Ethiopia is all about its people, its history and traditions, and its breathtaking scenery.

As one of the oldest nations in the world, and home to the second largest nation of people in Africa, Ethiopia is an excellent country from which to gain real insight into 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 in the 20th century was 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 the largest number of UNESCO sites in Africa. The ancient holy city and royal capital of Aksum (or Axum), the earliest Ethiopian kingdom, lies in the north of the country. It is renowned for its multi-storied carved granite obelisks, for important archaeological remains and for the church which claims to house the Lost Ark of the Covenant.

Gondar. the 'Camelot of Africa', was the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1855 and is the site of a number of ruined castles and is famed for its beautiful examples of Ethiopian church art; and then there is Lalibela, one of the world's most astounding sacred sites, famous for its 12th century, rock-hewn churches, quite remarkable and essential visiting. 

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 buffalo - although hunting has severely reduced numbers - but there remain reasonably healthy populations of several varieties of gazelle and antelope; and with over 850 known species - 30 endemic - Ethiopia is a migratory destination for birdwatchers as well as birds.