"Ethiopia is an ancient cultural crossroads, a proud and independent land that resisted the ‘Scramble for Africa’ during the 19th century, and has maintained its own distinctive identity."
Touring in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is an ancient cultural crossroads, a proud and independent land that resisted the ‘Scramble for Africa’ during the 19th century, and has maintained its own distinctive identity. The country is infused with a deep spirituality, home to extraordinary churches hewn from rock and a unique branch of Christianity that has echoes of ancient Israel. According to Ethiopian tradition the city of Aksum was home to the Queen of Sheba, and is said to be the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
Ethiopia is also blessed with some of Africa’s most spectacular scenery, from the soaring Simien Mountains and the Rift Valley Lakes to the harsh volcanic landscape of the Danakil Depression. The popular conception of Ethiopia as a land of desert and drought is wide of the mark; much of the country is lush and green, especially the stunning highlands, which soar to over 3,000 metres above sea level and offer superb trekking opportunities. You’ll also encounter an impressive array of wildlife, including endemic species such as the walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf and gelada baboon.
Touring Highlights of Ethiopia
- The 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are Ethiopia’s most famous sight, carved from the hillside in the 13th century and still used for worship today.
- The fascinating Omo Valley is home to some of Ethiopia’s most distinctive ethnic groups, known for their unique body modifications such as scarification and lip plates.
- Ascend the spectacular Simien Mountains and you’ll encounter some of Ethiopia’s most unusual wildlife, including walia ibex and ground-dwelling gelada baboons.
- Harar is the fourth holiest city in Islam, an atmospheric and colourful labyrinth of mosques and markets that has become famous for the nightly feeding of the local hyenas.
- The mysterious city of Aksum was the capital of an ancient Ethiopian kingdom and is home to the Chapel of the Tablet, which is said to house the Ark of the Covenant.
- Gondar is known as ‘Africa’s Camelot’ thanks to its imposing 17th century castles, dating back to the time when this was Ethiopia’s imperial capital.
- Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest body of water and the source of the Blue Nile. Here you can relax in the pleasant lakeside town of Bahar Dar, explore island churches and monasteries, or visit the spectacular Blue Nile Falls.
- The Danakil Depression is one of the most surreal and inhospitable regions on earth, an alien landscape of geysers, volcanoes and sulphurous yellow rock formations where temperatures can hit 50°C in summer.