There are plenty of reasons to visit Ethiopia for a holiday. The country boasts a large number of historical and cultural sites, and visitors flock to popular Ethiopia World Heritage Attractions like the remains of the ancient empire of Axum or the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. However, the rise in awareness in the need to protect Ethiopia’s natural environment, as well as the increasing demand of visitors who want to explore the country’s pristine wilderness and wildlife, is leading to an emergence of ecotourism in Ethiopia.
However, sustainable travel to Ethiopia doesn’t mean having to avoid all of the things you’d like to do in the country: many of the tour operators promoting responsible tourism in the country take care to find a balance between combining visits to some of the most appealing cultural and historic attractions with activities such as bird-and-animal-watching and sustainable accommodation options.
In order to travel to the country to explore the options for ecotourism, the majority of foreign nationals are first required to obtain a tourist visa for Ethiopia. Most foreign citizens are able to obtain an Ethiopia eVisa exclusively online, which allows a stay of up 90 days in the country. Eligible citizens are able to apply through the simple Ethiopia eVisa application online, eliminating the need to apply from an embassy or consulate.
What Is Ecotourism in Ethiopia?
Ecotourism represents an approach to tourism that prioritizes the preservation of a country’s environment and culture, allowing for opportunities for visitors to experience aspects of the county’s ecology and natural conservation as well as its key archaeological, historical, and cultural sites. The aim of promoting ecotourism in Ethiopia is to ensure that visitors can gain insight and appreciation of the country, its geography, and its people, to understand how development affects the environment, as well as enjoying themselves on holiday.
Ecotourism is also important as an educational tool for developing greater awareness about the need for environmental and cultural preservation among the native population, in order to promote cooperation in improving and restoring the country’s resources for future generations.
The country is already working hard to ensure that ecotourism in Ethiopia continues to grow, including the development of a 10-year Sustainable Tourism Plan which covers the years 2015-2025. The plan aims to both continue the development of the tourism infrastructure as well as to focus on ways that tourism can help to alleviate poverty and provide benefits to the local community. One of the key ways the Ethiopian government hopes to achieve the latter is by getting locals more involved in the tourism industry, including hiring more community-based tour operators and supporting cultural handicraft cooperatives.
What Are the Ecotourism Attractions in Ethiopia?
There are a number of options for sustainable tourism in Ethiopia for visitors to the country. A range of tour operators based in the country offer a variety of guided tours with a focus on the environment, complete with sustainable accommodation options such as eco-lodges, many of which are constructed from natural materials taken from the surrounding environment.
Examples of ecotourism tours in Ethiopia include hiking expeditions to the Simien Mountains in the north of the country close to the border with Eritrea, 10-20 day tours around the Omo Valley traditional villages, home to the ancient tribes of Ethiopia, and a variety of bird and animal watching tours centered around Ethiopia’s protected natural parks.
Some of the most popular responsible tourism tours in Ethiopia include:
A day tour of Bahir Dar
Bahir Dar is a city on the shores of Lake Tana in the northeast of the country and capital of the Amhara region. A day tour of Bahir Dar takes in the stunning Blue Nile Falls and includes a boat tour of the lake and its central island, which boasts the ruins of ancient monasteries covered in impressive art. The tour also gives visitors the opportunity to buy local sustainable products such as traditional clothing and jewelry.
A 2-day tour to Bahir Dar and Lalibela
This tour includes everything visitors can take in on a day tour of Bahir Dar, and also includes a trip to the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, one of the most popular World Heritage sites in Ethiopia. The huge site consists of 11 monolithic churches that date back to the 12th century and are carved into the area’s distinctive pink granite rock. The churches contain some of the best examples of early religious art in the country and some of Ethiopia’s most important religious artifacts.
A day tour to Lake Ziway
Located around 100 kilometers south of Addis Ababa, Lake Ziway is one of the freshwater Rift Valley lakes of Ethiopia and home to a diverse range of wildlife, most notably a large number of hippopotamuses. A day tour of the lake includes a boat ride with plenty of bird-watching opportunities and also the chance to visit the island church of Maryam Tsion, which is said to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant.
A 4-day tour to Danakil from Mekelle
Adventurous travelers may want to consider signing up for this 4-day hike through the desert in Ethiopia’s northwest. The tour allows visitors to observe caravans of camels framed against dramatic sunsets, watch workers cut bricks of salt from the shores of Lake Asale, take in the colorful geographical formations at Dalol, and view the spectacular volcanic eruptions at Lake Erta Alle. The only downside for some may be the fact that the tour involves 3 nights of camping, although the desert vistas certainly make up for the lack of home comforts.