Ethiopia’s immense cultural, palaeontological and natural wealth is reflected in its tally of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the most of any country in Africa. Eight of these nine sites are cultural, and one – the Simien Mountains National Park – is natural. Five other sites in Ethiopia are currently under consideration by UNESCO as Tentative World Heritage Sites.
- The mediaeval complex of rock-hewn churches at Lalibela is sub-Saharan Africa’s most breathtaking historical site, comprising as it does eleven churches and two chapels excavated in the 12th century.
- Founded more than 3,000 years ago, the ancient capital of Aksum – surrounded by towering obelisks and ruined palaces dating back to its heyday – was once home to the Queen of Sheba and is now reputedly the last resting place of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant.
- The Fasil Ghebbi at Gondar – dubbed the Camelot of Africa – is renowned for its fairytale castles and intricately decorated churches built during imperial Ethiopia’s 17th century prime.
- The walled citadel of Harar Jugol is the the fourth-holiest city in the Islamic world, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, and its 48 hectares are crammed with an incredible 82 mosques and 438 other shrines.
- The most striking feature of the Konso Cultural Landscape is its warren-like terraced hilltop villages and anthropomorphic wooden grave-markers known as waka.
- Ethiopia’s only Natural World Heritage Site, Simien Mountains National Park is renowned for its spectacular montane scenery and the presence of endemic animals such as Walia ibex and gelada baboon.
- A short drive south of the capital Addis Ababa, Tiya is an archeological site comprising 36 engraved megaliths or stelae erected in mediaeval time as to mark a mysterious burial complex of unknown cultural affiliations.
- Though not geared towards tourism, the Lower Valley of the Awash River is one of Africa’s most important palaeontological sites, having yielded numerous important hominid fossils including the 3.2-million-year old Australopithecus afarensis female nicknamed Lucy.
- The Lower Valley of the Omo River is another important but difficult-to-explore palaeontological region, having yielded Australopithecus and Homo fossils dating back 2.4 million years.