24th November 2016
Head of Sales James has just returned from our Ethiopia: Northern Explorer group tour. Read on to find out what his highlights were, from watching the sunset in the Gheralta to sampling typical Ethiopian dishes.
This is a really tough one to answer as Ethiopia is just such a beautiful country. We were spoilt for views high up in the mountains in the Simiens, the Gheralta and around Lalibela. If I HAD to choose just one view to go back to though, it’d probably be from the huts we stayed at during the Tesfa Walk in the Wollo Highlands. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a vast horizon! With the plateau we were on being over a mile above the scenery below, it felt like we were flying!
In Ethiopia it has to be Injera. It’s a large flat sour bread common across the whole country and eaten as a communal dish. On it an array of small dishes are served; lentils, chickpeas, spicy meats, all eaten with your right hand. There’s plenty of choice for vegetarians too, with the average Ethiopian normally forgoing meat 2-3 times a week, which they refer to as “fasting”. The coffee is also a must-have, with the coffee-making ceremony being an essential part of a meal together. Typically the freshly roasted beans are brought around for all to smell before being brewed in a traditional clay pot on hot coals, served black like an expresso. Delicious!
No regrets. Every day was so full and different that I came away feeling I’d been in Ethiopia for months not just two weeks. If you want a trip that has a great balance of activity, culture and history, with amazing people and stunning scenery, this is it!
Tips for travellers?
The whole of northern Ethiopia is at altitude. On average during the Northern Explorer itinerary you’re between 2200m and 3000m, so it can get cold at night. A light puffy jacket is a great item to pack. Decent walking shoes for the hikes are a must too. As we visit many different churches along the way, a comfy pair of sandals are ideal for slipping on and off at the door. Outside of the packing list, I’d just say come prepared to be surprised. Ethiopia is like nowhere else you’ve been before.
This is also a tough one to pick, I can think of several key highlights for me. I got to run with a former Ethiopian national 800m champion in Lalibela, enjoy a G&T while watching one of the finest sunsets of my life in the Gheralta, see Tigray and Amharic dancing when our group went to a locals-only bar in Axum, discussed the world with Wollo farmers around a camp fire, and spotted my first wild hippo on the Blue Nile. Again, if I really HAD to, then I’d choose the visit to Zaziye Elementary School on the way to Yemrehana Kristos, near Lalibela. The kids were just amazing and I have huge respect for the teachers there. Travel experiences like this really put things into perspective.