Ethiopia is a landlocked country in East Africa–which is oftentimes referred to as the Cradle of Humanity, given its longstanding history as one of the earliest ancient human civilizations. That said, Ethiopia is rife with unique heritage and culture, dating back to thousands of years ago.
To add to its charms, Ethiopia has a diverse and remarkable geography, ranging from high mountains to lowlands, from arid deserts to lush forests. It is home to the highest and lowest points in Africa: Ras Dashen and Danakil Depression. From the epic Blue Nile Falls to the otherworldly Dallol volcano–otherwise known as the hottest place on Earth–it is no wonder Ethiopia has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other African country. So, strap your seatbelts and let us explore the top 10 geographic Ethiopia is known for.
- The Danakil Depression
Are you wondering what Martian terrain would look like? You need not book a flight to space to witness it in person. Just go to the great Danakit Depression in Ethiopia and admire the scorching hot landscape that seems to be devoid of any form of life. There is nothing more appropriate to describe this landscape other than “otherworldly.” The Danakil depression is perhaps the lowest, hottest, and driest place on Earth. It is home to the Erta Ale lava lake, one of just six lava lakes on Earth, and Dallol — a boiling hot spring that resembles a strangely colorful apocalyptic hellscape more than anything else. This is perhaps one of the most geographically unique landscapes anywhere in the world, which is definitely worth the temporary physical discomfort of a visit. If you are feeling brave and adventurous for the day and decide to pay a visit, you will definitely need layers of protective clothing to withstand the harsh conditions here. You have been warned!
- The Simien Mountains
The Simien National Park in northern Ethiopia is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it certainly is not a wonder why. The Simien Mountains include Ras Dejen, the highest point in the country, and there is no shortage of spectacular views of the lowlands below. Stretching over 100 miles and reaching an altitude of 15,000 feet, the mountains are one of the largest ranges in Africa. It is also home to a diverse ecosystem, including rare animals such as the gelada baboon, walia ibex, and Ethiopian wolf.
This Green Grand Canyon is a trekkers Paradise. It offers the best trekking experience in the world. From jaw dropping views to wall-to-wall sunshine and generous hospitality along rare wildlife sightings makes it an unforgettable trekking experience.
- Blue Nile Falls
The Blue Nile Falls is perhaps among the most spectacular landscapes Ethiopia has to offer. Locals refer to it as “Tis-Isat,” which literally translates to “Smoke of Fire,” perhaps alluding to the thick mist it generates which indeed looks like smoke from a fire from afar. As one of the most dramatic waterfalls anywhere on the Nile, it stretches a quarter-mile wide during the flood season between June and September, and cascades down over 150 feet. If you love hiking, you definitely can’t miss this tourist attraction as there are several hiking trails through the green countryside around the falls, and if you’re lucky, you might even run into some of the forest’s resident monkeys or birds.
- Bale Mountains National Park
Bale Mountains National Park is yet another of Ethiopia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. A vast landscape through and through, it covers around 850 square miles and has some of the most diverse geography in the country with towering mountains, scenic valleys, and miles of forests. Its Sanetti Plateau is the largest such plateau at this altitude on the entire continent, and it is considered as one of the best places in the world to see the rare Ethiopian wolf.
The park is located 400 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa. It includes a large high-altitude plateau with numerous spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, pristine tiny alpine lakes, and rushing streams from the mountain descending to deep rocky gorges on their way down to the lowlands. Bale Mountains National Park offers visitors with opportunities for the best trekking, mountaineering, horse trekking and scenic driving experience.
Your eyes will meet stunning views around every turn, with opportunities to spot Ethiopia’s rare and unique wildlife. The only things you need to pack are extra clothes, water, snacks, a hat, and trekking poles.
- Arba Minch
In Arabic, Arba Minch means “forty spring,” and that moniker isn’t far off. The area is rife with an abundance of small springs, and two of the largest lakes in the country–lake Chamo and Abaya. The town of Arba Minch itself sits 4,200 feet up in the foothills of the Rift Valley, providing onlookers with an incredible 360 views of the surrounding Nechisar National Park. The rock church of Abuna Yemata is perhaps the most notable human-made sight, at an altitude of 8,500 feet and accessible via a challenging climb up a cliff wall.
- The Rift Valley lakes
Strung out in the area between Addis Ababa and Arba Minch, Ethiopia’s Rift Valley Lakes are a pleasant lowland area offering an ideal stopping point for travelers wanting to visit the South of the country by vehicle from Addis. Home to some of Ethiopia’s best ‘resort’ hotels, an Ethiopia Rift Valley holiday is perfect for those looking to have a few days of rest and relaxation whilst traveling to Ethiopia.
The majority of the Rift Valley’s lakes can be found in Ethiopia. They are an impressive collection of lakes which extend from north to south across eastern north Africa. Among the area’s splendors is the Abijatta-Shalla National Park where you will find natural hot springs and pink flamingos. Lakes Chamo and Abaya, close to the city of Arba Minch, will captivate you with their color: the first is blue and the second copper red.
- Lake Tana
Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile. It is located in a depression of the northwest plateau, 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level. It is a significant tributary of the Nile Basin Watershed and is located in the Amhara Region of the north-western Ethiopian Highlands. This lake is so large that it has numerous islands, many of which are inhabited. Many islands are famous for being the burial places for numerous Ethiopian emperors. One such island, Tana Qirqos, is believed to be the place where the Virgin Mary rested on her journey back from Egypt.
There are more than 30 islands in Lake Tana. Some twenty of these islands house churches and monasteries of significant historical and cultural interest dating back to 14th and 17th century.
- The Gheralta Mountains
The Gheralta Mountains on the corner of northeastern Tigray almost resembles the American West with its flat plains and distinct, mountainous rock formations strikingly similar to that of Utah’s Monument Valley. The mountains themselves are known as Gheralta, and they’re quite a departure from the strange landscapes of Dallol and lush springs of Arba Minch. Gheralta is best known for its cluster of 35 rock-hewn churches, the largest such collection anywhere in the country—many of which sit on rock outcroppings accessible only via narrow, treacherous-looking escarpments.
Ethiopia: The Lush Heaven on Earth
Aside from its rich, ancient and cultural heritage, Ethiopia is blessed with a diverse natural landscape with highlands, mountains, lowlands and deserts. These sceneries will surely be one of the most awe-striking sights you will even lay your eyes upon. Indeed, Ethiopia is heaven on earth. So, what are you waiting for? Check out Ethiopia tour packages and explore the otherworldly wonders of the Cradle of Humankind. Trust us, this is surely one for the books!