High Five… Ethiopia!

It may not be the first place that springs to mind when planning your next adventure, but Ethiopia is slowly moving out of the shadow of its troubled past and welcoming visitors to its (landlocked) shores.

Though the lack of infrastructure can be challenging, Ethiopia’s beautiful landscapes and hospitable people, as well as its captivating history, are attracting more and more people every year. So get there before the crowds do, and check out our favourite 5 highlights to get you started…

Experience something completely different, in Omo River Valley.

Get off the Beaten Track and explore the Beauty of Ethiopia

Embrace Tradition at Omo River Valley

A crossroads of humanity for 1000s of years and home to over 200,000 tribal people, the Omo Valley is fascinating and beautiful part of the world. Between August and March you can witness a bull jumping ceremony – a ritual dating back many, many thousands of years which involves a young man from the village jumping over the backs of a long line of cows to mark his transition into adulthood.

Explore the historical Site of Lalibela

Though the town of Lalibela isn’t much to write home about – it has a hidden treasure that makes it one of the most visited spots in the country by locals and tourists alike.

Cut into the ground from the rock itself are 11 churches with cross shaped roofs barely protruding above ground level. Beware though, spending a day wandering around the area my result in Indiana Jones fever – and whips are so 2012.

The ancient churches of Lalibela.

Absorb the Scenery of the Simien Mountains

In the north of the country, two days drive from Addis Ababa, the Simien Mountains are a must for their beautiful scenery, excellent trekking opportunities and unique wildlife. Here you can spot Ethiopian wolf (from far away hopefully) Walia Ibex (not made up) and even Gelada baboon. Watch your bags though – those baboons are skilled artful dodgers.

Gelada Baboon.

Sample the Local Delicacies

Food and Ethiopia are not often associated for positive reasons. However, Ethiopian cuisine is delicious, varied and a meal is an event in itself. The base is often a large flat bread or pancake called an injera on which meat stew and veg are placed.

This is set in the middle of the table and shared by the group who eat with their hands, tearing the injera and using it to scoop up the stew. Be careful though – just like when travelling in India, you must always eat with your right hand, the left being traditionally used for…other tasks. We’ll leave that to your imagination.

A traditional Ethiopian Meal.

Celebrate the New Year… in September

The beauty of celebrating New Year in Ethiopia is you don’t have to miss it at home! According to the Ethiopian calendar New Year’s Day falls on the 11th September (the 12th on a leap year) and is marked by huge markets, large family meals and giving gifts – traditionally a bunch of flowers.

Though the city will be the busiest place watch the festivities, the most spectacular processions are up country in the town of Gaynt where celebrations go on for three days.

If you’ve been inspired to add Ethiopia to your travel hit list, check out our list of adventures and our cheap flights to Africa.