Close to the city of Bahir Dar you will find the incredible Blue Nile Falls. The locals call it Tis- Isat Falls (translated as “Smoke of Fire”) and it is the most impressive sight on either the Blue or White Nile. The falls stretch a quarter-mile wide during the flood season and drop into a gorge of more than 150 feet deep. You can see how the falls got their name because they throw up a never-ending mist that drenches sightseers from half a mile away. The rainbows produced are awe-inspiring and creates an Eden-like perennial rainforest of lush verdant foliage. You will not be alone in this paradise; the forest is home to a wide variety of monkeys and exotically colored birds.
The Bale Mountains National Park is a protected area of approximately 2,200 km2 and is located around 400 km southeast of Addis Ababa. Its high mountains, sweeping valleys, dramatic escarpment and wide expanses of forests provide visitors with a diversity of vistas unique to the Ethiopian highlands.
UNESCO has estimated that more mammal species would become extinct were the habitats of the Bale Mountains to decline than if any other area of equivalent size on the globe were to disappear. When this is combined with rare amphibian species, endemic birds and spectacular flora, it is easy to see why the park is designated as a Biodiversity Hotspot by Conservation International.
This scenic national park is situated in the dry acacia savanna of the Rift Valley some 200km from Addis Ababa. A magnificent 150m-deep gorge, carved by the Awash River, forms the southern boundary of the park, including a substantial waterfall. To the north, you’ll see the ragged edges of Mount Fantelle, a dormant volcano whose crater towers above the surrounding bush.
Other highlights include the Filwoha Hot Springs, which feed a series of beautiful translucent blue pools and Lake Beseka. Although 80 mammal species have been recorded in Awash, the game viewing is less of an attraction than the scenery and birdlife. Awash National Park is regarded as one Ethiopia’s top birding destinations, with over 450 species. Including the endemic yellow-throated serin and the Ethiopian cliff swallow.
On the shores of Abaya Lake in Southern Ethiopia, Arba Minch is full of natural wonder and beauty. Arba Minch in Amharic means “forty springs,” and the area is rich in many tiny springs that bubble up from the ground. You can see many of them as you hike through Nechisar National Park. The most incredible sight in Arba Minch is the cliff top holy spot of Abuna Yemata Church. This rock-hewn church is found only after a mildly challenging climb up the sheer cliff wall. It requires a bit of nerve and a lack of vertigo, but your effort will be greatly rewarded. Views from the church are remarkable and inside this ancient holy church, you will find beautiful and well-preserved frescoes that adorn two cupolas.
Head to Axum and you will see more ancient history that you can imagine. Axum is one of the oldest cities in all of Africa and is rich in legend and mystery. It is believed to be the home of the Queen of Sheba and the final resting place of the legendary Ark of the Covenant. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed into the church where the Ark is said to be, but you can still check out the ancient Aksumite obelisks found in the Northern Stelae Field. The largest obelisk was recently returned to Ethiopia by the Italian government where it sat for decades after it was taken to Italy during WWII. Its ruins and ancient legends will fascinate any lover of history. In addition to legends of Sheba and the Ark, locals believe that the roughly hewn tomb of solid rock of King Bazen was actually Balthazar, and the magi carried news of Christ’s birth to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s capital is located more or less in the dead centre of the country and is the world’s third-highest capital at 2,400 m. Its name means ‘New Flower’ and it is a relatively modern city, founded in 1887 by Emperor Menelik II.
Addis Ababa is the fourth largest city in Africa and is the diplomatic home to the African Union. This vibrant city sits atop the Entoto Mountains and has both an African and international feel. Addis has a mystical aura that seems to act like a portal to the past. It’s a place where you can explore the beautiful orthodox churches and museums.
Make sure to check out the National Museum where you will find the 2.3 million-year-old fossilized hominid “Lucy”. Also visit the Merkato, which is the largest open-air market in Africa. Here you’ll have your senses awakened with the smell of pungent spices and roasting coffee.
At night, the city comes alive with a vibrant nightlife with restaurants serving exotic Ethiopian cuisine. Day trips from Addis should include the Entoto Mountains, the crater lakes at Debre Zeyit and the hot springs at Awash National Park. Pamper yourself by staying at the Sheraton Addis where you will be treated like royalty in one of Africa’s few 5-star resorts.