Ethiopia, a land of ancient civilizations, rugged landscapes, and vibrant cultures, has long been a destination for intrepid travellers seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures. While popular attractions like Lalibela and the Simien Mountains are well-known, Ethiopia is also home to numerous hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In 2023, as the world reopens for travel, here are ten hidden gems of Ethiopia that you should consider exploring.
Nestled in the northeastern part of Ethiopia, the Danakil Depression is an otherworldly landscape that will leave you in awe. This remote and desolate region is home to salt flats, volcanic formations, and colourful sulphur lakes. Trekking across the Depression and witnessing the lava lakes of Erta Ale volcano is an unforgettable experience.
In addition to witnessing the lava lakes of Erta Ale volcano, the Danakil Depression is known for its salt flats, such as the vast Dallol Salt Plain, where workers extract salt from the ground. The Depression also offers the opportunity to visit traditional Afar villages and experience the unique culture of the local people.
Bale Mountains National Park
Located in the southeastern part of Ethiopia, the Bale Mountains National Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The park boasts stunning alpine landscapes, lush forests, and diverse wildlife. You can embark on hiking expeditions to spot the endangered Ethiopian wolf, explore ancient rock formations, and marvel at the Harenna Forest.
Apart from its diverse wildlife, the Bale Mountains National Park is a paradise for hikers and trekkers. The park offers various trails, including the thrilling Sanetti Plateau Trek, where you can spot Ethiopian wolves and endemic birds. The stunning Tulu Dimtu, the second-highest peak in Ethiopia, is a popular destination for adventurous climbers.
Blue Nile Falls
Often referred to as the “smoking water,” the Blue Nile Falls is a hidden gem that rivals the famous Victoria Falls in beauty. Located near the town of Bahir Dar, this majestic waterfall cascades down a series of terraces, creating a mesmerising spectacle. Take a boat ride to get closer to the falls and witness its raw power and beauty.
Tigray Rock-Hewn Churches
While Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches are well-known, the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia is home to a lesser-known collection of these architectural wonders. Scattered across the rugged Tigray highlands, these ancient churches are carved into cliffs and offer a glimpse into Ethiopia’s rich religious heritage. The steep ascent to reach these hidden treasures adds an element of adventure to the experience.
The Tigray region is not only home to rock-hewn churches but also breathtaking landscapes. The region offers excellent opportunities for hiking and rock climbing, with stunning views of the dramatic landscapes and ancient monasteries perched high on cliffs. Each church has its unique architectural style and historical significance, making it a must-visit for history and architecture enthusiasts.
Lake Tana Monasteries
Ethiopia’s largest lake, Lake Tana, is not only a scenic marvel but also home to a collection of historic monasteries. Take a boat tour across the lake and explore the remote monasteries that date back centuries. These monasteries are adorned with vibrant murals, ancient manuscripts, and religious artefacts, providing a fascinating insight into Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.
Sof Omar Cave
Located in the Bale Zone of Ethiopia, the Sof Omar Cave is one of the longest cave systems in Africa. This hidden gem is a paradise for spelunking enthusiasts, with its vast chambers, underground rivers, and dramatic limestone formations. Exploring the cave complex, guided by local experts, is an unforgettable adventure.
Awash National Park
For wildlife enthusiasts, the Awash National Park is a hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed. Located in the Great Rift Valley, this park is home to diverse ecosystems, including savannahs, acacia woodlands, and the majestic Awash River. Embark on a safari to spot elephants, giraffes, zebras, and a myriad of bird species.
Known as the “City of Saints,” Harar is a hidden gem in eastern Ethiopia. This ancient walled city has a unique atmosphere, blending Ethiopian, Islamic, and African traditions. Explore the narrow alleys of the old town, visit traditional markets, and witness the mesmerising hyena feeding ceremony, a practice unique to Harar.
As you plan your travels to Ethiopia in 2023, remember to respect the local customs and traditions, and engage with local communities in a responsible and sustainable manner. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, nature lover, or history enthusiast, Ethiopia’s hidden gems offer a wealth of experiences that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Embrace the spirit of exploration and venture beyond the well-trodden path to discover the true essence of this remarkable country.
Escape the hustle and bustle of Ethiopia’s cities and head to Lake Langano for a relaxing retreat. Located in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, this serene lake offers pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and stunning scenery. You can unwind on the shores, swim in the lake, or try your hand at various water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding. The surrounding area is also dotted with luxury resorts and lodges where you can indulge in spa treatments and enjoy breathtaking views.
Arba Minch and the Nechisar National Park
Arba Minch, meaning “forty springs” in Amharic, is a picturesque town located in the southern part of Ethiopia. It serves as a gateway to the Nechisar National Park, a hidden gem known for its diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes. Take a boat safari on Lake Chamo, where you can spot crocodiles, hippos, and a variety of bird species. Explore the park on foot or by 4×4 vehicle, and keep an eye out for zebras, gazelles, and the endemic Swayne’s Hartebeest.
These hidden gems of Ethiopia offer a blend of natural wonders, cultural heritage, and unique experiences. Whether you’re exploring the desolate landscapes of the Danakil Depression, immersing yourself in the history of the rock-hewn churches, or relaxing by the serene lakes, each destination promises to captivate and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.
In addition to these ten hidden gems, Ethiopia has countless more off-the-beaten-path destinations waiting to be discovered. From the ancient city of Axum with its towering obelisks to the mystical landscapes of the Omo Valley, this country is a treasure trove of cultural, historical, and natural wonders.