The only country on the continent never to be colonised and rich in Orthodox Christian heritage, holidays to Ethiopia are culturally and scenically enthralling.
With the highest number of Unesco world heritage sites of any African country, it is best known for the historical locations in the north, including the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the obelisks of Axum and the Ark of the Covenant.
With Cox & Kings you can travel further afield into the Simien and Bale mountain ranges and south through the Rift Valley to the tribal Omo valley.
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Capital: Addis Ababa
Flying time from London: 9 hours
Official language(s): Amharic
Time difference: +2 GMT
Visa requirements: Visa required for UK passport holders.
The Ethiopia Experts
Our experts will be delighted to tailor a completely personalised itinerary to suit your interests, dates and budget.
The northern historical circuit is the country’s most visited region, and encompasses Axum, Lalibela, Gondar and Bahar Dar, which can easily be combined into an inspiring one-week itinerary. The most famous site on the northern route is Lalibela, the ‘new Jerusalem’, which was built by King Lalibela ‘with the help of angels’ in the 12th century. Also in the north, although less visited, are the rock-hewn churches of Tigray, accessed from Mekelle.
Encounter distinctive wildlife
Ethiopia has two highland national parks – the Simien mountains in the north is a region of jagged peaks and incredible mountain views, and is known for its endemic walia ibex (mountain goat) and gelada mountain monkeys. Meanwhile, the wild alpine scenery of the Bale Massif National Park in the south-east is the favoured habitat of Ethiopian wolves and is the best place in Ethiopia to spot endemic birds.
Spend time with local tribes
South-west of Arba Minch is the Omo valley, home to a diverse array of ancient tribal cultures, the most well known being the Mursi, Karo, Benna and Hamer tribes. This area is best explored by road with a driver-guide in a 4x4 vehicle. Stop en route to explore local villages, markets and museums, and visit the colourful market day at Key Afar.
Relax in the Rift Valley
This 40 million year old valley runs from Syria to Mozambique and hosts a diverse mix of scenery and lakes. Journey south of Addis and you reach a cluster of lakes perfect for birdwatching – Shala, Abiata and Langano. Swim in Langano, or spend a couple of nights in a lakeside lodge, ideal for a spot of relaxation.
Take part in a festival
Ehtiopia celebrates a number of Christian orthodox festivals – from the Timkat festival in Gondar, to Meskel in Addia Ababa and Hidar Tsion in Axum, each of these festivals provide a jubilant atmosphere and a chance to gain an insight into the country’s fascinating culture.
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"The scenery was amazing throughout the tour, but the two main sights for us were St. Georges cruciform rock church and the Blue Nile falls. Both truly amazing.
Mr David Eyres
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