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Article - Traveling around Ethiopia by LPM


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Hi Guys,

I am just back from spending a month traveling around Ethiopia in Sept/Oct11….and given that I got some great ideas from Thorn Tree before I left…thought I would try to give a few ideas of my own….


1.The Danakil Depression – this is a trip that is simply a must-do. We all travel to visit places that are truly different….and the Danakil is unlike anywhere else. I can’t recommend it enough…and would even suggest delaying your trip to save the money for it if you need to….as it obviously isn’t cheap.

The landscapes you pass through are stunning, the people you meet are incredibly friendly, and the experiences like climbing Era ‘Ale volcano and being able to stand just a couple of feet from the crater’s edge and peer down into the boiling molten lava are just incredibly special.


Erta Ale

2.Lalibela – everybody comes here for the churches…and they are absolutely stunning….however the surrounding countryside really took my breath away.

If you can, I would recommend scheduling in a few extra days to take advantage of them….the TESFA trek follows a fantastic route…or there is a brilliant new eco lodge that will be open from the start of next year called “Lalibela Hudad”….

I was lucky enough to get to know the owner (who also runs the Seven Olives hotel in Lalibela) who let me stay there for a night before it was finished….and the location, perched on the edge of a plateau on the top of a mountain is breathtaking


….and with a whole host of integrated activities planned with the local community, it is also a great way to meet the local families who are incredibly welcoming and generous. The walk up to Hudad…and the views from the top….were definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

3. Around Axum….another highlight of the trip for me was Debre Damo monastery….climbing a 15m high rope up the rock face to get into the monastery is the just the beginning.

Unfortunately this is one only for the men as the monastery is male only and they don’t allow females to visit. The landscapes around here are also stunning.

4. Simien Mountains – I did a trek to climb Ras Dashen….the Simien Mountains are as beautiful as everyone says….and I would recommend this trek highly….a few tips though…..if you are fit, don’t believe the trekking companies who try to convince you to have rest days on the way up….you just don’t need them…and I met a number of groups who were annoyed at having to sit around in camps and do small walks around when they just wanted to get going.


Also…if your time is limited….or if (like me) you aren’t a big fan of back trekking over the same path….you can get picked up on the way back from the village of Chiro-Leba to drive you back to Debark.

5. Gonder – depending on your budget, it is definitely worth thinking about staying at the Goha Hotel in Gonder….and if the budget doesn’t stretch that far…then definitely go there for a drink….it has a great view out over the town….perfect for sunset, has reliable and fast internet, food and drink were good, and service was remarkably good….can tell this hotel is now in private hands!

6. Drought / Famine – I know that there has been lots written in the thorntree about travelling when parts of the country are in drought….just to give my view…I drove something like 3,000km over the month, so saw a fair bit of the country….and I was admittedly there at the end of the wet season….and I stress I didn’t go to the specific areas in drought….but what I saw in vast areas of the country were bountiful crops that were about to be harvested, animals (cows, goats, chickens) everywhere, very green landscapes….the country is of course incredibly poor and many people live by subsistence farming….but comments in thorn tree about taking food out of the mouths of locals is just simply ridiculous….and Ethiopia continues to struggle against the misconception that the whole country is one big dusty drought which is simply not true….

I also met lots of young Ethiopians working in restaurants / guest houses / hotels who all had stories about working so that they could pay fees for private colleges/universities/training….if tourists don’t come, those young people lose their jobs and can’t afford to continue their education….I personally feel it is much better to visit, spend money with local businesses, help create jobs, and then hopefully also find a way to do a little extra by supporting some local projects / community action etc. But that is just my two cents worth and my experience….don’t want to start the whole debate again!

Ethiopia is a truly special country….with incredibly diverse landscapes, experiences and people….and the people are so warm and welcoming. So hope you enjoy your trip….and I am already planning a return visit for next year!