis Ababa has in its own rights. There is quite a lot to see and explore in Addis Ababa.

Historic Addis

In 1886, Menilik needed to change his capital from a small town called Addis Alem to a more central location.

The initial site selected for the palace was Entoto, the hilly area north of present day Addis. The palace site was later changed to the present location on the recommendation of his wife, Taitu, who was already finding the natural hot springs (Filwoha) at the foot of the mountain a much better place than the chilly heights.

By the beginning of the century the new city was well established with several large buildings and growing population as well as eucalyptus trees imported from Australia.

Addis Ababa is almost exactly at the center and serves as the hub of the country. It is connected by major high ways with the surrounding regions.

Diplomatic Capital of Africa

The ideal climate together with Ethiopia’s contribution to the liberation of Africa is undoubtedly on of the reasons that Addis Ababa is selected as the diplomatic capital and international conference center of Africa.
It is the head quarters of African Union (AU) and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
More than 100 countries have their embassies here.

An ideal place for conference tourism

The large representations of African states make Addis Ababa an ideal location for conducting diplomatic meetings, workshops and seminars on Africa.

A businessman or a diplomat that comes to Addis Ababa has a huge opportunity of mixing business with rewarding excursion trips before or after a meeting. The traveler has a chance of squeezing in a couple of days to visit some outstanding natural and historical tourism site.


Jimma Aba Jifar

Historic Jimma: 1860

Temperature: 29 deg C
Avg. Rainfall: 1600mm each year

Jimma was on of the strongest of the five autonomous Gibe kingdoms of the Oromo people.
Like all other kingdoms of the surrounding peoples, Jimma was also incorporated into the central Christian Empire of Ethiopia. Jimma had a long distance trade route that started from the coastal area and reached the ancient great Thursday market at Hirmata, with an attendance of 30,000.
This route also enabled cultural interactions from Arabia, and made Jimma to be the learning center of Islam for western Ethiopia.
The frost-free environment of Jimma is perfect for growing a huge variety of foodstuffs, including grains, legumes and crops.

The origin of Coffee

Coffee got its name from Kaffa, the origin of Ethiopian coffee, and indeed the first home of all coffee of the world. These indigenous coffee plants are found wild before formal cultivation took place. Most of the coffee produced in the area reach the coffee market through Jimma.

The palace of Aba Jifar

This palace together with its mosque and other buildings are situated in a small town called Jiren, 9 Km north of Jimma. It is one of the major attractions.
It is said that the modern town of Jimma was fashioned after an Italian city, and was also called ‘piccolo Roma’ during the Italian invasion. A sizable Italian community was active in Jimma up to the early 1970s.



Cultural Attractions


Total cultural tourism

Your trips to the various sites of Cultural Ethiopia will help you to :
Understand how different cultures can live side by side in harmony
Detach yourself from the hectic schedules of the modern life momentarily
Realize that it does not take much to be really happy, thus helping you to revaluate your priorities.

There is no better place to study and observe the ‘art’ of coexistence than Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of the very few countries where scores of cultures with various religions, lived side by side in more or less the same locations for centuries, maintaining their differences while rallying around common heritages that bind them together.

In Ethiopia, the South Nations, Nationalities and peoples region is home for more than half of the total Ethiopian ethnic groups. Hence, this region is the best location to observe the cultural diversity of neighbouring tribes.

‘Mosaic of Cultures’ is thus a very fitting phrase to define Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Mosaics are the embodiment of Unity with diversity!

Ethiopian peoples

Ethiopian is blessed with quite an array of natural and historical wonders. The greatest attractions of Ethiopia, however, are the Ethiopian peoples themselves.

Ethiopian Hospitality

Homer, the Greek philosopher, testified the hospitable nature of Ethiopians when he wrote that the Greek gods have gone to visit Ethiopians, the hospitable peoples.
This is as true today as it was in the days of Homer. Guests are still considered to be sources of blessing.

Our countryside folks show deep respect for guests and offer the best of what they have.
It is customary for hosts to leave even their relatively more comfortable beds for guests.
This genuine warmth towards guests has an infectious effect on the guests themselves and generates a sense of being totally safe.

More to Explore! More to Discover!

The most frequented Cultural tour route gives you a chance to meet a handful of cultures.

We encourage those with a little more time and resources to meet the rest of our peoples.

Following are the main cultures you will be travelling among during your historical, natural and cultural tours.

The Tigray people inhabit the regions around Axum, Yeha, Debre Damo, and the many Tigray rock hewn churches. They speak Tigrigna, a semitic language and descendant of Ge’ez, the ancient tongue of Ethiopia.

The Amgara people inhabit the regions around the Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches, Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls, Gonder Castles and the Semien Mountains. They speak Amharic, another descendant of the ancient tongue of Ge’ez, and the working language of the federal government.

The Afar people inhabit the Danakil Depression and the Hadar archeological regions.

The Adere’ (Harari) primarily live inside the walled city of Harar.

The Oromo inhabit the Bale Mountains and around some of the Rift Valley lakes. They speak Afan Oromo, a cushitic language that now uses Latin scripts.

The South Regional State contains some 56 of the total 83 ethnic groups. Some of the ethinic groups of the Omo Valley and those in Southern Ethiopia are briefly described in the next pages.

Omo Valley

Unaffected by the ways of the modern world, so near yet so far, dwell fascinating peoples that still seem to remain as remote and unchanged as the land in which they live.
Ever their language, the Omotic language group, is endemic, to this relatively very small area, the Omo Valley.

Seven of the above ethnic groups border on the Mago National Park alone.
The following lines briefly describe the twelve or more tribes of the South Omo Valley.

These are – Arbore, Ari, Bena, Besada, Bodi, Bume, Dasenech, Geleb, Hamer, Karo, Kwegu, Male, Mursi, Surma, Tsemay.

Livlihoods : Most of the South Omo peoples, such as Hamer, Mursi, Karo, Geleb, Bume, Bena, Dasenech, are pastoralists.
They move from place to place in the surrounding lands, carrying their few possessions such as spear, knives, and three-legged stool and driving their livestock before them in search of fresh pastures.

Many of the men carry old carbine rifles to protect their cattle or goats from predators.

Others, such as Tsemay, Mursi and Surma, practice combination of pastoralism, small scale cattle herding and shifting opportunistic rain-fed subsistence cultivation.

Clothing, hair-styles and body decorations

Clothing of the Omo people is simple and effective: a short Wraparound toga, enhanced with iron rings and other craft jewelry.

The women walk bare breasted, wearing a simple short skirt of lather, the hems elaborately decorated with metal works.

Body painting using clay and locally available vegetable pigments on face, chest, arms, legs, etc are also common.

Hairstyles, however, are more elaborate, fashioned with razor sharp knives and adorned with a skull – cap of red mud.

Hammer women wear their hair in dense ringlets smeared with mud and clarified butter and topped off with head-dress featuring oblongs of gleaming aluminium and beaten tin plates.
Hamer, Geleb, Bume and Karo men form a ridge of plaited hair and clay to hold their hair feathered headwear in place.

Many of the men are further decorated with tribal cicatricing scars which contains a number of specific symbolic messages, such as their standing in the community as young warriors or wise elders.

The Mursi warriors carve deep crescent incisions on their arms to represent each enemy they killed in battle.

The most important ritual of the Dassanetch is the circumcision practice called dime. The circumcision is carried out on a father that has a daughter to be wed or on the entire age-group. After the ceremony, which takes six weeks, the participants are upgraded to ‘great men’ or those that may engage in the politics of the community.

The Surma and Karo are experts at body painting. They express their artistic impulses by drawing intricate designs on their own bodies. The purpose of the body decoration is either to attract the other sex or in case of the Sruma, for ceremonies, especially the stick fighting ‘donga’.
The Surma women wear impressive big lip plates where the size is related to wealth.
Tsemay are hansome and photogenic people that inhabit the broad Weyto Valley Arbore are very closely related to the Borena and share their unique adornments such as aluminium bead necklaces.

Geleb have their own distinctive dress and decoration. They are a Cushitic speaking group of the Omo Valley. Their village lies on the far bank of the Omo, and is interesting architecturally.

Other fascinating cultures of Ethiopia

Dorze are famed for their weaving of cotton cloth and their bee-hived bamboo houses. The house lasts for about forty years. The Dorze earn their living by farming and weaving.

Konso have practiced terracing and intensive agriculture in their steep land for centuries. They trade with neighbouring Borena for salt or cowire shells.

The Konso people speak eastern Cushitic language and are agriculturalists and weavers.

These pagan society pays respect to departed parents by crafting wooden totems that symbolize the heroic deeds of the departed.

Borena are pastoralists whose lives revolve exclusively around the million or so head of cattle.

They work all day and every day in the long dry season just to keep their vast herds watered every three days.

The well they use for watering is an extraordinary feature of the culture.



The vast majority of Ethiopian peoples do have a certain level of conservative attitudes based on accepted norms and morals of their communities. Comforting the bereaving and visiting the sick are standard practices that every on in the community adheres to, even those that may not consider themselves religious.
As far as established religious are concerned Orthodox Christianity and Islam have coexisted since the very beginning of Islam. The above religious have their own distinctive characteristics that scholars will find interesting.

Christianity in Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, EOC, is the oldest and the one with the largest number of followers.

For ecclesiastical students, EOC is somewhat unique, because it is the only religious body that transitioned from Judaism to Christianity.
It is no wonder, therefore, if there are strong Judaic elements in the EOC.

The EOC played a very significant role in the literary development of the country.
It is the source of ancient manuscripts and Church paintings.

The EOC developed the Geez language and scrip as well as its own religious music system.

Monasticism holds a very significant place in the Ethiopian Coptic Church. Monastic communities are virtually self-sufficient, growing crops and rearing sheep and goats.

Freedom of worship is upheld by the constitution and is being practiced throughout the country.
This condusive atmosphere has helped the Catholic and Protestant churches to register big grown both in the number of their particular congregations and the role they play in community developments.

Islam in Ethiopia

Ethiopia holds a unique place in Islam.
The first disciples of Prophet Mohammed found refuge in Axum from their persecutors.
As a result, there is an instruction in the Holy Koran against declaring any kind of a Jehad war on Ethiopia.
Hence, the Ethiopian Muslims are some of the first Muslims in the world that were converted to Islam without any Jehad war.
Moreover, the Ethiopian Muslims have been living and exercising their religion while co-exiting in harmony with the followers of Christianity.

Muslims have played important roles in Ethiopian life, particularly in the field of commerce.

The Ethiopian Muslims have some unique characteristics of their own.
One of these is the presence of an Islam ‘monastery’ here in Ethiopia.
The conditions in Ethiopia, particularly those after 1974 (when religion and state were separated), have been very favourable to Islam. Many mosques are being built all over the country, that one can safely say that Islam is no more the religion of the minority.

Related Pages: Culture/Festivals, history/Axum



Major festivals

Festivals are important in the lives of all Ethiopians, because they are on of the main means by which our various peoples express and identify themselves.
Festivals in Ethiopia are colourful accessions that bring families and communities together.
Coinciding your visits with the festival of a particular people will give you the best opportunity to study the war life of families and communities of that people.
There are many national, religious and ethnic festivals. Some of the most interesting ones are described in the following pages.

Maskel: The finding of the true cross (Sep 26)

On the eve of Meskel, families and neighbours set up a ‘demera’ made up twigs stacked as a bonfire, with Meskel daisies tied to a cross sign at the top.
The best place to observe this colourful ceremony is at the ‘Meskel’ square in Addis.
Priests and deacons in full-multicoloured ceremonial dresses sign around the bonfire. The direction the burnt our ‘demera’ falls in and whether the bonfire was put out by a shower of rain or not are significant factors, believed to give signs of good harvest and all-around peace.
This is one of the ceremonies not to be missed.

Meskel is observed with plenty of food and drinks served during the day. Most of our peoples have similar festivals that they celebrate for a number of days. The festival may be versions of Meskel, of unique celebration of a particular people that happened to coincide with Meskel.
One thing common to all people is the fact that the days after Meskel are days of feasting for families and neighbours.
Among some peoples, the Gurage in particular, Meskel is the occasion when families and kinds form all over the country, and sometimes from abroad, converge to their birth place in the countryside to share these days of feasting.

Timket : Ethiopian ephipany (Jan 19)

Timket is the most colourful festival of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, because all believers are supposed to take part in it. Believers accompany the ‘Tabot’ of their particular church with joyful signing to a central location where the ‘Tabot’
Passes the night alone or with other ‘Tabots’ in the presence of the faithful. The ‘Tabot’ returns to its sanctuary in similar fashion.
The Timket festival is where you can see Ethiopian Orthodox Church members in groups or as a family, all attired in their best (newest or cleanest) tradition cloth. There is a saying, ‘a dress not ready for Timket might as well be in shreds’.
Religious events : Kindly refer to the Personal Interest Tours / Pilgrimage pages.


Cultural events


This is a traditional festival of the Oromo people that do have cultural significance and acceptance, but discouraged by established religion. It is conducted mainly on the eastern shore of lake Hora located in Bishoftu.

Bull jumping

One of the most important traditional events shared by the Hamer, Tsemay, Bena and Besada tribes is the so-called ‘jumping over the bull’.

Up to thirty cattle are lined up side by side, and are kept stationary by the friends of the young man being tested. The young man is supposed to run over the backs of the cattle four times without falling.

If he falls he will be given another chance after a year. There are two purposes for this rite : the first is to test the suitability of a would be groom, and the second is the passage from boyhood to adulthood.


Donga is a stick fighting festival of the Surma young men. It is the foundation for a complex and competitive social structure where the aim is to establish a champion or raise the spirits of warrior before attacking an enemy tribe.

The men paint their bodies with a mixture of chalk and water before the fight. Participating in a stick fight is considered to be more important than winning it. Unmarried men will contest for the hand of a selected girl.

Natural Ethiopia

For naturalists, Ethiopia can almost be considered as a ‘pilgrimage’ site.
Ethiopia has one of the most captivating natural environment in the Whole of Africa.
Some of the breathtaking landscapes remain as unspoilt now as in the days of formation.
The vast proportion of the immense variety of wildlife remains wild and free, unaccustomed to and unthreatened by man.


The diverse sceneries and landscapes of Ethiopia are assured to satisfy any nature- lover and eco-tourist.

Most of these attractions, some of which unique to Ethiopia, have their own background histories and stories.

Blue Nile Falls

This is one of the most dramatic spectacles on either the White or Blue Niles, a vision of natural strength and grandeur.
The falls reach a width of some 400m during the rainy season.
The Blue Nile plunges forty-five meters down a sheer chasm to throw up a continuous mist kilometre away.

Lake Tana

Area: 3,600 sq km
Lake Tana is the largest late in Ethiopia, and is the source from where the famous Blue Nile starts its long journey to Khartoum, and on to the Mediterranean.

Sof Omar Cave System

Length: 16 km
The sof Omar cave system, is one of the most spectacular and extensive underground cavern in the world.
It is an extraordinary natural phenomenon of breathtaking beauty, and one of the best sites for caving adventure.

Blue Nile Gorge

Within 30 km of its source at Lake Tana, the Blue Nile River enters a canyon which it does not leave for 400 km.

Huge rivers pour into the Blue Nile Gorge from all over the highlands.

The Danakil Depression

This part of the world is one of the remotest, the lowest and unique land formation of the world. It is the unstable portion of the Great rift valley.

Erta Ale Volcano

Erta Ale is an absolutely unique Lava lake that never stops erupting.
This unique place is an ideal site for adventure expeditions or volcano studying.

Natural forests

Most of our regional states, particularly Oromiya, South Peaples, Gambela, and Ben Shangul have many natural forests with indigenous plans.

The habitat of these forests has never been altered and is maintained by natural balances without the intervention of humans.


Ethiopia’s eleven beautiful national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries – which shelter a wealth of wildlife, plants and birds, including the indigenous and endemic ones – are now quite accessible.

Without masses of tourists having left their mark, they are virtually unspoilt in their splendour: a taste of true Africa.
This offers travel opportunities that are enjoyable, informative and quite refreshing.

Semien mountains national part UNESCO world Heritage

Site Area: 179 sq. Km
Altitude: 1,900 to 4,430m
Temperature: 11.5 to 18 °C day and freezing by night
Avg. Rainfall: 1,150mm a year, falling between Mar. to May. and Sep. to Nov.
The Semien Mountains is one of the principal mountain massifs of Africa.

The Bale mountains national park

Area: 2,400 sq Km
Altitude: 1,500 to 4,377m, highest point in southern Ethiopia.
Temperature: -7 to 26°C depending on the season. The dry season is cold nights and hot days, while the wet season has more moderate temperatures.
Ave. Rainfall: 1,150mm a year, falling between Mar. and Oct. and other months.

Nechisar national park

Area: 514 sq. km, 78 sq km water
Altitude: 1,108 to 1,650m
Temperature: 11 to 26°C
Avg. Rainfall: 880mm a year, falling between Mar. to May. and Sep. to Nov.
Location: on eastern shores of Lakes Abaya and Chamo. ‘Nech Sar’ means ‘white Grass’ which vividly describes the broad plains area of Nechisar National Park.

Awash national park

Area: 827 sq. km
Altitude: 900m
Temperature: Day Max 42, Night 10 to 22°C
Avg. Rainfall: 619mm a year, falling between Feb. to Apr. and Jun. to Aug.
Location: At lowlands 211 km east of Addis Ababa
Vegetation: Plains covered by grass species and scattered shallow soil over rock covered in dense thickets of acacia species, heavily bushed rocky valleys.

The Abiata – Shalla national park

Area: 887 sq. km, 482 sq. km is water
Altitude: 1,540 to 2.075m
Temperature: 5 to 45°C
Avg. Rainfall: 500mm a year, falling between Mar. and Apr. and Jun. to Sep.
Location: Lakes Abiata and Shalla
The park was created for the many species of aquatic birds that use the lakes, particularly treat white pelicans and greater and lesser flamingo.

Mago national park

Area: 2,162 sq. km
Altitude: 450 to 2,528m (Mount Mago)
Temperature: 14 to 41°C
Avg. Rainfall: 480mm a year, falling between Mar. to May. and Oct. to Dec.
Location: Eastern bank is mainly grass savannah, with some forested areas around the rivers.

Gambella national park

Area: 5,060 sq. km
Altitude: 400 to 768m
Temperature: High
Avg. Rainfall: 1,500mm a year, falling between Apr. to Oct.
Location: Western Ethiopia, on Akobo river system

The vegetation here is mainly grassland and wooded grassland, with extensive areas of swamp.

Yangudi-Passa national park

Area: 4,730 sq. km
Altitude: 400 to 1,459m
Temperature: Day max 42°C, Night 10 to 22°C
Vegetation: Semi-arid grass and trees with succulent scrub.


Rift Valley

The great rift valley

The great rift valley stretches for over 9,600kms from Turkey to Mozambique. This split east Africa into two arms, and the crack has made a valley with a length of 6000kms.

The valley is the result of two parallel faults in the earth’s surface between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened, causing the land to subside.

Lake Langano

Lake Langano has developed into an unsurpassed resort popular with weekend visitors from the capital. There are good camping facilities and excellent hotels and chalet bungalows, ecolodges situated along its bays, fronting sandy beaches perfect for swimming, sailing, water skiing and wind surfing.

Related: Multimedia / Lake Langano

Lake Zeway

This is the northern most Lake of the rift Valley lakes, 160 kms from Addis.
It has an island which is home for one of our ethnic groups.

Lakes Shalla and Abiata

Lake Shalla, the deepest lake of all lakes (260 meters deep), and Lake Abiata are the most important one for the breeding colony of the Great White Pelicans. These are ideal places for bird watchers and constitute a bird sanctuary park.
Lake Shalla is an exceptionally beautiful and still largely untouched stretch of water, with several hot sulphurous springs that bubble up by the shore and flow into the lake. These are often used by people seeking cures for various ailments.

Related: Multimedia / Abiata-Shalla

Lake Awassa

Depth: 21m, Circumference: 62 km

A colourful spectacle of various birds, the lake water teeming with a great number of fish such as barbus, tilapia, and catfish makes Awassa an ideal spot for boating, fishing and bird-watching.

Related: Multimedia / Awassa

Lake Abaya

Area: 1,160 sq. km
Length: 72km

This is the largest and longest lake of the Rift Valley.
It provides well-stocked fishing grounds for these splendid birds and also excellent feeding place of Flamingos.

Related: Multimedia / Rift Vanlley Lakes

Lake Chamo

Area: 551 sq. km

Lake Chamo forms one of Ethiopia’s finest National Parks – Nech Sar. In the reed fringed bays of Chamo’s sparkling aquamarine waters hundreds of hippos emerge at night to graze on the grass shores. Lake Chamo is a sanctuary for hippopotamus, several thousand crocodiles and fish species.

Related: Multimedia / Arba Minch-Lake Chamo


Major Rivers of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is often referred to as the ‘water tower’ of Eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland.

Other major rivers not mentioned here include: Tekeze, Wabi-Shebele and Genale.

The Blue Nile

Blue Nile makes about 80% by volume of the Great Nile River.

The Blue Nile, originating from Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and the White Nile that originating from Lake Victoria merge into the Great Nile River at Khartoum, the Sudan capital, to form the longest river of the world draining to the Mediterranean Sea.

Awash River

The great Awash River which rises in the high lands west of Addis Ababa curves round south of the city. It acts as the southern border of the Awash National Park.

It makes a muddy waterfall into 100m deep canyon, and continues its way to extinction in the lake of the Danakil Depression.

The Baro River

The Baro River area, accessibly by land or air through the western Ethiopia town of Gambela, remains a place of adventure and challenge.

At the turn of the century, the Baro River was used as the outlet through Sudan for a substantial share of Ethiopia’s rich coffee trade.

The Omo River

The Omo River tumbles its 350 kms way through a steep inaccessible valley before slowing its pace as it nears the lowlands and then meanders through flat, semi-desert bush eventually running into Lake Turkana.

The Omo River borders two of our most beautiful national parks, the Mago and Omo National Parks.



Outdoors Activities

Ethiopia is rare in that it has enough unusual wild life, breathtaking scenery and intriguing historical sites to please even the most seasoned traveler.
Naturalists and those that enjoy open and wild wilderness will find Ethiopia to be one of the most rewarding travel destinations.
For travelers that want challenging adventures, Ethiopia offers these in abundance, from perhaps the lowest and hottest place on earth to the massif rugged peaks of the Semien Mountains.
For those that would like to loose themselves inside vast wildernesses and benefit from the soothing and healing effects of nature, Ethiopia offers arrays of natural locations that maintain uninterrupted tranquility.
Whatever your age or level of fitness, Ethiopia has something for you. Some of these adventures are highlighted in the following pates.


Whether you have trekked before or are gearing up to experience this thrilling overland adventure, let us assure you that this is one of the tour attraction of Ethiopia.

When you are trekking in Ethiopia, you do so without giving-up the other natural, cultural or historical tour experiences, as these attractions are part and parcel of the trekking environment.

Trekking Site

Here are some trekking environments you may choose from, depending upon your preferences.

Trekking in the national parks

The Semien and Bale Mountains national parks are the most spectacular sites for keen trekkers, with a wealth of fauna and flora, some of which are endemic and indigenous to Ethiopia.

You start your days with an East African sunrise, and trek to your next stop with the magnificent views of the various landscapes laid-out as a constant feast before your eyes.
How you end each day is equally rewarding.
The peaceful tranquility, the view of the setting sun and the typical sounds of the wilderness are some of the outdoors experiences you will be cherishing for the rest of your life.

Trekking among indigenous cultures

The remote south-west highlands, east and west of the Omo Valley, is another site ideal for trekking.

The interactions you will be having with the strong and colourful indigenous cultures complemented with the appealing scenery, flora and fauna, makes trekking in this environment quite an experience.

While the above are the most frequented trekking sites, the following are other sites that have their own unique attractive characteristics.

Prudent preparations for a trekking tour

If you are new to trekking, it is highly recommended that you join a trekking team that has some experienced trekkers, rather than going it alone.

Trekking in Ethiopia does not require being super-fit. Nevertheless, you need to have a certain level of preparedness to undertake mountain trekking, such as making sure that the high altitude will be agreeable to your medical conditions.
Horses, mules and donkeys are essential to any trekking team. You can use the horses and mules to pass over certain terrains you may find too challenging for walking.
These animals also transport all luggage other than your personal back-pack, from one camping site to the next.
Your back-pack needs to include personally items you will be using for that day, such as food-stuffs.

Item not in your personal pack will be available to you only when you stop for camping.

Required items

Suitable clothing for extreme temperatures pullovers and warm jackets against the unpredictable cold weather in the mountains during the night
Lightweight fabrics that dry quickly after hand washing for the daytimes
Clothing should also allow for maximum freedom of movement and must provide good wind, rain, and sun protections
Binoculars and torches
A hat and sum blocker to avoid sunburn
Strong shoes
Still and/or video camera with charged battery packs and plenty of films
Any other thing you are used to or think you may need during the trekking


Bird watching

Abundant bird-life

The enthusiasm displayed by bird-watchers is truly amazing. While many of us do not even give a glance towards birds, these dedicated fans travel thousands of miles to see a single endemic species.
It is no wonder therefore, if they seem somewhat perfectionists and demand result.
After all, no one wants to make such a long journey for nothing.
When we invite bird watchers to Ethiopia, it is with the understanding that such dedication surely deserves results, and the assurance that they will not be disappointed.

Dirverse habitats

Ethiopia has one of the richest ecosystems on the planet, with diverse habitats such as desert, acacia savannas, wetlands, Rift Valley lakes, alpine moorlands, etc. Each one of the above habitats has its own characteristic bird communities.

Home of Endemism

There are over 860 species of birds. Over 30 of these are endemic to Ethiopia.
25 of these endemic or endangered species can be frequently spotted.
This makes Ethiopia, the second largest home of endemism, next to South Africa.
It is thus quite justified to describe Ethiopia as ‘the Ornithological Paradise’.

Related page: Bird Check-List in ‘Nature / National Parks’ Section
Birds in Photo Gallery

References: Collins Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa

Eco tours

Eco tours in Ethiopia

The term ‘eco tours’ holds a special significance in the context of Ethiopian tourism.
In fact almost all of the various attractions of Ethiopia, be it natural, cultural or historical, and even activities such as trekking and bird watching, are all based on their own unique and colourful eco-systems.
An example to illustrate this point is the fact that the surrounding landscape that acts as a protective camouflage is part of the charms of the Lalibela churches.

Hence whether your interest is to study the role of ecosystems in Various environments, or whether you want to loose yourself inside the vast expanses on eco lodges and remote sanctuaries, Ethiopia is definitely the right place for you.

Nature lovers that want to temporarily separate themselves from the hectic and demanding world and be one with nature benefiting from its soothing and healing capacities will find Ethiopia perfect.

For those that would like to maintain a certain level of their personal comforts while enjoying nature, there are a number of eco-lodges that offer standard services.

Ethiopia offers and is able to deliver a perfect eco tour experience coupled with outdoor adventures such as fishing, horse riding, boating, etc., in environments that are not spoiled, not crowded and are totally safe.

Related page: ‘Nature’ section

Overland sports

Ethiopia has quite a number of impressive sites for various overland sports. In addition to the three listed below, other sports include cliff/rock climbing, paragliding, mountain biking, sport fishing.


Ethiopia has some of the world’s extensive cave taverns, suitable for both experienced and new cave explorers.

Related page: ‘Sof Omar’ in ‘Nature/Sceneries’ section

White water rafting

Most of Ethiopia’s rivers are suitable for water rafting. The magnificent background sceneries add their own charms to the sport.

Trophy Hunting

This sport may have had more exposure than the others, with strict rules and regulations to be followed.
There are experienced operators that are able to provide hunters with standard services.




Expedition to the Danakil

Life-time experience despite rough conditions

The Dalol depression is one of the lowest,(116m below sea level), and consequently one of the hottest places on earth.
Weather wise, the hottest places on earth are the Dalol Depression and Death Valley in California.
Temperatures can reach as high as 63°C [145°F], in the sun, and top 34°C [93°F], every day of the year.
In the summer, not a single day dips below 40°C [104°F]. Dalol holds the record for the highest average annual temperature.
There is little Infrastructure. In fact Dalol, is one of the least accessible destinations on the planet. The reads are rough and sealed, and camel caravans are the only way to travel.

This is an adventurous trip, not for the fainthearted.
The adventurous traveler must therefore be adequately prepared for the unrelenting high temperatures that can have an enervating effect unless on is well prepared for the temperatures.
Although the condition of the environment is not comfortable, the discomfort will be insignificant when compared to this unique experience of a lifetime, that only Ethiopia can offer you.
The active volcano Mount Erta Ale, and the techno-colored landscapes, incredible mineral deposits, sulphur lakes and bubbling sulphur springs, are fascinating sights not to be missed.
The Erta Ale volcano, in whose crater lies the world’s only below sea level land volcano, is world’s only permanent lava lake.

Danakil and the Afar people

This inhospitable land has been home to the Afar people for at least two thousand years.

They are still engaged in the mining of salt bars from the Dalol Lake and transporting them by camel caravan along age old routes.

Related page: ‘Danakil Depression’ in ‘Nature/Sceneries’ section

Exploring Addis

The serious traveler usually takes a guided tour or lone walks to experience the daytime and nightlife of the city. Such interactive tours are usually conducted as the final phase of a packaged tour.

Addis day life

Exploring Merkato

Merkato is the largest open-air market in Africa. It is said that ‘you can bargain for anything’ in Merkato, ‘even for a new soul’.

If you are visiting for the first time, you may explore the various corners of the market, preferably accompanied by a young man that can act as a translator.
You may also visit the various museums and art galleries during the daytime. Addis also has its own array of attractions to be visited.
You may also enjoy a late afternoon walk along the major streets.

Addis nightlife

Addis has a completely different face at night time. You can find restaurants, beer-houses, pubs and night clubs of various levels and standards.
Perhaps the single most attractive leisure place for a new visitor may be the ‘azmari’ houses, where you will enjoy traditional dances and songs.


The streets and leisure spots are quite safe. Nevertheless, common-sense in the best friend of a traveler.
It is wise to select places where one can mingle in with the crowd rather than places where one is conspicuously exposed.
It is also better to be in a group rather than being alone.

Related page: ‘Addis Ababa’ in ‘History’ section



Personal interest tours


This section deals with tourism based on the personal interests of an individual in such areas as pilgrimage, studies on ecclesiastical, cultural and botanical subjects.


Christians and Muslims may visit the various shrines of the two religious throughout the country.


Ecclesiastical studies

Study of the history, doctrine, practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the distinctive characteristics of Islam in Ethiopia.

Cultural Studies

Study the ways of lives and traditions of one or more of our numerous ethnic groups.

Botanical studies

Ethiopia has quite an array of indigenous plants that provide fruitful subjects for academic publications.

Volcano Studies

Ethiopia offers unique possibilities for those that would like to study the various characteristics of volcano.

Christian Pilgrimage

The followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and those that want to participate in or observe its rituals may undertake pilgrimage tours to the various monasteries and shrines throughout the country.

You may visit typical monasteries any time of the year, but you get the most out of your visit if you try to coincide your visiting days with the annual celebration of a particular church or monastery.
Following are some of the most respected shrines that attract followers from near and far during their annual ‘coronation’ dates.

Axum Tsion

Axim Tsion is considered to be the holiest of all the holy places in Ethiopia. This 4th century holy city is the sanctuary for the Arc of the Covenant.

Debre Damo Monastery

This monastery was established by Abune Aregawi (one of the nine Saints) of the 6th century.


These remarkably excavated rock-hewn churches are some of the most revered ones in the country.

Gishen Mariam Church

The Church is built in a marvellous (able land) landscape.
A fragment from the original True Cross is buried underneath this church, and as the result, this shrine is one of the most sacred church in the century.

Island Monasteries

Some 20 monasteries are scattered over Lake Tana have historical importance as well as religious.

Kullubi Gabriel

Feast of St. Gabriel on 28th December

The church is located about 70km before Dire Dawa.
Pilgrims come from all over the country and some from abroad to participate in this celebration.

Debre Libanos Monastery

Debre Libanos Monaster is located 105 km from Addis on the Addis-Bahirdar road and was founded by the famous monk, Abune Teklehaymanot in the 13th century.

Ziquala Abo

Ziquala Abo is located near the town of Bishoftu (Debre Zeit).
The Church and monastery is built on the hilltop of Zuquala Mountain near by the creator lake, known as a holy lake.

Adadi Mariam rock church

This church was built by king Lalibela in the 13th century, and is located west of Addis Ababa.

Related pages: Culture / Religion, Culture / Festivals

Muslim Pilgrimage

The Muslims in Ethiopia have their own distinctive characteristics. There are Muslim shrines and even a Muslim ‘monastery’ that have quite a number of aged manuscripts that give the history of Islam in Ethiopia. These are interesting subjects for ecclesiastical students.

The three most widely know Muslim Shrines are-

Nagash Mosque

This Mosque, near Mekelle, is Ethiopia’s earliest and most holy Muslim center.

Sheik Hussein

This comprises a large complex of mosques, shrines, and tombs surrounded by a stout wall.
There are also a number of man-made caves and artificial pounds in the area.
The pilgrims take holy white chalk from the cares upon their return.

Sof Omar

This is an important Islamic shrine named after the saintly Sheikh Sof Omar, who took refuge in the caves many centuries ago.




Academic and Ecclesiastical Studies

All historical, cultural and natural tourism attractions do also have significant appeal for those scholars that would like to increase knowledge in their particular subjects.

These may either study the above attractions in more details or conduct educational trips.

Ethiopian Orthodox Church

As the only religious body that trasitioned from Judaism to Christianity, the EOC has a lot to offer in the fields of religious studies.

The EOC invented the Geez scrips and the Geez language, as well as its own system of religious music.
Languages such as Amahric, Tigrigna, Harai were derived from the Geez language

The EOC played very significant roles in the cultural, religious and political lives of Ethiopians.

Cultural Studies

Ethiopia is an ancient country, with traditions centuries old.

It has over 83 ethnic groups, who have lived side by side in harmony despite their differences.

This ‘art’ of coexistence is the direct product of the norms and community values of the various cultural entities.

Cultural practices such as the Gada System – a cultural power distribution of the Oromo people – and other similar cultural heritages, have a lot to offer for the modern time and are thus worthy subjects to be studied.

Botanical Studies

Most of our national parks and natural forests such as the Menagesha Frest, west of Addis on the Addis-Welega road, hold quite a number of indigenous plants.

Botanists that would like to classify plants for publications and those that study the medicinal properties of plants may find such vast habitats quite attractive.

The huge bio-diversity of the Ethiopian highlands, moorlands and natural forests need to be further explored.

Live Volcano

The Ertale volcano in the Danakil Depression is the only permanent lava lake in the world.
It is the only land volcano below sea level.
This unique site, therefore, offers the best opportunity for studying the various characteristics of volcano.

Adequate preparation must first be made to withstand the high temperature of the area.

Related page : Outdoors Activities/Expeditions



Travel Information

Ethiopia: In Brief


Ethiopia has an area of 1,112,000 square kilometres – as large as France and Spain combined. The Abyssinian highlands run from the north down the centre. Towards the west, the land drops to the grasslands of Sudan. The eastern part of the land holds the deserts of the Afar. The Rift Valley Lakes dominate the land to the south of Addis Ababa.


Ethiopia is located at the eastern tip of the African Continent. Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya are the neighbouring countries.
Addis Ababa with a population about 5 million people is the capital city of the country.


Ethiopia has an elevated central plateau varying in height between 2,000 and 2,000 meters. In the north and centre of the country there are some 25 mountains whose peaks rise over 4,000 meters.
Ethiopia has variety of topographical features from the peaks of the Semien Mountains to the Danakil Depression in the Rift Valley Afar Region, vast central plateau, moorlands, tropical forests, savanna deserts, lakes and rivers.


Ethiopia is a Federal of 9 regions, mainly based on ethnicity. The present government was re-elected in May 2005 for a 5-year term.


About 90 percent of the population earn their living from the land, mainly as subsistence farmers.
Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and the main exports from this sector are coffee, oil seeds, pulses, flowers, vegetables, chat, sugar and animal feeds.

Ethiopia has the largest domestic livestock population in Africa. There is now thriving livestock sector, exporting meat, cattle on the hoof, hides and skins.

Although still young, the Tourism Industry is set to make an increasingly important contribution to the economy.


The current population is about 70 million, making it the third most populated country in Africa.

Climate / Health /Clothing

Ethiopia has two main seasons, the dry season from October through May and the rainy season from June through September. In the southwest, the rainy season is April & May.
Temperatures vary according to altitude, but are commonly on the mild side.

January and February are hotter and much dryer.

In the highlands (including Addis Ababa), the daytime temperature is moderate not exceeding, 30°C even on the hottest time of the year and nights are generally moderate to cold in all months of the year.

The western lowlands are hot and humid and are the most tropical area of Ethiopia.

The southern rift valley is classified as moderate to hot.

The eastern lowlands and the farthest southern part of the temperature can get considerably hotter exceeding 40°C, while it can approach 60°C.

Heath Precautions

All visitors are required to have an up to date Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.
Generally, for their own protection, visitors should be immunized or “topped up” against hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio.
Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited or transited a cholera-infected area within six days prior to arrival to Ethiopia.

Malaria precautions should be taken before visiting the lowlands. Chloroquine resistant strains of malaria have been identified so visitors should take both chloroquine and paludrine. Please consult you doctor.

For additional precautions, it is recommended to carry
Insect repellent cream, gel or spray for mosquitoes.
Antihistamine cream or tablets for insect bites
Antiseptic cream for possible minor cuts after flea bite
Anti-diarrhea tablets (Imodium or Lomatil).

Altitude sickness

New visitors may experience discomfort until they adjust to the altitude of Addis Ababa. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue and insomnia. Addis Ababa is between 2200-2500 meters above highest capital in the world.

Protection Against a Sun-Burn

Sunglasses and a hat
A high protection grade (50) UV barrier cream, particularly for the face and a lower protection grade for the arms and legs
Lip salves for dry weather effects

What to wear

Tourists should take light, summer clothes for the daytime and something warm for the evenings, like a sweater of jacket. The temperature drops quite rapidly towards sunset. Semien of Bale mountain trekkers should bring warm clothes and waterproofs for unseasonal rains.
Light but strong walking shoes are recommended

Special Equipment

It is recommended to bring a flashlight and extra batteries (useful in churches at Lalibela), binoculars, a personal water container.


Passport / Visa / Customs


Before traveling, please ensure that you have a current passport, with an accurate photo, that is valid for at least six months after your scheduled return home. Also check that your airline tickets are in exactly the same name as your passport.

Visa requirements

Visas are required for all visitors to Ethiopia and can be obtained from the nearest Ethiopian diplomatic missions abroad. Visitors from countries other than Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States, are now allowed to receive their tourist visas on arrival in Ethiopia at the regular charge.

Note: Rules and regulations governing the issuance of visas are constantly changing, and may vary for different nationalities. It is therefore highly advisable that you or your travel agent check with the embassy or relevant consular authority to confirm the requirements before you travel.

Customs / Airports

Airport Tax: There is an airport tax of US $20 per person at time of international departure.

Cameras, computers and major electrical items may need to be declared on arrival. Duty-free import is permitted up to:

200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or ½ lb of tobacco
1 litre of alcoholic beverages
½ litre, or two bottles of perfumes

Visitors may export souvenirs with a value not exceeding E.Birr 500. although some articles (such as animal skins and antiques) require an export permit.

How to get here / Around

How to get into Ethiopia Addis Ababa is a major hub for most international airlines. Ethiopian Airlines, the national airline of Ethiopia, provides excellent links with most parts of the world. The national airline also offers domestic services to major towns in Ethiopia, as well as most regional centers.

Other airlines serving Ethiopia include: Kenyan Airways, Air Djibouti, Egyptian, Alitali, KLM, Air Turkish, Sudanese Airways, Saudi, Aeroflot, Yemeni Airways, Emirates and Djibouti Airways.
All international services arrive at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian Airlines has an extensive domestic network flying to 43 airfields and an additional 21 landing strips.

Main Flights to Ethiopia

Ethiopia Airlines

2-3 direct flights weekly from Washington Dulles & Newark
3 flights weekly from London
3 flights weekly from Frankfurt
4 flights weekly from Rome
2 flights weekly from Copenhagen
2 flights weekly from Athens
2 flights daily from Dubai
2 flights weekly from Beirut
3 flights weekly from Bangkok
3 daily flights from Nairobi
6 flights weekly from Accra
2 flights weekly from Harare
3 flights weekly from Johannesburg

Lufthansa: 4 flights weekly from Frankfurt
British Airways: 4 flights weekly from London (Heathrow)

All international services arrive at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa. Other airlines serving Ethiopia include: Kenya Airways, Emirates, Egyptian, Alitalia, Saudi, Aeroflot, Yemeni, and Turkish Airways.


Travelers may enter or leave Ethiopia by read from/to Kenya and Sudan. While traveling inside Ethiopia, travel by read. It offers one of the best chances to experience the variety of Ethiopian scenery.

There are some 4,100 kilometres of asphalt reads with a further 19,000 kilometres of gravel and dry-weather roads. More and more good reads are being added every year.


A 778km long railway line links Addis Ababa with Djibouti, and carries both freight and passengers. Rail enthusiasts however, should be prepared for delays. Ethiopia has recently secured renovation grants, and this is believed to improve the railway services.


Time / Currency /Electricity

Time and Calendar

Ethiopia is in the GMT +3 hours time zone. Days and nights have the same length. A day starts from the sunrise (a:00 o’clock which is 7:00 AM for Europeans) and stops at the sunset (12:00 o’clock which is 6:00 PM for Europeans).

Ethiopia follow the Julian calendar, which consists of 12 months of 30 days each and a thirteen month of five or six days (in every four year). The Ethiopian Calendar is either eight years (January – August) or seven years (September – December) behind the Gregorian calendar. The Ethiopian fiscal year begins on 8 July. The Ethiopian New year is on 11 September.


The currency is the Birr, the rate of which is fixed against the US dollar every two weeks following a foreign currency auction. There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Ethiopia, but visitors must declare all currency in their possession on arrival, and change foreign currency in banks or authorized foreign exchange dealers and hotels.
On leaving the country, visitors will be asked to surrender to customs officials the currency declaration filled in on arrival. Credit cards are not widely accepted outside major establishments in the cities.


Electric supply is 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. The wall socket accepts two circular-shaped prongs, so an adapter is required, Video camera batteries may be recharged at hotels along the route.


Telephone, Tele fax, Internet, and postal facilities are available in cities and most towns. The International dialing code for Ethiopia is 00251. Most towns have mobile telephone service.

Ethiopia drives in the right; a valid international license is required to drive.

Taxis are available in town for either contracts or normal fares.

Guide Books

Lonely Plane, the Bradt Guide to Ethiopia and the Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia


Traveler Tips

Things to know

Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Here are some points you have to note and observe while visiting Ethiopian Orthodox Churches: Male and females have different entrances. Take off your shoes before entering the Church building.

The ‘Tabot’

A Tabot is a replica of the tablets in the Ark of Covenant. In the ‘Holy of Holies’ of every Church dwells one of the 44 ‘Tabots’ named after either the Godhead, Angels, Apostles or Saints. The content of the Tabot is a mystery well guarded by clergy.

Thirteen days out of the month are named after the main tabots. Hence the 19th of each month is dedicated to the Archangel Gabriel, and countryside folks use such ters as ‘Let us meet on Gabriel’ rather than ‘Let us meet on the 19th of the month’. The later is reserved for the days other than the thirteen.

Every Tabot has one or two days annually that is celebrated as the ‘Coronation Day’ of the particular Tabot.
On such days, the ‘Tabot’ is paraded in front of the faithful by taking it around the Church three times.
These accessions are celebrated by the community associated with that church and others that come from far and near to participate.


Traditional Courtesies

Whenever on interacts with another culture, respecting mutual courtesies is quite important.
Ethiopians tend to be conservative at home.

Greetings: Handshaking or the bowing of the head is the usual mode of greeting. Friends or families who have not seen each other for some time may kiss each other on the cheek. Public displays of sexual intimacy, kissing or jugging, will arouse embarrassment among most Ethiopians. After the initial greetings, checking the well beings of other family members or even ones’ cattle is common. Tea of coffee is offered before getting down to business. Time is not that important.

Smoking is not popular amongst country-side folks, or in front of priests or while inside a church building.