Ethiopia is one of the world's most unknown countries, but it is an enticing and magical destination, where you can step back in time and explore a place with its own entirely unique food, fauna, language, music and, above all, stunning landscapes. Many destinations are described as being "a step back in time" for travellers, but in Ethiopia you can take this literally. The Ethiopian calendar is seven years and nine months behind our own. The timeshift is perhaps the first indication that you have arrived somewhere very, very different, but it is not the last. As you traverse from North to South, past the sunken rock-hewn churches of one of the world’s oldest Christian nations, through the verdant, lake-splashed Rift Valley, glimpsing the strange, endemic wildlife of the highlands, reaching the clay and ochre-smeared tribes of the Omo Valley – Ethiopia’s uniqueness is inescapable and overwhelming.
Ethiopia is also one of the world’s oldest countries, its territorial extent having varied over the millennia of its existence. Today, it's the largest and most populated country in the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia's capital is Addis Ababa, the largest and most populated city in the country.
Most people, when they think about African wildlife, will be picturing the Big Five or perhaps the gorillas and chimpanzees of Uganda. But Ethiopia, well beyond the mainstream tourist track and boasting many relatively isolated regions, is a thrilling country to ‘safari’, with a number of species that cannot be seen anywhere else on Earth.
While the famous baboon can be found in both Africa and Asia, the lesser-known gelada is baboon-sized wild animals commonly found in the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia. These wild animals are considered to be some of the least dangerous wildlife in their order. With a bright green body and yellow head, the yellow-fronted Parrot is a spectacularly unique bird found only in Ethiopia. Named for its characteristic dark tresses, the black-maned Lion varies genetically when compared to all other African lions.The Ethiopian wolf, or red fox, is the rarest canid on earth and happens to be Africa’s most endangered carnivore. These creatures are framed against some absolutely stunning landscapes from the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia, formed volcanically before the Great Rift Valley, to Lake Tana, said to be the source of the Blue Nile.
What to do
Historical and Cultural Tourism
Camel Safaris and horse riding Safaris
Lalibela is Africa’s Petra. This rural town is an immensely significant pilgrimage location, among the most important sites in Christianity. The 11 monolithic churches, expertly carved out of the pink volcanic rock between the 7th and 13th centuries to symbolise spirituality and humility, are uniquely built top-down, sunken underground.
One of the most unique and culturally fascinating places to visit in Africa, this valley is located in the Great Rift Valley. The Omo River is the primary lifeline water source for the region, and it empties into Lake Turkana. It is an important point of interest in archaeology due to the hominid fossils found here. Hippo, crocodile, and snake are likely to be spotted here.
Tigray region is a rugged land dotted with historic settlements such as Axum, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Africa. Important sites include the rock-hewn churches, found in a number of clusters atop cliffs and hills in the region and often reached after some spectacular hikes. This proud Christian heritage is perfectly embodied by the Tigrayan people.
The country’s capital, often referred to as the "political capital" of Africa, is the largest city in the country with a population of over 3.3 million. A few cathedrals and museums are worth seeing if you have a day to spend in the city, along with the Mercato market. No trip to Addis Ababa is complete without visiting Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old fossil skeleton of a human ancestor, jealously kept in his National Museum.
Dallol - Danakil Depression
Located in the far north of Ethiopia, is one of the lowest, hottest, and driest places on earth. It’s a vast and surreal Venusian landscape of salt pans, sulphuric springs, endless desert, and hyper-saline. Dallol is the location for key studies in how life might develop on other planets as well as an important site for archaeologists in search of hominid fossils.
Known as the “rooftop of Africa” this mountain range is one of the largest in all of Africa and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Its dramatic mountain scenery provides habitat for numerous endemic species including the Ethiopian fox and gelada baboon (monkeys that are used to humans so one can sit amongst them). Here the trekkers will marvel at the scenery as they hike along steep and high ridgelines.
Bale Mountains National Park
Also known as the Urgoma Mountains, the Bale Mountains N.P. contains one of the highest incidence rates of animal endemicity in the world. This area is where you can find the largest numbers of Ethiopian wolf, as well as nyalas, bushbuck, lions, leopards, and a variety of antelope. It is the perfect place to experience the untouched alpine scenery and its unique wildlife.
Erta Ale Volcano
Erta Ale is a large basaltic volcano in the central northern Danakil depression and one of its main attractions. It is famed for its persistent lava lake which has been active during most of the past decades since it was first discovered in the 1960s. The summit is truncated by a complex, elongated caldera which contains vast lava flows, and several larger and smaller pit craters, which contain the lava lake at present.