Ethiopia features some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains, and some of the lowest, such as the sulphur fumaroles and lunar-like landscape of the Danakil Depression. It is also one of Africa’s greatest cultural destinations, with no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the mystical rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.
Ethiopia is the only country in Africa never to have been fully colonized (with the exception of a five-year occupation by Mussolini’s Italy) and so retains a unique culture, has its own script and language (Amharic) and maintains a strong sense of national identity. Years of totalitarian abuse at the hands of the Derg socialist military regime (1974-1991), drought, famine and continuing border disputes with Eritrea have taken their toll, but Ethiopia survives as an ancient and fascinating destination.
Ethiopia is situated in northeast Africa, bordered by Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. It is about twice the size of France. The central area is a vast highland region of volcanic rock forming a watered, temperate zone surrounded by hot, arid, inhospitable desert. The Great Rift Valley, which starts in Palestine, runs down the Red Sea and diagonally southwest through Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi. The escarpments on either side of the country are steepest in the north where the terrain is very rugged. To the south, the landscape is generally flatter and more suited to agriculture.