Ethiopia Travel | Travel for Holidays & Vacations in Ethiopia | TravelQuest
Click Here for COVID-19 Travel Updates from TravelQuest

Ethiopia Travel

In an era when the farthest reaches of the globe are readily accessible to travelers, Ethiopia is the exception. Few destinations offer such a remarkable range of natural phenomena and cultural experiences—in places most of us know only through the work of intrepid writers, photographers, and documentary filmmakers. Some of us first discovered the rich culture and haunting landscapes of Ethiopia decades ago via the pages of National Geographic magazine. Back then it was a uniquely mysterious corner of the modern world. Even today, this vast land in northeast Africa, the only nation on the continent never colonized by Europeans, remains largely unexplored by travel groups.

In May 2021, become one of the few to journey into this mystic land. TravelQuest is offering a one-of-a-kind trip venturing deep into the heart of Ethiopia. This is a rare chance to weave your own story into an ancient narrative, capturing unforgettable images along the way. At every turn—from the bustling markets of Addis Ababa to remote tribal communities seldom visited by outsiders—you encounter the multiple dimensions of this fascinating country and its welcoming people.

Explore these Upcoming Tours

Why Travel Ethiopia?

Did you know that Harar, Ethiopia’s medieval capital, is regarded by many as the fourth holy city of Islam next to Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem? Or that Ethiopia’s famed Great Rift Valley is just one segment in a line of deep fissures that extends 3,800 miles (6,000 km) from the Middle East through the heart of Africa to Mozambique? Or that in the northern city of Axum, the famed Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion contains a guarded chapel that’s rumored to house the Ark of the Covenant?

This is unknown Ethiopia. It’s a destination that is definitely off the beaten path. On one hand, that’s a shame. The country has much to offer the traveler who is interested in discovering a unique region of the world. On the other hand, it means that we will not encounter throngs of tourists as we travel through this ancient land. This unknown quality is what makes Ethiopia such an appealing destination for TravelQuest.

An Ethiopia holiday offers sights not seen anywhere else in the world. Hyena Men, who collect offal and bones from around Harar and then invite visitors to watch them feed wild hyenas—from their mouths. Mursi women who, when they reach maturity, insert large clay plates into their lower lips. The Bodi people who celebrate girth as a sign of prosperity—to the point where young men regularly gorge on cow’s blood and milk in a bid to be honored as the community’s fattest man. And there’s the Blue Nile Falls, one of the most spectacular in Africa, cascading 150 feet (45 m) across a 1,300-foot (400-meter) span when the river is in full flood. It is for these sights, and so many more, that TravelQuest has an affinity for travel to Ethiopia.

The Blue Nile Falls is one of the most spectacular in Africa when the river is in full flood. (Photo by TQ)
A hyena takes food from the mouth of a “hyena man” in Harar, Ethiopia’s medieval capital (Photo by TQ)

Our Journey Through Ethiopia

TravelQuest’s 2021 Wonders of Ethiopia adventure covers a lot of ground. After arriving in the capital Addis Ababa, we journey east, then south, and finally into the north. To the east of Addis Ababa is Harar, Ethiopia’s medieval capital, protected by an encircling wall built in the 16th century by the Emir Nur ibn Mujahid. The city boasts a bustling marketplace, jam-packed with the region’s Amhara, Oromo, and Adere peoples. Included is an evening visit to the Hyena Men, who feed wild hyenas from their mouths—an experience you won’t soon forget!

South of Addis is in the community of Chencha and the Dorze people, once feared as warriors but now renowned as weavers of fine cotton textiles. Their colorful robes, or shammas, are popular throughout Ethiopia. The Dorze are also famed for their two-story “beehive” huts, which are constructed so skillfully from woven bamboo and enset (Ethiopian banana) that they last up to 80 years. Nearby is Chamo Lake, which boasts one of the world’s most spectacular concentrations of giant crocodiles—locals call it “The Crocodile Market.”

The Omo River Valley is home to the Karo people, known for elaborately decorating their faces and bodies before important ceremonies. Using white chalk and charcoal, as well as earth in hues of red, yellow, and ochre, Karo men and women create striking paintings on their flesh, often imitating the plumage of guinea fowl. Many also scar their chests, making cuts and then rubbing them with ash to raise patterns in the skin.

Another of the ancient tribes of southern Ethiopia are the Hamer, who tend their cattle herds among remote villages east of the Omo River. Decorating themselves with chalk paint and natural ornaments, the Hamer are known for their extraordinary cattle-leaping ritual. To mark their passage into manhood, young men must jump naked over a line of up to 30 bulls without falling.

In the north, Lake Tana (the largest in Ethiopia) has many islands that shelter churches of significant historical and cultural interest. Accessible only by boat are the monasteries of Ura-Kidane Mihret and Azwa-Mariam, which hold treasures of the Ethiopian Coptic Christians.

Gondar, Ethiopia’s capital from the 16th to the 18th century, is often called the “the Camelot of Africa” by admirers of its six castles. The oldest and most magnificent is Fasiledes, named for the king who founded Gondar in 1632. Also remarkable is the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie, an imposing structure with brightly colored ceilings covered in intricately painted angels.

In the far north is Axum, renowned for its array of stelae—a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing more than 120 stone monuments dating from the 4th century. Here is the famed Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, built from 1665 on foundations that likely date back a thousand more years. This Christian site contains a guarded chapel said to house the Ark of the Covenant. Elsewhere in Axum are the ruins of numerous palaces and tombs, including the residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba, who may have lived here some 3,000 years ago.

Lalibela, situated high in the Lasta Mountains at more than 8,500 feet (2,500 m) above sea level, is one of the most important religious sites in all of Africa. There are at least 200 churches scattered across the region, some hidden in enormous caves. Lalibela boasts 11 structures whose engineering and craftsmanship have rightly earned renown as architectural wonders.

The cross-shaped Church of St. George boasts an interior dominated by depictions of its namesake, Saint George, slaying the dragon. (Photo by Michel Girardin/TQ)
At maturity, Mursi women insert large clay plates into their lower lips—a tradition that may have started as a way to thwart slave traders. (Photo by Michel Girardin/TQ)
The largest of Axum’s standing obelisks stands 23 tall and is exquisitely carved to represent a nine-storey building. (Photo by TQ)

A Memorable Ethiopian Vacation

It’s probably safe to say that nowhere else in the world will you encounter as many unique sights as in Ethiopia. Men feeding hyenas at night by offering food in their mouths. Women inserting plates into their lower lip. Boys jumping naked over a line of bulls to become men. Rock-hewn churches and churches hidden in caves. Monasteries on islands accessible only by boat. And a guarded chapel rumored to house the Ark of the Covenant. Where else but in Ethiopia else will you find all these astonishing sights and marvels?

The unique memories you gather on TravelQuest’s Wonders of Ethiopia excursion will stay with you forever. Few destinations offer such an extraordinary range of natural phenomena and cultural experiences. And few destinations have been so infrequently explored by travelers. Our Ethiopia tour provides an unforgettable experience.

A monk from one of Lake Tana’s monastaries holds one of the many manuscripts preserved in the lake’s island churches. (Photo by TQ)

Join Us For An Incredible Journey

From the headwaters of the Blue Nile to coffee farms growing the country’s best-known export, from historic lakeside monasteries to remote villages of the Hamer and Konso peoples, TravelQuest reveals the Ethiopia you’ve dreamed of exploring—but would have great difficulty finding on your own. Ethiopia, a destination that is definitely off the beaten path, has much to offer the traveler who is interested in exploring an extraordinary region of the world. The country’s undiscovered qualities are what makes Ethiopia such an appealing destination for TravelQuest.

Those who’ve joined TravelQuest on comparable adventures— eastern Turkey in 1999, Libya in 2006, China’s Silk Road in 2008, Mangaia in the Cook Islands in 2010, Kenya and Uganda in 2013—know that taking the road less traveled has its challenges. But as with all of our successful past adventures, the incredible experiences and unexpected moments of your Ethiopian journey will yield memories you’ll reflect on for years to come. If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting this intriguing country, now is the time. Contact us to learn more.

Explore our other eclipse travel destinations