When you're looking for your next exotic travel location, Ethiopia should be at the top of your choices. Ethiopia is a dynamic country with innumerable things to do, and countless unique experiences waiting for you. While Ethiopia has many beautiful cities and towns, there's also a thriving wilderness outside them. For the historically inclined, Ethiopia is an extremely rich destination. The lands of Ethiopia have played host to many kingdoms and empires with roots dating back several thousands of years. Whether you love the city or it's the savanna you crave, Ethiopia is where you should book your next trip.
Ethiopia's "smoking mountain" is in one of the hottest regions on the planet and is home to two lava lakes. In the local Afar language, the name means “gateway to hell.” Erta Ale has only recently become something of a tourist destination, due to the extreme conditions. You can reach Erta Ale by joining the trips that adventure tourist groups organize. You have three available options; helicopter, vehicle, and trekking.
The impressive Danakil depression holds many fascinating, incredibly unique sights and features. In this hot, arid, low-lying area, there are two rich salt lakes -- one is Lake Assale. The heavy presence of salt flakes in the water produces an impressive mirror effect that is most pronounced at dusk. At that point, the reflection of the salt flakes gives the impression that the lake is simply gleaming. Additionally, many locals make their living off of the salt lakes, and you can see caravans carrying salt back to the villages and cities.
Harar is an ancient walled city with a rich cultural, religious, and architectural history. It’s home to over one hundred mosques; Harar has earned such titles as “Africa’s Mecca” and “the fourth holy city of Islam.” The wall of Harar stands roughly five meters high, and it once served to protect the people of Harar. Now, it stands as an impressive monument to the rich past of Harar and all of Ethiopia.
At the city of Harar, a curious Ethiopian tradition has turned into a tourist attraction. Local hyenas regularly roam the streets of the city at night, looking for food, but no one is afraid. In fact, some locals feed the hyenas by hand. The locals welcome the hyenas and their work of cleaning the streets of edible trash, and they encourage visitors to look positively upon the hyenas, too. You can even hand-feed the hyenas yourself with the help and reassurance of some locals.
Ben Abeba is a beautiful, unique piece of architecture and one of the finest restaurants in Ethiopia. A Scottish woman and her Ethiopian partner founded the restaurant, and it’s a suitable fusion of Western and Ethiopian influences. In terms of design, the restaurant is a combination of granite arches, stone masonry, and elegantly curving steel beams. The menu is a similar fusion of cultures, which entails such diverse food options as thick, crispy french fries, focaccia bread, and Ethiopian staples such as injera.
Injera is more than a culinary staple in Ethiopia; it’s also a cultural staple in a way few foods are. First, the cook will pound teff, an indigenous grain into flour, and mix it with water and yeast. It’s cooked over a large clay plate, and the final result is something like a massive crepe with a distinct, bitter flavor. What makes injera and the cultural practice surrounding it so unique is that a group of people eats it and various side dishes communally. Injera is much more than a simple dish. Rather, it’s a memorable experience that your trip will be better for including.
The Red Terror Museum is not for the faint of heart. It commemorates the victims of the brutal military dictatorship which controlled Ethiopia for over a decade. Among the macabre displays are torture instruments and stories about the Terror, as well as photographs and items left behind by the victims. It’s sure to resonate with victims of oppression around the world, and you’ll walk away with a more personal appreciation for modern Ethiopian history.
In the South of Ethiopia, you can find the Harenna Forest inside the Bale Mountains National Park. Here, you can find some of the last wild-growing coffee plants in the world. The locals at Manyate village regularly harvest the wild coffee for sale and their own use, and there’s no processing between the harvest and consumption. In addition to this, the Sankate Association of Manyate provides many natural, artisanal goods such as wild honey. They also provide visitors with educational tours and welcome them to Ethiopian coffee ceremonies.
The modern-day town of Axum is somewhat unassuming at first glance, but in years gone by, it made its power felt from Arabia to Alexandria. It existed at the crossroads between Islam and Christianity, and legends tell that Muhammad personally sent representatives here. The empire started around the 5th century BCE and entered a long decline a millennium later, culminating in the mysterious warrior empress Gudit razing the city. The Aksumite Empire remains only in the oral traditions of the locals, the ancient relics resting there, and the well-engineered, millennia-old obelisks that characterized Aksumite architecture.
The Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary is an excellent destination for outdoorsmen, bird watching enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to see the famous African savanna. Much of the land is filled with red soil, light grass cover, and grazing animals. However, there’s also black soil richly populated by indigenous trees that play host to a diverse ecosystem. If you want to take a trip away from Ethiopia’s towns and cities and get lost in the wilderness, the Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary is a great destination.