Here’s my little secret. Addis has nothing to see.
Ok, now that I have exaggerated a bit, we can start talking: Addis is not the best tourist attraction in Ethiopia. In a country that offers you active volcanos, rock-hewn churches, the source of the Nile, its waterfall, tribes, lakes, wildlife, feeding hyenas and so, a walk in the capital may taste a bit sour. However, I have tried to list down a few distractions that you can do in Addis if you have a day or two to spend around:
- Go and see the skyline of the city from Entoto Mountain or Bella neighborhood.
- Visit the foundations of the city in Entoto Museum, where Menelik and Taitu rest in peace.
- Visit the old Haile Selassie’s Palace and Ethnological Museum at Addis Ababa University – Sidist Kilo Campus.
- Visit the rests of the first hominid of humankind, Lucy, in Arat Kilo’s National Museum.
- Visit the Addis Ababa Museum in Meskel Square.
- Visit the old train station and Haile Selassie’s cabin.
- See Ethiopian runners practice in Entoto or Meskel Square at 5am.
- Watch a traditional dance spectacle at Fendika every other Friday.
- Watch a live-concert in Jazz Village, any good hotel or Alliance Française.
- Shop in Merkato if you have stomach to get lost in the biggest market in Africa.
- Enjoy the delights of public transportation in Addis. 😉
- Try local food in any good local restaurant like Abyssinia or Habesha 2000.
- Try any of the international restaurants in town.
- Enjoy any of the film festivals that take place in Addis along the year.
- Visit the exhibition center if there is any activity going on in there.
- Visit the scientific observatory of Entoto.
- Attend a religious ceremony.
- See the coffin market on Churchill Avenue.
- Enjoy the night life.
- Watch a soccer game in a sport bar.
- Attend a coffee Ceremony.
- Watch a circus spectacle.
You can arrange with tour companies (or try to go by yourself if you like adventure) a 1-day visit to any of the following interesting places that are relatively near Addis:
- Born Free: A natural reserve that tries to heal mistreated animals until they are recovered to set them back free to nature. Lions, cheetahs, turtles, monkeys, falcon and… rats! 45 minutes drive from Addis.
- Debre Libanos: An epic monastery situated down a cliff with an old 16th century Portuguese bridge and a breathtaking view. 2-3 hours drive from Addis.
- Wonchi: A natural crater lake where you can do some hiking, horse riding, bath in the spring watersfalls, spend the day (and the night) in a traditional hut with the locals while supporting the community. 4 hours drive from Addis.
- Debre Zeyt: Visit the lake city of Ethiopia! Highly recommended is Babogaya lake and its local places around it. 1.5 hours drive from Addis
- Suba-Menaguesha Forest: A vast green forest, excellent to do some hiking, watch some animals and birds, enjoy the waterfall (in the rainy season) and even camp! 2 hours drive from Addis.
These destinations may be hard to reach by public transport (except Debre Zeyt) so I advice getting a group and booking a car, minibus or something similar, as it will make things much easier.