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Historical sites and landmarks to visit in Ethiopia

03 June 2015

Do you have an appetite for adventure? Do you enjoy secret cities, holy sites and ancient legends that could have been lifted from the set of an Indiana Jones film?

Bete Giyorgis (Church of Saint George) a rock-hewn church of in Lalibela, Ethiopia
Bete Giyorgis (Church of Saint George) a rock-hewn church of in Lalibela, Ethiopia

Ethiopia may not have always been a popular holiday destination but – as more and more people are discovering – it delivers beauty, history, wildlife and adventure on a truly epic scale.

A new tour, an ancient land

With its 2,000-year-old cities, world-class archaeological sites, towering mountains and vast sweeping plateaus, Ethiopia was the birthplace of biblical stories and mystical legends, and is today the home of birds and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Saga’s new for 2015 tour, Ethiopia: An Antique Land unveils these spectacular extremes over 12 unforgettable nights.

Highlights include the monolithic churches of Lalibela, the UNESCO protected Simien Mountains National Park and the ancient city of Aksum in an itinerary that promises culture and adventure in equal measure.

The sunken city of Lalibela

Arguably Africa’s greatest archaeological site, Lalibela is simply breathtaking. Built in the 13th century by King Lalibela, this sunken city of 11 churches was to be a ‘New Jerusalem’ after Muslim conquests halted pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Each church was hollowed and chiseled out of a single monolithic block – below ground level to be less visible to Muslim invaders – complete with doors, windows, roofs and columns. Lalibela has been compared to Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Pompeii and other seminal archaeological sites, and it is a place of pilgrimage for Christians from all over the world.

The Roof of Africa

Known as the Roof of Africa and one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful mountain ranges, the Simien Mountains National Park was formed by volcanic eruptions over 20 million years ago. The highest peaks reach 4500m and even the more gentle slopes offer broad sweeping views over the plains way below. But while the views are impressive, the wildlife is exceptional. The mountains are home to huge groups of gelada baboons, the rare Ethiopian wolf, the endangered walia ibex goat and the enormous bearded vulture that has a wingspan of almost 3 metres.


Steeped in mystery and the legendary home of the Queen of Sheba, Aksum is a beguiling and endlessly intriguing city. Some say it hides glittering treasure troves in its ruined tombs and palaces, others believe the Ark of the Covenant (which contains Moses’ 10 Commandments) lies in a small chapel here. You’ll see the chapel on our included tour, but you wont be allowed to go in. No one but a single, specially chosen guardian has access to the sacred Ark!

Ethiopia: An Antique Land is just one from a collection of Saga holidays in Africa.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.