Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Simien MountainsSituated in North Eastern Africa, Ethiopia is a country steeped in history and religion and is home to nearly a hundred different tribes, each with their own language. It is a land of contrasts and distinct geographical zones, varying as much as 120 metres below sea level in the harsh salt flats of the Danakil depression, to summits above 4000 metres in the Simien mountains. Ethiopia's largest lake, Lake Tana, is the source from where the famous Blue Nile River starts its long journey to Khartoum and then on to the Mediterranean. Ethiopia is also home to an astonishing array of animal and bird life, much of it unique to this extraordinary country.

Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park with its dramatic landscapes, spectacular scenic beauty and unique wildlife is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constituting one of the major mountain ranges in Africa, the Simien Mountains culminate in the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dejen, which at 4620 meters is the fourth highest mountain in Africa. The Simien Mountains are home to a number of endemic mammals including the Walia Ibex, Simien Fox and Gelada Baboons, many species of birds including the Lammergeyer vulture and an array of plants.



Gelada

The gateway to the Simien Mountains is the town of Gonder, founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635. Gonder is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches, in particular the church of Debra Birhan Selassie. The small town of Axum is the site of Ethiopia’s most ancient city. The 16th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion is built on the site of a much older church, probably dating from the 4th century AD. The Cathedral is the repository of the crowns of some of Ethiopia’s former emperors. According to church legend, it also houses the original Ark of the Covenant, making St. Mary’s the holiest sanctuary in Ethiopia. 


Monolithic churchThe dusty, rural town of Lalibela is home to one of the world's most incredible sacred sites; 13 beautiful rock-hewn monolithic churches. Originally known as Roha, the town was renamed after the 12th-century King Lalibela, who commissioned these extraordinary churches. Each church is sculpted, both inside and out, directly from the surrounding rock and several of the churches are connected via a labyrinth of narrow tunnels. The churches are still used for worship today and many are filled with richly painted biblical murals. To this day, Ethiopian Christians regard King Lalibela as one of their greatest saints.