Travelling to the land of origins


Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most fascinating destinations, with its incredible history, jaw-dropping beauty and iconic wildlife species. It’s a land of extremes, where deep spirituality, ancient cultures and spectacular landscapes come together in a melting pot like no other, offering tourists the chance to immerse themselves in unique, authentic and incredibly diverse experiences.

This land-locked country is Africa’s second most populous nation and one of only two on the continent never to have been colonised (along with Liberia in North Africa). And now there’s a new way to explore this amazing country, thanks to the launch of Ethiopian Airlines new division – Ethiopian Holidays.

Established to highlight and promote the very best destinations on its routes around Ethiopia and across the globe, Ethiopian Holidays aims to put Ethiopia firmly on the African tourism map by offering a range of holiday options, from one-day stopovers in the capital of Addis Ababa to full-scale, fully inclusive cross-country adventures.

The seat of the Christianity in Africa, Ethiopia is something of a bucket-list destination, giving travellers the chance to visit the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and some of the oldest monasteries in the world, where ancient texts dating back to 800AD and miraculous painted maqdas offer a glimpse into the origins of the Christian faith.

From the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in the north and the pristinely preserved monasteries of Lake Tana – source of the Blue Nile – to the castles of Gondar and the ancient walled city of Harar, Ethiopia never fails to deliver lessons in human history. It’s also the home of one of the oldest hominid fossils yet discovered. Known as “Lucy” these remains are of a female Australopithecus afarensis and date back 3,2-million years and are on display in the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.

In times of old, Ethiopia was known as Abyssinia, and its empire spread wide and far. Its emperors ruled from the 13th century onwards and it’s regarded as one of the oldest civilisations in the world. But it was Emperor “Ras Tafari” – known to the world as Haile Selassie I – who brought Ethiopia into the modern world, and who inspired the Rastafarian religion. His former summer palace sits on a hill overlooking the place where the Blue Nile flows out of Lake Tana, outside the city of Bahir Dar. The river flows steadily for 30km before entering the 400km-long Blue Nile Gorge – a breath-taking canyon that rivals the US’s Grand Canyon in its landscapes and towering cliffs. There is only one bridge that crosses the gorge, linking Bahir Dar with Addis Ababa, and the north of the country with the south.

Of course, Ethiopia is also the birth-place of one of the modern world’s most essential and best-loved beverages – coffee. Yes, your morning cup of Joe would not be what it is had a young shepherd boy in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia not discovered the magic of brewing a ground up, roasted coffee bean! That anonymous but innovative young man’s epiphany steadily spread to the rest of the waiting world, and today coffee is central to everyday life in not just Ethiopia, but across the world. All over Ethiopia coffee stations are set up every day at roadsides across the country, where informal coffee ceremonies are performed and Ethiopians from all walks of life enjoy the rich, dark roast that’s now savoured all over the world.

Getting to Ethiopia and travelling across the country is easy, thanks to Ethiopian Airlines’ network of international and domestic routes. And with Ethiopian Holidays now able to pull together the country’s highlights into exciting holiday packages, and a new e-visa service streamlining the immigration process, Ethiopia awaits – it’s a short, five-hour flight away for South African travellers. With the e-visa service, authorisation to have your passport stamped with a visa upon arrival at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport is sent via email.

The capital is a holiday destination in itself, and worthy of a few days’ exploration. From the bustling markets and fascinating cotton mills that weave the textiles that have made Ethiopia famous the world over to the studios of local artists and the coffee shops of downtown, Addis is a vast city and a veritable cornucopia of cultures. Ethiopia has never been colonised, but it was occupied by the Italians during World War II. This means you’ll find some of the most amazing Italian restaurants in the most unlikely surroundings, and some of the best pizzas you’ll ever taste outside of Italy.

There’s something for all taste buds in Addis, from Armenian family restaurants to the ususal fast-food suspects and everything in between, but you have to sample a traditional Ethiopian meal at some point during your visit. With flatbreads called injera made from the indigenous teff grain and rich, spicy meat and vegetables stews, known as “wot” or “wat”, washed down with tej – a meade-like wine made from honey, an Ethiopian meal – like a trip across the country itself – is something to be savoured.

While the emphasis may be on exploring Ethiopia, Ethiopian Holidays also offers tour packages to complement Ethiopian Airlines’ global routes, meaning that tourists can combine a holiday in Ethiopia with a range of more than 100 destinations worldwide. It works exclusively with the leading tour operators and hotel brands in both Ethiopia and across the world and is able to put together bespoke itineraries offering competitive rates and special offers to those choosing to fly the globe with Ethiopian Airlines.
So whether it’s sitting watching gelada baboons grazing high in the Simian mountains, spotting the rare Ethiopian wolf in the country’s spectacular highlands, sunning yourself on a pristine, white powder beach in Seychelles or trekking up the magnificent Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Ethiopian Holidays can tick off something on almost everyone’s bucket list, and more!

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