Top 5 things to do in Ethiopia

David Pettitt

The birthplace of mankind, Ethiopia is a land barely touched by modern life. Strikingly diverse, Ethiopia’s geography, peoples and wildlife combine to form an enchanting, heady mix of exceptional historical remains, epic scenery and ancient tribal villages. Ethiopia is unlike any other place on earth and is also a particular favourite of ours. Here are our top 5 things to see and do in the country.

Man of the Hamar Tribe in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Lalibela

Africa’s ‘Petra’, Lalibela is a major pilgrimage centre and one of the greatest religious-historical sites in the whole of the Christian world. This atmospheric UNESCO World Heritage Site with its cobblestone streets and breathtaking rock-hewn churches is a highlight of any visit to the country and joining the white-robed pilgrims as they crowd these ancient houses of worship is a magical experience.

Aksum

Heart of the once-great Aksumite Kingdom, the ancient cultures city of Aksum is awash with history and tradition. Aksum was the Queen of Sheba’s home, is where the Ark of the Covenant is said to reside and where untold riches are believed to be, hidden in undiscovered tombs. The town has been described as the most important ancient site in sub-Saharan Africa and it is hard to disagree.

Omo Valley

Located at the southern reaches of the spectacular Rift Valley, the Omo is an area renowned for the diversity of its peoples and the significant range of different cultures. This is a remote region, an ancient crossroads of trade routes which ultimately led to the migration, and subsequent settlement, by various ethnic groups making this a special, unique and traditional place to visit.

Gonder

Site of one of Africa’s most impressive castles, Gonder sits at the crossroads of three major historic trading routes. Due to the importance of its location in 1636 the Emperor Fasiladas made Gonder his capital and exploited the gold, ivory and slaves that passed through en-route to the Red Sea. Today, remnants of this wealth remain in the architecture with the fortress of Fasil Ghebbi the highlight.

Simien Mountains

It’s saying something when people feel that the Simien Mountains are perhaps Africa’s most striking mountain range but it is hard to disagree. The scenery here is awesome, with deep Gorges, vast plateaus and high pinnacles and the walking is first-class. This national park is also home to much wildlife with excellent birding and the chance to spot gelada monkeys and the magnificent walia ibex.