Whichever way you decide to travel them, by car or by plane, in chronological order following the progressive development of the Ethiopian kingdom and its capital cities, or in a casual way, the northern routes, today as in the past, will make you live a breath-takingly experience.
High and at times, fantastically shaped mountains, and flat, table-like plateau reaching as far as the eye can see, are intersected by deep ravines. In some areas, the plateau drops away to lowlands that in the Afar depression fall below the level of the sea. And lakes, rivers, innumerable rivulets, and waterfalls.
The Lake Tana, and just south of it the impressive Tis Isat falls on the Blue Nile (Abbay for the Ethiopians), which were first described by the Jesuits of the seventeenth century and later by James Bruce; the greenish, lushy forests of the Semien mountains overlooked by the pick of the Ras Dashan, the highest mountain in Ethiopia (4,550 m), and inhabited by a number of endemic birds and mammals; the nicely shaped pinnacles of the Gheralta covered by acacias and euphorbiae; and the cultivated fields that extends as far as the eye can see, punctuated by traditional rural dwellings different from region to region.
This astonishing, contrasted landscape is the background to a number of archaeological and historical sites recognized throughout the world that bear evidence of the origins and expansion of the Ethiopian kingdom and present State, of its traditionalism which is not isolationism, of its contacts with the Nile Valley, the Mediterranean, the Arabic Peninsula, the Indian Oceans which go back to the remote past, of its early adoption of Christianity and its first relationships with Islam.
The superb remains of ancient temples, royal palaces, élite tombs and funerary stelae, the colorful painted walls of hundreds of churches and monasteries, constructed or cut into the rock, the domed ceiling of mosques are all pearls that disclosed to the curious, attentive eye of ancient travelers and still today stand there to be admired, studied, penetrated, narrated.