Addis Ababa City
Though Addis Ababa is a large city complete with traffic and urban sprawl, cars still have to make way for shepherds herding their flocks across the road. Many call it the capital of Africa because the African Union is headquartered here (all but one of Africa’s 57 countries belong to the AU). Addis Ababa has the largest market in Africa, incredible cathedrals, churches, and mosques, and the museum that is home to Lucy, the oldest known humanoid in the world. For the surrounding locals, the city is a magical place whose streets are paved with gold, for visitors, it’s the perfect blend of traditional and modern Ethiopia.
Awasa, also called Hawassa, is a city in the Great Rift Valley of central Ethiopia. It lies at the eastern edge of large Lake Awasa, with its resident hippos. Water birds gather around a popular fish market along the lake’s shore. Nearby, the waterside Amora Gedel National Park is inhabited by monkeys. To the northwest, Senkele Swayne’s Hartebeest Sanctuary is home to these endangered African antelopes.
This holy, historic and walled city is a mesmerizing web of narrow alleyways. Built in the early 16th century, it’s the oldest Islamic city in Africa. It was once the commercial link between Africa and the middle east and today is an enchanting lost-in-time city that’s famous for the impressive walls and centuries old buildings. There are roughly 99 mosques within the city. A popular attraction is the nightly ritual of feeding they hyenas which happens on the outskirts of the city. It’s been taking place for generations and you can participate if you’re feeling adventurous.
Babile Elephant Sanctuary Only about 1,000 elephants remain in Ethiopia, and by far the largest and most visible herd lives in the Babile Elephant Sanctuary.A short drive from Harar, Babile is also home to gazelles, lions, leopards, cheetahs, and tons of exotic birds.The landscape morphs from rocky outcrops to lovely tree dotted landscapes.Roughly 400 elephants live here and you’ll really love the walking safaris that run each day.
Aksum is a land steeped in folklore. Believed to have been the home of the Queen of Sheba and the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, this is one of the oldest cities in all of Africa.Look over the walls of the St Mary of Zion Church Complex where the Ark is supposedly kept and visit the Northern Stelea Field to see the ancient Aksumite Obelisks.Despite the incredible history here, because it’s a small town, Aksum is often overlooked by tourists.Enjoy discovering the relics throughout the city, visit mountaintop monasteries, and go underground to view Aksumite empire tombs.Don’t forget to check out Mai Shum, a large rock hewn reservoir that local tribes believe the Queen of Sheba used as her bath.
Positioned on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is the Danakil Depression. It’s officially one of driest and hottest places on Earth.With temperatures that often reach 50+ degrees, it’s easy to see why. This is a surreal piece of real estate that’s strewn with active volcanoes, salted basins, hot springs, and a lava lake – all of which combine to create a very lunar-like landscape. Sitting below sea level, it’s the lowest point in Africa and second in the world (after the Dead Sea). Do a bit of planning before you go as the climate can be harsh if you aren’t prepared. But the beauty and mystery of this place make any preparation well worth it.
Lalibela pretty much blows the mind of everyone who visits. This medieval settlement was designed to be a kind of second Jerusalem and modern day inhabitants remain proud of this distinction. Lalibela is perched in the middle of a broad church complex made entire of rock. There are 11 churches in the settlement, monolithic and grand, all built by King Lalibela as early as the 12th century. Remarkable because of the architectural design, the churches are actually dug into the ground. The most famous, and most beautiful, is St George’s Cathedral. An awe-inspiring sight. If you’re so inclined, there are several monasteries in the nearby area that are worth visiting.
The Nile River is the longest in Africa and its two tributaries are the White Nile and the Blue Nile.The Blue Nile begins in Ethiopia and along its course you’ll find the Blue Nile Falls – a spot to rival Niagara. About 90 minutes from Bahar Dar the scenery here is truly breath-taking. Locally known as Tis Abbay, or ‘great smoke,’ the falls are about 45 metres high during the rainy season. Just downstream from the falls you’ll find Ethiopia’s first stone bridge, built in the 17th century.
The 18th century of Ethiopia was Gondar, where then Emperor Fasiladas built his fairy tale castles.This UNESCO World Heritage Site is now a wonderful museum complex that showcases the last centuries of the country’s emperors.Lying in a bowl of hills, the Camelot of Africa is a magnificent sight. The wealth and splendor of this ancient capital can still be seen in the modern city.Despite its size Gondar is extremely walkable – start from the Italian piazza in the city centre and enjoy a stroll through tin-roofed stone buildings.Great shopping, restaurants, and hotels are all available here. In nearby Gorgora you’ll find a small but impressive Christian monastery.