Selling somewhere different
(photos / CHRIS ROBINSON AND DARA BEARD)
[Editor’s note: This week, Canadian Travel Press offers its readers the second of a special, two-part feature on Ethiopia by Chris Robinson and Dara Beard of The Chris Robinson Travel Show. In part two, Beard provides readers with a primer on how to sell Ethiopia.]
Ethiopia is the place to get close to the early roots of the Christian Church, as Christianity there dates back to the 4th century AD. Ethiopia’s religious traditions and stunning churches provide a unique insight into the Christian faith and generate a robust stream of faith-based tourists. This country is a natural progression for those who have already seen the spiritual sites of the Holy Land.
Ethiopia’s contrasting nature spans the snow-capped, 4,550 metres Simien Mountains to the hottest place on earth, the lowland desert of the Danakil Depression. Unique nature and geography draws active travellers for outdoor adventure and trekking. Runners are attracted by the many successful Ethiopian athletes and the strong culture of running. While bird-watchers flock to tick off some of Ethiopia’s 862 species of birds, including 23 which are endemic.
Experienced travellers are always looking for new destinations and Ethiopia certainly provides “bragging rights.” Those comfortable with travel in developing countries, and keen to see the “real” Ethiopia before others discover it, will find the destination does not disappoint. It has huge tourism street cred, and some of the most undervalued attractions in the world. High on the list are the spectacular rock-hewn churches of Lalibela – a little-known UNESCO World Heritage Site which rivals Petra. Another of Ethiopia’s unique experiences is a visit with the tribal cultures in the south, whose lives are unchanged over thousands of years.
Opportunities for group travel include church groups and running clubs. Ethiopia is also increasingly being paired with other African nations. Kenya’s big game viewing, for example, fits very well with the historic and cultural treasures of Ethiopia.
When to go to Ethiopia
You can visit Ethiopia year-round. If short, sharp showers are not an impediment, the rates will be lower in the rainy season. Some sights may even be enhanced – for instance the Blue Nile Falls will have more water – and popular sights will be less crowded.
In the Northern Highlands, the rainy season lasts from June to the end of September, with a short rain period in March. In the Southern Rift Valley, it rains between March and June, with shorter rains in November.
Church groups may want to coincide their visit with one of Ethiopia’s colourful religious festivals. Ethiopians celebrate Christmas (or Ganna) on Jan. 7. The Ethiopian feast of Epiphany (called Timket) is on Jan. 19. And Meskel commemorates the discovery of the True Cross on Sept. 26–27.
Getting to Ethiopia
Ethiopian Airlines’ fleet is the youngest in Africa – all planes are less than five years old. They offer five direct flights per week from Toronto to Addis Ababa using brand new Boeing 787-900 XWB Dreamliners. A Star Alliance Member, Ethiopian Airlines provides the only direct flights year-round from Canada to eastern Africa. They offer great rates on internal flights within Ethiopia and onward flights to 54 destinations in 50 African countries. CloudNine is their award-winning business class service and worth consideration for this 14-hour flight.
Hotel Accommodation and Tours
Ethiopia can provide good three- to four-star accommodation, but guests must expect the small quirks associated with developing countries. In some parts of the country there are lodges that can be quite luxurious, surrounded by superb scenery.
Flying is often the only practical way to take in several of the major tourist sites and a popular itinerary combines the historical and religious sites in the north with tribal cultural visits in the south.
These Ethiopia-based tour operators are recommended by Ethiopian Tourism, and provide a range of services and special interest programs. Most offer multilingual guides, customization and individual itineraries for two or more people, as well as countrywide tours. They provide a resource for city tours or short excursions from Addis Ababa, multi-centre tours by air, or land tours with driver/guides that are oriented towards trekking and adventurous travel.
- Kibran Tours
High-end tours. Luxury private
plane/helicopter tour available.
- Smiling Ethiopia Travel & Tours
Own Wukro Lodge – centre for trekking, mountain climbing, rock climbing and paragliding. Also offer short tours from
- Horizon Ethiopia Tours
Several trekking, bird-watching and archeological tours. Also offer short tours from Addis Ababa and a Honeymoon vacation.
- My Choice Ethiopian Tours
Package tours and customization.
Organize running groups and will
provide a local running coach.
- Abyss Land Tours and Travel
Adventurous tours including 4×4 tours
with hotel, lodge and camp itineraries.
- Ghion Travel
Tours that include the major religious festivals.
- Ardi Tours
Tours that include the major religious festivals plus the most important Muslim sites in Ethiopia.
- Daniel and Frey Tours
Have partners in Kenya and will arrange multi-country African tours.
- Lal Ethiopia Tours
Small group 4×4 tours with hotel,
lodge and camp itineraries.
- Kibran Tours
Ethiopian Airlines’ Canadian office support agents and handles special requirements. They also work closely with Ethiopian Holidays, who, in turn, partner with local tour operators to tailor land tours, hotel accommodations, cultural and historical tours and experiences such as hot air balloon excursions. This provides one point of contact and one invoice in Canadian dollars. Due to their extensive network within Africa, Ethiopian Holidays can also book multi country tours. Telephone: 1-800-445-2733
[Dara Beard is the producer of The Chris Robinson Travel Show on radio and previously worked for The Extra Mile Travel Agency, part of the Air Miles program. She travelled on a media trip to Ethiopia for an on location broadcast. The podcast is available at: www.chrisrobinsontravelshow.ca/RadioShows/PodcastPastShows.aspx?ID=220]
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS TO ETHIOPIA
A passport with at least six months validity is required.
Canadians can easily obtain an entry visa on arrival at the airport in Addis Ababa for US$50.
Refer your client to a Travel Medicine expert. Possible requirements include yellow fever vaccination and malaria protection.
Ethiopian Birr. ATMs are widely available, but temperamental. US dollars are also accepted. Visitors can’t take Ethiopian currency out of the country, so it is advisable to change small amounts at a time.
INTERNET AND CELL PHONE
Ethiopia’s Internet and cell phone connections can be slow and patchy. Facebook and Twitter are currently blocked in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has European electrical sockets, so travellers require a travel adaptor/convertor. www.power-plugs-sockets.com is a great resource.
WHAT TO PACK
Visitors should make sure to pack a sweater and rain jacket – sites in Northern Ethiopia can be at over 3,000 metres, so it can be chilly at night.
Women should dress conservatively in this religious country; headscarves are recommended inside churches.