Perched in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a fascinating country with an extraordinary past. It is widely considered as one of the earliest sites of the emergence of modern humans, Homo sapiens. Even further back, the oldest hominid discovered to date in Ethiopia is the 4.2 million year old Ardipithicus ramidus (Ardi), however, likely the most famous is still Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis, one of the most complete and best preserved adult Australopithecine fossils ever uncovered. Found in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia’s Afar region, Lucy is estimated to have lived 3.2 million years ago.
Ethiopia has one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world. This, too, is thought to be where our love of the humble coffee bean began. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Its medieval rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and Gheralta, palaces and temples date back 3,000 years. It is home to the world’s fourth-holiest Islamic city as well as the oldest continuously occupied town south of the Sahara. Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa.
The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest continuous mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves contains the longest cave, 9.4 miles, on the continent. Ethiopia is home to some of the wildest and most interesting habitats on the planet. The lakes in the Great Rift Valley region abound with about 262 species of birds, and 277 species of mammal including the Sudan cheetah, Ethiopian lion, civet, serval, African bush elephant, bushpig, gazelle, antelope, ibex, kudu, dik-dik, oribi, reedbuck, Somali wild ass, Grévy’s zebra, hyena, baboon, and numerous species of monkey. Several species are either endangered or vulnerable. There are also some 6,600 species of plants throughout the country, many indigenous.
Culture, history, natural beauty and a variety of adventures make Ethiopia one of the most appealing and exciting evolving destinations today. Ethiopia is that kind of place – a land that offers travelers opportunities to experience striking discoveries, impressive places and welcoming people. As Ethiopia begins to return to the international stage, we at Big Five want to share our enthusiasm for this dynamic re-emerging country.
President’s Pick Southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley Tribes 10 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Adventure Travel
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"Southern Ethiopia offers an amazing look into a wide range of traditional indigenous communities whose lifestyles remain closely linked to the past. We introduce you to the Dimeka women’s market as well as Key Afer, one of the most outstanding markets of the Lower Omo Valley tribes. You meet the Konso people, known for the carved totems placed on their graves, and the Mursi villagers, with their fierce warrior disposition and women who wear large circular clay labrets in the lower lip. I think you'll find that in this rapidly changing world, this adventure into the past is truly a remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Ethiopia Custom Tour Varied Days Navigator Series Interest(s): Adventure Travel
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I have always been a sucker for classic musicals. Among my top favorites is “Camelot.” One of the definitions for this enchanted name is “a time, place, or atmosphere of idyllic happiness.” I heard about the “Camelot of Africa,” and discovered that it referred to the ancient city of Gondar, known for its medieval castles and churches. The tale is told that in 1636, a buffalo led the Emperor Fasilides to a pool beside the river Angereb, where an old hermit told the emperor he would locate his capital there. Fasilides had the natural pool filled in and built his castle on that very spot. The beautiful castle of stone stands still, and has experienced little damage over these many centuries. Its towers and turrets, walls and balconies echo the romance of that fabled Camelot. Gondar has risen to the top of my travel to-do list. Imagine, a real-life Camelot… sounds simply idyllic.
Historic Routes of Ethiopia 10 Days Enrichment Series Interest(s): Safari Tours, Adventure Travel
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Travel to the magnificent Simien Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for distinctive wildlife including Gelada or bleeding-heart baboon, the lion monkey, the Walia ibex, rock hyrax, and the rarest wolf in the world - Semein wolf, as well as endemic birds such as the thick billed raven, black headed siskin, and white collared pigeon. Visit Axum, renowned for its cathedral of St. Mary Zion, where legend has it the original Ark of Covenant is housed; several standing monolithic stelae; and the ruins of Queen of Sheba’s palace. Explore Lalibela, famous for its rock-hewn churches dating from the seventh to 13th centuries; and known as the "New Jerusalem.” Ethiopia is a rare gem on the international stage with enduring culture and singular wildlife and historic sites.