At the heart of the attractions of Ethiopia lies its cultural diversity and the friendliness of those you will meet.
Visitors can easily and enjoyably observe a variety of housing types, religious practices, rituals, costumes, body decorations and cuisine. Not a day will go by without the opportunity to be welcomed into homes and experience firsthand the wonders of an ancient culture and the pleasure of Ethiopian coffee. Visitors are enlightened and rewarded with the chance to spend their time seeing unparalleled architecture and natural environments.
The Omo Valley stands out as the most diverse and colorful part of Ethiopia. Meeting the people of this region and attending the Hamers’ cattle jumping ceremony are once in a life time experiences. The Omo Valley is also home to the legendary Mursi people where the women decorate themselves with clay lip plates. To see the beauty of the traditions upheld by these cultures is a special and unforgettable experience.
As the land of one of the oldest Christian traditions on earth, Ethiopia boasts numerous ancient churches and monasteries. At the top of the list come the rock-hewn churches. In no other part of the world can one see such refined monolithic institutions. The grandest of them is, in fact, the largest rock-hewn church in the world. Here too visitors get to see the most photographed church in Ethiopia, the cruciform Bete Gyorgis. And for art lovers who wish to view even more wonders, Ethiopia offers beautifully painted churches in the Tigray, Gondar, Gojjam and Lake Tana regions.
And if schedules permit, you will not want to miss the chance to attend the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s religious festivals. Timket (Baptism) and Meskel (commemoration of the finding of the True Cross) attract thousands of believers. You will find yourself moved, as are participants, by ceremonies that harken to ancient customs that are vibrantly alive today.
And it should not be forgotten that Ethiopia is one of the countries where Islam found a home in its early days. Visiting the walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia gives visitors the chance to wander narrow alleyways of an old city and feel as if they have travelled back in time.
For those who enjoy natural fauna and flora, it is essential to travel to the Bale and Simen Mountains to see the endemic mammals, including Ethiopian Wolfs, Mountain Nyalas, Walya Ibexs and Gelada Monkeys. Serious bird watchers will find a real treat, with over 900 species to see (of which nearly 20 are endemic). The Denakil Depression, one of the lowest places on earth and a permanent lava lake, is one of the natural wonders of Ethiopia and a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience.
While Ethiopia is becoming a popular travel destination, many people in the world still know very little about it. Knowing two facts may help to put into context the importance of Ethiopia in the global travel landscape. Ethiopia has nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, which is a higher number than any African country. And, of forty places listed in a popular book, Unforgettable Places to see Before You Die, one of them is the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia. Who would want to miss such remarkable treasures?