Ethiopia: Africa’s New Hot Destination

With the Ethiopian economy going like gangbusters, tourism is slowly but surely moving toward the great expectations generated more than half a century ago. Here are some of the sights, the scenery, the culture. Read more at CNN

Simien Mountains

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Ethiopia’s highest mountain range, the Simiens, nurture an incredible array of native flora and fauna including animals like the gelada baboon, Ethiopian wolf and walia ibex. Scheduled to open in early 2017, a new luxury tented camp will complement basic facilities already available in the national park.

Gheralta

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A spectacular red-rock landscape reminiscent of the American Southwest provides a refuge for dozens of tiny rock-hewn monasteries scattered through the mountains. Trekking is the main activity, but the region also boasts some of Ethiopia’s best wilderness lodges.

Erte Ale

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Deep in the Danakil Desert, Erta Ale (Smoking Mountain) is a continuously active volcano and one of only six on the planet with a permanent lava lake. A 10-kilometer trail leads across a volcanic wasteland to the crater rim, where hikers can eyeball nature’s own sound and light show before camping overnight.

Coffee

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Native to Ethiopia, coffee is a national obsession and the coffee ceremony one of the most accessible traditions. Engulfed in a cloud of frankincense, coffee stations can be found in hotel lobbies, airport lounges and restaurants. Watch as the beans are roasted over a small charcoal fire, ground and added to boiling water to produce thick, rich espresso-like buna coffee.

Gondar

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One of the architectural wonders of Africa, the Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Citadel) of Gondar is a sprawling complex of palaces, churches, plazas, barracks, stables and meeting halls surrounded by sturdy walls. Founded in the 17th century by Emperor Fasilides, the citadel was badly damaged by British bombing during World War Two, but much has been restored.

Great Ethiopian Run

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Haile Gebrselassie and Tirunesh Dibaba are just two of the many world record-holding athletes and Olympic gold medalists that have come out of Ethiopia. And unsurprisingly, participating in events like the annual Great Ethiopian Run in Addis Ababa and EthioTrail Run in Abijatta-Shala National Park has become popular with tourists.

Great Rift Valley

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Like its counterpart in neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley was a cradle of mankind (the famous australopithecine “Lucy” was discovered there in 1974) and a scenic wonderland. South of Addis Ababa, the valley is spangled with water bodies like Lake Chamo in Nechisar National Park.

Lalibela

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Founded by King Lalibela in the late 12th century, this highland city is world-renowned for its 11 stone churches. Chiseled from red volcanic scoria, the sanctuaries were the king’s attempt to build the “New Jerusalem”; of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith. Visiting the churches is especially evocative during daily rites.

Ethiopian cooking

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A hip cuisine in many Western cities, Ethiopian cooking is like nothing else in the foodie world. Curry-like wat and sauteed tibs (meat and vegetables form the nucleus of most local meals, everything scooped up with a humongous portion of injera, a flatbread made from teff grain. Among the great places to eat Ethiopian in-country are Lucy restaurant beside the National Museum in Addis, the Four Sisters in Gondar and Seven Olives in Lalibela.

Ethnographic Museum

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One of the best collections in Africa, the Addis Ababa museum safeguards an impressive array of tribal artifacts, royal paraphernalia and monastic murals. Housed inside the former royal palace, one of the highlights is a visit to Haile Selassie’s private quarters.

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