Ethiopia is still shaking off the shackles of an unfortunate past and an image that was inadvertently created by Live Aid in the 1980’s. Stricken by famine, the country was given an incredible amount of support back then. Sadly, the money was ill spent and the “handouts” do not seem to have helped the ordinary locals who call it home.
However, this is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating countries on the planet! It features mind blowing landscapes, sensational food, unique attractions including the wonderful churches of Lalibela, and warm, friendly people.
Although absolutely any time is a good time to travel anywhere, the rainy season hits Ethiopia in June, July and August. However, this does also mean that the months which follow are incredibly lush. Therefore, September or October is truly a nice time to visit. If you plan to visit Ethiopia after having spent two weeks in Kenya, you can easily organize an itinerary to experience both countries at the best time of year. August happens to be the peak season for wildlife in the Maasai Mara in neighboring Kenya, which makes combining the two destinations a logical choice.
Visit Ethiopia: Day 1, 2 & 3 – Addis Ababa
Whether you fly to Ethiopia from overseas or from nearby Kenya, your first stop will be Addis Ababa, the capital. Take a few days here to spend some time relaxing and exploring the local sights. You can enjoy a visit to some of the ancient churches such as Holy Trinity or Medhane Alem.
If shopping is your preference, head to the bustling market of Merkato.
There is also the Red Martyr Museum, if you are interested in learning more about the victims of the violent Red Terror organization. Whatever you choose to do, there is certainly enough here to fill a couple of days at the very least.
In fact, if you do decide to stay on longer, Addis Ababa has a lot of excellent accommodation options. Take your time to enjoy the city, the delicious local food, and recharge before moving onward to the north.
Day 4 & 5 – Lake Tana (Bahir Dar)
Finally, you have an opportunity to witness one of the Great Lakes in Ethiopia.
While Bahir Dar is a good place for a base from which to explore, the highlight of the region is Lake Tana. Another worthwhile nearby attraction is the Blue Nile Falls. These falls are absolutely spectacular and worth the effort should you have an extra day to spare.
While in this region, you will notice that Lake Tana feels a million miles away from Bahir Dar.
The area consists of many monasteries which date as far back as the early beginnings of Christianity. You can venture out on the lake by boat or hike around the lakeside. Either way, this is a truly beautiful place!
Day 6, 7, 8 & 9 – Gondar & Lalibela
After arriving in the city of Gondar, you should take one day to rest and perhaps another at the end. This will give you a chance to recharge before moving back toward Addis Ababa.
Gondar Castle offers a magnificent sight in the centre of town. It was around this stunning structure that the city was built.
The ancient beginnings of Gondar can also be found in other attractions. These include the church of Debra Birman Selassie or the medieval baths in Fasilides, which was once the bathing place of a King with the same name. Located near the Simien Mountains, this is also a very scenic town. Then again, you will have already experienced such beauty on the journey to be there.
A religious complex like none other, the churches of Lalibela are some of the most unique in the world. They are also the most popular tourist attraction in Ethiopia, and for good reason. Bete Giyorgis is the best known of these structures and this rock-hewn church is nothing short of inspirational.
At the same time, there is also Axum which is lesser known but equally as impressive. From the Palace of Queen Sheba to the Church of St Mary of Zion, these churches are built into the cliff sides. Also, the travel time to reach them is far less than Lalibela.
Day 10 & 11 – Addis Ababa
It should take the best part of one day to drive back to Addis Ababa, the capital city. Once there, you may want to take another day to rest before either heading home, or continuing your journey through Ethiopia.
If you choose to stay for a few more days in this fascinating country, this would be the time to book a trip to the Danakil Depression. You will need to take an organized tour into this region as a military escort is mandatory. This is the unfortunate result of some tensions with nearby Eritrea. Some online sources, that can help with planning such a journey in advance are Brilliant Ethiopia, and Walia Adventures. It is also a good idea to check with your local embassy to assure that such a trip would be advisable and safe.
Day 12 & 13 – Visiting the Danakil Depression
The Danakil Depression is an area of Ethiopia which looks like no place on Earth.
It features the breathtaking sulphur field at Dallol and the ancient Ale volcano. This where you get to peak directly into the core of our Mother Earth.
There is also an enormous salt flat which rivals the famous Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.
If you decide to make this journey, one thing is for sure, you will remember these vistas for the rest of your life.
Day 14 & 15 – Addis Ababa
While you may not want any more time in the capital, this will inevitably be the point from which you will travel home or elsewhere. It may be a good idea to take an extra day here to rest in your hotel before making your way to the airport.
Kenya & Ethiopia – One Month of Absolute Variety
In general, Ethiopia is a much more primitive experience than Kenya and most other countries in Africa. Yet, the absolute rawness and authentic nature of travel make this such a beautiful place to experience. You will have the opportunity to mix with friendly locals and sample the variety of delicious food. You will be able to trek in the Simien Mountains and witness unspoiled landscapes.
On the other hand, Kenya is well adapted regarding tourism and can feel slightly less authentic at times. This, however, does not take away from the overall experience and very real interactions in places such as the Masai Mara.
In conclusion, one month is a great amount of time to plan a travel itinerary for Kenya and Ethiopia. The only major decision is whether you are happy to endure some bumpy road in between or if you prefer to fly from Kenya to Ethiopia. Either way, an unforgettable trip to Africa awaits! An encounter with the food, locals, landscapes, wildlife, and ancient traditions of the Dark Continent are sure to leave you wanting more.
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