Three Gems in Ethiopia

Axum, Gonder, and Lalibela: The Horn of Africa's Cultural Travel Trifecta
King Fasilidas's Castle
King Fasilidas's Castle (Ben Sumner)
Images of Ethiopia
From the ancient city of Axum to the capital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's cities and sites will leave travelers in awe, as is evidenced in this photo gallery.

Recovering from years of war, drought, famine and relative isolation from the rest of the world, Ethiopia has recently given its economy a boost through tourism by pulling three ancient, valuable cards from its sleeve. These are mind-blowing sites on par with better-known treasures in other parts of the world. The cities—all UNESCO World Heritage sites—are little-known outside of Ethiopia, but soon the names Axum, Gonder, and Lalibela will become insider's shorthand for travelers driven to explore historical, religious, and cultural sites.

Axum is the heart of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and one of the most ancient cities in the country. It's said that the Holy of Holies—the Ark of the Covenant—resides here. The city is also home to ancient monoliths and historical ruins that may be tied to the Queen of Sheba 3,000 years ago.

Gonder contains the most surprising ruins for this part of the world, the remains of centuries-old castles known as Fasil Ghebbi, or the Royal Enclosure, which look more European than African. The city has a laid-back atmosphere and the festive nightlife makes for a fun cultural experience after a day of educational sightseeing.

The monolithic rock-hewn churches of Lalibela may very well be the eighth wonder of the world. Chiseled from pink granite rock, the churches each have unique architectural styles and artwork, and continue to function in the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition more than 800 years after they were created.

Published: 10 Apr 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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