Ethiopia: The Hidden Gem of Africa
Ethiopia evokes age-old images of famine and drought, but nothing could be farther from of the truth. This little-known African jewel is the only country on the continent that escaped colonization and takes you to a world of ancient treasures, stunning backdrops and a rich history that transports you back in time.
In terms of tourism, Ethiopia is still young, but undoubtedly it is the perfect destination for the curious traveller and holds something for everybody. For the historians, it is known as the cradle of humanity with evidence that humans walked these lands more than 3 million years ago; for the architects, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are an incredible display of traditional Ethiopian ingenuity and, for the urbanite the large outdoor markets of Addis Ababa are full of extraordinary colours, sights and sounds.
But, for many the most memorable experience is the TESFA cultural trek. The trek is in the Balsat Mountains, a remote part of Ethiopia with stunning scenery at every glance. Guided by locals along the escarpment, travellers are greeted by beaming smiles and invitations to share a cup of coffee or a story or two. Trekkers stay in community-run “tukuls”, which are traditional round thatched and stone huts, perched high on cliffs along the way. Supporting the local communities, the trek is run by a non-for-profit organization called Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives (TESFA). The goal is to enable the people of the region to use tourism in a positive way to create sustainable livelihoods, and at the same time contribute to the protection of their physical and cultural environment. This type of travel creates a win-win situation, one where the traveller is given the opportunity to have a truly authentic cultural experience, but gives back to the local communities at the same time.
Incredible landscapes, warm people and a sense of doing something good, to me that’s what real travel is all about.
Aaron visited Ethiopia back in 2006 while he was living in Nairobi, Kenya. Inspired by this lesser known country he designed a unique trip called Ethiopian Exposure which includes the TESFA project trek.