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Discovering Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a place of wonder and enchantment; a country with one of the richest histories in Africa, a land of contrast and surprises, of remote and wild places, home to cultured and friendly peoples who are descended from some of the world's oldest civilisations.

Following the historic northern circuit, I began on the shores of Lake Tana (the source of the Blue Nile) with a boat trip to the Zega Peninsula to visit the circular monastery of Ura Kidane Mihret, built in the 14th Century with nothing more than mud and grass. 

Every inch of the walls was covered with biblical paintings - being able to see and even touch ancient goatskin parchment was a stand out experience. The next stop on the historic route was the city of Gondar, founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1635.  Known as the 'Camelot of Africa, the city is famous for its medieval castles as well as for the design and decoration of its churches.  I was most taken by the Emperor's 'bathing palace', now used for the annual Timket or Epiphany celebrations in January.

A long, gruelling but stunning road journey then took me north to Axum, birthplace of Christianity in Ethiopia and fabled home to the Queen of Sheba, before flying down to Lalibela to explore it's world-renowned 10th Century rock hewn churches. 

A real bonus here was waking at dawn to be met by a sturdy mule for the ride up to the hidden monastery of Asheton Maryam, perched at 10,000 feet above the town. You enter the monastery via a cave in the cliff, and to hear the echo of monks's chants reverberating through the cave was a resonant and very moving moment.

Other highlights included meeting the endemic Gelada baboons of the Simiens - find time if you can for a short trek through this awesome and vertiginous world - and a rare glimpse of the Ethiopian Wolf in the pristine wilderness of the Bale mountains. 

Ethiopia's history and culture may set it apart from other African countries, but its scenery and ever changing landscapes are equally outstanding!

For itineraries and ideas in Ethiopia click here or call our Africa specialists on 020 7386 4646.