The Horn of Africa: 5 Attractions to Visit During Your First Trip to Ethiopia
Updated: Aug 3, 2022
If you're heading off on your first trip to Ethiopia, there is plenty that can be overwhelming. Here are five key attractions for your itinerary!
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1. Stone Churches of Lalibela
Perhaps my favorite experience during my travels around Ethiopia was my journey to Lalibela, one of the world’s epicenters of Christian pilgrimage. There, I had the opportunity to visit a series of monolithic stone churches carved directly into the grounds of Lalibela.
It still amazes me that a group of people, so long ago, was able to engineer a series of structures with such great attention to detail and intricacy. Ancient Ethiopians were truly phenomenal to accomplish such historical and innovative feats, and that tradition of excellence lives on in Ethiopians of the present day. Experiencing Lalibela and observing the divine commitment and simple humility of the priests and students of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church further served as a type of affirmation and rebirth of my own personal religious and spiritual beliefs at the time.
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2. The Obelisks of Axum
Another memorable weekend during my travel to Ethiopia was my trip to Axum. My tour group and I took a short flight on Ethiopian Airlines to Axum from Bole Airport and had an opportunity to see the obelisks and steles of the ancient Axumite Empire. Steles were intricate structures that were originally built to mark the burial places of important leaders of the Empire. One of the greatest steles constructed in this area was the Obelisk of Axum, which demonstrated the wealth and grandiosity of the Axumites. Up until the 8th century, the Axumite Empire controlled several trade routes between the Mediterranean, Africa, and the Arabian Middle East. Being among the ruins definitely transports you back into time!
As a part of our visit to Axum, we also visited the remains of the Palace of the Queen of Sheba. The Queen of Sheba is referenced in the Bible and is a significant figure in Ethiopia's national epic and foundational story.
3. Entoto Mountain
During my visit to Ethiopia, we took a van from the capital city of Addis Ababa to the Entoto mountains. The Entoto Mountains are approximately 3000 feet above ground, and the drive is stunning with winding roads and scenic views. On the way there, we drove past a number of residential areas as well as small souvenir booths that sold hand-made drums, traditional dresses, and colorful Ethiopian artwork. At the top of the Mountain is a multicolored church, called Entoto Maryam Church. The Church was built by former Emperor Menelik II and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
We also visited the Entoto Historical Museum which was built in 1887. The museum illustrated the histories of Emperor Menelik and Empress Titu. We were not able to take pictures, but were able to view the couple's royal dress, crowns, and gifts from leaders of countries such as Russia. It was truly an amazing feeling to see such a rich Black history rooted in power and splendor. The Historical Museum truly stood out to me as an iconic attraction that I feel all members of the African Diaspora should visit and pay homage to.
4. Ethiopian National Museum in Addis Ababa
The Ethiopian National Museum is a quick trip from the center of Addis Ababa. It houses the remains of Dinkinesh (more popularly know as Lucy), one of the oldest and most complete fossilized hominids originally discovered in Ethiopia. Visiting Dinkinesh felt almost like visiting a great-great-great relative, as she's revered as an "Eve" of sorts in the minds of many in the scientific community.
Another highlight of the Museum was viewing the royal regalia of Haile Selassie. Haile Selassie is one of the most well known leaders in Ethiopian history and emerged as a powerful international figure in the early 20th century as many African nations were seeking independence from colonial rule during that time.
5. Lake Awassa
Awassa has a tropical vibe and is a short flight from Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines. The main attraction in Awassa is the Lake. The coast is dotted with fishermen, their small boats, and a cadre of Marabou storks. There you can take boat rides with the local merchants on Lake Awassa to see some of the local wildlife. You can get also shop at the fish market which is near the Lake's coast. The market is teaming with merchants selling a variety of foods, goods, and souvenirs for purchase.
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