When Bob Geldof led the British and Irish music industries into a studio in 1984 to record "Do They Know It’s Christmas?" and the Canadian and U.S. industries followed suit, all in an effort to raise money for a catastrophic famine wracking Ethiopia, it was hard to imagine that just a few decades later the country would become a destination for adventure travellers.
Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is the second-oldest Christian country in the world (after Armenia), and home to the earliest Muslim settlement in Africa (though it’s long been secular). It’s also the only nation not to have been colonized when the powers of the day carved up Africa, and has more World Heritage sites than anywhere else on the continent. And we all know its relationship to the ubiquitous cup of coffee (its birthplace, actually)!
For adventure travellers, Ethiopia offers Africa’s largest continuous mountain ranges, its biggest cave and some of the continent’s best and wildest whitewater rafting. Visitors can explore the Great Rift Valley or search for hyenas, more than 850 species of birds and the endangered Ethiopian wolf. It’s even home to rhinos, elephant, lion and cheetah, though all are difficult to see.
Ethiopian cuisine is unique and delicious and its coffee is among the best in the world
For history and culture buffs, Ethiopia has some of Africa’s finest and most unique ancient sites, from the incredible rock-hewn, subterranean churches of Lalibela, which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, to the ancient castles and palaces of Gondar. There’s the walled city of Harar, and Addis Ababa’s Lion of Judah Monument.
Meanwhile, a small chapel in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Aksum is claimed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to be the home of the Ark of the Covenant—purported to be the container in which the Ten Commandments were held. While it’s possible to visit the church, the Ark’s guardian is the only person on earth permitted to lay eyes on the actual vessel.
Ethiopian cuisine is unique and delicious and its coffee is among the best in the world. English is widely spoken by young people in the major centres, and while some of the country’s borders and more remote areas are troubled, Ethiopia as a whole is still regarded as safe for travellers (at the time of this writing).
Just note that the Canadian Government advises against travelling to within 10 to 20 kilometres of the borders with neighbours Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, the Somali region and the Danakil Desert, and even Kenya.