Ethiopia is one of Africa's greatest cultural destinations with no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. It's safe, easy to travel around and has a unique character for the most part untainted by European colonial influence.

Addis Ababa

Ramshackle, chaotic and grubby, most visitors would be forgiven for quitting the capital at the first opportunity. Give it a chance, though, and Addis reveals its gentler charms. Beyond the smoke-choked streets and scrawny goats trotting at the roadside, there are some fine museums, blooming bougainvillea and a chance to sample Ethiopia's unique cuisine.


The National Museum, off Entolo Road, containing the bones of Lucy, one of our earliest ancestors. The three- to four- million-year-old hominid distinguished by her upright walk continues to excite - as does the collection of exhibits ranging from Haile Selassie's throne to the modern art on the top floor.

Eat at one of the city's ‘cultural restaurants'. Dashen Traditional Restaurant, off Itegue Taitu Street, has live music and serves injera, the slightly sour flatbread on which dishes are heaped to be eaten with the hands.


Africa's ‘Camelot' in north western Ethiopia was the country's capital between 1636 and 1855. Visitors primarily come for its well-preserved castles and churches but, somewhat incongruously, there are also some fine art deco buildings built by the Italians during their brief occupation in the 1930s.


Wander the Royal Enclosure containing Fasiladas' Palace - the oldest and the most striking of Gonder's castles combining an unusual blend of Aksumite, Indian, Portuguese and Moorish influences.

Pop in to an Italian deco cafe and enjoy a coffee before bracing yourself for more historical treasures. Ethiopia is renowned for its thick, dark coffee which is as potent as it is tasty.


The ruins of ancient Axum, close to Ethiopia's northern border, mark the heart of a civilisation that was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia.


The ancient royal capital of the earliest Ethiopian kingdom is renowned for its ancient, carved granite obelisks, its archaeological remains and its church, which claims to house the Lost Ark of the Covenant.


‘Africa's Petra' is a remarkable collection of 12th-century rock-hewn churches where pilgrims still come to prostrate themselves before painted icons and medieval crosses. A visit during Ethiopian Christmas in January rewards with hordes of white-clad priests and pilgrims processing through the rocks by torch light.


Bet Giyorgis (St Georges' Church), the most complete and well-engineered of the churches is freed completely from the rock. It is one of the most sophisticated examples of rock-hewn architecture on the planet.

Visit Bet Maryam, with its animal frescoes and mysterious column of ‘past and future of the world' - a pillar shrouded in cloth that is said to be inscribed with predictions for the future.

Getting there and around

BMI and Ethiopian Airways fly to Addis Ababa from London Heathrow.

Ethiopian Airways also offers internal flights to all the destinations above and will give you a discount if you've flown internationally with them. If you only have a short time in the country it's well worth travelling between the sights by air - overland journeys are long, exhausting and uncomfortable.

When to go

The great news is sunshine is virtually guaranteed. There is a rainy season between the middle of June and the end of September, but for the rest of the year clear skies reign - temperatures never generally rising above the late twenties. Only on the lowland edges of western, eastern and southern Ethiopia can temperatures creep above 30°C.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.