Few years have passed since Ethiopia changed their motto to ‘Lands of Origin’ from the ‘Thirteen months of Sunshine’. The original motto served for over a century and was used to motivate diverse cultures. But why should you pack your bags and head on to Ethiopia?
For starters, taking a vacation to Ethiopia is like heading home from a very long travel. That’s because Ethiopia is known as the origin of man. I mean literally, that’s where we all originated from if you base your arguments using archaeological facts. Some of the earliest remains of mankind have been found in Ethiopia. But that’s not all Ethiopia has to offer!
Most people majorly travel to Africa either to enjoy the culture or simply to see the wild animals around. In Ethiopia, you are able to enjoy both a cultural and wildlife experience.
What’s more, the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa houses one of the earliest and most iconic churches in history, St. George Cathedral. The church is located on top of a hill which overlooks the Menelik II square.
As a country that was never colonized, Ethiopia seems to have the richest African culture in the world. In this article, therefore, we are going to take a look at Ethiopia, touching on the best places to have an exotic and wonderful experience.
I had lived in this country as well when my parents were working for the UN, and every time I go back, especially with my loved ones, it is always a special moment. So, here are some suggested tips in case you plan to wander to this beautiful country.
Traveling back in time
You can now brand yourself as an official time traveler. That is because Ethiopia uses a different calendar system than the rest of the world. They basically have 13 months each year. Currently, the year is 2010 in Ethiopian Calendar. Additionally, they start a new year in September.
Getting Familiar with the Ethiopian Culture
The locals use Amharic to communicate in official places and it is the language that federal laws are published in. A huge number of the locals are also familiar with the Arabic language. Majority of the population adhere to Christianity (mainly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewado church and P’ent’ay). Also, the largest population in Ethiopia are from a tribe known as Oromo.
The country uses Ethiopian Birr as their local currency. One US dollar translates to roughly 27 Ethiopian Birr. That signifies how strong their currency is.
If you take a walk around the cities in this country, you will see that it has a lot of scars. It’s quite common to come across children playing around a full-size tank. The Ethiopia Eritrea war (1998-200) took a toll on the country. But thankfully, it’s all in the past now. The tanks are simply remnants of the war and now serve as play toys for kids.
They are completely disarmed and can’t be used to harm anyone. Enough about the sad stories. Besides you need to know about the happiness and joy in this country. The country is made up of over 85 different tribes. One of the local proverbs that caught my attention was, ‘a mouse that wants to die goes to sniff the cat's nose’. Meaning trouble only follows those who seek it.
Best time to purchase tickets and visit Ethiopia
Ethiopia has a mild climate with temperatures that go below 200C in the highlands. When you go to the eastern, southern and western lowlands, the temperatures can rise up to 300C. Typically, the best time to take a tour through Ethiopia is between October and June when the weather is dry. Be sure to bring a sweater all year round due to Ethiopia’s elevation.
You also need shots of a few vaccines before heading to Ethiopia. It can be a buzzkill if you end up falling sick while enjoying your ‘vacay’. Make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccines. These vaccines include MMR vaccine, DPT vaccine, polio vaccine, chicken pox vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. You also need a yellow fever vaccine to gain access to the country unless you are from the US.
Top tourist attraction in Ethiopia
The attractions below are also suitable to take your entire family. Meaning kids are also allowed in these areas.
1. Lake Tana
Lake Tana is one of the largest lakes in Ethiopia. It’s located 560km away from the capital city, Addis Ababa. The lake is home to over 20 churches which are the perfect place to cultivate religion in your kids. You also get the chance to enjoy water sports with your family while learning more about Christianity.
Gondar served as the capital city of the Ethiopian empire for over two centuries. This was under the rule of Ethiopian emperor Fasilides. Today, it’s the best place to enjoy some of the old architecture as you learn more about the Ethiopian culture.
3. Yeha Temple
The temple of Yeha is located at a village known as Yeha. This is one of the oldest standing buildings south of the Sahara. The view is spectacular and you will love every minute spend in this region.
4. Lalibela Rock Churches
This is the greatest tourist attraction in Ethiopia. Lalibela is one of the holiest places in Ethiopia and attracts thousands of tourists every year. The church is made up of the ‘New Jerusalem’ in Lalibela.
A hidden curled out path goes down to the church since it rests beneath the surface. Fun right?
5. Danakil depression
Do you want to get the chance to witness the lowest place in the world? Then Danakil depression is the best place to be. What’s more, you also get the opportunity to see a live volcano, Irta’Ale Volcano, which has been active ever since 1967.
Walk through hardened lava that crackles just under your feet as you get to the molten lava. Not to worry. It’s completely safe and you will be in the companion of a tour guide.
Secret Gem Location
Merkato Shopping Area is known for having some of the best quality souvenirs to take home.
8 tips when traveling to Ethiopia
1. Make sure you always carry a copy of your passport
2. Don’t carry to much cash around
3. Avoid night travels
4. Don’t walk on your own in major cities, for instance, Addis Ababa
5. Don’t wear jewelry
6. Don’t carry expensive camera equipment around town
7. Always wear a money belt that fits perfectly under your clothes.
8. Make reservations in advance
What not to do in Ethiopia
1. The local parents are not pleased when a tourist gives gifts to their children. She or he might get a beating just for that simple gesture of appreciation. Therefore, if you are planning on donating anything, then the best way is to give their teacher or the parent.
2. If you are traveling with a camera, then it’s best if you keep it covered since the dust might affect the lens.
3. Be careful with your stuff since lone girls might approach you. Their main intention is to drug and rob off your luggage.
Where to unpack
1. Nexus hotel: in Addis Ababa. USD 152 per person each night
2. The Lion’s Den in Addis Ababa; 2 guest rooms go for USD 857 a night
3. Radison Blu Hotel also in Addis Ababa. The room goes for USD 152 per person per night.
1. Lemma International hotel; in Hoseana, Ethiopia, goes for USD 12.71 per person each night
2. Hiwot hotel: in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia goes for USD 19.06 per person each night
3. Adugna Geleta Hotel: in Nekemte City goes for USD 17.35 per night per person
Delicacies you should try in Ethiopia
1. Shiro wat