It’s no secret, my love for Ethiopia is unmatched.
Startup a conversation with me about this amazing country and you’re likely to regret it; such is my ability to wax lyrical about this totally unique place!
For it is totally unique.
I’ve travelled across Africa, and even in the countries that border this landlocked country, none are even remotely similar to the one and only Ethiopia
And so, in case I need to prove to you just how fantastic and totally different this sensational destination is, here are 10 utterly unique and totally crazy things to do in Ethiopia!
- 57 Things You Need to Know Before You Travel Ethiopia
- Ideal Ethiopia Itinerary
- 55 Best Things to Do in Africa
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- 11 Complete Destination Guides to the Best Cities & Attractions
- Recommended Places to Stay
- Recommended Guides & Tour Companies + Contact Details
- Money Saving Tips + Budget Planner
- Advice on What to Expect & How to Stay Safe
- Packing Checklist
- Itinerary Schedule
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#1 Feed Wild Hyenas in Harar
Coming in first on the list is certainly one of the craziest things to do in Ethiopia and an eternal crowd-pleaser that proves just how bonkers this country is!
Yes, in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Harar in eastern Ethiopia you can feed wild hyenas.
And I’m not talking here about throwing these well-known predators a bit of meat from a distance.
Nope, I’m talking about feeding wild hyenas a piece of meat dangling from a stick, held between your teeth!
No word of a lie, this is for real and it’s every bit as mad as it sounds!
LEARN MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Harar, Ethiopia
#2 Spot Gelada Baboons in the Simien Mountains
At number 2 and sticking with the animal theme, spotting the endemic Gelada Baboons, is another of the top things to do in Ethiopia that is absolutely unique to this country.
Also known as the bleeding heart monkeys, because of the amazing blood red colouring on their chests, this species only exists in Ethiopia, in fact they only exist in the Simien Mountains National Park.
Not only does this UNESCO-listed park offer some incredible hiking and high altitude views, but seeing the hordes of Gelada Baboons that live here will make your time in this beautiful location even more special.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains
#3 Sleep on Top of an Active Volcano
Coming in 3rd on this list is a pretty impressive thing to do in Ethiopia no matter which way you look at it!
Yup sleeping on top of an active volcano is every bit as mad as it sounds, and in crazy Ethiopia, it’s totally possible.
Located in the country’s Danakil Depression region, the Erta Ale Volcano is very much active and alive.
A fact peering down into its lava-bubbling crater will instantly prove to you!
As part of your tour, you’ll then get the chance to sleep not 100m from this crater outside under the desert stars while you pray the thing doesn’t erupt!
READ MORE: Discovering the Most Dramatic Destination of Earth : Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression
#4 Watch Sunset Over a Salt Lake
Keeping it in the Danakil Depression – because, quite frankly, this place is just too bonkers not to have 2 entries on this list – watching sunset over the huge salt lake of Asale is an absolute must.
Normally only part of a 4 day Danakil Depression Tour, the sunset over this huge white expanse, which reflects the fading rays of the sun like nothing else, makes a longer trip in this remote part of Ethiopia certainly worth it.
I mean, who even knew Ethiopia had salt lakes?
Not me, until I was practically standing on the thing and watching the amazing spectacle of camel caravans, laden with salt bricks, slowly lumbering their way along the crystal salt surface to the backdrop of one of the reddest sunsets I’ve ever seen!
#5 Visit the Camelot of Africa
But it’s not all just natural wonders in Ethiopia.
Nope, this utterly unique country also packs a mean old punch when it comes to cultural sites too and definitely another of the great things to do here is to check out the Royal Enclosure in the city of Gondar.
Known as the Camelot of Africa, Gondar boasts a wealth of Medieval castles that sit right at the heart of this busy student city and really do look like something out of a fairy tale.
For next to nothing, you can wander around these crumbling structures and almost hear the clattering of horses’ hooves and chink of full goblets on overhanging balconies and in huge banquet rooms that were once the epicentre of a mighty powerful trading empire.
DISCOVER MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Ethiopia’s Gondar
#6 Revel in the Mysticism of Lalibela’s Sunday Mass
Stepping back in time from the Medieval period to the beginning of the third century, Ethiopia was one of the first African countries to embrace Christianity.
Little has changed within the isolated Ethiopian Orthodox Church since that time, and the perfect place to witness this ancient and mystical form of the faith is at the Sunday dawn mass in the town of Lalibela.
Famous for its rock-hewn churches, Lalibela is one of the epicentres of the Orthodox community in this country and heading here on a Sunday to witness this magical ceremony complete with incense, drumming and chanting, as the day slowly breaks, puts a whole new layer of meaning and significance onto these amazing UNESCO churches.
LEARN MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Lalibela in Ethiopia
#7 Hike to Abuna Yemata
And if it’s more rock-hewn churches you’re after, it doesn’t get better than Abuna Yemata, one of the Gheralta churches dating from the 3rd century.
But you don’t necessarily head here just for the church.
Although the tiny cave chapel, built high up on a rocky cliff and covered with amazing paintings is spectacular and spell-binding, it’s the location that clinches it.
Yes, set at the top of an isolated outcrop, the barefoot climb to make the ascent to this remote religious outpost is definitely one of the best things to do in Ethiopia.
Largely referred to as the most remote church in the world, there’s no doubt that the journey to Abuna Yemata is more than half the experience… and the view from the top ain’t half bad either!
READ MORE: Reaching for the Heavens : Trekking to Ethiopia’s Tigray Churches
#8 Learn About a Forgotten Ancient Civilisation
Did you know that Ethiopia was home to one of the greatest powerhouses on Earth?
A powerhouse that matched the Roman, Greek and Persian civilisations in its strength, that traded across the Red Sea, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa and that even used coins and written language to create an ordered and established empire?
Nope neither did I!
And why’s that?
Because this is Ethiopia, the land of secrets, that’s why!
Discover all you need to know about this lost chapter of history by visiting the ancient city of Axum in northern Ethiopia, to marvel at the giant obelisks here, as well as the ancient tombs and highly sophisticated engineering skills from thousands of years ago!
DISCOVER MORE: The Complete Guide to Visiting Ethiopia’s Axum
#9 Stand at the Start of the Nile in Bahar Dar
The origin of ancient and Medieval civilisations, as well as some of the earliest forms of Christianity still practised, did you know Ethiopia also boasts the origin of the River Nile within its borders too?
Ok, so granted it’s just half the Nile – the Blue Nile (the other half, the White Nile, originates in Jinja, Uganda) – but nevertheless, heading to see the start of the most famous river in the world is, without question, one of the best things to do in Ethiopia.
Set near the town of Bahar Dar, a trip out to see the amazing waterfalls marking the start of the Blue Nile is a short afternoon excursion, but the lovely hike in this rural area, local boat ride and then of course the sight of the falls themselves, makes it very rewarding.
READ MORE: Seeing Bahar Dar’s Blue Nile Falls
#10 Watch and Try Some Ethiopian Dancing
And finally, coming in at number 10 on my list of the most utterly unique and totally crazy things to do in Ethiopia, and to really get into the spirit of this country, is to go to a traditional restaurant, bar or club and watch some Ethiopian dancing!
If you’re feeling brave, or have a few beers in you, you might even give it a try!
I won’t spoil it too much for you now, but the key is the shoulders and the neck, losing all inhibitions and rocking it to that semi-awful, semi-genius Ethiopian music!
The best places I’ve enjoyed Ethiopian dancing is in Axum and Bahar Dar.
Just ask a local for the traditional restaurant and they’ll point you in the right direction and will probably join you in the fun too!
Mini Ethiopia Travel Guide
When to Visit Ethiopia?
The best time to visit Ethiopia is during the mild, dry season which runs from roughly November through to February.
This will allow you full access to the country and the opportunity to see and do as much as possible during your time there.
How Long to Spend There?
I highly recommend a stay of at least 10 days in Ethiopia to get a good feel for this huge country.
2 weeks would be even better, and 3 weeks to 1 month is ideal if you really want to travel most of the country, including to the southern region of the Omo Valley.
Learn more in my ideal Ethiopia itinerary, which breaks the country down into 3 great routes.
How to Get to Ethiopia?
Almost all travellers in Ethiopia arrive into the country’s international airport, which is situated right on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa.
The best airline to fly with is Ethiopian Airlines who run direct services from my European cities.
Check out Skyscanner for the best prices.
If you fly with Ethiopian Airlines into the country, you also get a huge 33% discount on domestic, internal flights, which really adds up.
If you’re coming by overland from either Sudan or Kenya, check the border situation before beginning your journey as they are both subject to regular disruption.
This post may help.
Best Tours in Ethiopia
If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in Ethiopia with guides you can trust, then email me at [email protected] with details of where you want to go and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!
Otherwise, check out these great options, which cater to a range of budgets, travel styles and trip lengths.
5 Things You Shouldn’t Travel to Ethiopia Without
#1 Headlamp – Required for those all too often power cuts. I love my Black Diamond Storm, which hasn’t failed me in Africa yet!
#2 Toilet Paper – Most places don’t provide it!
#3 Long, Thin, Hiking Trousers – Perfect for the cold evenings and hiking opps in Ethiopia, as well as when visiting churches or Addis Ababa, I love this pair from Columbia.
#4 Good Camera – An absolute must if you’re looking to capture the incredible landscape and historical artifacts of Ethiopia. I love my mirrorless Sony A6000, which is light, compact and robust – ideal for Africa travel
#5 Travel Scarf or Sarong – Whether it’s covering your shoulders in the churches, wrapping round you at night as a shawl or using as protection from the dust, a travel scarf is a great multi-purpose item for Ethiopia Travel.
Travel Insurance for Ethiopia
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
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So there you have it, my list of 10 utterly unique and totally crazy things to do in Ethiopia.
Have I convinced you to visit this insanely brilliant country yet?
Or perhaps you’re already a fan!
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments box below…
6 thoughts on “10 Utterly Unique & Amazing Things to Do in Ethiopia”
Hi Steph, I’m planning a trip to Ethiopia this winter. I got a great quote from easy Ethiopia tours but can’t find reviews for the company anywhere and am reluctant to book given that there are many fake travel companies. Did you use this company personally, do they have an office. TIA
Hi Cristina. I did use them personally yes and will be when I return shortly. You can contact Gashaw on Whatsapp if that makes you feel happier. I can send his number to you via email if you like? Drop me a line at [email protected] if you want it. His office is in Bahar Dar and if you’re going there he can meet you. 🙂
We are planning out an Ethiopia tour for this March and your website has been our go-to resource. We’re damn confused as we only have 8-9 days available and will not have the chance to make it to Lalibela’s Sunday Mass. Flying to Mekelle, doing the Danakil Depression tour – where do you suggest we go after for another 2-3 days? Lalibela seems hard to get to from Mekelle with no flights daily either. Tigray churches seem epic, but for someone with a crazy fear of heights, that looks deadly. Ideas?
Hi Divya and Vikas, thanks so much for your amazing comments and delighted to hear you will head to Ethiopia soon. I’m here right now actually (again!) but leaving before you get here. Sad times! Danakil is a must – do just the 3 days if you are short of time. Can you head to Lalibela from Addis and then onto Makele? That way you’d see both. Tigray churches are a must for me (although I’m not scared of heights soo….!) and from there I’d head to Axum for a night or 2, before flying back to Addis. This should fit your timeframe. Otherwise, from Makele fly to Gonder and visit this city and Simien Mountains on a day trip instead of Tigray Churches and Axum? So many choices!
Thanks for your prompt response. Would have loved to meet you had you been there (Gah!). Think we’ll take up the Axum suggestion, do Addis – Axum – Danakil – Addis. If we are too scared of doing the Tigray treks, any alternatives? Debre Damo seems nice but annoying that only the man gets to see it 🙁
Such a shame we missed each other! Simien is a hiking alternative to Tigray Churches, but also quite high and the other way from Axum towards Gonder. Alternatively, hiking in the Bale Mountains is meant to be amazing, but I still haven’t got there because of security issues everytime I visit! What about around Lalibela? Good hiking there to churches. Yes Debre Damo is male only 🙁