World’s best tourism destination for 2015? It’s Ethiopia
By Sophie Eastaugh, for CNN
1 minute read
11:44 AM EDT, Fri July 17, 2015
Ethiopia was named as the world's best destination for tourists in 2015 by the European Council on Tourism and Trade. What makes the country unique? Ethiopia is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Semien National Park. Massive erosion over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 meters.
Veronique DURRUTY/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Ethiopia is home to one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, dating back to the early fourth century. Nowhere is this heritage clearer than the northern town of Lalibela, where 11 underground churches have been hewn out of the rock. The Church of St. George (Bet Giyorgis) was carved from a type of limestone around the early 13th century.
In Lalibela, the many sacred sites are linked by tunnels. The chiseled creations have turned this mountain town into a place of pride and pilgrimage for worshipers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, attracting 80,000 to 100,000 visitors every year.
Priests and monks in Lalibela celebrate the Ethiopian Orthodox festival of Timkat, which remembers the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant is taken out of every Ethiopian church for 24 hours and paraded during a procession in towns across the country. Over 80 % of Ethiopians are estimated to be Orthodox Christians.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images/file
The Danakil Depression desert basin reaches up to 125 meters below sea level due to the tectonic activity caused by plate movements in the region, and is home to fields of sulphurous hot spirings like this one.
The inhospitable terrain of the Ethiopia's desert basin also features many acid pools.
A salt worker and his camels cross the Danakil Depression in Northern Ethiopia. The landscape is one of harshest on earth, with wastelands of salt and sweltering temperatures that remain well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Courtesy Ng Ngok Swee
Raw, immense and majestically beautiful, the Erta Ale volcanic crater also sits within the Danakil Depression. Known for being the world's oldest active lava lake, the locals call it "the gateway to hell".