Formerly known as Abyssinia, Ethiopia is a landlocked country on the Horn of Africa, in the east of the continent. It is bordered by Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Somaliland (Somalia).
The country covers an area of 1,126,829 km²; this is about twice the size of France or the U.S. state of Texas. The highest elevation is Mount Ras Dashen, with 4620 m.
A population of more than 114 million inhabitants (in 2020) makes the country the second-most populous nation in Africa behind Nigeria. The country comprises more than 80 ethnic groups and as many languages.
Background: Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the world’s oldest – it exists for at least 2,000 years. The country comprises more than 80 ethnic groups and as many languages. Primarily their shared independent existence unites Ethiopia’s many nations. Unique among African countries, Ethiopia has never been colonized, one exception being the occupation by Italy in 1936-41.
In 1974 a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam was finally toppled by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in 1991.
A new constitution was adopted in 1994, which guaranteed the religious rights and the cultural and political rights of all ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s first multiparty elections were held in 1995. With a peace treaty on 12 December 2000, a 30-year-old struggle with Eritrea ended.
Traveling to Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, is the fastest-growing airline in Africa. In its seven decades of operation, Ethiopia has become one of the continent’s leading carriers, unrivaled in efficiency and operational success.
It also offers the continent’s most extensive flight network, with international routings connecting Addis Ababa to more than 90 cities outside Ethiopia, as well as 20 domestic destinations.
Ethiopian Airlines flies daily from Heathrow to Addis Ababa, providing connectivity to 54 destinations on the African continent and more than a total of 98 worldwide.
All international flights arrive and depart from Bole International Airport on the outskirts of central Addis Ababa.
Ethiopian Airlines operates a daily “Historic Route Service” for tourists connecting Addis Ababa to the historic cities of the northern circuit i.e. Aksum, Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela. Connecting flights also run daily between these northern cities.
There are also domestic flights to several other key centres including Arba Minch, Assosa, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Gondar, Jijiga, Jimma, Mekele and Semera.
An increasingly popular option with tourists is to travel overland with one of many reliable operators in Addis Ababa offering group tours and a range of bespoke 4×4 itineraries.
More remote parts of the country, such as the Danakil Depression and Erta Ale, or the tribal lands of South Omo, can only realistically be visited on an organised 4×4 expedition with a specialist local operator.
Where to Stay
The hotel supply in Addis Ababa is growing quickly with an increasing number of properties offering international standards including several apartment hotels and branded hotels: Sheraton, Hilton, Radisson Blue, Golden Tulip, Marriott and Ramada. Smaller hotels and cozy guest-houses are also available.
In the main tourist destinations, there is a range of accommodation available including urban hotels as well as smaller properties with local charm and lodges in national parks and other unique locations.
Health and Safety
Ethiopia is a safe and reasonably healthy country provided you take a few common-sense precautions.
Ensure your inoculations are up to date, mainly if you are traveling out of the capital or you will stay away from the largest hotels. We advise that you talk to your GP, practice nurse, or travel health clinic about any immunizations you may need at least two months before traveling.
For the latest advice by country including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings, and health, please visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.