Decades ago, it was synonymous with famine and images of suffering. But there’s been a real word-of-mouth buzz about Ethiopia in recent years among adventure travellers;Professor Brian Cox, in our recent interview, sang the praises of a country that “grows in the mind” and feels like the place that we – humanity – all came from, which it is.
Visitor numbers have been going up steadily, but in 2015 Addis Ababa Bole International Airport will be expanding their runways and services, while Ethiopia Airlines continues to launch new routes. Several big travel companies are increasing (in some cases doubling) the number of trips they offer. All of which means change is underway, making 2015 a good time to see what the fuss is about while Ethiopia still feels relatively ‘undiscovered’.
The high altitude capital Addis Ababa will instantly eliminate any preconceptions of Ethiopia, while history buffs will want to visit the rock-cut churches of the holy city of Lalibela. The Simien Mountains in the Ethiopian Highlands, or the ‘Roof of Africa’, are good for adventurous trekking, dramatic landscapes and a chance to see Gelada Baboons, Ethiopian Wolves and other wildlife.
As the country opens up and travellers are keen to explore further, new areas are emerging, including the little known region of Tigrai in the north, with churches in the cliff faces and rocky outcrops, and the remote volcanic deserts of the Danakil Depression, home to the nomadic Afar people, where it’s possible to hike up to the lava lake at the top of Erta Ale.