• Gurage House

Ethiopia - A Whole Country to Discover (part 2, Gurage)

Posted by Marco on Fri November 24, 2023 in Community Tourism.

For those seeking a genuine experience, spectacular landscapes and the flares of authentic culture, look no further than Gurage. Over the last months we explored and designed tours specifically crafted to immerse visitors in the daily rhythms of Gurage communities, and this article tells you something about what expects you there.

A year and a few months ago I wrote this article “Ethiopia - A Whole Country to Discover!” after finding and exploring an impressing waterfall in Ensaro and developing hiking tours there. After my first longer hiking trip with clients in the green Gurage zone, I'm back to the office and sitting on my desk, thinking and looking for a title for my next blog article to be written, and I can’t find any other more suitable wording than the same as above, with the addition of "part 2". It’s truly amazing how much there is to discover in this beautiful country - I can't repeat this often enough!

Unlike the usual tourist destinations, of which some have serious security issues at this moment, with this new destination we focus on the Gurage highlands, while spotlighting new areas and delving into the region extensively. The guided packages aim to explore the Gurage highlands, hiking through the local routes, and sharing the everyday lives of the community as it happens. By opting for small group sizes, we ensure a personal experience for guests to hike beside the local community, while listening to their stories, legends, and concerns. The tours also provide mundane experiences other than the well-known festive days for Meskel by the end of September.

On our latest tours, visitors shared their testimonies for exceeding expectations of cultural immersion. "We felt truly welcomed as part of the community" said one. One of the most common feedbacks was that they couldn’t believe that such an extraordinary place is still undiscovered and so close to the capital Addis Ababa, reachable within a few hours. Others praised the variety of the landscape and trails, and commented on deepening their understanding of rural Ethiopian life through the lens of hiking trails. The combination of physical adventure and meaningful interactions left travelers feeling relaxed in body and spirit after exploring Gurage in this thoughtful way.

Want to know more about Gurage? Nestled in the semi-highlands of south-western Ethiopia, Gurage villages lay among beautiful rolling hills, dramatic gorges, and fields of crops terraced along the hillsides. Thatched-roof huts scatter the landscape, clinging to steep slopes. Everything about the scenery feels untouched and timeless.

The Gurage maintain an authentic tribal culture little influenced somewhat by modern life. Generations of traditions endure - folk tales passed down through the years, lively cultural celebrations, richly prepared cuisine, and handicrafts still handmade using ancient methods. Their hospitality and generosity towards visitors reveal an open, engaging community thriving beyond the reach of most tour groups.

A visit to Gurage offers a rare window into traditional and authentic Ethiopian village existence. You wake up in the morning surrounded by nature's beauty, breathing fresh highland air. After a cup of rich Ethiopian coffee roasted over a fire, you set out on footpaths leading through green fields and forests. Following trails lined with Enset plants and tall Adbar trees, you listen to guides tell folk stories once whispered around village fires at night.

At night, travelers unwind in the warm hospitality of Gurage homes. Families open their doors, sharing meals, music, dance, and heartfelt conversations. Guests join in daily chores or crafts, gaining new perspectives on the Gurage culture from within. The multi-course feasts served in homes relying on seasonal, home-grown ingredients are dining experiences unlike any other.

The itineraries are truly carefully designed to be culturally immersive. In family compounds, mothers bake kocho over a wood fire and spin cotton harvested from nearby fields. Fathers carve tools and decorate the leather hide shields displayed by each household's entryway. At dusk, the family welcomes wandering visitors as honoured guests. Over hearty meat and vegetable stews served on large platters, they talk openly about their daily joys and challenges. Their kindness and conversation forge bonds reaching across cultures.

Staying with the Gurage as days pass by in a slow rhythm, you build an understanding of community traditions sustaining these highlands for generations untold. When the time comes to depart, your hosts send you off with smiles and hopes for a soon return, until the day your heart leads back to this magical land once again.

Find here some itineraries of hiking trips in Gurage: