Welcome to Ethiopia, the mosaic land of ancient cultures and nature’s true playground! From the moment that you set foot in Ethiopia to be greeted by a graceful Selam, a gesture that denotes both welcome and respect, you are on the way to one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The history of Ethiopia goes back thousands of years to the legend of Queen Sheba and King Solomon and is home to one of the oldest churches in the world that dates back to one of the early periods of Christianity predating the Vatican. Ethiopia is also the oldest independent country in Africa, and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world. It has long been an intersection between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub Saharan Africa.
In its relative isolation in the highlands Ethiopia has truly developed a culture and history unlike any other. A country endowed with marvelous geographical feature with rugged mountains (some are over 4000 meters high) broad savannah, lakes and rivers her natural beauty is guaranteed to amazes the first-time visitor. Ethiopia is old beyond imagination, dating to the very beginning of mankind. There is no better time to discover this magnificent land than during the great celebration of Ethiopian Millennium where hundreds and thousands of people will gather to commemorate 2000 A.D. on the Ethiopic Calendar.
The city of Lalibela also known as “New Jerusalem” is 642 kilometres from Addis Ababa and is internationally renowned for its rock-hewn churches. "This Eight Wonder of the World was a credit to King Lalibela who set the foundation of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th century”. Carved from the soft, volcanic tuff in which they stand they are the world's most incredible man-made creations, they are a lasting monument to man's faith in God. Legend also has it was built with the help of angels. There are eleven churches. The churches are carved from the rock they stand in, and many are comprised of labyrinthine tunnels and crypts connecting galleries and grottos. While some lie almost completely hidden in deep trenches, others stand in open quarried caves.
A visit to these magnificent and extraordinary churches will open your imagination to what was and what still is today. It will take on a journey of the art of highland Christian Ethiopia - with its visually powerful icon paintings on wood, intricate metal processional crosses, gold coins, and richly illuminated manuscripts, architecture, sculpture and living history.
Axum, Ethiopia's most ancient city, and capital of one of the most glorious empires of the past, is the most illustrious links in the Historic Route. A historical and archaeological site with its half-buried ruins of palaces, monolithic stelae, and subterranean tombs, is one of Ethiopia's most significant locations. Rightly famous for its obelisks, Axum was the capital of the Axumite kingdom – once one of the four kingdoms of the world. It was also home to the Queen of Sheba whose ruined palace and bathing pool can still be found in and near the town. Reputedly the capital of the Queen of Sheba, today Axum is the hub of Ethiopian Christianity. Visit the churches and monasteries of Axum, which are richly endowed with icons, and some of the historical crowns of ancient emperors. Visit park of the Obelisks where several colossal monoliths still stand together, marking the tombs of the Axumite royals.
The graceful city of Gondar, founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1635 is 748 kilometres from Addis Ababa. The city was Ethiopia's capital until the reign of the would-be reforming Emperor Tewodros II. It was a great centre of commerce, trading with the rich lands south of the Blue Nile, as well as with Sudan to the west, and the Red Sea port of Massawa to the northeast.
The main attractions in Gondar are its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches. The most impressive is the two-storied castle Fasilidas himself built which is still in such an excellent state of repair that it is possible to climb its stats all the way to the roof, which commands a breathtaking view over much of the city.
In Gondar you’ll find medieval castles and walls entirely painted with exuberant, colorful frescoes of saints and their adventures. Come and relive medieval history, African style!