FORGET ABOUT THOSE TRENDY DESTINATIONS THAT FLOOD YOUR INSTAGRAM FEED: Iceland is overrun with so-called influencers posing in front of waterfalls, Machu Picchu is turning into Peruvian Disney Land, and Thailand has more drunk backpackers flooding their beaches than they know what to do with. These tourist hotspots are becoming so overdone, that traveling to them hardly seems adventurous anymore. Thankfully, there is one, massive destination that is teeming with unique experiences, incredibly diverse culture, and the most iconic wildlife in the world: Africa. When it comes to tourism, Africa has long been viewed as a vacation spot for khaki vest-wearing retirees to sit from the comfort of an air-conditioned safari van, before resting their heads in plush Hemingway-style tents. But now, Africa is emerging as a bucket-list-worthy destination for active adventurers seeking immersive experiences, from outdoor expeditions to authentic cultural activities to yes, game drives to see the Big Five — but with the guarantee of sustainability.
The UNESCO-listed Simien Mountains and the UNESCO-listed city of Gonder (or Gondar!) are – perhaps unsurprisingly given their world heritage status – among 2 of Ethiopia’s finest attractions.
Situated close by each other, many tourists explore them together, as I did, and that’s exactly why I’m pairing them together in this guide.
Located in the Amhara region in Northern Ethiopia, I visited these 2 great parts of the country during my first trip here in December 2017 and certainly they were a large part of why I fell in love with this magical land.
From the soaring vistas of the Simien to the crumbling castles of Gonder these 2 destinations are wildly different, but equally as magnificent.
Indeed, many travellers I met in Ethiopia claim the Simien Mountains, in particular, as one of their Ethiopia highlights and if you’re heading to this country, then please do not miss this national park, or Gonder, either.
And with my ultimate travel guide to Gonder and the Simien Mountains, you can get the full rundown ahead of your trip so that you have the best time there too.
The rock churches of Lalibela are among the main attractions of any trip to Ethiopia. The stone monuments of faith belong since 1978 to the Unesco world cultural heritage.
The town looks inconspicuous and dusty. However, visitors will never forget what visitors discover as they wander around: churches made of rust-red tufa, and a labyrinth of tunnels, corridors, rock openings and bridges, all of which have the sole purpose of connecting the ancient houses of worship. It’s pure magic that awaits the stranger.
And at the latest, he will understand the Portuguese priest Francisco Alvarez, who wrote the following sentences at the beginning of the 16th century: “It is enough for me to write further about these monuments, because probably nobody will believe me.”
The miracle of Ethiopia
With these lines he wanted to make known the wonder of Ethiopia in Europe. Recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 1978, Labyrinth of Lalibela is still one of the highlights of every trip to Ethiopia. The unique: In Lalibela, the churches were carved out of the rock.
It’s supposedly home to the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant (which holds Moses’ 10 commandments) and it definitely was the centre of an ancient civilisation on a level with Rome, Greece and Egypt!
So why hasn’t anyone heard of the mighty city of Axum?
Because it’s in Ethiopia, that’s why!
Yes this country has more hidden treasures than you care to imagine and pretty near the top of the list is the amazing city of Axum, complete with its sacred churches, cobbled streets and ancient obelisk ruins.
Axum is one of my favourite spots in Ethiopia – I’ve already been there a number of times – and to give you the complete rundown on why you should go to, here’s my complete guide to this wonderful town.
Why Should I Visit Axum?
For starters Axum is a UNESCO World Heritage site – one of 9 in Ethiopia, which currently has the most of any African country.
It’s also a beautiful, safe, small town, which has a genuine living culture to it that is highly visible everywhere.
Pilgrims continue to journey to the “New Jersualem,” built in reaction to the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land.
For centuries, Christian pilgrims — and tourists — have travelled to the mountainous region of northern Ethiopia to visit the 11 spectacular medieval churches carved out of rock.
After Muslim conquests blocked Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century, set out to construct a “New Jerusalem,” which remains a pilgrimage site and place of devotion to this day.
Christianity’s roots in Ethiopia go back to the time of the Apostles, who in the first century A.D. set out to spread the Gospel throughout the world. By the 4th century, it was adopted as the state religion during the reign of the ancient Aksumite emperor Ezana.
Over in the east of Ethiopia, as you head towards the Djibouti border, the ancient city of Harar is a rare gem in an otherwise pretty, desolate landscape.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this walled civilisation has long been an important trading centre, situated strategically between the Red Sea and the great empires of inland Africa.
Having withstood its fair share of invasions and conquests, Harar has stayed strong in maintaining its own distinct flavour and character, with the local people here undeniably proud of their traditions and culture.
As such, Harar is a totally unique destination with Ethiopia – a unique enough country in its own right!
This makes a trip to Harar an exciting part of any travel in Ethiopia. Taking the time to spend in its markets and streets give glimpse into life of a city that changed little.
Addis Ababa- A restoration program aimed at replacing the temporary shelter of one of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Bete Golgotha Mikael, will start this month, Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) disclosed.
In an exclusive interview with ENA, ARCCH Cultural Heritage Conservation Director Hailu Zeleke said study of the project had to pass through critical evaluation from all stakeholders before approval.
The study conducted by international companies was followed by the assessment of Addis Ababa University and experts from the Authority.
According to the Director, the restoration is expected to get finalized by the middle of July this same year.
The rehabilitation project experience of Biete Golgotha Church is a pilot project to restore the other “Wonders of Lalibela,” Hailu revealed.
The U.S Ambassador’s AFCP program and World Monuments Fund cover the conservation cost of Biete Golgotha.
TWILIGHT had enveloped the Simien Mountains, high up on the roof of Africa, when a series of high-pitched screams pierced the cold night air. The din increased. Shifting position on the rocks where I was seated, I waited patiently.
There was movement to my left and, as my eyes adjusted to the dark, a troop of some 100 Gelada baboons suddenly appeared from the plains below, heading towards the rocky cliffs for the night. As they nimbly descended the rock face and entered the caves for protection from hyenas, leopards and wolves, they squabbled amongst themselves.
The dominant male bared his enormous canine teeth and, for nearly half an hour, chased away bachelors before each baboon found its own shelter and quiet was restored. This phenomenon, I learned, is a nightly occurrence in the Simien Mountains.
New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopia’s beautiful ancient city of Harar has been selected by the editors of the National Geographic magazine as among the best places in the world to visit in 2018.
Harar — a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized in 2006 for its cultural heritage — is home to many mosques some of which date back to the 10th century as well as over a hundred shrines for saints. Harar’s historical architectures include the famous five gates of the city, the Medhane Alem Cathedral, Jami Mosque built in the 16th century, and the residence of Haile Selassie’s father, Ras Mekonnen who served as Governor.
Ethiopia’s colorful and ancient city of Harar is also considered the fourth holiest city in Islam and known as the City of Saints. “Harar was an important centre between the coast and interior highlands and a location for Islamic learning”.