Tourism & Communications
Spectacular scenery with easy access by air
Over 300,000 visitors travel to Ethiopia each year (according to the World Tourism Organisation). Many visitors fly into the capital Addis Ababa, but reaching other parts of the country is relatively easy.
A long-established airline
Ethiopian Airways (“The new Spirit of Africa”) is one of Africa’s longest-standing airlines. Founded in 1946, this state-owned company has operated for over 60 years. Passenger numbers have grown by 20% every year for the past decade and the airline flies to over 35 foreign cities.
Some of the Italian-built road system is in need of repair, but Ethiopia has a good air transport system, which includes many local airports serviced by a well-established national carrier.
For those prepared to travel around, Ethiopia offers truly spectacular scenery, from the one kilometre-deep Blue Nile Gorge northwest of the capital, to the cliffs and valleys of the Tigrai region and the beautiful lakes of the Rift Valley below the sheer faces of the Rift Escarpment.
Sites of early man and ancient civilisations
Ethiopia has a number of places of archeological interest listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Some go back to prehistoric times where evidence of our earliest ancestors has been found.
Close to Ethiopia’s northern border, the ruins of the ancient city of Aksum are a key World Heritage site. Askum was the heart of a powerful kingdom in first–eighth centuries. Remains of this important historical city include tombs, castle ruins and giant obelisks or stelae (see History & Politics).
The National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa contains an array of artefacts and finds from Ethiopia’s rich past.
Ethiopia’s Christian heritage
Ethiopia has many ancient churches and monasteries. Some of the oldest are found in the northern Tigrai region (near to Mekele) and date back to the sixth or seventh centuries.
The rock-hewn churches sitting below ground-level at Lalibela are perhaps the most famous. These were carved out of the red volcanic rock in medieval times. Four are free-standing (like the one in the photo), while the others are semi-detached or have facades carved free from the rock. Many people are drawn to these amazing buildings, including pilgrims who come to the small town of Lalibela for acts of devotion or to celebrate Christian festivals.
The Lalibela churches are linked by maze-like tunnels and passages. Trenches serve as a drainage system to the river, which was symbolically named the River Jordan.