Ethiopia is a country on the eastern coast of Africa, in what is known as the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan. Ethiopia is African’s oldest independent country, the birthplace of modern humans, and also has one of the world’s oldest languages. It has the most number of UNESCO World heritage Sites in Africa. Ethiopia is also the world’s oldest monarchy, beginning in 2000 BCE and only ending in a coup in 1974. Apart from a short occupation by Mussolini, it has never been colonised, unlike many other countries in Africa. The capital and largest city is Addis Ababa; other, smaller, cities include the historical centres of Gondar and Axum.
The climate in Ethiopia is tropical monsoon. The Ethiopian Highlands mountain range cover much of the country and as a result, most of the country is cooler than other Equatorial countries. With mild temperatures year round, the country is defined by its two rainy seasons which run from March to May (a light rain) and June to September (a heavy rain.) Geographically, Ethiopia has a wide range of landscapes. It is divided by the Great Rift Valley, a large geographic trench that runs from Lebanon to Mozambique. There are wild jungles in the west and grasslands in the east; deserts and steppes surround the mountains, which are the longest continuous range in Africa. The hottest place in the world is in the north of Ethiopia.
The currency in Ethiopia is the Birr. The main industry is coffee and its exportation, with livestock and other agricultural production rounding out the top ten. The economy was one of the fastest growing world economies in the early 2000s; since then with inflation and other factors the GDP has levelled off and remains quite low. Ethiopia was one of the founding members of the United Nations and is also used as the African base for many international organisations.
Transportation around Ethiopia is mostly via train; in October 2016 the country was linked with Djibouti’s port by high speed train. In the late 1990s, Ethiopia began to improve their road infrastructure and now has over 100,000km of paved roads. Travel times do vary; check before you go. The main international airport is in Addis Ababa; Bole International Airport has flights to and from over 60 countries.
Travellers in Ethiopia that are looking for budget accommodation should centre their search in Addia Ababa. There are very few European-style hostels that many backpackers will be used to; instead of looking for hostels, budget travellers should look for guest houses and bed & breakfasts. In more remote regions and cities, guest houses will be the best accommodation choice.
Once you have your accommodation sorted, begin to explore this vast, unique country. Ethiopia is home to one of the oldest Christian churches, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and has rock cut churches in unexpected places. Amateur archaeologists and history buffs will enjoy seeing these cultural icons, particularly the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Lalibela in the Amhara region. Within the Tigray region, there are more monasteries to explore; some of these take mountaineering skill to reach. Outdoor enthusiasts should visit the Sof Omar Caves, the largest cave system in Africa, in southeastern Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a vast, rich country with plenty to see and do. Budget travellers should experience it at least once and know that whatever you choose to do, you will enjoy it.
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Ethiopia hostels. Welcome.