Ethiopia is like nowhere else on the planet, a beautiful country blessed with a peerless history, fabulous wildlife and some of Africa’s most soulful peoples.
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most beautiful countries and its landscapes are epic in both scale and beauty. Here is a place where you can trek more than 3000m above sea level (the Simien and Bale mountains) or visit the lowest place on the African continent, the Danakil Depression. In between, there are lush highlands and stirring deserts, vertiginous canyons and sweeping savannah, vast lakes and high plateaus. If you look hard enough, you’ll also find landmarks of great significance, from the source of the Blue Nile to, again, the mesmerisingly desolate Danakil Depression, peppered with an astonishing 25% of Africa’s active volcanoes.
Ethiopia, the only African country to have escaped European colonialism, has retained much of its cultural identity and its story is one of Africa’s most fascinating. It all begins with Lucy, one of our most celebrated ancient ancestors, moves effortlessly into the realm of ancient Aksum with its oblelisks and echoes of the Queen of Sheba, and then takes on power and passion as Christianity, with mysterious echoes of Ancient Israel, takes centre stage. And unlike so many other places in Africa, the ancients here left behind some extraordinary monuments to faith and power which serve as focal points for so many wonderful journeys.
Welcome to Africa’s most underrated wildlife destination. The Ethiopian wolf, that charismatic canid from the high country around the Simein Mountains, Menz-Guassa and Bale Mountains, is the ultimate prize, the sighting of a lifetime. There are gelada monkeys across the high northern plateau as well as other primates, while watching the extravagantly horned and sure-footed walia ibex cling to a rocky precipice is one of the great sights in nature. The birdwatching, too, ranks among the best in Africa. And there are elephants at Babille, crocodiles in Nechisar and the hyenas of Harar. It’s quite a line-up, one that could add a whole new dimension to your trip.
Peoples with Proud Traditions
When it comes to human cultures, Ethiopia has an embarrassment of riches. There are the Surmi, Afar, Mursi, Karo, Hamer, Nuer and Anuak, whose ancient customs and traditions have remained almost entirely intact. Venturing into these communities and staying among them is akin to receiving a privileged initiation into a forgotten world. A highlight of any trip here is witnessing one of the many festivals that are an integral part of the traditional culture, from age-old ceremonies marking rites of passage to Christian celebrations of singular passion, the impact upon those who witness such events can provide travel memories to last a lifetime.