Ethiopia, home to the famed Queen Of Sheeba, has much to offer the true African holiday explorer

Africa's oldest independent country, Ethiopia, is shaped by its regal past and over a millennium of Christianity. Such history has resulted in phenomenal architectural sites from the medieval site at Lalibela, the baroque-style royal residences at Gondor and the cultural terraces of the Konso highlands.

Ethiopia's rugged mountains are equally as striking as any of the man-made constructions. Inhabited by animals such as Ethiopian wolves, Walia ibex and Gelada baboons (all unique to the country), both the Bale and the Simien Mountains are worth the time of any keen adventurer.

Bale National Park is a mixture of alpine peaks and lower dustier plains and first time visitors could be forgiven for mistaking it for the set of a western film. Take the opportunity to explore on horseback and make it extra special by riding the Sanetti Plateau as the sun rises.

Home to the bent horns of the Ibex, the high plateau of the Simien Mountains offer a more jagged landscape with deep canyons, protruding rocks, sheer cliffs, and wonderful vistas for those that trek across them.

Spend time at the historic royal city of Gondar for the more cultivated side of Ethiopia. From the 12th to the 20th century, Gondar was the home to the country's rulers and contains numerous palaces, castles and gardens to explore.

Churches too play a large part in the country's architectural identity and some of the world's oldest can be found on the islands of Lake Tana, while at Axum (home of the Queen of Sheba), the giant, granite obelisks prove even the most ancient architecture is phenomenal.

Check the exciting regions and itineraries we are able to offer you below.

addisababa

Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, is located in the central highlands and boasts a wealth of attractions. Places worth visiting include the National Museum, the Menelik Palace, the Jubilee Palace and St George's Cathedral.

arbaminch

Arba Minch, meaning 40 springs, is named after the several bubbling streams surrounding the town. Here you will find two of the country's greatest rift valley lakes, situated close to each other and shaping the neck of land between the two lakes.

awassa

The city of Awassa combines the conviviality of a medium sized city with the peace and space of Lake Awassa. There are various attractions in and around the city, which are dominated by the golden domes of St Gabriel Church.

axum

The town of Axum, in the far north of Ethiopia, is fabled as being the home of the Queen of Sheba. It offers many interesting archaeological sites as well as being an important religious site and, supposedly, the home of the Ark of the Covenant.

bahirdar

Bahir Dar, the third largest city in Ethiopia, is situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana. On the islands of the lake are some of the world's oldest churches and monasteries, which can be reached via boat trips.

goba

Goba is a gateway to the Bale Mountains National Park. The park is the ultimate destination for hikers, wildlife watchers, culture and nature enthusiasts and bird watchers, and is one of the best places to spot the rare and endangered Ethiopian Wolf.

gondar

As the ancient capital of Ethiopia (1632-1855), Gondar retains an atmosphere of charm that’s mingled with an aura of mystery.

jinka

Jinka is a market town in southern Ethiopia, located in the hills north of the Tama Plains and close to Mago National Park. The extremely remote Mago National Park is located on the eastern bank of the River Omo.

lakelangano

Lake Langano is a stunning area surrounded by a number of resorts, making it a popular destination for tourists and city-dwellers. The lake is safe to swim in and there are plenty of water sports on the lake for visitors to get involved in.

best_of_ethiopia

17 Nights

Ethiopia is the only African country never to have been colonised, and to have maintained its Christian heritage, despite all its neighbouring countries turning to Islam in the 17th century.

camping,_wildlife_&_culture

13 Nights

This itinerary is designed for those who love nature, wildlife, and authentic culture. Most of the major national parks in the country that are famous for wildlife are included.

classic_ethiopia

7 Nights

Ethiopia is the hidden gem of Africa. It's a land of cultural treasures and dramatic landscapes, and home to some incredibly captivating people and wildlife.

history,_mountains_&_wildlife

8 Nights

Ethiopia is a land packed full of history, wildlife, culture and adventure, and whether you're a first of fifth time visitor, there will always be something interesting and exciting to see.

northern_adventure

9 Nights

This adventurous tour travels from one of the lowest and hottest places on the planet to the mountains of Tigray.

wildlife_and_tribal_culture

13 Nights

This itinerary is designed for those who love nature, wildlife, and authentic culture. It gives you the opportunity to meet several of Ethiopia's fascinating tribes and to learn about their culture, with visits to Mursi, Hamer, Kar...

Map

Sunshine is virtually guaranteed. There is a rainy season between the middle of June and the end of September, but for the rest of the year clear skies reign, withtemperatures never generally rising above the late twenties. Only on the hot and humid lowland edges of western, eastern and southern Ethiopiado temperatures creep above 30C. The lightest possible clothing in lowland areas; medium- or lightweight in the hill country. Warm clothing may be needed at night to cope with the dramatic temperature change.
PassportPassport RequiredVisa RequiredReturn Ticket
Required
British Yes Yes/1 Yes
Australian Yes Yes/1 Yes
Canadian Yes Yes/1 Yes
Other EU Yes Yes/1 Yes
USA Yes Yes/1 Yes

To enter Ethiopia, a passport valid for six months is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above. Visas for Ethiopia are required by all nationals referred to in the chart above. Tourist visas can be issued on arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airports to: Foreign nationals coming from countries where there is no Ethiopian mission. Foreign nationals coming from, and who are permanent residents in, any of the following countries (1): Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. If applying for a tourist visa on arrival, visitors require two passport photographs and at least US$50. Most tourist visas can now be applied for online at the Ethiopian Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs (www.evisa.gov.et), the cost is US$50. Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements for Ethiopia. Transit visas are available for 12, 24, 48 or 72 hours. Tourist visa on arrival: US$50 (30-day single-entry); US$70 (three-month single-entry); US$80 (three-month multiple-entry); US$100 (six-month multiple-entry). Tourist visa obtained in advance: 28 (30-day single-entry); 42 (three-month single-entry); 49 (three-month multiple-entry); 56 (six-month multiple-entry). Single-or multiple-entry tourist visa valid for up to two years (US nationals only):US$70. There are a variety of business visas available; costs vary according to the purpose of travel. Single-entry: 30 days or three months; multiple-entry: three months or six months. Visas are valid from the date of issue, not from the date of entry; visas cannot be post-dated. Consulate (or consular section at embassy) in person or by post, or on arrival in some cases (see above). Visas for Ethiopia take around one to three working days to process, but longer if the application is by post. If applying for a business visa, you should allow at least two weeks. Visa applicants must supply proof of sufficent funds; a bank statement usually suffices.

Health PrecausionSpecial PrecautionCertificate
Diphtheria Yes
Hepatitis A Yes
Malaria Yes
Rabies Sometimes
Typhoid Yes
Tetanus Yes
Yellow Fever Yes*
It is essential to take out comprehensive travel insurance before travelling to Ethiopia and to make sure that necessary vaccinations are up to date. Those with pre-existing medical conditions which require medication should bring the necessary medication with them to last the entirety of their trip. They should also bring a letter from their doctor showing the generic names of the medication and listing any syringes or needles being carried. There are good private health care facilities within Addis Ababa but outside of the capital, hospitals are often inadequate and lack basic medicines and supplies. The Red Cross Ambulance emergency service number is 917 but it only works in the capital. * A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers aged over one year travelling from an infected area. Ethiopia is listed in the endemic zone for yellow fever and travellers arriving from non-endemic zones should note that vaccination is strongly recommended for travel outside the urban areas, even if an outbreak of the disease has not been reported and they would normally not require a vaccination certificate to enter the country.
Country Code: . There are plentiful public payphones in larger towns and every town has at least one 'telecentre' (phone centre shop where you can make local and international calls). Ethiopia's telecommunication service tends to be of bad quality with poor connections. Due to weak internet bandwidth there are similar problems when using internet communication networks such as Skype. Roaming agreements exist with many international mobile phone companies. Local pay-as-you-go SIM cards are able to be purchased by foreign visitors with an unlocked phone from any Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) shop or any private phone shop as long as you provide appropriate identification. Most of these shops also rent phones along with the SIM card if your mobile is not unlocked. Mobile coverage is patchy, particularly in more rural locations. There are many internet cafes in Addis Ababa and all towns which see foreign visitors have at least one internet cafe, and it is also common for hotels to now have Wi-Fi services. Internet and other mobile data services can be restricted by the government without notice, however, so visitors should have alternative communication plans in place.Unfortunately internet connections and speed still remain frustratingly slow at most places especially once outside of the capital. Recent years have seen positive changes towards deregulating Ethiopian media, with a handful of private radio broadcasters and independently-owned newspapers now operating. Despite this, the state still has a stranglehold over media within the country. The government regularly censors opposition internet websites and there have seen several recent highly controversial cases of journalist arrests under contentious anti-terrorism charges. Reporters Without Borders rated Ethiopia 137th on 2013's Press Freedom Index. The only television network is the state-owned Ethiopian Television (ETV). Radio is the most popular form of media countrywide with state-owned Radio Ethiopia operating a network of national as well as regional stations. The state-owned Ethiopian Herald is the main English-language print daily with The Daily Monitor the major independently-owned English-language newspaper. Airmail services to and from Europe take five to eight days to arrive and are reliable. Parcels can only be sent from Addis Ababa's main post office and need to go through a customs check before being accepted so must not be wrapped beforehand.

Mon-Fri 0830-1100 and 1330-1500; Sat 0830-1100.
Menus in the best hotels offer international food and Addis Ababa also has a number of good Chinese, Italian and Indian restaurants. Traditional restaurants in larger cities serve food in a grand manner around a brightly coloured basket-weave table called a masob.

Things to know: Traditional Ethiopian food does not use pork because most Ethiopians are Muslim or Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Before beginning the meal, guests will be given soap, water and a clean towel, and the right hand is used to break off pieces of bread with which the rest of the meal is gathered up. Cutlery is not used.

National specialities:

Ethiopian food is based on dishes called we't (meat, chicken or vegetables, cooked in a hot pepper sauce) and served with or on injera (a flat spongy bread).
Shivro and misir (chickpeas and lentils, Ethiopian-style).
Tibs (crispy fried steak).
Kitfo (raw or very rare ground beef marinated in a very hot chilli powder).
There is a wide choice of fish including sole, Red Sea snapper, lake fish, trout and prawns.

National drinks:
Ethiopian coffee from the province of Kaffa, with a little rue (a sweet herb) added for extra aroma, is called health of Adam'.
Local red and dry white wines are worth trying.
Tej (an alcoholic drink based on fermented honey).
Talla (Ethiopian beer).
Kaitaka (a pure grain alcohol).

Tipping: In most hotels and restaurants, a 10% service charge is added to the bill. Tipping is usual, but amounts are small. There are numerous local bars or pubs in the larger centres as well as more international style venues in hotels. In Addis, cultural' restaurants are good places to eat traditional food and take in Ethiopian music and dance. Special purchases include local jewellery (sold by the weight of gold or silver), woodcarvings, illuminated manuscripts and prayer scrolls, wood and metal crosses, leather shields, spears, drums and carpets. In marketplaces, bargaining is expected, but prices at shops in towns are fixed.

Shopping hours:
Mon-Fri 0800-1300, 1400-2000; Sat 0900-1300, 1500-1900 (with local variations).
Ethiopian Birr (ETB; symbol Br) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of Br100, 50, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents. US Dollar bills are the most convenient currency to exchange. Diners Club and MasterCard are accepted on a very limited basis. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. They are difficult to exchange outside the capital. The import of local currency is limited to Br100. The export of local currency up to Br100 is permitted, provided the traveller holds a re-entry permit. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, subject to declaration on arrival. Mon-Thurs 0800-1500; Fri 0800-1100 and 1330-1500; Sat 0830-1100.
1.00 GBP = 27.61 ETB
1.00 USD = 22.7 ETB
1.00 EUR = 23.99 ETB
1.00 CAD = 17.16 ETB
Currency conversion rates as of 10 January 2017
The following goods may be imported into Ethiopia by passengers aged 18 and over without incurring customs duty: 2 packets of cigarettes.
2 bottles of alcoholic drinks.
600ml of perfume. Prohibited imports include narcotics, firearms, explosives, counterfeit currency, pornography and materials which infringe upon intellectual property rights. Restricted imports requiring permits include hunting guns, air guns, swords, endangered plants and animals, live plants and animals, fruit and vegetables, seeds, ivory, medicines and satellite cameras. Prohibited or restricted exports include ivory (even if already processed into jewellery), precious metals, precious gems, religious artefacts, antiques and animal hides.
Below are listed Public Holidays for the January 2014-December 2015 period.
2016
7 Jan Ethiopian Christmas Day
19 Jan Timkat (Epiphany)
2 Mar Victory of Adowa
29 Apr Ethiopian Good Friday
1 May Ethiopian Easter Sunday
1 May Labour Day
28 May Derg Downfall Day
7 Jul Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
11 Sep Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash)
13 Sep Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
12 Dec Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad)

2017
7 Jan Ethiopian Christmas Day
19 Jan Timkat (Epiphany)
2 Mar Victory of Adowa
14 Apr Ethiopian Good Friday
16 Apr Ethiopian Easter Sunday
1 May Labour Day
28 May Derg Downfall Day
25 Jun Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
1 Sep Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
11 Sep Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash)
1 Dec Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad)
Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and the dates given below are approximations. During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night and normal business patterns may be interrupted. Some disruption may continue into Eid al-Fitr itself. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha may last up to several days, depending on the region.
Northeast Africa. 1,104,300 sq km (426,373 sq miles). 99,465,819 (2015). 90.1 per sq km. Addis Ababa. Federal Republic. Ethiopia is situated in northeast Africa, in the area known as 'The Horn of Africa'. It is bordered by Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, the self-proclaimed separatist territory of Somaliland, and Djibouti. Encompassing an area of 1,104,300 sq km (426,372 sq miles), it is roughly twice the size of France and is completely landlocked. The central area is a vast highland region of volcanic rock forming a watered, temperate zone surrounded by hot, arid, inhospitable desert. The Great Rift Valley (which starts in Palestine, runs down the Red Sea and diagonally southwest through Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi) slices through the central mountain ranges. The escarpments on either side of the country are steepest in the north where the terrain is very rugged. Within the country there is a huge diversity in altitude. The highest point is at Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains, which at 4,543m (14,905 ft) is Africa's 10th tallest mountain. The lowest point is inside the Danakil Depression which reaches 125m (410ft) below sea level. To the south, the landscape is generally flatter and much of the east and southeast is taken over by semi-arid scrubland. Although mass- deforestation has been a problem since the Middle Ages, the lowlands are still noted for their verdant evergreen forests. Ethiopia is home to four major river systems, the most important being the Blue Nile which begins at Lake Tana. Amharic is the official language, although about 80 other native tongues are spoken including Oromo, Somali and Tigrinya. English and Arabic are widely used and some Italian and French is spoken. Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 43.5%; Islam (mainly in the east and south), 33.9%. There are also significant animist, Evangelical, Protestant and Roman Catholic communities. GMT + 3. Religion permeates nearly every facet of Ethiopian life and society, on the whole, is conservative with traditional values very much in place. Only the right hand is used for eating or passing things (the left hand is used when going to the toilet so considered dirty). Some monasteries and churches are only open to male visitors. Women travellers should always check before entering if they're unsure. Photography: In smaller towns (and particularly in the Lower Omo Valley) the locals will expect a small payment in return for being photographed. Video photography in famous tourist attractions normally carries a small charge. Photography may be prohibited in airports and near military installations. 220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins and Italian-style plugs with three round pins in a line are both used. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn since 2012. President Mulatu Teshome Wirtu since 2013. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) of incumbent Premier Meles Zenawi won bitterly contested elections in May 2005; his third five-year mandate as prime minister, despite a sharp increase in public support for opposition parties. Many electoral complaints were made and the EPRDF and the main opposition both claimed victory as the initial results were announced. Around 36 people were killed and hundreds were arrested in protests sparked by opposition allegations of electoral fraud by the ruling party. The final results, announced in September 2005, gave the EPRDF and its affiliates control of parliament. Further violence saw the death of 46 more protestorsthat November.

Top Itineraries

Classic Ethiopia

7 Nights

Ethiopia is the hidden gem of Africa. It's a land of cultural treasures and dramatic landscapes, and home to some incredibly captivating people and wildlife.

Read more

Wildlife And Tribal Culture

13 Nights

This itinerary is designed for those who love nature, wildlife, and authentic culture. It gives you the opportunity to meet several of Ethiopia's fascinating tribes and to learn about their culture, with visits to Mursi, Hamer, Karo and other Omo valley tribes.

Read more

Best Of Ethiopia

17 Nights

Ethiopia is the only African country never to have been colonised, and to have maintained its Christian heritage, despite all its neighbouring countries turning to Islam in the 17th century.

Read more

Live Chat