Famous for its rock-hewn churches and ancient monasteries, Ethiopia has spectacular scenery, the vast Rift Valley and volcanic lakes. With its interesting wildlife and abundant birdlife, the variety of its habitats and the diversity of its ethnic groups, an Ethiopia holiday offers visitors an unrivalled choice of experiences. Much of Ethiopia, the ‘Roof of Africa’, is fertile and well-watered, with breathtaking scenery dominated by highlands 2,000 metres above sea level.
Ethiopia's geography & peoples
Twenty peaks in the central mountainous plateau rise to 4,000 metres or more whereas the Danakil Depression is the lowest point on the African continent. The Rift Valley Lakes add to the country's captivating scenery and the Blue Nile Falls near Lake Tana are the continent’s second largest waterfalls (when not diverted for hydroelectric purposes). Home to 102 million people, making up over 80 ethnic groups, Amharic is the first language of Ethiopia but English is widely spoken. The extraordinary people of South Omo merit special mention: the area is still about as close as one can get to an 'Africa untouched'.
World famous historical sites
The breathtaking historic sites, mostly found in the north of the country, have attracted travellers to Ethiopia for centuries. The Solomonic dynasty is said to have originated with the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon in the 10th century BC. She returned to Ethiopia where their child, Menelik I, was born. The dynasty’s last ruler, Haile Selassie, was deposed in 1974. Among the most famous historical sites, all of which are included in most Ethiopia holiday itineraries, are the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the obelisks at Axum and the ancient monasteries of Bahir Dar.
Wildlife focused holidays to Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a very interesting wildlife destination, with a fair number of endemic mammals. Notable among these are the critically endangered Simien wolf (less than 400 remaining in August 2017) and large ungulates including the endangered Walia ibex and Mountain Nyala. There are two endemic primates, the iconic Gelada monkey and the localised and poorly-known Bale monkey. Birders will be in their element - Ethiopia has one of the largest concentrations of endemics, most sought after of which include the stunning Ruspoli’s turacou and the range-restricted Harwood’s francolin.
Tailor-made private Ethiopia holidays
Our tailor-made private Ethiopia holidays are guided by exceptionally knowledgeable English-speaking guides and capable drivers. A number of tastefully designed lodges and hotels have opened across the country in recent years. These include the Kuriftu Resorts and Spas in Bahir Dar and Debre Zeit, Gheralta Lodge near Mekelle, Aregash Lodge at Yirgalem and Bale Mountains Lodge in Harenna Forest. While most might not compare with lodges in more conventional East African destintions such as Kenya, they certainly now make travel in Ethiopia considerably more comfortable.
Small group tours
Every January, we offer a small group departure (maximum 12 participants), which is centred around the Ethiopian Epiphany or Timket, the most impressive event of the social calendar. (Where there are more than 12 participants, we will run two or more departures). These small group holidays are very sociable and a fun way to go on holiday to Ethiopia and we highly recommend them if you enjoy travelling as part of a group.
Ethiopia holidays & tours - some considerations
All our Ethiopia holidays and tours can be tailor-made to suit special interests and dates. Just get in touch and we can help you to plan your trip so that you get the most from your holiday to Ethiopia. It's always best to ring at the outset as this helps to ensure we understand exactly the sort of holiday and activities that you enjoy. It is vital to note that for the most part, accommodation in Ethiopia is not of the same standard as is the case in better-known/more developed East African destinations.
Our Ethiopia itineraries are best suited for active and fit, healthy travellers who are not limited by mobility restrictions or high elevations. You should be able to walk unassisted for at least 2 miles over uneven terrain. Walks can be 2 - 3 hours in duration and at elevations of between 3,000 and 4,400 meters above sea level. If you are on a set departure, we do recommend arriving in Addis Ababa a day before the start of the tour, so you have the chance to acclimatise.
You need to be able to to handle uneven, fairly steep set of steps without handrails, notably in Lalibela. Here, some of the churches are cut deep into the mountainsides and others are located in caves. Touring these churches involves generally easy walking over rocky surfaces and negotiating some dark tunnels. Ethiopia itineraries are for the most part, busy with many early morning starts and not much in the way of down time
To get to the Bale and Simien Mountains entails drives along roads that have some rough sections and in drier months, can be dusty. 4-wheel drive vehicles are not designed as well for rugged terrain as the vehicles used for safaris in the better-known Eastern African destinations.
Zanzibar beach holiday add-ons
Ethiopian Airlines flies to Zanzibar every day of the week, so you can combine most Ethiopia holidays with time to relax on the beach as well. Zanzibar has an excellent range of places to stay from small, simple beach-side hotels to up-market resorts.
The Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia has been undergoing significant unrest. Tensions are currently such that the FCDO is advising against all but essential travel. Ethiopian Airlines is not operating flights to Axum or Mekelle at present.