IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE ETHIOPIAN CULTURE
The cultural heritage of Ethiopia amazes the first-time visitor. Sharing a plate of injera, the national dish, while enjoying a music performance at a cultural bar will give you an idea of the uniqueness of this country. And if you get really touched by the Ethiopian lifestyles, you can not miss a visit to the local markets, full of original and colourful traditional handcrafts. GET + INFO
Injera, a large pancake shapped substance made from teff, is the staple source of carbohydrates in Ethiopia. Served with different war stews or sauces, normally spicy and hot, injera’s eating ritual consists of taking a piece in your hand and use it to scoop the accompaniment. Among Ethiopian drinks, it is necessary to outline the coffee industry, one of the most prolific in the country and it is unforgiven to miss a coffee ceremony during your stay. The lager industry is also quickly growing, offering a range of brands, or you can also try the tella, a local brewed beer. For wine lovers, the wine industry is gradually expanding by producing standard high-quality wines in the country. Alternatively, the local honey wine or tej will allow you to experience the most popular tipple. But if you really want to taste something delicious and healthy you can not leave the country without tasting a fresh juice made of papaya, mango, avocado, orange or guava, depending on the season.
MUSIC AND DANCE
Ethiopian music is as unique as diverse, becoming one of Africa’s greatest legacies with its peculiar rhythms and mixture of both traditional and contemporary sounds. From the first imperial brass band, Arba Lijotch (“40 children” in reference to a group of Armenian orphans) during Haile Selassie’s era to the exotic new styles from the 50’s such as jazz, rhythm and blues or blues, the Ethiopian music scene has gradually evolve with influence from African and other foreign tendencies. Nowadays, artists like Aster, Gigi, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete or Teddy Afro are commonly popular.
Besides the music industry consolidation, Ethiopian dance is one of the most impressive cultural attractions of the country. Therefore, a visit to a traditional bar can not be missed during your stay in Ethiopia. Although these places are normally intended to serve tourists, local people normally meet in cultural bars for a drink or dinner so you will not feel out of place.
ART AND CRAFT
Ethiopian local markets are colourful and exhale a wonderful scent full of tradition and hard work. Expressions of traditional handcrafts include basketry, wood carving, weaving, pottery, weaponry, leather work, bead work, jewellery, painting, and many more.
A visit to a local market is a must during your stay in Ethiopia and if you really want to immerse yourself in a commercial area you can not leave Addis Ababa without paying a visit to Merkato, the largest open market in Africa. In addition, new inspiring creations are dominating the market with unique pieces of art. Among the most famous Ethiopian painters we can name Afewerk Tekle, known for his stained glass creations, African paintings and Christian themes.
Nowadays, Addis Ababa is increasing the number of art galleries due to the emerging art scene in the country. One of these galleries is Makush, located in Addis Ababa, with a collection of more than 650 paintings from 70 artists.
FEEL THE FREEDOM SURROUNDED BY ETHIOPIAN NATURE
From the lowest land in Africa to the highlands of the Simien Mountains and the unpredictable escarpments of the Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia hosts a large number of species, many of them endemic to the country. Visiting the National Parks enables the visitor to enter an unpredictable land rich in nature and wildlife. GET + INFO
Ethiopia is home to several national parks that enable the visitor to enjoy the country's scenery and wildlife, conserved in natural habitats. There is a great variety of vegetation ranging from low desert plants to afro-alpine forests due to the altitude variations and different climatic conditions.
The list of nine national parks allows the traveller to visit extensive highlands and indigenous rain forests, as well as savannah environments.
In the highlands, both the Bale and the Simien Mountains National Parks offer a spectacular scenery mostly suitable for hikers though it is also accessible by road. In the Rift Valley, you can visit Yagudi Rassa Awash and the southern National Parks of Abiata-Shalla and Nechisar.
The Omo Valley hosts the most important reserves for large game such as the Omo National Park and the Mago National Park where you can still spot substantial populations of mammals. Finally, Gambella National Park is also home to herds of mammals and predators.
Like the topography, Ethiopia’s ecology is just as diverse and full of contrasts. Consequently, there is a great number of endemic species of fauna like the Ethiopian wolf, the gelada baboon, the mountain nyala, the Menelik’s bushbuck, the Walia ibex or the Somali wild ass.
Ethiopia’s stunning scenery offers a special environment where you can find large number of predators such as hyenas, leopards, Abysinnian lions, cheetahs and black-backed jackals; primates such as guereza or black and white colobus, grivet and Bale monkeys, Anubis and Hamadryas baboons; antelopes such as bushbucks, kudus, different gazelles and hartebeests species, gerenuks, reedbucks, oryx and a large etc. and other large mammals like elephants, giraffes, bush pigs, black rhinos, hippopotamus and zebras.
Large amounts of reptiles can also be easily spotted like the Nile crocodile and different species of tortoises, lizards and snakes including cobras and mambas.
The proximity of Ethiopia to the Equator and the great habitat diversity place the country as one of the top birding destinations in Africa.
Ethiopia is believed to host more than 800 bird species, of which more than 600 are resident or presumed resident and the remainder are Palaearctic or intra-African migrants.
Ornithological itineraries are normally focused on the southern area although there are also some endemics found in the northern part of Ethiopia.
Travelling through the Rift Valley, the Bale Hihglands, Negele Borena and Yabello surroundings or Nechisar and Awash National parks will provide you the perfect introduction to African birds as any other country and the fascinating experience to observe a rich variety of birdlife.Endemic species to Ethiopia such as the blue-winged woose, the hardwood’s spur fowl, the yellow-fronted parrot or the white-tailed swallow are normally the target of the bird tours, generally including remote areas that host these species.
Travelling through Ethiopia is and adventurous dream from which you will never want to wake up. Going across the country will lead you to ancient times full of history. Getting to know the assorted and extremely generous local tribes will make you feel at the warmest home. Discovering the wildlife with amazing trekking routes or boat trips will not leave you indifferent. As the only African country that it has never been colonised, Ethiopia still keeps its traditions almost intact.
One of the most adventurous and stunning trips in Ethiopia is the Danakil Depression, where you will be definitely charmed by the long camel caravans transporting salt bars to the highlands, the stunning hike near the Erta Ale volcano or the visit to the colourful formations of Dallol, the deepest part of the Danakil Depression.
Regardless the tour you choose, travelling to Ethiopia is an adventure from the first day until the end of the tour.
Blessed with a temperate climate, alpine mountain scenery and the tradition of generous hospitality from its people, the Ethiopian highlands are superb trekking sites.
Trekking in Ethiopia requires to be physically fit, because terrain is steep and rugged, and depending on the season there are afternoon rainstorms.
Hikers will reach altitudes above 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) so having the right equipment is also important in order to enjoy the experience. The four most established areas for trekking are the Simien Mountains and Bale Mountains National Parks, Adaba-Dodola Integrated Forest (near the Bale Mountains) and the Meqet community trekking in the Wollo highlands near Lalibela. The difficulty of the trekking goes from easy to hard so it can be perfectly adapted to the visitor’s age and shape.Camping or visiting community villages in these areas will probably make the best out of your tour to the country.
Ethiopian mountains physiognomy is excellent for rock climbing with a massive variety of rock types, climbing styles and grades.
The fact that there are monasteries carved high up in the mountains of Tigray only reachable by climbing is just a reminder of Ethiopian’s link to rocks.
Although this activity is not widely known, there are some recent routes for rope lovers that are worth the try. In addition, the number of climbs having been put up is increasing.
Bouldering and rock climbing routes are available in Bale Mountains, near the Mount Zuqualla, in Abelti Hill and in Asela. There are also some climbing sites near Hawassa, in Boro Crag and in Shashemene, among other places.
Amora Gedel, in the outskirts of Addis Ababa, is a recent 60 meters vertical wall with different routes placed by the American rock climber Nicholas Parkinson.
DO NOT MISS ETHIOPIAN FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Being part of religious festivals is the best way to experience the Ethiopian culture since these events play an important role in Ethiopian’s daily life. Thus, many of our travellers try to schedule their trip to coincide with important festivals such as the Ethiopian Christmas or Genna, the Epiphany or Timkat, the Ethiopian New Year or Meskel. Most of the religious events in Ethiopia are part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and even though they are widely celebrated throughout the country, there are unique ceremonies held in important cities such as Timkat in Gondar, Christmas in Lalibela and Meskel in Addis Ababa. Also, the Islamic holidays are celebrated throughout the year based on the lunar calendar and thus they fall at different dates each year. If you want to witness the faith of Ethiopians during their festivities, we have listed the main religious events with the possibility to be integrated into one of our tours.
Ethiopian public holidays are regulated by the Public Holidays and Rest Day (Amendment) Proclamation (No. 29 o 1996) and they include both religious festivals days and also some significant dates to commemorate events of the Ethiopian history. GET + INFO
Ethiopian Orthodox festivals:
- 7th Jan: Genna (Ethiopian Christmas)
- 19th Jan: Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany)
- Moveable: Fasika (Ethiopian Easter)
- 11th Sep: Enkutatash (Etiopian New Year)
- 26th Sep: Meskel
Muslim festivals (moveable):
- Eid al Fitr (End of Ramadan)
- Eid al -Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
- 2nd Mar: Victory of Adwa
- 1st May: International Labour’s Day
- 5th May: Patriot’s Day
- 28th May: Derg Downfall Day
In any long distance athletics competition there is always one Ethiopian runner leading the race. The legendary Abebe Bikila, the unstoppable and renowned Haile Gebreselassie and the current 10,000 metres champion Tirunesh Dibaba are just some examples of the prolific source of great Ethiopian runners. Running in Ethiopia is part of the culture and it is also becoming very popular among both international professionals and amateurs. There are many competitions throughout the year targeted for children, men and women. Do not hesitate to contact us to join any upcoming running event.
But Ethiopian entertainment offer is not just about running. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia and one of the most vibrant cities in Africa, is becoming the host of different cultural events spread throughout the year. On the one hand, the film industry is represented through different festivals including both national and international films, such as the Colours of the Nile Film Festival or the European Film Festival. On the other hand, Ethiopian music is also promoted in different musical events. As an example, the Acacia Jazz festival is now a reference for international artists coming to Ethiopia to get the Abyssinian rhythms. GET + INFO
Ethiopian Great Run and other competitions:
- 22nd Nov: Great Ethiopian Run International (10km)
- 7th Aug: Abijatta-Shalla Lakes Ethiotrail (12km, 21 km or 42 km)
- Girls empowerment races (moveable)
- Colours of the Nile Film Festival (March)
- European Film Festival (June)
- Addis International Film Festival (June)
- Iberoamerican Film Festival (November)
- Selam Festival (January)
- Accacia Jazz Festival (February)
- Arba Minch Festival of Music and Dance (December)
BE ENCHANTED BY ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE
Ethiopia, with more than 80 ethnic groups, has a diverse cultural and historical identity. The three quarters of the total population (now estimated over 90 million) are part of the Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigreans ethnic groups. Even though the physical appearance of Ethiopians is very different, ranging from a light skinned western eurasian admixed to Sub-Sharan Phenotypes, they all have something in common: their kindness and happy attitude. Welcome to the land of the smiley faces!