The 10 best places to visit in Ethiopia

Sonia, Ethiopia expert
Sonia, Ethiopia expert

Culturally and historically speaking, Ethiopia is probably one of the richest countries in Africa. A trip to √Čthiopia will also guarantee you stunning views of spectacular landscapes.
You are likely to start your stay in Addis Ababa, the capital which is known for being so festive. Those who like walking will not be disappointed by Simien National Park which shelters several endemic species, Mago National Park with its surprising mix of desert, savannah and verdant montains, and Bale National Park's breathtaking views. For a touch of history, the cities of Axum, Gondar and Lalibela are classed as UNESCO world heritage sites and are must-see places to visit. With their churches carved into the rock, medieval castles and historic remains, you could almost be in Europe. Thought by some to be the most beautiful city in Ethiopia, Harar is also worth a visit. Walking through its colourful narrow streets is a real pleasure. finally, the Rift Valley lakes will take you back in time to what is thought to be the cradle of human existence.

Tourist attractions

Our selection of must-see places

Addis Ababa
Average visit duration: 3 days
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Addis Ababa

The bustling capital of Ethiopia is the economic and cutural heart of the country. It is an essential detour for souvenirs from the city's famous market, Addis Merkato. As it is for the country's cuisine and culture. At the National Museum, you will discover Lucy, the oldest hominid ever to be discovered.

Sonia's tip : End your day watching a display of traditional Ethiopian dance, an unmissable event for the locals.

Mago National Park
Average visit duration: 2 days
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Mago National Park

In the extremely secluded south of Ethiopia, nearly 500 miles from the capital, Mago National Park includes an interesting mix of deserts, savannah and mountains, Mount Mago among them. Giraffes, hippopotami, crocodiles and elephants inhabit this immense park (1,250 square miles). You may even encounter the Mursi, a semi-nomadic ethnic tribe.

Sonia's tip : Beware of the tsetse fly in the area which can terrible effects on your health.

Lalibela
Average visit duration: 2 days
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Lalibela

Located in northern Ethiopia, the city of Lalibela is renowned for its 11th and 12th century churches carved into the rocks. This monastic city, at 2,630 metres is home to eleven of these churches, the most impressive of which is the Church of Saint George. These churches hewn from the rock, with their incredible frescoes date from medieval times and have given Lalibela the epithet "Jerusalem of Ethiopia." They are a magnificent journey back in time.

Sonia's tip : Take a trip to Ben Abeda, an architecturally interesting restaurant where you can sample Ethiopian cuisine as you admire the sublime mountains which surround the city.

Harar
Average visit duration: 1 day
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Harar

Located almost over 300 miles from Addis Ababa, in the country's south-eastern desert, Harar is the fourth holy city of Islam. A UNESCO world heritage site, this historic fort town has retained its authentic character. Walking the colourful, narrow backstreets is a visual delight - you could almost be in Morocco. It is also the place where Arthur Rimbaud spent his last years and a former residence makes a pleasant location to discover more about the life of this French poet.

Sonia's tip : Don't hesitate to take a guide who can lead you through the incredible backstreets of Harar.

Gondar
Average visit duration: 2 days
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Gondar

Perched at over 2,200 metres altitude, the former capital of Ethiopia houses many treasures and was classified as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979. It is still possible to discover the historic remains of this ancient imperial city. There are fortifications, a place, ruins of a medieval castle, incredible frescoes and dozens of churches to visit, as the mood takes you. It's a surprising setting which makes you think you could almost be in Europe.

Sonia's tip : End you day with a drink in the Goha Hotel at the very top of the town. The view ocross the surrounding area is magical!

Simien National Park
Average visit duration: - 3 to 4 hours walk in the park with a scout
- 1 to 10 days trek
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Simien National Park

Classified by Unesco as one of the "most beautiful landscapes in the world," Simien National Park is without doubt one of Ethiopia's true gems. Endowed with exceptional biodiversity and breathtaking scenery, the area provides shelter for a number of endemic species such as the Walia ibex, a wild mountain goat, and Canis simensis, the Ethiopian wolf. It is also here that you will find Ras Dashan, Ethiopia's highest point at 4,550 metres. To make the most of this incredible park in northern Ethiopia, don't hesitate to go trekking. From a simple walk to multi-day trekking, there are several options available to you.

Sonia's tip : Don't forget to wear sturdy shoes before tackling the park.

Axum
Average visit duration: 1 day
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Axum

Located in the very north of Ethiopia, the city of Axum was, from the 4th to the 10th century AD, the capital of the Axumite kingdom, one of the most important states on the horn of Africa at that time. The city is full of archaeological treasures including the unmissable 23 metre obelisk, symbol of Axumite majesty. Other sights in the area which shouldn't be missed are the monastery of Saint Panteleon, the Dongar Palace and the tombs of King Khaled and King Gebremeskel.

Sonia's tip : Take a guide to help you discover the secrets of the most ancient Ethiopian city.

Bahir Dar
Average visit duration: 2 days
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Bahir Dar

Described by Ethiopians as one of the most attractive cities in the country, Bahar Dar is in the north west, over 500 miles from Addis Ababa. The unmissable attraction of the area has to be the Blue Nile falls, a breathtaking landscape in the heart of the countryside. The 45 metre falls can't fail to impress. While you are in the area, take a boat trip on Lake Tana, the largest in the country to discover the monasteries on the lake's islands.

Sonia's tip : Wear sturdy shoes if you're visiting the Blue Nile falls.

Mont Bale National Park
Average visit duration: 1 to 9 days trek
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Mont Bale National Park

In the heart of Ethiopia is Mount Bale, a paradise for walkers and hikers. Not without good reason, as this is where the highest points of the country are located. Although it is little visited, the area offers breathtaking settings, such as the ascent of Mout Batu at 4,600 metres. Look out for several species of endemic bird, the Ethiopian wolf, olive baboons, nyalas and giant forest pigs. Don't miss a tour of Dinsho market at the entrance of the park for some shopping.

Sonia's tip : You can do the trail on horseback, making discovery of the park even more memorable.

The Rift Valley lakes
Average visit duration: 4 to 5 days
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The Rift Valley lakes

The majority of the Rift Valley's lakes can be found in Ethiopia. They are an impressive collection of lakes which extend from north to south across the eastern north Africa, thought to be the cradle of civilisation. Among the area's splendours is the Abijatta-Shalla National Park where you will find natural hot springs and pink flamingoes. Lakes Chamo and Abaya, close to the city of Arba Minch, will captivate you with their colour: the first is blue and the second copper red.

Sonia's tip : Climb to the very top of Arba minch for an incredible view of the surrounding area.