Axum Travel Guide

Discover the best things to do in Axum, Ethiopia, from visiting culturally significant museums and historical sites, to experiencing natural outdoor adventures and scenic views.

Axum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a city located in the northern part of Ethiopia, in East Africa. It is well-known for its strong cultural significance, religious history, stunning landscapes, and ancient architecture. In this comprehensive tour guide, we will explore the best things to do in Axum and discover what makes this city so special.

Introduction to Axum

Axum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia, is a city of rich heritage, culture, and history. It was once a powerful kingdom, and its glory can still be seen in the impressive monuments and ruins scattered throughout the city. Today, Axum continues to be an important religious center in Ethiopia and attracts tourists from all over the world with its many sites of cultural and historical significance.

List of Places to Visit in Axum

When it comes to places to visit in Axum, there is no shortage of options. From museums and historical sites to outdoor adventures and scenic views, Axum offers something for every type of traveler.

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Axum is a city of great historical and cultural significance, and there is no better place to explore this heritage than at its many museums and historical sites.

  • The Axum Stelae Field - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Axum Stelae Field is a collection of huge stone obelisks erected by the ancient Axumite civilization. These towering monuments stand as a testament to the power and engineering prowess of this ancient civilization.
  • The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion - According to Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, this church houses the original Ark of the Covenant, which was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Visitors can visit the church and see its beautiful architecture and art.
  • The Axum Museum - The Axum Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Axum. The museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts, including ancient coins, pottery, and jewelry, as well as exhibits showcasing the history of the Axumite civilization.

Natural Attractions of Axum: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Axum is also a great place to explore the natural beauty of Ethiopia. There are many outdoor adventures and scenic views to be found in and around the city.

  • National Park of Simien Mountains - Located just a few hours away from Axum, the Simien Mountains National Park is a great place to experience the natural beauty of Ethiopia. The park is home to many species of wildlife, including the endemic Ethiopian wolf, and offers breathtaking views of the mountain range.
  • The Tigray Rock-Hewn Churches - These ancient churches have been carved directly into the solid rock of the Tigray region and offer a unique glimpse into the history and culture of Ethiopia. The Tigray region is a few hours drive from Axum.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Axum

For those who love hiking and biking, Axum has plenty of options for outdoor enthusiasts.

  • The Yeha Temple Hike - This hike takes visitors up a steep hill to the ruins of an ancient temple. The hike is relatively short, but can be challenging due to the steep incline.
  • The Gheralta Rock Churches Trek - This trek takes visitors through the stunning landscapes of the Tigray region and offers incredible views of the Gheralta Mountains. While it is a more challenging hike, the views and historical significance of the rock churches make it well worth the effort.

Best Things to Do in Axum: Activities and Tours

In addition to the sites and natural attractions listed above, there are many other activities and tours that visitors to Axum can enjoy.

  • The Axum Obelisk Celebration - Every year in May, the residents of Axum celebrate the return of an ancient obelisk that was taken to Rome in the 1930s. This festival is a great way to experience Ethiopian culture and tradition.
  • The Hamadryas Baboons of Debre Damo - Debre Damo Monastery is a historic monastery located in the Tigray region. It is also home to a large group of Hamadryas baboons, which are known for their distinctive appearance and behavior.

Week-Long Itinerary for Axum

For those looking to spend a full week exploring Axum and the surrounding region, here is a suggested itinerary:

  • Day 1: Arrive in Axum and explore the city’s museums and historical sites.
  • Day 2-3: Take a trek through the stunning landscapes of the Tigray region and visit the ancient rock-hewn churches.
  • Day 4-5: Visit the Simien Mountains National Park and experience the natural beauty of Ethiopia.
  • Day 6: Take a day trip to see the Hamadryas baboons at Debre Damo Monastery.
  • Day 7: Attend the annual Axum Obelisk Celebration in May, or explore the city’s markets and local culture.

Food and Drink Scene of Axum

Ethiopian cuisine is known for its flavorful spices and unique blends of herbs. Axum, being a significant city in the country, is known for its culinary delights.

Must-Try Dishes

  • Injera - A sourdough flatbread with a unique texture, made from a grain called teff. It is served with stews and curries, and used as a utensil to scoop up the dishes.
  • Doro wat - A spicy chicken stew, served over the injera flatbread. It is a national dish of Ethiopia.
  • Kitfo - Similar to steak tartare, it is made from minced raw beef and spiced butter.

Local Beverages

  • Coffee - Ethiopia is known for its coffee, which is grown in the country’s highlands. Visitors can enjoy a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which involves roasting coffee beans and brewing the coffee directly in front of customers.
  • Tej - A traditional Ethiopian honey wine.

Where to Stay in Axum: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Axum has a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference.

  • Sabean Hotel - A luxurious hotel with great amenities and convenient location near the city’s archaeological sites.
  • Africa Hotel Axum - A mid-range hotel that offers comfortable rooms and great value for money.
  • Tukul Village Hotel - A budget-friendly option, with simple but comfortable rooms and a convenient location near the city center.

What to Buy in Axum: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Axum is known for its vibrant arts and crafts scene, and there are many unique souvenirs and local products that visitors can bring home.

  • Handwoven rugs and textiles - Ethiopian textiles are known for their bold colors and intricate designs.
  • Traditional Ethiopian clothing - Visitors can find beautiful traditional clothing, such as the shemma, a wrap skirt worn by women.
  • Ethiopian spices - Visitors can bring home a range of unique Ethiopian spices, such as berbere, a chili and spice blend used in many Ethiopian dishes.

Local Culture and Customs of Axum

Axum is an important religious center in Ethiopia, and visitors should be respectful of its religious traditions and customs.

  • Dress modestly - Visitors should dress modestly, as many of the local people are Orthodox Christians and dress conservatively.
  • Observe etiquette at religious sites - Visitors should follow local customs and remove their shoes before entering religious sites, and avoid taking photographs without permission.
  • Respect local traditions - Visitors should respect local customs and be mindful of local sensitivities.

Best Time to Visit Axum

The best time to visit Axum is during the dry season, which runs from October to February. This is the most pleasant time of year weather-wise, with sunny days and cool nights. However, Axum can be visited year-round, and visitors should be prepared for occasional rain showers and cooler temperatures outside of the dry season.

Do’s and Don’ts of Axum


  • Visit the historical and cultural attractions - Axum is home to many historically and culturally significant sites, and visitors should make sure to explore them.
  • Respect local customs and traditions - Visitors should be respectful of local customs and be mindful of local sensitivities.
  • Try the local cuisine - Ethiopian cuisine is unique and flavorful, and visitors should try as much of it as possible.


  • Take photographs without permission - Visitors should always ask permission before taking photographs of people or religious sites.
  • Disrespect local customs and traditions - Visitors should be mindful of local customs and traditions, and not do anything that might be considered offensive or disrespectful.
  • Drink tap water - Visitors should avoid drinking tap water, and instead stick to bottled or boiled water to avoid getting sick.

Safety and Health

Axum is generally a safe city for visitors, but visitors should take standard safety precautions such as avoiding going out alone at night and keeping an eye on their belongings.

Safety in Axum

  • Avoid walking alone at night - Visitors should avoid walking alone at night, especially in poorly lit areas.
  • Keep an eye on belongings - Visitors should be mindful of pickpockets and other thieves, and keep an eye on their belongings when in crowded areas or markets.

Health in Axum

  • Drink bottled water - Visitors should avoid drinking tap water, and instead stick to bottled or boiled water to avoid getting sick.
  • Take precautions against malaria - Axum is located in a malaria zone, and visitors should take precautions such as taking anti-malarial medication and using mosquito nets.

Getting to Axum: Transportation Options and Logistics

Visitors can reach Axum by a variety of transportation options.

Airports Near Axum

The nearest airport to Axum is the Axum Airport, which is located about 5 km (3 miles) from the city center.

Bus Stations Near Axum

Visitors can also reach Axum by bus from other cities in Ethiopia. The nearest bus station is the Axum Bus Station, which is located in the city center.

Other Options

Visitors can also reach Axum by private car or taxi, or by joining a guided tour of the region.

How to Get Around in Axum

Axum is a small city, and most of its attractions can be reached on foot. Alternatively, visitors can hire a taxi or a local guide to explore the city and its surroundings.

Where to Go Next from Axum: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

There are many nearby destinations and excursions that visitors can enjoy after their visit to Axum.

  • The Danakil Depression - Known as one of the hottest and most inhospitable places on earth, the Danakil Depression’s incredible landscapes are like nothing else on earth.
  • The Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches - Lalibela is home to a collection of 11 rock-hewn churches that are another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The Blue Nile Falls - Located just a few hours drive from Axum, the Blue Nile Falls are a stunning natural wonder that are a must-see for any visitor to Ethiopia.


Axum is a city of great cultural and historical significance, and its many sites and attractions make it a must-visit destination for any traveler to Ethiopia. From its impressive obelisks and ancient churches to its stunning natural landscapes and vibrant arts and crafts scene, Axum has something for everyone.