The 15 best Ethiopia sights & landmarks – TripAdvisor

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Ethiopia is an East African country where many cultures have come together and left their heritage. This is one of the first places where the world religions – Christianity and Islam – came and their confrontation began. At the same time, the cultural identity and independence of the Ethiopians played a noticeable role – none of the religions was accepted unchanged. This unusual and controversial country has preserved many cultural monuments, religious sites and other attractions on its territory.

Ethiopia landmarks

Nomination a place Object name Rating
Ethiopia landmarks 1 Axum 4.9
2 Fasil Gebbi Fortress 4.8
3 Lake Tana 4.8
4 Gorgora 4.7
5 Erta-Ale volcano 4.6
6 Simmen National Park 4.5
7 Blue Nile Falls 4.5
8 Lalibela temple 4.5
9 Dallol volcano 4.4
10 Awash National Park 4.3
11 Lake Abbe 4.2
12 Sof-Omar cave 4.1
13 Debre Damo 4.1
14 Temples of Geralta 4.0
15 Harer 4.0

Axum

Attraction rating: 4.9

Axum

This quiet city in northern Ethiopia is one of the country's top tourist attractions. Axum is considered the unofficial religious capital. It was once the center of the Aksumite kingdom, which ruled over the region from about 400 BC. By the 10th century, this state gradually lost its influence and gave way to modern Ethiopia.

The main monuments of the state that existed here are Aksumite steles, stone slabs of various sizes with cast metal disks attached to them, on which images are carved. It is believed that the places of burial of people were marked with steles.

In addition to the steles, among the attractions of this place is the Church of St. Mary of Zion. According to Ethiopians, it is here that the Ark of the Covenant is kept – a portable box with stone Tablets of the Covenant, where the commandments are written, Aaron's staff and a vessel with manna.

Fasil Gebbi Fortress

Attraction rating: 4.8

Fasil Gebbi Fortress

The main attraction of the Ethiopian city of Gondar is the Fasil Gebbi fortress, built in 1632. For about a century, it was the seat of the ruler of Ethiopia – the emperor Falisidas and his successors lived inside. The fortress is surrounded by a wall 900 meters long, behind which there are temples, palaces and monasteries. The architecture of the buildings has elements of Arabic and Indian styles, as well as baroque. The main buildings are Fasilidas 'castle and the palace of Iyasu the Great, who was Fasilidas' successor. There are also three churches here.

The local buildings are characterized by a rich history, many of them have not survived in their original form. In 1704, a strong earthquake happened here, which noticeably damaged the fortress. After the occupation by Italy, there were attempts to restore buildings, but they were unsuccessful. In 1941, Mussolini's army took refuge in Fasil Gebbie, and the fortress was damaged by British aircraft. Now the complex is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, partially restored and open to tourists.

4 kilometers west of the Fasil-Gebbi fortress, there is another attraction of Gondar – the Fasilidas baths. They are royal baths with a rather large pool, in the center of which there is a two-story building – the actual bath complex. Earlier rulers of the country used to swim here. Now the pool is filled only once a year to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.

Lake Tana

Attraction rating: 4.8

Lake Tana

This lake is Africa's largest freshwater body of water. It is characterized by a huge biological diversity, for the preservation of which a biosphere reserve has been created. The lake and the surrounding area are inhabited by 217 species of birds – cranes, pelicans, parrots and predators such as the crying eagle. The waters are home to several dozen species of fish. On the coastal territories, endemic medicinal plants grow, hippos, hyenas, porcupines, monkeys and antelopes live.

The lake is located in the place of an ancient tectonic depression and has a very shallow depth – no more than one and a half meters. Local residents are engaged in fishing and farming, for a small fee they are ready to arrange a tour of the lake. On some of the islands of the reservoir there are ancient Orthodox churches, which were built since the XIII century and have survived to this day. Some of them have been restored, others are in disrepair. Inside are Christian relics – in other churches in Ethiopia, they were not preserved after the spread of Islam in the country.

Gorgora

Attraction rating: 4.7

Gorgora

On the northern shore of Lake Tana is another attraction of Ethiopia – the small town of Gorgora. It lies on the peninsula of the same name, south of Gondar. Previously, the residence of the Jesuits – “Old” Gorgora was located here.

Also in the city is the famous Mandaba monastery in Ethiopia. It is surrounded by a high wall, and only men are allowed inside. The abbot has full power over the 150 inhabitants of the monastery – he has the right to put a disobedient monk in chains. It is also said that anyone who is hiding from persecution by the state or powerful people can find refuge here if he rings the bell and is allowed inside.

Here you can also visit the old, built in the XIII century, the Church of Debre Sina, and the ruined Portuguese monastery of the XVI century. Gorgora is not included in the tourist routes. There are only isolated tours where people are brought to it from Gondar.

Erta-Ale volcano

Attraction rating: 4.6

Erta-Ale volcano

This active volcano is located in the Ethiopian Danakil Desert, the nearest settlement is the city of Makele. The name translates as “a mountain bursting with heat” – steam constantly rises from the vent, and eruptions occur regularly. The volcano has as many as two incandescent lava lakes in craters, which are considered extremely rare.

Erta-Ale is a tourist attraction. There are no tourist routes to it; you will have to get to the volcano on your own. No barriers have been installed to prevent falling into the lava lake – the traveler must take care of his own safety.

A tourist visiting Erta-Ale will be delighted with the impressive and unusual views of the volcano, its black slopes and craters, from which heat emanates. It makes a special impression at night, when orange light from the lava lakes glowing inside breaks through the cracks in the slopes. You can take a piece of frozen lava as a souvenir – it is also suitable for gardeners to fertilize the earth.

Simmen National Park

Attraction rating: 4.5

Simmen National Park

Seumen is one of the most popular national parks in Ethiopia. It is located in the Amhara region, in the north of the Ethiopian Highlands, where the Symen Mountains are located, whose unique nature they decided to preserve. The territory of the park is formed by a rocky massif, cut by gorges and fast-flowing streams, and plains covered with grass. The highest mountain located here – Ras Dashen with a height of 4620 meters – is also the highest point in Ethiopia.

The park is inhabited by rare and endemic animals – the Symen fox, the Ethiopian wolf, Gelads – monkeys with blood-red breasts. One of the main reasons for the creation of the protected area is the thousandth population of the Abyssinian goat, which does not live anywhere else in the world.

Tourist routes are laid in Simene, there are guides who are ready to accompany travelers. For those who are going on a hike in the park, it is important to have clothes for different weather – it is hot on the plains, and in the mountains the temperature sometimes drops to zero. The nearest settlement where you can stay is the city of Debark.

Blue Nile Falls

Attraction rating: 4.5

Blue Nile Falls

There is a cascade of waterfalls on the Blue Nile River, which flows through Ethiopia and Sudan. The locals call them Tis-Ysat, which in translation from Amharic means “steaming water”. The streams of fluid form a wall 100-400 meters wide and 37-45 meters high. The largest waterfall of the cascade is located at the top, followed by several smaller ones.

The power of the falls began to decline since the 60s, when two hydroelectric power plants were located on the river. However, even now they delight tourists with their greatness. Often the sun, refracting through water spray, forms a rainbow here, which travelers especially like to photograph. In the gorge, located below the waterfall, there is another attraction – an old bridge, which was built by Portuguese missionaries in 1926.

Even the path to the Blue Nile Falls is interesting in its own way. The path to them passes through the Ethiopian jungle and leads through mountain gorges.

Lalibela temple

Attraction rating: 4.5

Lalibela temple

St. George's Church is one of the monolithic churches in the Ethiopian city of Lalibela, built later than others and the most famous. Churches were established here in the XIII century. Their uniqueness is that they were not built like ordinary buildings. The temples were carved into volcanic tuff, a rock-like rock formed by ash from eruptions and volcanic bombs.

The roof of the Church of St. George is at ground level, and the building itself merges with the rock from which it was carved. At the foot you can only find yourself after passing through a specially cut tunnel. Around the courtyard of the church is located – a foundation pit, 12 meters deep. The temple has a cruciform shape, arches, columns, windows have been cut down in it. There is one floor inside, it is twilight, because quite a bit of light breaks through the windows. The walls are decorated with paintings on religious themes.

Dallol volcano

Attraction rating: 4.4

Dallol volcano

In the northeastern part of Ethiopia, near the border with Eritrea, there is another unusual volcano. Like Erta-Ale, it is located in the Danakil Desert. In Afar, the word Dallol means dissolution. It is the lowest volcano on earth's land: its summit is only 30 meters above the surrounding surface. Since the salt marshes surrounding the volcano lie noticeably below sea level, its peak is at a negative altitude – minus 48 meters.

The Dallol landscape is very specific and resembles the surface of Io, the moon of Jupiter. The salts of potassium, manganese and iron paint the wide volcanic crater yellow, red and green. Thermal springs with very hot and mineralized water gush from the inside. Due to the combination of high temperature and salinity, they are believed to be completely lifeless – even bacteria and archaea cannot withstand such conditions.

To visit the unusual volcano, you will need special equipment. First of all, these are waterproof heat-resistant shoes that protect the traveler's feet from hot waters coming out to the surface. Clothing also needs to be able to protect the skin from exposure to toxic spray salts. The heat will require a lot of water – 8 liters per person per day. It is best to use the services of local tour operators who organize excursions here.

Awash National Park

Attraction rating: 4.3

Awash National Park

In the central part of Ethiopia, in the north of the Great Rift Valley, there is Awash National Park. Most of its territory is occupied by savannas, overgrown with acacias, shrubs and meadows in river floodplains. The Avash River marks the southern border of the park. Gallery forests grow along its channel in a narrow strip.

The biodiversity in the park is enormous. There are especially many birds here: there are about 450 species of them, including storks, ostriches, bee-eaters, flycatchers, pigeons and many others. Among mammals, there are predatory cats – lions, leopards and servals, hyenas and jackals, hippos and wild pigs, antelopes and monkeys.

The park is open to tourists all year round. Guides work here, tourist routes have been laid, there are tent camps for those who stay for a few days. One of the main attractions of Avash is the two-kilometer dormant volcano Fantale. The last time it erupted in 1820 – this is still reminded of the lava flows descending from the crater.

Lake Abbe

Attraction rating: 4.2

Lake Abbe

Abbe is a salt lake on the border of Ethiopia and Djibouti, fed by the fresh waters of the Awash River. The area around the reservoir is deserted, people hardly live there. In the vicinity there are unusual landscapes: limestone pillars and other bizarre shapes that resemble a lunar landscape. It was here that the film “Planet of the Apes” was filmed.

The place here is very hot: even in winter, the daytime temperature reaches 35 ° C, and the nighttime temperature – 25 ° C, in summer it can be up to forty and higher. Despite its extreme aridity, the area around the lake is inhabited by animals: in winter you can see flamingos, Thompson's gazelles, warthogs, camels and domestic donkeys constantly inhabit.

It is easier to get to the lake from the side of the state of Djibouti: there is a road and a tourist base there. You can arrive by your own SUV (an ordinary car does not have enough cross-country ability for local roads) or taken from a travel agency. Near the lake you can admire a large colony of flamingos, limestone cliffs and hot springs gushing out of the ground.

Sof-Omar cave

Attraction rating: 4.1

Sof-Omar cave

Sof Omar is the longest cave in Ethiopia, located in the southeastern part of the country in the province of Bale. The closest city from which you can get to it is Rob, it is about 120 km to the west. The wide river Web flows through the cave, originating in the Bale mountains. It wears away the cave walls, forming an unusual natural pattern.

There are 42 different entrances through which you can get inside. If the passage is located near the village, you can get inside only with a guide and for a fee – 100 birr (about 200 rubles). Inside, the cave branches out into many wide corridors interspersed with galleries and halls. In some places there are columns left from the walls washed out by the river. At the entrance you can see monkeys and birds, and in the depths there are 9 different species of bats.

The length of the tourist route is about half a kilometer. Previously, electric lighting worked here, but now travelers have to be content with their flashlights. Through the huge main entrance, the light penetrates rather deep into the depths, so that it is not completely dark in the cave.

Debre Damo

Attraction rating: 4.1

Debre Damo

To the west of the Ethiopian city of Adigrat is the ancient Christian monastery of Debre Damo. It stands on top of a cliff, 2216 meters above sea level. The monastery arose in the XI century, during the existence of the Aksumite kingdom. Monks live here to this day.

To get to the monastery, you need to climb a rope along a sheer rock wall 15 meters high. The top of the cliff is flat and houses the monastic huts, where about 200 people live, as well as the main temple, bell tower and chapel. The population is completely male, women are not allowed to enter the monastery.

The main temple is made up of alternating layers of wood and stone. The inside of the building is decorated with numerous frescoes. Ancient religious books are kept there. By the beginning of the 20th century, the temple was abandoned and began to deteriorate, but later they began to restore it, and it continues to fulfill its purpose now.

Temples of Geralta

Attraction rating: 4.0

Temples of Geralta

The Geralt area is located in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. Its main attraction is churches carved from stone, similar to the temple of Lalibela, but much more ancient – they began to be created since the 5th century, from the very adoption of Christianity by Ethiopia. There is another group of buildings that arose somewhere – in the XV-XVII centuries. These are the most important parts of the country's religious and cultural heritage.

Many of the churches are not just tourist attractions, but still operating religious buildings. Due to the fact that they were not built, but carved out of stone, the buildings turned out to be much more durable and resistant to the action of time than many other ancient structures. Inside, you can see ancient manuscripts and admire unusual wall paintings. In addition to the churches themselves, travelers will find delightful landscapes and unique mountain landscapes.

Harer

Attraction rating: 4.0

Harer

If Geralt is the place of Ethiopian Christianity, then the capital of another religion prevalent in the country – Islam – is the city of Harer. It is also the commercial center of Ethiopia. Harer is located on the eastern edge of the Ethiopian Highlands, at the top of a hill, 1847 meters above sea level.

The city has a rich history. In the 16th century, the emirate was located here, where the religious leaders – the imams – had real power. In 1527 one of the local rulers, Ahmed ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, declared war on Christian Ethiopia. He managed to seize part of the country's territories, but later, after the death of the imam, the Ethiopians recaptured them. Further, the emirate existed for several more centuries, until it was conquered by the Egyptians in 1875, and a few decades later became part of Ethiopia.

The most significant sights of Harer are the local mosques. There are quite a few of them – the old city alone, surrounded by a fortress wall, has at least 87 religious buildings. In addition, you can visit the house of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who lived here in recent years.

At night, beware of the hyenas roaming the streets of Harer. Locals believe that predators “patrol” the city, protecting people from thieves. Therefore, these wild animals are not fought here, and constantly three flocks roam in Harer.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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