Travel Destinations on the Northern Circuit

This route forms the backbone of Ethiopia’s tourism offering, as it encompasses some of the country’s most priceless historic, cultural and natural treasures. Ethiopia has an ancient and diverse history that includes a long list of emperors, starting with the founding of the Zagwe Dynasty in the 9th/10th century until 1974, when the last Emperor from the Solomonic Dynasty, Emperor Haile Selassie, was deposed. The northern circuit is packed with historical attractions that give one a deeper understanding of this fascinating country, Ethiopia.

A typical Northern Circuit tour always begins and ends in Addis Ababa, home to the Bole International Airport. A full-day tour of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, is a wonderful way to acclimatize and get acquainted with Ethiopian hospitality. This vibrant city is also the headquarters of the African Union and the diplomatic capital of Africa, with over 100 embassies located here. Highlights of the city tour include visiting the National Museum of Ethiopia, which ranks among the most important museums in sub-Saharan Africa. It is famous for its paleontological and pre-historic exhibitions, among which you will get to view the famous 3.5 million-year-old bones of Lucy. Established in 1944, the National Museum of Ethiopia was born when archeological research was started in collaboration with a team of French scientists, and it became evident how important it was to organize, preserve and exhibit the collections. Exhibits of the National Museum are presented under the following four main sections:

    • Paleontology and pre-history: Lucy and other fossils including stone tools.
    • Historical and Archaeological: Findings that depict the early history from the pre-Axumite times to the 16th century AD.
    • Ethnography: Traditional and ceremonial costumes, jewelry, etc. reflecting the diversified cultures of the various ethnic groups.
    • Modern Art: Selected paintings and sculptures from different Ethiopian artists, including the celebrated Maître Artist Laureate, Afework Tekle.

Another interesting excursion will be to the Ethnographic Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies. Situated in the old palace of the late Emperor Haile Selassie, the museum features the bedroom and bathroom of the late emperor, an art gallery, and an impressive selection of artifacts depicting the country’s culture, historic and natural heritage. The layout follows the story of life from birth to death, and beyond, and how the different stages of life are viewed and experienced by different ethnic groups in Ethiopia.

You can also visit Mount Entoto, which offers a captivating insight into Addis Ababa. Mt. Entoto is the highest peak in Addis reaching 3,200 meters above sea level, from which you can enjoy views over the city and the surrounding. It is the first settlement in Addis Ababa where Emperor Menelik II resided and built his palace in 1887 and offers a unique glimpse into the history of Ethiopia’s distinct culture. The compound at the peak hosts the Entoto Mariam church, an Ethiopian artifact museum, as well as Menelik II palace.

For detailed information on each attraction in the northern route, click on the links below.

Highlights of the Northern Circuit include:

  • Visit Bahir Dar and embark on a cruise of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile River. You can also visit the beautiful Blue Nile Falls.
  • Visit Gondar, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, known as the Camelot of Africa for its medieval castles and churches.
  • Excursion to the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia’s most popular hiking destination hosting the fourth highest mountain in Africa.
  • Visit Axum, the oldest city in Ethiopia, which was established in 100 AD. Highlights in Axum include the stelae park and museum, the Queen of Sheba’s palace ruins, and the St. Mary of Zion chapel, believed to be the resting place of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant.
  • Visit Lalibela, the “Jerusalem of Africa”, home of the fascinating rock-hewn churches from the 12th century.
Map of Ethiopia with destinations marked in red

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