Ethiopia is cradle of mankind and the oldest independent country in Africa. The earliest evidence of Ethiopian history was in around 1000BC when the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon. Unique among other African countries, Ethiopia is one of the world's most fascinating countries that offer all in one. It has rich history, amazing people with deep culture, towering mountains and breathtaking scenery, endemic mammals and birds, and unique natural sites like the Danakil depression.
Ethiopia is the tenth largest country in Africa with a surface area of 1,194,000 square kilometers (461,003 sq. miles). It lies in eastern Africa, between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, in a region known as the Horn of Africa. Bordered by five countries, it is landlocked.
· The Cradle of Mankind- the oldest hominid remains of Selam (3.3 million years), Lucy (3.18 million years), and Ardi ( 4.4 million years)
· It was home to the most ancient kingdom in Africa, one of the first monarchies in the world.
· It is the sole African country to possess an alphabet more than 2,000 years old.
· It is the only country in the continent to have maintained independence in the face of European colonizers.
· It still follows the Julian Calendar, 7 years and 8 month behind the Gregorian Calendar and it has 13- months - It has twelve lunar months of thirty days, plus one month of five or six days, depending on the leap year. It is in GMT+ 3 hours zone; days starting at sunrise; dawn being 12 AM, middy 6 PM, dusk 12 PM Ethiopian time.
· A country with three- in- one Tourism Commodities (Nature, culture, History and religious festivals) and it is the home of 10 UNESCO registered by UNESCO as world Heritage sites and cultural activities.
· The northern part of the country is served by scheduled and regular flights which make travel to Ethiopia as short and less tiresome as possible.
· Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest sheet of water covering 3,600 sq. Kilometers (1,389 Sq. miles) forms the headwaters of the Blue Nile, or Abbay as it is known in Ethiopia, the longest river in the world.
· The people in the country are very friendly, polite, and helpful. This enables tourists develop confidence to visit the destination.
· Throughout most of the country there are two seasons: the dry season prevails from October
There are 37 islands that are scattered about the surface of Lake Tana, out of which some 20 shelter churches and monasteries of immense historical and cultural interest. These churches are decorated with beautiful paintings and house innumerable treasures. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country.
Access for some of the churches is closed to women, although they are allowed to land on the banks of the island but not permitted to proceed further.
However women are permitted to visit churches on Zeghne Peninsula and nearby church of Ura Kidane Mehret, as well as Narga Sellassie.
In 1632, King Fasilidas proclaimed that Gondar, a previously obscure village, would become the site of the Empire's new capital. The population consequently swelled to over 60,000 and for the next 250 years, the Kings of Ethiopia ruled from Gondar. Beginning with Fasilidas, a succession of Ethiopian kings built the castles that still occupy the heart of modern day Gondar. Known collectively as the Royal Enclosure or "Fasil Ghebbi", the castles have survived several wars, including air raids during World War Two. The site is easily accessible and recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
Hidden for centuries in the remote highlands, about 700 kilometers north of Addis Ababa, the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are not to be missed by today's visitor. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures was carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. With the largest monolithic church in the world; a maze of passageways and tunnels; intricately carved reliefs; and fabulous examples of icon paintings; the Lalibela churches were built by carving a massive rectangular trench around a solid stone block.
Axums sets the beginning of one of the first Ethiopian civilizations first pagan and finally converting to Christianity. Many archeological sites from the first centuries AD are excavated nowadays and give great insights into ancient Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims that the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum houses the Biblical Ark of the Covenant containing the Tablets of Law upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. The same church was the site where Ethiopian emperors were crowned for centuries until the reign of Fasilides, and then again with the beginning of Yohannes IV’s reign until the end of the monarchy in 1974. Axum is considered to be the holiest city in Ethiopia and is an important destination of pilgrimages around Timkat (Jan 7) and Hidar Zion (Nov 30).
Harar is located in Eastern Ethiopia and one of the holy cities of the Islamic world. Here Ethiopia meets the Arabic Peninsula and culturally it feels like traveling to another country. For centuries, Harar has been a major commercial centre, linked by the trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and, through its ports, the outside world.
The walled old town of Harar (jugol) has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006 in recognition of its cultural heritage with its 82 mosques, three of date back to the 10th century, and its more than 100 holy shrines. Harar is also famous for its distinctive, natural processed coffees and of course its holy hyenas that wander freely in the city at night.
Visiting the Southern Omo Valley with its diverse and colorful mosaic of archaic peoples is certainly one of Ethiopia's most impressive travel experiences. Throughout centuries this part of Ethiopia attracted different cultures to settle here and maintain their own cultures. Within the range of only a few kilometers languages, customs and lifestyles of peoples change. However, the Southern Omo Valley is often overestimated when it comes to authenticity. Modernization and also tourism have changed cultures along accessible parts of the Omo Valley tremendously over the last decade.
Lakes of reft vally
The Great African Rift Valley stretches all over Africa with its origin in the deserts of Eastern Ethiopia's Danakil triangle before it narrows down to an impressive valley that stretches in South-western direction towards the Kenyan border. This immense tectonic formation tears the African continent apart and lies in altitudes between -116 and 1.800 meters below and above sea level. A chain of Rift Valley lakes are located in its central part. Lake Langano is famous for its natural beauty and comfortable lodging, Abijata and Shalla lakes for their diversity of birds or Laka Chamo for its colonies of huge Nile crocodiles and hippos. Some national parks such as Senkelle or Maze are great habitats and their dryland savannah landscapes belong to Ethiopia's best safari destinations.
As a relativly young capital, Addis Ababa was founded by Emperor Menelik II. in 1887, you might say there is nothing much to see. When it comes to historic sights this is certainly true apart from museums such as the National or Ethnographic Museum that have the country's best archeological and ethnographic exhibitions. However, Addis Ababa is a vivid and chaotic African metropolis with its 5 to 7 million inhabitants where the adventure lies in diving into a colorful city culture. Did you know that the capital has a vibrant music scene? Night clubs play live Ethiopian Jazz music and are certainly worth a visit for music lovers. Mercato market has so much bizarre to offer. With a guide you will see the unexpected. Contemporary art is on the move and some art galleries show splendid pieces.
The red and white sandstone mountains in Ethiopia's far Northern Tigray Region certainly belong to one of the countries most appealing natural and historical sights. When the first sunlight strikes the red walls, hikes in the so called 'Arizona of Ethiopia' are the most beautiful. These landscapes were located along old trade routes of the Axumite Empire and pagan shrines always existed. After Christianity arrived in Ethiopia in the 4th century churches were build along the commercial routes. Some of the most spectacular rock churches are also hidden far up in sandstone pinnacles where only reckless hikers will dare to go. Abuna Yemata Guh church is only accessible climbing steep rocky walls but there is plenty of other treasures for less experienced adventurers.
With a landscape that ranges from rainforests, to grassy savannas, mountains, and deserts, Ethiopia boasts scenery that is as diverse and fascinating as its people. Splitting the country in two, the Great Rift Valley provides breath-taking views that rival those of the Grand Canyon. At 4,620 meters, Ras Dashen is the fourth highest peak in Africa while the Danakil Depression is the lowest point on the continent. Near Lake Tana, the Blue Nile begins its voyage to Egypt and a string of Rift Valley lakes and rivers belie Ethiopia's image as dry and parched land. Deserts are an important part of Ethiopia's ecosystem, but so are the indigenous forests which are the most extensive in all of east Africa. This variety of habitat has resulted in an impressive array of wildlife including over 850 species of birds, many extremely beautiful and exotic.
The Simien Mountains National Park is located in northern Ethiopia and includes the fourth highest peak in Africa - Ras Dashen - at 4,550 meters (14,928 feet.) The park is home to several animals found only in Ethiopia including the Walia Ibex, the Ethiopian Wolf, and the Gelada (a species of monkey.) The park offers spectacular trekking opportunites inclusing ascents of Ras Dashen. Africa's highest lodge is located inside the park and a new lodge has recently opened nearby. The unique beauty and dramatic landscapes in the Park have earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site. ethio Tours' treks into the park include all camping equipment and supplies and are accompanied by a mountain guide, camp cook, park scout, and pack animals.
Bale Mountains National Park has one of the highest numbers of endemic animals of any land habitat in the world. The park is approximately 2,150 km2, and is divided into five distinct and unique habitats: the Northern Grasslands, Northern Woodlands, Afro-alpine Meadows (Sanetti Pleateau), Erica Moorlands, and the Harenna Forest. The park is known for being home to the largest populations of both the endemic and endangered Ethiopian Wolf and Mountain Nyala, as well as the endemic Bale monkey.
Home to over 260 species of birds, the ranks the Bale Mountains at the number four birding site on the continent.
The variety of terrain and ecosystems make for fantastic trekking. Trekking in the Bale Mountains is not as physically demanding as Simien Mountain treks.
Only a three hour drive from Addis Ababa, the Awash National Park takes its name from the river which forms the park’s southern boundary. Covering an area of 756 square kilometers, the park is comprised mainly of a dry savanna but also other interesting features such as hot springs, volcanic landscapes, and a fantastic waterfall. In the open areas and grass plains you should see zebra, oryx, kudu, Soemmerring's gazelle and Swayne’s hartebeest. Baboons and colobus and grivet monkeys can be seen near the river. Occasionally, cheetahs, servals, leopards and lions are seen. Incredibly, over four hundred species of birds have been spotted in the park, ranging from the great ostrich to the Abyssinian Roller.
With more than 30 active and dormant volcanoes, the Danakil Depression is one of the most unique geological regions on earth. A strange and mysterious landscape - scattered with noxious hot springs, frozen black-lava flows, and massive salt basins left over from ancient lakes – it is one of the most tectonically active places on the planet In stark contrast to the cool, temperate Ethiopian highlands, it is also one of the lowest, driest, and hottest places on earth. The lowest point (155m/509 ft below sea level) on the African continent, the Danakil is where the famous 32.million year old fossil hominid "Lucy" was discovered in 1974. A trip to the Danakil is full of adventure and surely one you will never forget.
As the Awash River flows into the Danakil Depression, it dries up leaving a chain of salt lakes such as Lake Afera. The local inhabitants, the Afar people, cut salt bricks from the lake beds, load them onto camels, and then lead caravans for hundreds of kilometers to markets in the Ethiopian highlands. Most of the Afar are nomads who herd sheep, goats, cattle, and camels and are the men are known for their fighting prowess. Predominately Muslim, many Afar still hold some traditional beliefs such as believing that certain trees and groves have sacred powers.
Erta Ale, meaning "smoking mountain" in the local Afar language, is the region’s most-visited and active volcano. Erta Ale is one of the few volcanoes in the world that have an almost persistent lava lake. It is an isolated basaltic shield volcano, 50 km wide, rising more than 600 m from below sea level in the Danakil Depression.
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