The Striking City Ranked As One Of The Best Tourism Villages You've Never Even Heard Of

In the heart of Ethiopia, away from the well-trodden paths of mainstream tourism, lies a village that exudes natural wonder and a distinct cultural richness. Often overlooked in the grand narratives of travel destinations, Lephis reveals the undiscovered beauty and enduring heritage of Ethiopia's rural communities. For these reasons and more, in 2023, the United Nations World Tourism Organization ranked Lephis, Ethiopia, as one of the best tourism villages in the world.

Located within the Gambo Forest Zone of Ethiopia's Lephis Forest, Lephis lies about 99 miles from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Around 2,000 households surround this landscape of striking waterfalls, unique wild animals, endemic flowers, and more. What makes a trip to Lephis so magical is the community that calls it home. Under the Lephis Ecotourism Cooperative, residents of Lephis have united to showcase their heritage and stunning homeland for visiting tourists. Through their strategic efforts, all of this is done in a sustainable, eco-friendly fashion that supports and uplifts its residents. A trip to Lephis offers an opportunity to connect with Ethiopian culture and participate in a transformative travel experience, not just for you as the visitor but for the community as well.

The wonders of the Lephis Forest

The Lephis Forest in Ethiopia, where Lephis is situated, stands as a beacon of biodiversity, boasting a remarkable array of indigenous flora and fauna. You'll find yourself enveloped in a sense of awe and humility as you stand beneath the dense canopy of tall trees covering this magical section of the Ethiopian woodlands. Botanists will geek out as they come across the area's ancient trees and endemic flowers, like the Mishikie flower. In terms of fauna, the Lephis Forest is a sanctuary for a diverse range of wildlife, making it a prime spot for nature enthusiasts.

It is particularly renowned as a birdwatcher's paradise, hosting various species, including endemic birds like the thick-billed raven and the African white-backed vulture. In addition to its avian population, Lephis is home to majestic mammals like leopards and monkeys. One of the forest's greatest gems is its towering waterfall, the Lephis Waterfall. This famous natural cascade rushes gracefully over rugged cliffs, surrounded by the lush greenery of the Lephis Forest. The beauty of this untouched landscape makes it obvious why the Lephis Ecosystem Cooperative has made such enormous efforts to preserve its ecosystem.

What to do when visiting Lephis Village

One of the most spectacular events in Lephis, Ethiopia, is its annual Horse Riding Festival. Each year, the community comes together to celebrate the region's long-standing tradition of equestrian sports. The festival is a kaleidoscope of color and energy, with songs and ceremonies central to Lephis' regional culture of Arsi-Oromo.

The Lephis community welcomes visitors to this special cultural practice with open arms, even offering specific tourism packages that immerse guests into the community for this festival. If you're interested in Lephis' equestrian culture but cannot participate in one of these spectacular festivals, Lephis is still a destination for amazing riding adventures. With the instruction of an expert local guide, taking a horseback tour is one of the best ways to see the Lephis Forest.

In addition to Lephis' equestrian tradition, you'll find that the village also takes pride in its craft-making. The Mishikie Handcraft Association comprises a group of local artists who hand-make baskets, jewelry, and sculptures using organic material from the land. Attend one of the Mishikie Handcraft Association's exhibitions or browse through the Artisan Workshop near the Lephis main market to discover brilliant and one-of-a-kind products from Lephis.