Traveling to Ethiopia is a delight that you might not expect. This northeast African country, bordered by Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan, has more UNEScO sites than any other place on the continent. Pretty impressive, especially when you add in all of Ethiopia's natural beauty and more-activities-you-can-count.
Traveling to Ethiopia in the Great Rift Valley is easier than you think. The capital of Addis Ababa is serviced by many international airlines, including Ethiopian Airways--which also flights to some 40 destinations within the country alone.
Addis Ababa, by the way, lies at a high altitude--around 8,000 feet above sea level.
You can arrive to Ethiopia by train if you're coming from Djibouti; land crossing is only if you're coming from Kenya.
Before you run off to see all 437,000 square miles (1.13 square kilometers), safety first. While there's no real risk of malaria in the capital, it is, however, very common everywhere else. Make sure you've gotten a Diphtheria and Yellow Fever vaccination before arriving. Food safety is another issue. Be sure to cook all fresh veg, peel fruit, and eat meat that's well-cooked. Also boil any water before brushing your teeth or making ice. Also, never swim in fresh water.
The exception to this is if you're at one of the spas at Lake Langano or Lake Tana (and its 37 islands). The resorts at these two lakes are extraordinary--and where the decor manages to bring the outside in. But, if you're gonna be outside--best to try windsurfing or water skiing. That's in addition to all the rafting, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and sailing. Don't worry if you don't speak Arabic on one of these activities, or Amharic for that matter--which is the official language, since English, Italian, and French are widely spoken by the country's 65 million residents.
It doesn't matter since you'll be speechless once you've see the Blue Nile Falls, called the "water that smokes". That's from the force of the water over the gorge, by the way, and it makes the most beautiful of rainbows. Hard as it is to leave, there's more to do. Shopping is a good idea as any, so stock up on gold or silver jewelry and handmade carpets. Practice your haggling skills before heading off to the markets--but it isn't necessary for city shops since their prices are fixed. No bargaining over price when you're on an Ethiopian safari though the Simien Mountains National Park; and Ethiopia is home to some 850 (and counting) species of birds.
Whatever you've chosen to do you're gonna need money--the best currency is travelers cheques (credit card acceptance is limited) in US currency; although you'd get a better exchange rate with British Pounds to Ethiopian Birr (12 to 1 vs. 8 to 1 in USD). Good idea to use your Birr to buy Kaitaka, a grain alcohol of sorts. If you want something not as strong try some locally made wines--delicious. All that's necessary to try all this is a valid passport by British, Australian, Canadian, and US citizens--as well as return ticket. A visa is required, but you can always get that when you get there. Its all worth it just to see the granite obelisks in Axum, once a Royal Capital city; spending a few days visiting Ethiopia's nine National Parks, or shopping for religious prayer scrolls--fitting since you'll find many churches and monasteries scattered throughout the country--and its been a Christian country for more than 1800 years. When you're looking to backpack across a country that offers everything from stunning scenery to spectacular shopping and super sports--think of nothing else but Ethiopia.