Looking for off-the-beaten-path adventure and amazing photographs? You'll
find them in Ethiopia.
Everything else is before you, as though you're the first visitor to see it. Eight-hundred-year-old manuscripts? They're dragged out and paged through like family photo albums. Ancient crosses and the crowns of long-gone kings? They're yours to photograph.
Put simply, Ethiopia is not merely an extraordinary cultural and historic experience, it's also one amazing photo op.
While Ethiopia is an incredibly tough place to explore on your own, getting there isn't hard at all. Ethiopian Airlines (www.ethiopianairlines.com; 800-445-2733) has four flights a week from Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International to Addis Ababa. It's a 15-hour flight with 90 minutes in Rome for refueling. Don't let the country's reputation for poverty scare you off the airline -- it is thoroughly modern (Boeing 767s) and quite efficient. Round-trip coach airfares were running between $999 and $1,800 when I checked.
No matter how independent your spirit, you will need guides and someone to set things up locally. A good bet is Addis Ababa-based Green Land Tours (www.greenlandethiopia.com). This company has the experience and size to take care of everything from guides to hotels to in-country transportation.
Want to leave all of the arrangements to someone else? Good idea. Just make sure you go with an outfit that specializes in East Africa small-group tours. Two of the best and best-known: Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com; 800-554-7016), which has a 12-day trip (from $2,995 per person, plus air) and SITA World Tours (www.sitatours.com; 800-421-5643), which offers an eight-day program (from $2,495 per person, plus air).
Other tour operators include 2Afrika, Inc. (www.2afrika.com; 866-392-0626), Journeys Unlimited (www.journeys-unlimited.com; 800-486-8359), Meticulous Tours (www.meticuloustours.com; 866-827-6151), and Somak Safaris (www.somaksafaris.com; 800-757-6625).
In any case, you can find out more about the country from the tourist board at www.tourismethiopia.org.