10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Ethiopia

Hamer tribe warrior, Southwestern Ethiopia
Hamer tribe warrior, Southwestern Ethiopia | © Rod Waddington

Showcasing ancient history, picturesque landscapes, joyful festivals, and much more, Ethiopia has plenty of choices in store for the curious traveler. Its unique calendar, old alphabet, and numerical system are some of the things that set the country apart. Here are some reasons why Ethiopia should be on your bucket list.

The landscapes are incredibly scenic

Arid plains, spectacular mountains, lush green areas, and vast lakes define Ethiopia’s scenic landscapes. The country boasts 70% of the mountains on the African continent. Whether you are in the Semien Mountains or the Danakil Depression, every corner of the country offers a view pleasant to the eyes.

The beautiful landscape of Lalibela, North Ethiopia | © Ian Swithinbank / Flickr

Tasty food with extensive choices

From the raw meat delicacy to an extensive vegetable dish, Ethiopia’s cuisine is as diverse as it is flavorful and one you should experience. Meals are usually served on a common platter to encourage dining together. Injera, the country’s staple food, makes a frequent appearance on the dining table. People eat using their right hand and use injera to scoop up food served alongside it.

Ethiopian vegetarian combo and lamb served with coffee | © Lynora Valdez / Flickr

It’s the birthplace of your morning coffee

Whatever reason inspired you to become a coffee lover, tasting Ethiopian coffee will deepen your bond with the beverage even more. Legend has it that the magical red cherry was first discovered in Ethiopia. The traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony is beyond having a sip of coffee—it’s a social event where people have conversations and catch up. There’s something cheerful about the ceremony, with the pleasant aroma and scent of frankincense smoke.

Roasted coffee | © Rod Waddington

There are plenty of beautiful festivals you can enjoy

What better way to get a glimpse of Ethiopian culture than to join its spectacular festivals? From the religious Timket and Meskel events to the Adwa celebration, Ethiopia has exuberant and colorful festivals that have stood the test of time.

Orthodox priests during the Timket festival | © Jean Rebiffe / Flickr

Blue Nile Falls – breathtaking waterfall

Plunging 150 feet, the Blue Nile Falls in North Ethiopia is one of the greatest falls you can see on the African continent. As it drops, the water creates a sort of smoke that creates a hazy environment. This is probably what gave rise to its local name, Tis Abay, translating to “the smoking Blue Nile.” The Blue Nile river is a major tributary of the great Nile river—the longest river in the world.

The Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia | © ctsnow / Flickr

You can go back in time

It’s still 2010 in Ethiopia! The Ethiopian calendar follows the ancient Coptic calendar, which makes it fall seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar. The difference in the two calendars comes in the calculations to determine the Annunciation date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

It’s the cradle of humankind

Lucy, called Dinkenesh in Amharic, is the skeleton of an early human ancestor that was discovered in Ethiopia. A replica of the fossil that’s more than 3.2 million years old, is housed in the country’s National Museum for public visits. Selam, another fossil that was discovered in Dikika, Ethiopia in 2000 further asserted Ethiopia’s status as the origin of mankind. For discoveries related to this, the lower Awash and Omo valleys of the country are paleontological sites registered by UNESCO.

Lucy, the oldest human skeleton discovered in Ethiopia | © hape662 / Flickr

Long history of Christianity and Islam

Orthodox Christianity is a widely practiced religion in Ethiopia, followed by Islam. Established in the fourth century, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches in the world. Islam’s story in Ethiopia goes back to around 615 A.D., when the first Muslims came to the country seeking refuge from persecution in Mecca. The cordial relationship you can see between the followers of both religions is equally powerful as this story.

A mosque in Harar, the fourth holiest city of Islam | © Rod Waddington / Flickr

Great wildlife and bird watching

From the Gelada Baboon, the world’s rarest ape, to the endangered Walia Ibex and Ethiopian wolf, Ethiopia has an extraordinary range of wildlife and endemic animals. It’s also one of the best places for bird watching, with birds like the White-cheeked Turaco, Rouget’s Rail, and the blue-winged Goose, which you can only see roaming the skies of Ethiopia.

The White-cheeked Turaco endemic to Ethiopia, Eritrea, and South Sudan | © Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

Home to over 80 ethnic groups

Ethiopia is a melting pot of different cultures, with over 80 ethnic groups and languages spoken. After a look at the different traditions, you will hardly feel like you have visited just one country. The Hamer tribe, the Mursi people, and tribes of the Omo valley are a few of the many ethnic groups with spectacular, traditional ways of living.

A Hamer girl waits for her turn to dance | © Rod Waddington / Flickr

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