Ethiopia

Ethiopia is unique. A stunning country blessed with a rich history, rare and endemic wildlife and some of Africa's most religious and devoted cultures and tribes.

Ethiopia is simply one of the most beautiful destinations in Africa, if not the world and its landscapes are epic in both scale and beauty. This is a country where one can trek along the roof of Africa more than 3,000 metres above sea level or visit the lowest place on the continent, the hot and otherwordly Danakil Depression. In between, there are lush highlands, desolate deserts, dramatic canyons, sweeping savannah, massive lakes and fertile plateaus. Ethiopia is also the source of the Blue Nile and its mesmerising Danakil Depression contains a quarter of Africa’s active volcanoes.

It is also the original birthplace of coffee. Kaffa, a province in Ethiopia's southwestern highlands is famous for being the area where arabica coffee plants first blossomed. The formal cultivation and use of coffee as a beverage in Ethiopia began as early as the 9th century before the bean was traded to Yemen and subsequently introduced to Mecca and the rest of Arabia.

This ancient nation is also the only African country to have escaped European colonialism, retaining much of its cultural identity throughout the millenia. The 3.2 million year old partial skeleton of "Lucy" (australophithecus afarensis), the most celebrated hominid skeleton in the world was discovered in Ethiopia. Ancient Aksum, with its oblelisks and ruins and the legacy of the Queen of Sheba, launches travellers into Ethiopia's journey into Christianity and flows through its ancient provinces and kingdoms of Gheralta, Lalibela, Bahir Dar and Gondar.

Ethiopia is also Africa's most underrated wildlife and birding destination. The Ethiopian wolf, the world's most endangered carnivore, can only be found in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains, Menz-Guassa plateau and its Bale Mountains. The endemic gelada monkey (or gelada baboon) forage and parade in massive troops of up to 600 individuals across the high northern plains of the Simien Mountains. The birdwatching - with over 850 species recorded - ranks among the best in Africa. Ethiopia also has small but growing populations of elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas and healthy crocodile and hippo numbers in its Awash, Gambella and Bale national parks, and more traditional safari operators are expected to operate in these parks in a few years' time. Lastly, the wild but 'friendly' hyenas of Harar offer a unique wildlife experience like no other.

When it comes to African tribes, Ethiopia has an embarrassment of riches with up to eighteen tribes found in its harsh and sensitive Omo Valley. There are the iconic Surmi, Mursi, Kara, Hamer, Nyangatom and Dassenech and several other lesser known tribes whose ancient customs and traditions have remained almost entirely intact. Venturing into these communities and staying among them is like receiving an invitation and initiation into a forgotten world. A highlight of any visit to the Omo is witnessing one of the many festivals that form an integral part of the traditional culture - age-old ceremonies marking rites of passage which are as impressive as Ethiopia's Orthodox Christian celebrations in the north.  

Whether you are obeserving a tribal ceremony in the south, attending a special mass in the north, sipping coffee made from ancient plants in the west or exploring the lunar landscapes and active volcanoes of the east, visiting Ethiopia is like stepping into a time machine and you just decide whether you want to go back hundreds or thousands or millions of years.

DID YOU KNOW?

Five of the six fastest land animals live in Africa: cheetah, topi / tsessebe, wildebeest, springbok and lion. All of these animals can run at speeds above 60 kilometres per hour, with the cheetah reaching a top speed of about 120 kilometres per hour.

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We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.