Ethiopia is a country within Africa that contrasts with much of the continent. Diverse ecological systems, a plethora of wildlife, and rich cultural influence give this region in the Horn of Africa a distinct allure sought after by travelers of all extremes, from the laid back to intense explorers. Aside from culture, the country is laden with natural attributes, from sky-scraping mountains, turbulent waters to mystical caves that offer a peek into the underground world. So if you are planning a trip, we’ve highlighted some of the most stunning natural sites to see in Ethiopia.
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Blue Nile Falls
Located near Bahir Dar, Blue Nile Falls are a dramatically significant feature of the Blue Nile River, which separates the biodiverse lake Tana from the rest of the turbulent stretch. A group of towering streams pours down over the rock creating a magnificent, misty display, referred to as the “great smoke”. This is one of the most visited natural sites among tourists.
Erta Ale is a flat shield volcano composed of various lava streams, in the badlands desert of the Afar Depression. Likely the most jaw-dropping spectacle are the two lava lakes that form at the base of the “gate to hell”, the name appropriately given by locals. Tourists often travel to the area from Eritrea or Mekele, but it is highly recommended to make the trek with a guard.
Also in the Afar Depression, is a geological wonder that occurred when tectonic place shifted beneath the earth. The Danakil Depression is the hottest place on earth when considering the average temperature year-round, and the steaming hot springs and dry-ish salty lakes have formed a strange color pallet and otherworldly appeal. Danakil is one of the lowest points of the earth.
Bale Mountains National Park
Bale Mountains National Park is tucked in the Ethiopian highlands amongst the Bale Mountains, of course, and the Sanetti Plateau. Accessible from Addis Ababa, Dinsho or Rira, a wonderland of water features, interesting foliage and wildlife-rich terrain awaits. Folks opt to take several day guided tours that venture far into the wilderness, where wildlife and a wealth of natural knowledge exist. November to April is the best time frame to plan a trip, as the rains have ceased, making travel by car, foot or horseback much easier.
Ras Dejen is the highest mountain in Ethiopia and one of the tallest in Africa altogether. The massive peak lies within Simien Mountains National Park and can be a good side excursion when visiting areas like Gondar. The trek to the top is a challenging one that takes days of prep to adjust to the altitude. But the peak is striking, with tumbling grey rocky terrain that peers over the rest of the range. Take it slow and make sure you are physically prepared for the challenge.
Sof Omar Cave
Sof Omar Cave is near Bale Mountains National Park but can be reached from Raaso, Seru or even Addis Ababa. The cave system is record-breakingly long for Africa and features many access points along rivers and rocks. Inside, explorers will find an abundance of dripping pillars that give the tunnels their iconic appearance. Standing water presents in a milky blue tone, further adding to the eerie beauty of the underground wonderland. Those who visit Sof Omar note the interior resembles a grand cathedral, carved by nature.
Lake Karum is lumped into the same area of the Danakil Depression, and the fiery Erta Ale. Stretching for as far as the eyes can seemingly see, the calm Lake is full of gritty salt deposits that give the body of water a crystallized appearance. Accessible from Dallol, the lake’s main purpose other than being utterly striking, is, of course, its salt. To this day miners transport the substance to be used for a variety of reasons, but Lake Karum is a photographer’s dream as well.
Mount Bwahit is a part of the Semien Mountain Range, and it ranks as the third tallest in the country. However, the roads leading up to the mountain might be the most treacherous in Africa. The harsh terrain of the dusty grey peak can be unpredictable, and still quite devilish for even the best 4×4 vehicles. Consider riding with a professional, or just enjoy the views from the ground.
Harenna Forest is a special portion of Ethiopian highland, as it is one of the last naturally occurring forests in the country. It’s misty treeline and hazy wetness produces a lush presentation of native beauty. Animals thrive within four distinct ecoregions, and the very rare Ethiopian wolf can be found wandering about. Spanning over the Bale Mountains, magical views and adventurous moments await those who come to explore.