Ethiopia’s colourful and distinctive cultural heritage makes it stand out from the crowd of other African countries you could choose to visit. Visiting the historical architecture, long-standing cultural practices, and nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites are among many ways to appreciate the majesty of the only African country that has never been colonised. With a glorious natural landscape of diverse grassland, mountains, lakes and rivers, taking in man-made wonders can be counted as only one of the many things to do in Ethiopia. When planning a trip to this striking country, take inspiration from our favourite Ethiopian activities, listed below.

Explore the streets of Addis Ababa

The capital of Ethiopia, is a city where life and colour bloom, as illustrated by the name, which means ‘New Flower’ in Amharic. There are many more famous destinations in Ethiopia, and while Addis Ababa would not rank among the most picturesque or touristy cities of the world, it offers a trendy selection of local-approved things to do in Ethiopia. There are high-quality restaurants where you can try both authentic local and international fare; bars and clubs where you can catch some Ethiopian Jazz; and the National Museum of Ethiopia, which features the fossilised skeleton of Lucy, an ancestor of humanity that taught us much of what we know about how humanity came to be. Given that Ethiopia is known for its coffee, make sure to stop in at the famous Tomoca Coffee shop, located off Churchill Avenue, or if you prefer a more contemporary experience, Kaldi’s Coffee comes closer to the ‘chain’ atmosphere of Costa, while still offering a high-quality taste.


Lalibela, a UNESCO Heritage Site, is of great cultural and religious importance to Ethiopian Christianity. The town’s namesake was King Lalibela, whose name means ‘the bees recognise his sovereignty’. Legend has it that a swarm of bees flew around him after his birth, interpreted as a sign of his destiny to rule Ethiopia. The 11 stone churches that make the town of Lalibela so famous were built by this king in an attempt to create a new Ethiopian Jerusalem, and this goal can be seen in the many biblical scenes carved from the stone. The most famous of these buildings is the Bete Giyorgis, constructed either before or after the king’s death (stories conflict) as a monument to St. George. Buried 40ft down and cut from the stone, the roof of the church forms a cross. Inside, you’ll find books, paintings, and a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. As for the town of Lalibela, visiting makes you feel as if you have gone back in time. There are no paved streets, service stations, or cars, and religious practice is deeply important to the local culture. There are many festivals, and pilgrims dedicated to Ethiopian Christianity often visit Lalibela. The churches are still central to these practices, marking a way that this ancient king truly did make his mark on religious history.

Trek through the Simien Mountains

Displaying a slice of the gorgeous natural features that make Ethiopia such a fantastic place to visit, the Simien Mountains National Park is a must-see for nature lovers looking for things to do in Ethiopia. The highest mountain in the country, Ras Dashan, is a part of this wonderful park. Made up of over 2,000 square feet of valleys and vistas, as well as some of Ethiopia’s most iconic wildlife, many visitors opt for a multi-day trek to take in its many wonders. The animals you may be lucky enough to encounter on a guided tour with a local English-speaking guide include spotted hyenas, Gelada baboons (who are so used to humans you can enjoy their company up close), and the endangered Ethiopian wolf, although these are more common in the Bale Mountains. There are many camping sites on the mountains for the adventurous type, but for those who prefer sleeping in comfort, there are a handful of lodges located inside the park which make the perfect ‘home base’ for your explorations.

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