Not the easiest place to travel, Ethiopia, will push you outside of your comfort zone, but the rewards for those who dare, are huge.

Contrary to popular belief, Ethiopia it is one of the wettest, most fertile and most scenically magnificent countries in Africa. It is often remembered for the bloodthirsty communist regime that held power in the 1970s and 1980s. But unlike its neighbours Sudan and Somalia, Ethiopia is a peaceful, functioning democracy shared by two of the world’s oldest Christian and Islamic communities. And more amazing is that they live in harmony, for the most part. Ethiopia and its people today retain a proud independence that made it the only state to emerge uncolonized in the nineteenth-century.

At its heart, Ethiopia represents a unique fusion of African and Middle Eastern influences reflecting a long history stretching back thousands of years. There are no less than 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites - including the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the stelae fields at Aksum and the stone castles of Gondar. There are many, many more ancient sites to discover.

The Ethiopian Highlands are truly breath-taking - mountain vistas embrace lush meadows, tousled forests and lakes. Stretching down towards the Kenyan border, is a silvery-blue thread of lakes that portray the southern Rift Valley. Numerous species of large mammals, such as the gelada monkey, Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf, occur nowhere else in the world.

Fast facts

  • Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia, in Kaffa.
  • In Ethiopia, it is considered impolite to refuse a cup of coffee.
  • Ethiopia adopted Christianity in the 4th century, making it one of the oldest Christian nations in the world.
  • The capital Addis Ababa is the 3rd highest city in the world at 7,700 feet above sea level.
  • It is the only country in the world to have 13 months in a year.
  • Gelada monkeys are the world's most terrestrial primates - and they occur only in the Ethiopian highlands.