Northern Ethiopia is the historic heartland of Ethiopia. Administratively, it consists of most of Amhara, all of Tigray, and the northern part of Afar. Historically, it encompassed the old provinces of Gojjam, Begmender, Tigray and Wollo. Most of the locations of the historic Kingdom of Ethiopia are located in the north of the modern-day country, as well as most of the main tourist sites.
- 1 Abi Addi - also spelled Abiy Addi
- 2 Adigrat - second-largest town, used mainly as a stopover point by travellers
- 3 Adwa and nearby Yeha with its ancient temple
- 4 Axum (also spelt Aksum) – capital of the former Kingdom of Axum, famous for its stelae and cathedrals
- 5 Bahir Dar – on Lake Tana with its island monasteries and churches, where the Blue Nile flows out
- 6 Debre Marqos - a stopover point on the way from the capital to Bahir Dar
- 7 Dessie - a stopover town on the two-day bus ride from Addis Ababa to Lalibela
- 8 Gondar – Medieval capital with royal castles
- 9 Hager Selam — Hager Selam (Degua Tembien)
- 10 Hawzien – a base for exploring the many rock-hewn churches of north-eastern Tigray
- 11 Lalibela – rock-cut churches
- 12 Mekele – capital of Tigray, home to the palace of Emperor Yohannes IV
- 13 Shire - also known as Inda Selassie
- 14 Wukro - another base for exploring the rock-hewn churches of Tigray
- 1 Danakil Depression - a very hot desert region featuring volcanoes and salt plains and lakes below sea level
- 2 Kafta Sheraro National Park
- 3 Simien National Park
Generally speaking, Northern Ethiopia can be divided into two geographical regions: the highlands to the west, consisting of Amhara and Tigray and containing Ethiopia's highest peak at Ras Dashen, and the Afar lowlands to the east, containing the country's lowest point in the Danakil Depression.
The Ethiopian Highlands are very different from what one might imagine when thinking of East Africa. The landscape, both natural and cultural, is unique to this area, and several endemic species can be found here.
Amharic, the official language and lingua franca of Ethiopia, is spoken natively within the Amhara region. Tigray is the homeland of the Tigrayan people, who speak the Tigrinya language, though most people also speak Amharic as a second language.
- Gondar Airport (GDQ IATA)
- Lalibela Airport (LLI IATA)
- Bahir Dar Ginbot Haya Airport (BJR IATA)
- Axum Airport (AXU IATA)
The highlands were the centre of the Kingdom of Axum in the first millennium AD, and contain many historic sites such as the many rock-hewn churches of Tigray, the stelae of Axum, the castles of Gondar, and Ethiopia's most popular attraction - Lalibela.
- 1 Blue Nile Falls - especially impressive during the wet season, can be visited as a day trip from Bahir Dar.
Between 2020 and 2022, Ethiopian forces and local Tigrayan militias (and later, Eritrean forces) fought a civil war that resulted in an Ethiopian victory. During the war, between 80,000 and 380,000 civilians were killed (depending on the source), and many more became refugees in neighboring countries. All armed parties involved committed crimes against humanity and other war crimes against civilians, and the region was heavily mined. Even though the conflict is formally over, many remnants of the war remain in the region, including ruined buildings/tanks, landmines, and possible animosity towards the government in Addis Ababa. Visitors here should exercise extreme caution.
Violent conflict can still resume in an instant, with little to no warning.