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Overview

The most popular tourist circuit in Ethiopia runs through the country’s majestic northern highlands and focuses on a trio of former capital cities, each of which represents a different period of Ethiopia’s long and fascinating history. These are ancient Axum, medieval Lalibela and 18th-century Gonder. The most alluring site in the region is the complex of 13 rock-hewn churches at Lalibela, a breathtaking architectural feat no less remarkable for still being in active use today. Other key sites include the restored castles of Gonder, the towering pre-Christian stelae (obelisks) in Axum (where the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was established ...

The most popular tourist circuit in Ethiopia runs through the country’s majestic northern highlands and focuses on a trio of former capital cities, each of which represents a different period of Ethiopia’s long and fascinating history. These are ancient Axum, medieval Lalibela and 18th-century Gonder. The most alluring site in the region is the complex of 13 rock-hewn churches at Lalibela, a breathtaking architectural feat no less remarkable for still being in active use today. Other key sites include the restored castles of Gonder, the towering pre-Christian stelae (obelisks) in Axum (where the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was established in the 4th century AD, and the ancient island monasteries on Lake Tana (source of the Blue Nile).

There are also numerous other lesser-known sites for aficionados of genuine off-the-beaten-track travel, including another 120 rock-hewn churches in the province of Tigrai, and the immense pre-Christian temple at Yeha. For nature lovers, the Simien Mountains offer some superb hiking opportunities, as well as being the stomping ground of the unique golden-maned gelada baboon, endangered Ethiopian wolf, and a host of rare birds including the dramatic bearded vulture (lammergeyer).

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Any time of year. The rainy season (June-Sept) slows down road transport but does much to enhance the scenic appeal of the mountains.