Ethiopia Travel: 7 Reasons You MUST Go

Danikil Depression, Volcano, Ethiopia Travel, Travel to Ethiopia, Ethiopia Tourism, Kids in Africa, Backpacking Africa

It’s no secret that I’m in love with Ethiopia travel. Maybe it’s because it was my first African country I ever visited. Or because I’ve been living here ever since I finished my big backpacking route across Africa. Or perhaps it’s simply because my boyfriend is Ethiopian so I kind of have to like it.

Either way, it’s a really good country for you to visit. Here’s my top reasons you should travel to Ethiopia, but be sure to download (for free if you want) my Ethiopia Travel & Backpacking Guide for all my personal tips, recommendations, and health/safety warnings.

1.Ethiopia is weird.

This beloved country is so quirky. For starters, they have their own calendar system which is 13 months long and 7-8 years behind the rest of the world. So if you’re feeling a little precarious about your age, come to Ethiopia where they’ll celebrate New Years 2009 this September. And of course– if they make up their own dates, it’s no surprise that they also tell time in their own way with the day starting at 7am making every hour after that six hours different than you’d expect (ex: noon is six o’clock).

See Also:  What to Do & How to Get Around on a Layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

It’s not just that, the Ethiopians themselves are quite unique. They are first of all brimming with pride for their country. It’s actually really neat to see, but things get a little humorous when the gloat of being first starts showing up in everyday life inside the country. For example, if you’re hanging out with a bunch of Ethiopians, don’t be surprised when they’ll want to drink coffee at the country’s first cafe and will further choose that cafe’s first location despite the fact that a newer and much nicer branch is located only a few minutes away. This love of being first also translates into everybody claiming to be the first in something even if it has to come with multiple clauses before it in order to make it technically true.

See Also:  Bucket List Ideas: 21 Things to Do in Africa Before You Die

There are lots more special things about this country including its love for face tattoos and raw meat (despite thinking sushi and runny yolk eggs is beyond inedible).

 

Ethiopia Travel, Travel to Ethiopia, Ethiopia Tourism, Kids in Africa, Backpacking Africa

My best friend trying raw meat for the first time!

2. It’s National Geographic Worthy

Visiting the remote tribes in Southern Ethiopia is like turning the pages on a National Geographic magazine. The people, who still live the same way they did thousands of years ago, walk around adorned in mouth plates, tribal tattoos, and neck and ear jewelry that is larger than the body part itself. The bare breasted women strut in confidence as proud members of their society. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to witness a young man enter adulthood by jumping naked over as many bulls as he can in a traditional ceremony.

Many travelers also enjoy visiting the local markets and sleeping in a traditional hut. It’s an experience you can literally never have anywhere else.

 

Ethiopia travel, Ethiopia tourism, travel to Ethiopia, Backpacking Africa for Beginers

Traditional bull jumping ceremony

3. For the love of coffee.

If you like a good cup of joe, it’s only right that you visit the country that invented it. The story goes that one day a herder named Kaldi noticed his goats would prance around with lots of energy after eating a group of certain red berries. He took the berries to the elders, and the rest is coffee history.

When you come to Ethiopia, not only will you notice cafes everywhere, but you’ll most likely be invited into someone’s home for a traditional coffee ceremony. The ceremonies, while often mentioned in media, really do live up to their hype. Being able to smell the raw beans still green being roasted slowly over an open fire is one of the most intoxicating smells. While brewed strong, the coffee is surprisingly not acidic whatsoever, and is enjoyed with popcorn and incense.

4. Not like other African countries.

I feel a little hypocritical saying this since I often preach how different every African country is from one another (which is actually very true). But, Ethiopia is especially unique among the continent.

This is because Ethiopia was the only country never colonized defeating the Italians twice to remain independent. Visiting other African countries you’ll notice their European influence with the languages they speak, their British tea preferences, and other inarguable remnants left from the days of colonization.

Ethiopia on the other hand was left relatively untouched from the outside world for quite a long time. Geographically it also differs significantly from its neighbors and is dubbed the “roof of Africa” with over 70% of the continent’s mountains belonging to a country only twice the size of Texas.

For that reason and many others, Ethiopians don’t even consider themselves Africans.

 

Ethiopia Travel, Travel to Ethiopia, Ethiopia Tourism, Kids in Africa, Backpacking Africa

My friend Emily, an Australian backpacker, enjoying the Danikil Depression

5. History making History.

Ethiopia is so historical and famous throughout the world. It’s mentioned over 40 times in the Bible. Ethiopia is one of the few countries to be named in so many books including:- The Bible. The Koran. Homer’s Odyssey, and many other books from the past.

Their lists of accomplishments from previous days include:-

    • Being the birthplace of humanity,
    • Home to Queen of Sheba and
    • The Ark of the Covenant, and
    • The first country to send an athlete to the Olympics barefoot (and he won) continues to evolve today.

What once was a country struggling in poverty now has transformed into one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Being home to the African Union, it attracts people from all over the world. The country, while landlocked and void of typical “African” safari animals earns its right to be visited simply because of its historical achievements and ever evolving pursuit of development.

6. The people are the best.

Ethiopians are some of the most hospitable people in the world. Whether you’re walking down the street, sitting in a bus, or simply hanging out at your hotel, someone is bound to greet you and welcome you to their country.

Locals are extremely generous and will help you with whatever you need. This makes traveling the country so much easier. I could tell story after story of an Ethiopian giving me a ride across town so I could escape the rain, carrying my groceries home for me, or even giving me their shoes (read by Travel Ethiopia Guide to learn why) all without expecting anything in return.

My favorite is the children though. As soon as they see my pale white face they’ll run up to greet me. Offer me a handshake or kiss on the cheek.

 

Ethiopia Travel, Travel to Ethiopia, Ethiopia Tourism, Kids in Africa, Backpacking Africa

 

7. Just becoming trendy.

For years Ethiopia was skipped over as a travel destination. While countries like Kenya and Egypt received all the claim to fame. That’s slowly changing now. Perhaps in part because associations like European Council on Trade and Tourism gave their 2015 award for Ethiopia Tourism.

Since I’ve been off and on in the country for the past six years, I’ve slowly witnessed the influx of travelers. While it’s not as remote as Burundi. It certainly doesn’t get the flood of tourists that Egypt’s pyramids used to receive. It’s like high fashion when something is officially trendy. Because it hit the catwalks in Paris. But won’t be worn by regular people for another year until it hits the racks in Target. Now is the best time to visit Ethiopia. Before the throngs of people start coming making your exotic destination not so exotic.

Ethiopia Travel Tips & Warnings

Ethiopia Travel, Travel to Ethiopia, Ethiopia Tourism, Kids in Africa, Backpacking Africa

 

While I personally love traveling Ethiopia and even living in it. I noticed a lot of backpackers referring to it as a “snooze country”. Even more get frustrated by the constant haggling and the endless parade of beggars and pick-pocketers.

This can all be avoided though. With a few quick tips. Words of advice. And pointers. On where to go or not go for your next Ethiopia travel.

Download my Ethiopia Travel Guide (for free if you want). Learn how you can safely visit ‘The land of 13 months of sunshine’. Fall in love with it as much as me. Ethiopia travel guide also includes my local number, and trust me– I’m always down for grabbing a St. George or Habesha beer.

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32 responses to “Ethiopia Travel: 7 Reasons You MUST Go”

  1. Charlotte Fye says:

    I have been wanting to visit Ethiopia since I was a teenager, I was wondering how much money would I need to bring my family of 5 for a week visit?

    • Val Bowden says:

      That’s wonderful! What made you choose Ethiopia? And it totally depends! For a backpacker, Ethiopia can be super cheap! Especially if you’re willing to stay in not so fancy accomodation ($5-15), and eat only local meals at local restaurants ($1.50 per meal), and take mini-buses across town (5 cents per ride), or travel long distance by bus ($10-20 per ride). However, as a family, you may have to upgrade your standards which could get much more expensive. For example a nice guest house is around $50 a night, meals could be $3-5 each, you’ll probably take contract taxi’s across town ($5-15 one way), and flying instead of driving ($100-300 each for 1 round way ticket from Addis to tourist city).

      With that being said, Ethiopia is still a great place to visit! It’s absolutely beautiful, has fascinating cultures, rich history, good food, and super safe which are all great things especially as a family traveling together.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions 🙂

      • Simeneh says:

        FYI if you did your international flight with Ethiopian airlines you will get a cheaper domestic flight.

  2. alejandra says:

    Hi!! I love your post. I’m from Argentina, and I am planning a trip to Africa for 40 days (may be more depending on the countries to visit) with my daughter and friends.
    I would like to visit South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, Tunisia, Ghana and Morocco, so far, but do not know where to start.
    I’ve always wanted to visit ethiopia, because of its relationship with reggae and Jamaican roots, since I have lived in Jamaica and I love the whole culture. I also want to visit ghana, where I have friends from jamaica.
    I have a question for you, what are the main places that are a must and i can not miss in Ethiopia? And what can you tell me about reggae there?

    How many days do you think are the minimum I can stay in each country to see enough?

    Ok! if you come to argentina keep in touch!
    Loves
    Alejandra

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Alejandra! So good to hear from you! Wow, 40 days in Africa would be amazing! If you’ve never traveled much before, South Africa is a great place to start because it’s a little easier and a good way to ease your way into the continent. So I love Ethiopia, and personally would recommend you to come especially if you have an interest in Reggae kind of stuff. But interestingly enough, despite Ethiopia being the country to help start it (or the reason behind Jamaica starting it), I saw way more Rastafarianism in other African countries. The one town that’s known most for reggae/Rasta stuff in Ethiopia is called Shashamene. It’s about 3-4 hour drive south of Addis. But I recommend downloading (for free if you want) my guide on Ethiopia to know more about what sites to visit etc.

      And honestly, all those countries you want to visit are amazing! You could spend 40 days alone in each. If you can, I’d make your trip flexible so you can kind of adjust along the way.

      Anyways, hope this helps. Feel free to ask me as many questions as you want though 🙂

  3. pracaonline says:

    Hi Val, and what about safety in Ethiopia today ?, today so many refugees coming to Europe even from Africa and of course and it is located near Somalia where still are fights. Regards Tristian

    • Val Bowden says:

      Good question! I personally find Ethiopia so safe– especially compared to the US. Rape, murder, and violent robbery are pretty much unheard of here. And don’t worry about who borders the countries…. that doesn’t make a big difference. I remember when I was in Rwanda, I was literally standing at the border by Congo and apparently rebels were coming into their town and no one in Rwanda was worried. And a lot of Ethiopians are leaving because they feel like their are better work opportunities in Europe or US… and of course all of Hollywood movies showing that everyone is SO rich doesn’t help their perception. But anyways… regarding Ethiopia… it’s totally no problem… especially if you’re in Addis or main tourists areas. The only area I’d avoid now is Gambella region by Sudan. But that area doesn’t affect the rest of the country. If you do come here and want more tips on how to avoid pick-pocketing (which is unfortunately kind of common) or other scams, download (for free if you want) my Ethiopian guide 🙂

  4. Xplorato says:

    Ethiopia sounds like my type of weird:) i am always in awe with Africa, and its people and culture. Ethopia sounds like a country rich with everything one could think of for an African Safari, i think i just added a country to my wishlist 🙂

  5. Jaime R. says:

    Hello.
    I am visiting Etiopia next week for around 3-4 weeks before I cross to Kenia through Moyale. I will focus on Omo valley and their villages and tribes. I don’t want to visit dozens of places, but yo get involved with local people, living, if possible with them.
    I go alone and I don’t want to rent a car, guide and, of course, I run away from scheduled safaris, groups and westerners, in general…
    My main doubts are about transportation and comunication:
    1)Trasportation: I think its easy to reach Arba Minch, but then I dont know if its easy to find connections to Jinka, Konso, Turmi; and then to get tribal villages around them (trekking, if possible, or trucks and vans). I also like to go to Suri areas, but I don’t know if they are connected from Jinka and Turmi or I should get around through Jimma and Mizan.

    2)Communication: I just speak English and Spanish (and I can communicate in Italian and French). Do you think I could get involved with them in SW further areas?

    3)Accomodation: I assume that there is no problem to find guesthouses and hotels when necessary, but I would like to meet local people in small villages and stay for several days at their homes… Am I crazy? (many people thinks that, but, actually, that what I usually do when traveling these kind of countries).

    Its great to read from a local expert with western approach other than worringly advises!
    Many thanks in advance.

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Jaime,

      I think that sounds totally awesome!! I crossed from Kenya (through Moyale) to Ethiopia, and loved it. Except, because of time constraints I missed the Omo Valley Tribes, and totally regret it. I don’t know specific details, but I did meet a female backpacker who only spoke English and did see the Omo Valley through local transport only. It’s a bit tricky, but not impossible. She did a lot of hitchhiking too. The two main bus companies are Sky Bus (http://skybusethiopia.com/site/) and Selam Bus. You can check out their schedules, but mostly they run back and forth from Addis to popular towns. However, there are tons of mini-buses you can catch inbetween small towns.

      So basically… I can’t tell you anything for sure…. but I do know that backpackers see the southern area, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find transport and lodging. It won’t be super comfy… haha, but that goes along with the experience. Always use common sense, but relatively Ethiopia is a safe country. I can’t speak for you, but I also have hitchhiked quite a bit of it and never had any issues. You’ll probably run into a few other travelers who can give you info or let you ride with them. Also because Ethiopia has over 90 languages, and the languages they speak in the South aren’t even the ones they speak in Addis– even the tour guides don’t neccessarily speak the same language as them. But somehow they all manage. Just practice your hand motions! lol. Anyways, I vote DO it! and let me know how you do it afterwards! 🙂 Feel free to call or text me if you have any issues ( +251-929-35-0212). 🙂

  6. Lee says:

    Hello! I wanted to ask you about traveling to Ethiopia from a sight seeing standpoint. I have spent a month in Uganda and trekked mountain gorillas and did a safari in the north and enjoyed the remoteness of the country and it’s beauty. I was wondering if Ethiopia has similiar things to do: are there safaris to go on to see animals? Are there amazing hikes to go to? We have two weeks in Septmeber we’re thinking of going and any sights that are worth checking out, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts, recommendations and things to see. Thank you! Lee

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hi Lee! Sounds like your trip to Uganda was amazing! Ethiopia does not have the typical safari animals. Some of the best things I recommend are visiting the rock churches in Lalibela, experiencing the crazy tribe life in Omo Valley, climbing the volcano lake in Danikil Depression, and drinking lots and lots of coffee. A lot of hikers also love the Simien mountains in the north. Ethiopia is neat because it provides a different experience than other African countries. Ethiopians don’t even consider themselves Africans actually, and the whole country in every way reflects that. With that being said…. September is a good and bad month to visit. It’s still raining in much of the country, so you would need to decide which part you want to visit and double check that weather conditions will be okay. On the other hand, September 11 is New Year’s here… It will officially be 2009! People celebrate mostly at home, but it’s fun to be here anyways. Also September 26 and 27 is Meskel Holiday. It symbolizes finding of the true cross, and there are bonfires everywhere! Anyways, hope this helps! Let me know if you arrive in Addis! 🙂

  7. Megan says:

    Hi Val! Thank you so much for making site site–it is a great resource! I’m planning to go to Ethiopia for a week and a half in October. Is that enough time to see the Simien Mountains, the Danakil Depression, Addis, and Omo Valley?

    Also, is it possible to buy just the Ethiopia guide?

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Megan! That’s so awesome! It will be perfect weather then too! You can download just the Ethiopian guide for only $3.99…. It also has my Ethiopian # in it, so feel free to call me once you’re here if you need any help.

      As far as planning your trip….
      Addis- There’s not a lot to see here so I’d spend as least as amount of time here.
      Danakil Depression- It’s expensive, but so worth it!! It takes about 4 days.
      Omo Valley- can take 2 weeks, but you could shorten it down to fit your schedule I think. Everyone who goes there loves it.
      Simien Mountains if you fly there can take 3-4 day. They are beautiful… but you can see beautiful mountains anywhere. Whereas the Danikil Depression and Omo valley are totally unique in the world.

      I’d recommend doing a quick trip to Danikil (because it’s a set time) then go to the Omo Valley. There’s a lot of small towns and cool markets along the way, plus really beautiful lake towns like Awassa. So you can just stay there as long as you want, and finish up with 1 day in Addis.

      Hope this helps! And definitely feel free to reach out when you’re here 🙂

  8. Joelle says:

    Hi Val, this page is really awesome. On the 17th of August I will fly to Addis and from then on I have 5-6 months to go all the way to Cape Town. This is the first time for me to go backpacking solo and the only thing I am a little hesitate about is to find my way through the first days? I have about 3-4 weeks to explore Ethiopia and I then want to go to Kenya through Moyale. I know that I can’t see all of Ethiopia in 3-4 weeks, do you have any suggestions on what I should do? My budget is tight though.
    I already bought your two books, they are really helpful but maybe you have more tips.
    Hope this helps a bit. Thank you in advance.

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Joelle!

      Thanks so much for saying hi, and for buying my books! 🙂 And message me when you’re in Addis. We can have coffee, and I’ll give you more tips if you want 🙂

      If you’re tight on budget, I’d skip Danikil Depression and Simien Mountains. Lalibella is pretty cool to see. You can take the Sky Bus or Selam bus from Addis. The churches cost $50 to enter, but they are pretty neat. And there are other things to do in the town. I also really like Harar. It’s great if you’re on a budget because the main thing to do is wander around town and drink coffee. It’s like an Arabic-African version of Venice. Since you’re traveling through Moyale, you could spend time in the Southern Tribes. They’re a little harder to do without a tour/your own vehicle, but totally possible. It’s something super unique and no huge fees associated. Plus on your way down, you can stop in Shashamene or Awassa which are both really pretty.

      And if you’re cool for eating at local restaurants, you can find vegetarian meals for 30-50 birr ($1.50-2.50) or meat options 60-90 birr ($3-6) so you can save money that way.

      Anyways,let me know if you have any more questions. You’ll have an awesome time! 🙂

      • Joelle says:

        Thank you for replying. I will definitely let you know when I am in Addis so that we can meet up for coffee. Harar sounds awesome so I will definitely do that. Plus I’m trying to figure out if I can spend with the Southern Tribes, I really would love to do that. This is already really helpful. Counting down the days now.

        • Val Bowden says:

          Yeah I think you’ll love Harar. It’s definitely more budget friendly too. I know for sure other backpackers have done Southern Tribes…. but it’s just a little tricky. I’ll see if I can find out more info for you 🙂

          • Joëlle van Drunen says:

            Hi Val, I am now in Addis and I’ve send you a message on your phone but I don’t think it came through. I was wondering if we could meet today or tomorrow?

          • Val Bowden says:

            Hey! Glad we finally got a hold of each other yesterday! Have fun in Lalibela and call me when you’re back in Addis 🙂

  9. Jo says:

    Hi Val, Thanks for your great post, and I’ve just downloaded your Ethiopia guide and it has so many answers that I’ve been looking for! My husband and I are going to Ethiopia for 2 weeks over christmas and we were just planning on showing up and sorting out our accommodation once we arrive, but its just occurred to me it may be high season – Would you recommend getting something organised in advance? I see you recommended Atelefugn, is this in a good location? Any other budget friendly suggestions? We heard staying near Piaza is quite fun 🙂 Thanks!

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Jo! Great to hear from you. And thanks for downloading my guide! Glad it’s helped so far 🙂 So normally,during high season it’s not a bad idea to book in advance. But because of recent events things are a bit slow here so you shouldn’t have a problem. So I recommend Atelefugn because it’s cheap, and most travelers have a pretty experience. I just called them, and currently you can get a $20 or $30 room. They said you should book online their website (atelefugne.com/) but it didn’t actually sound like they were busy. You could probably just showup. Ha, or just let me know a few days before you come and I’ll call them and reserve a room in your name.

      As far as Piaza, I have a love hate relationship with it. If you go, I recommend staying at Taitu. It’s budget friendly, old, and people like it. Piaza is the “old town” so there are lots of small, cute cafes and fruit shops. Plus lots great little jewelry and clothing shops. The annoying thing about Piaza is there are sooo many drunk people around there. Everytime I go, I get lots of random guys following me around, and pick-pocketing rates are higher there. But if youre with your husband, it should be a lot better than just you by yourself.

      Another budget friendly option, is Mr. Martin’s Cozy Place. It’s in Bole area which is where are the international standard hotels and restaurants are. That’s kind of nice because you’re near lots of restaurants. But many of them are foreignish– which depends on what you want. Some people like that, and some people want to go more local style (in which case Piaza or Atelefugn).

      Atelefugn is in an area called Kera. It’s super local area, with lots of local cafes restaurants and businesses.There is 1 super cool burger restaurant in the area (Sishu), and also someone just built a titanic restaurant (it’s just kind of random, but if you’re in the area have a beer there). But it’s not as cute or old as Piaza area.

      Anyways, hope this clarifies stuff a little! 🙂 I know it’s super hard getting websites and phone info on stuff here while you’re abroad, so if you need anything just let me know, and I can call them for you 🙂

      PS- get ready for some amazing food and coffee!!

  10. Gerd says:

    Hi Val,
    as i understood correctly you still live in Addis? I am planning a trip to Ethiopia from 4th of February staying 3 weeks. Would love to get some advice from you. Where can i download your guide (do you have a link)?
    Best regards

    Gerd

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Gerd! Glad to hear you’re planning a trip. And I do live in Addis! Ethiopia is such a great country! Get ready for some of the best food and coffee ever!! You can download my ethiopian guide book here…. The guide also includes my local phone # so feel free to call or message me here if you have any questions/problems. 🙂 🙂

  11. Ana says:

    Hi Val, I am trying to buy your books but I don’t have a PayPal account and that is the only option they give as form of payment. Any other way I can get it ?
    And thank you for taking the time to do your writing – It has been very informative and fun to read !
    I plan to be in Addis Ababa next week and would love to meet for a cup of Ethiopian coffee and more hints on traveling around Africa !
    Ana

  12. Bella says:

    Hi,
    I loved your blog. My son is turning 12 in July and I am planning to take him to Africa. Maybe visit Ethiopia, Kenya, and Seychelles. Do you think it is safe to take a child that age to those places as well as take him to see how tribes live. It will be my first time there as well. I am curious on how I can go about visiting and possibly staying a night with the tribes?! I have wanted to experience the lives of tribal individuals since I was a child and now I have the chance to experience it with my son.. I am just a little reluctant due to his age. what do you think?

    • Val Bowden says:

      Hey Bella! You’re such a cool parent! I think that’s such an awesome idea. What a great way to expose him to different cultures & see the joy of living despite a lack of material resources. And I definitely think it’s safe! I’ve met a lot of travelers in Ethiopia and other African countries that come with kids. And I’m actually super connected to diplomats & non-profit workers who live here– and they always take their whole families to different places (even the tribal Omo valleys that you’d want to see). And it’s not because they really get the culture or speak the language. Because I’m pretty sure many don’t. lol. It’s just pretty safe & you can always find a good guide or possible tour in the area that will watch out for you guys. Just make sure you’re both up on vaccines & follow common sense, and you’ll be great 🙂 Let me know if you come here! 🙂

  13. Kamilab says:

    Would u be able to meet up there?

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