Lying close to the equator, Ethiopia is a country which provides year-round temperatures.

As one of the oldest nations in the world, and a home to Africa's second largest number of people, Ethiopia is an excellent country from which to gain an excellent insight into the African history and culture.

It is the only country in Africa never to have been fully colonised (with the exception of a five-year occupation by Mussolini's Italy) and the 20th century history of Ethiopia is dominated by the figure of Haile Selassie, who became emperor in 1930 and ruled until the military coup of 1974.

Left alone by mass tourism, Ethiopia boasts many an impressive destination. The ancient royal capital of Aksum (or Axum) the earliest Ethiopian kingdom lies in the north of the country. It is renowned for multi-storyed ancient carved granite obelisks, for important archaeological remains and for the church, which claims to house the Lost Ark of the Covenant.

Gondar was the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1855 and is the site of many ruined castles whilst Lalibela is famous for its 12th century, rock-hewn churches.

For the more vigorous, the Simien mountains, Africa's most rugged, provide excellent trekking opportunities with dramatic skylines, unique wildlife and rich grassy plateaux. The Blue Nile rises south of the Simiens, and boat trips to the source navigate around wallowing hippos and vast flocks of pelicans. For animal lovers, the southern reserves boast lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards and a variety of gazelles, although hunting has reduced numbers. With over 850 known species - 30 endemic - Ethiopia is a migratory destination for birdwatchers as well as birds.