Simien Mountains – Ethiopia's highest mountain range, the Simiens, nurture an incredible array of native flora and fauna including animals like the gelada baboon, Ethiopian wolf and walia ibex. Scheduled to open in early 2017, a new luxury tented camp will complement basic facilities already available in the national park.
Gheralta Escarpment – A spectacular red-rock landscape reminiscent of the American Southwest provides a refuge for dozens of tiny rock-hewn monasteries scattered through the mountains. Trekking is the main activity, but the region also boasts some of Ethiopia's best wilderness lodges.
Erta Ale – Deep in the Danakil Desert, Erta Ale (Smoking Mountain) is a continuously active volcano and one of only six on the planet with a permanent lava lake. A 10-kilometer trail leads across a volcanic wasteland to the crater rim, where hikers can eyeball nature's own sound and light show before camping overnight.
Addis Music Scene – Like other African nations, Ethiopia has a long and rich musical tradition. Addis Ababa is the place to catch live tunes by groups from around the Horn of Africa, from traditional azmari music to cutting-edge Bolel, Eritrean pop and Ethiopian jazz.
Coffee ceremony – Native to Ethiopia, coffee is a national obsession and the coffee ceremony one of the most accessible traditions. Engulfed in a cloud of frankincense, coffee stations can be found in hotel lobbies, airport lounges and restaurants. Watch as the beans are roasted over a small charcoal fire, ground and added to boiling water to produce thick, rich espresso-like buna coffee.
Gondar – One of the architectural wonders of Africa, the Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Citadel) of Gondar is a sprawling complex of palaces, churches, plazas, barracks, stables and meeting halls surrounded by sturdy walls. Founded in the 17th century by Emperor Fasilides, the citadel was badly damaged by British bombing during World War Two, but much has been restored.
Blue Nile Falls – Just downstream from Lake Tana, the newly born Blue Nile tumbles over a 45-meter rock face into a narrow gorge. The cascade reaches its greatest volume and width during the long rainy season between July and October, although the raging waters impress at any time of year.
Running – Haile Gebrselassie and Tirunesh Dibaba are just two of the many world record-holding athletes and Olympic gold medalists that have come out of Ethiopia. And unsurprisingly, participating in events like the annual Great Ethiopian Run in Addis Ababa and EthioTrail Run in Abijatta-Shala National Park has become popular with tourists.
Great Rift Valley – Like its counterpart in neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley was a cradle of mankind (the famous australopithecine "Lucy" was discovered there in 1974) and a scenic wonderland. South of Addis Ababa, the valley is spangled with water bodies like Lake Chamo in Nechisar National Park.
Omo Valley – One of the great crossroads of humanity, more than 50 tribes live in and around the Omo Valley of southwest Ethiopia. Many of them -- like the Hamar and Mursi -- cling to ancient ways and means like ceramic lip disks, ritual scarring, body painting and nomadic herding.
Lalibela – Founded by King Lalibela in the late 12th century, this highland city is world-renowned for its 11 stone churches. Chiseled from red volcanic scoria, the sanctuaries were the king's attempt to build the "New Jerusalem" of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith. Visiting the churches is especially evocative during daily rites.
Lake Tana monasteries – Thirty-seven churches adorn the 37 islands at the southern end of Lake Tana. Accessible by boat from Bahir Dar, the monasteries mainly date from the 14th through 17th centuries when the islands were a place of spiritual retreat for both orthodox clergy and the royal family. Their adobe walls and wooden doors are decorated with incredibly detailed religious murals, many of them hundreds of years old.
Ethiopian Food – A hip cuisine in many Western cities, Ethiopian cooking is like nothing else in the foodie world. Curry-like wat and sauteed tibs (meat and vegetables form the nucleus of most local meals, everything scooped up with a humongous portion of injera, a flatbread made from teff grain. Among the great places to eat Ethiopian in-country are Lucy restaurant beside the National Museum in Addis, the Four Sisters in Gondar and Seven Olives in Lalibela.
Ethnographic Museum – One of the best collections in Africa, the Addis Ababa museum safeguards an impressive array of tribal artifacts, royal paraphernalia and monastic murals. Housed inside the former royal palace, one of the highlights is a visit to Haile Selassie's private quarters.