Lonely Planet blog provides travel advice, information and inspiration from Lonely Planet’s online community. Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 120 million books in eleven different languages, along with guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet.
Lonely Planet Pathfinder Nellie Huang travelled to Northern Ethiopia to sample the country's culture and culinary delights.
Ethiopia has a rich and vibrant culinary heritage. Unlike other parts of Africa, where meat is scarce and variety is limited, in Ethiopia I feasted on delicious curries and diverse cuisine every day.
Furthermore, Ethiopia also has a rich history, and is home to plenty of historic monuments and buildings that have withstood the test of time. The country's culture is quite unlike anywhere else on the continent, and its climate stands in stark opposition to the surrounding deserts. During my visit, I could see that the country is still facing its fair share of struggles, but famine certainly is not one of them.
The Ethiopian Highlands form the largest continuous area of their altitude in Africa, covering most of central and northern Ethiopia. From Addis Ababa, we found ourselves travelling up and down treacherous mountain roads to reach the Guassa Conservation Area in the Highlands. The local community has protected this 98km² area since the 17th century. It’s an excellent area to spot endemic wildlife like the gelada baboons and the Ethiopian wolf, as well as to explore remote local villages that always offer a warm welcome.
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. In the 10th century, the country's nomadic mountain people were the first to recognise coffee's stimulating effect. Today, it continues to be a prominent national beverage and an important part of the country’s commerce. You’ll find people in the middle of a traditional coffee ceremony everywhere you go in Ethiopia, including in small rural villages – this ceremony centres on the traditional serving of coffee, usually after a big meal. It often involves the use of a jebena, a clay pot used for heating coffee.
Perched at an altitude of 2630m, the hilly town of Lalibela is home to a cluster of 13 medieval, rock-hewn churches, featuring some incredibly impressive architecture. Carved from basaltic rocks, these 900-year-old churches were meticulously sculpted below ground level during King Lalibela's reign, circa 1181-1221. Today, pilgrims visit from all over the country and locals come to pray at the Unesco World Heritage site on a daily basis.
Lauded as the most beautiful church in Lalibela, many describe Saint George Church as the icon of Ethiopia. Travellers can recognise its perfectly-shaped cross section when they stand on elevated ground near the site. Thanks to a 2m-thick rock ceiling, this particular church has miraculously withstood centuries of environmental wear and tear. It is the only church doesn't need the protection of a Unesco tarpaulin. I recommend making this your first (or last) stop of the day to avoid the crowds.
Home to some of Ethiopia’s highest peaks, the Simien Mountains pack quite a punch when it comes to lofty landscapes. Because of their geological origins, the mountains are truly unusual, with only South Africa's Drakensberg range having been formed in the same manner.
One of the best times to visit Ethiopia is during Timkat, the Ethiopian Epiphany Day. Since Christianity arrived in the country in the 1st century, it’s been an important part of the Ethiopian identity – as a result, more than half of Ethiopia’s population (about 40 million people) are Orthodox Christians.
Timkat is widely celebrated across Ethiopia, but the biggest and most spectacular celebrations take place in the historic city of Gonder. Once a year, Gonder's historic Fasiladah’s Bath (once used as a swimming spot by royals) is filled up for the Timkat festival, to replicate the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan.
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The small Portuguese island of Madeira is overflowing with adventures that are sure to spark young imaginations. Lonely Planet Pathfinder Jurga of fullsuitcase.com recently took her family exploring in Madeira, and discovered stunning landscapes, tranquil beaches and a completely chilled pace of life.
Madeira has been on our travel radar for a while, but it was Lonely Planet's Travel with Children book that convinced us to finally book a trip to this fascinating island. With a mild climate, spectacular scenery and lots to see and do, Madeira is a perfect year-round destination for families travelling with children. Whether you are looking for time to relax, or a more active vacation, we found that Madeira offered the perfect mix of activities for all ages. Here are our top experiences of visiting Madeira as a family.
Levadas are irrigation channels found throughout Madeira, created in the 16th century to bring water from the mountains to the sunny and dry coastal areas. There are over 2500km of levadas and maintenance trails on the island, many of which are now used as hiking paths, leading you to some incredible areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. One of the most popular levada walks is the 25 Fountains Levada pictured here. Our kids loved the adventurous hike, spotting trout in the crystal clear waters and tucking into a picnic by the waterfalls.
Madeira has many little villages that are fun to visit with kids, but there is one you really shouldn’t miss. The colourful traditional houses of Santana are fun to see for young and old. Did you know that Madeira is also known as the 'flower island'? Spring and summer are therefore the best times to visit – there are so many flowers everywhere you go!
Madeira doesn't have many sandy beaches; there are just a few places where you can sunbathe or swim. You can, however, find several natural swimming pools – something that would definitely appeal to the whole family on a hot day! Since it wasn’t really swimming weather when we visited, we chose to explore different kinds of beaches instead. We found some beautiful hidden gems, like this stunning tiny beach in Ribeira Da Janela, where the kids could play with stones and shells and we could watch the impressive waves hit the rocks.
If you like visiting local markets when you travel, you’re in for a treat in Madeira. The Mercado dos Lavradores is a fruit, vegetable, flower and fish market in Funchal, the capital city. It has a very unique selection of exotic fruit, flowers and fish we had never seen before. Visiting a market with children is always fun; our kids are quite picky with what they eat these days, but here they tasted all kinds of fruit they would have never tried at home. We tried nespra and banana passion fruit to name just a few!
Our kids loved the idea of a walk above the clouds, but we never expected to find some of the most spectacular mountain scenery we had ever seen... The hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is a must if you ever visit Madeira! It's a long, challenging hike and we did just a small part of it with the kids, but we all agreed that it's the most incredible hike we've ever taken (and if you know us, you'll know that's saying something)! Even if you are visiting Madeira with young kids, you can walk at least the first section of this hike. It's worth a trip on its own, so don't miss it.
Madeira is a perfect destination to take your kids to spot whales and dolphins. Whale sightings are a bit more seasonal, but dolphins seem to be around pretty much the whole year. It was a rainy and windy day with high waves when we set out on a speedboat whale-watching tour, so we didn't have much hope that we would get to see a lot. But then, all of a sudden, we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphins. Literally a sea of dolphins! The kids didn't know where to look first; they had the time of their lives. Seeing dolphins in the wild is our boys' favourite memory from Madeira for sure.
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Tom Stainer, Destination Editor for the Iberian Peninsula and Turkey, recently returned from a trip to Bahrain.
Tell us more… I spent three days in Bahrain, the only island nation in the Middle East. It’s a small country next to Saudi Arabia, and an archipelago of 33 islands, so you’re never far away from the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf. The name Bahrain means ‘two seas’, and today those two seas are said to mean both the saltwater oceans and the fresh water springs that exist beneath them.
I spent a couple of nights in the country’s energetic capital, Manama, then the final night on nearby Muharraq Island, where I found a sleepier, more traditional way of life.
Good grub? I loved having breakfast at Haji Gahwa, an atmospheric cafe at the edge of Manama Souq. We went to town on traditional items like baydh tomat (scrambled eggs with tomatoes) and chai haleeb (milky cardamom-infused tea), as well as endless flatbreads, salads, beans, dips and jams. Grab an alleyway table or one indoors – it’s a fabulous Bahraini experience either way.
Fridge magnet or better? If you’re in the market for spices, perfumes, fabric, sweets, jewellery, a new phone or pretty much anything at all, Manama Souq is your place. It’s a hectic warren of lanes and alleys, with vendors selling a delightful mix of high-end and humdrum items. I enjoyed trying piping hot halwa, a ubiquitous Middle Eastern sweet dish made from tahini and honey.
If you do one thing go to… Bahrain Fort. This whole country is rich in history, and nowhere is that more apparent than at this fortification overlooking the Arabian Gulf. It was the seat of the ancient empire of Dilmun in 2300BC, and although the current structure dates from the 16th century, it’s still looking good today. We watched the fun light-and-sound show at sunset then explored the floodlit fort as night was falling.
You’d be a muppet to miss… Al Fatih Mosque. At 6500 square metres it’s the largest mosque in Bahrain, built in 1987 and named after Ahmed Al Fatih, the country’s founder. I was really taken with the peace and serenity of this place, away from the bustle of Manama. It’s a great spot for quiet contemplation and gazing in wonder at some beautiful Islamic design.
For a fun night out… Head to Block 338. It’s a pedestrian quarter in Manama crammed full of trendy bars, restaurants, boutiques and galleries. My favourite spot was the Greek-inspired Attic, which has a lovely terrace where you can enjoy killer cocktails and fab views out over the city.
Bizarre encounter? Jerome Flynn of Game of Thrones and Robson & Jerome fame was on my flights there and back!
Whether a scenic coastal drive or a four-wheeled journey across a continent, there’s nothing better than packing up the car, strapping the kids in and hitting the open road as a family. Nothing beats the feeling that getting behind the wheel offers of being in complete control of your destinations, route and pit stops.
To celebrate the magical memories that these adventures create, we’re teaming up with @lpkids to host a Twitter chat dedicated to family road trips. We’ll get together to discuss dream road trip destinations, tips for steering your family's trip towards success, and swap our own tales, recommendations and pics – bring your best ones and meet us on Twitter at 20:00 BST/ 12:00 PDT on Thursday 24 May – see you there!
The best tweeter will win themselves a stash of our new kids activity books, perfect for keeping little ones occupied on the road!
How do I take part?
Follow @lonelyplanet , @lpkids and the hashtag #lpchat on Twitter on Thursday 24 May at 20:00 BST / 12:00 PDT.
Questions will be ordered Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. To answer Q1, begin your tweet with A1. For Q2, A2 and so on.
Add #lpchat to all of your tweets during the Twitter chat, so others (including @lonelyplanet and @lpkids) can see what you’re saying.
'Our multi-award winning blog, The Family Adventure Project, is part of a long-term experiment in doing adventurous things together as a family. We’re all about cultivating a sense of adventure, creativity, fun, learning and respect for the environment in our family life, both in everyday living and through bigger family challenges and adventures. We think doing active, creative and challenging things together as a family is good for you, especially if it gets you outdoors. And we know from our own experience that family adventures are good for family relationships, health and well-being, learning and education, and for developing character and resilience.'
'Full Suitcase is about family travel with a sense of adventure. Together with our three young boys, we are discovering the world's most amazing destinations one trip at a time. We love nature, outdoor activities, road trips, and getting to know new cultures. Through our travel stories and captivating photography we aim to inspire others to travel more, discover new places, and take the kids along. We are just an ordinary family with extraordinary vacations – and you can be too!'
'I am the founder of family travel blog we3travel.com, and co-host of Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast. I am a passionate advocate for the benefits of family travel in raising flexible, resilient and globally-aware children, and focus on educational and cultural experiences with my family of three. We3Travel specialises in luxury, soft adventure, food and emerging destinations, offering destination guides, itinerary examples, reviews and tips to make family vacation planning easier.'
Terms & Conditions: Entrants must be 13 years old or over. Judges’ decision is final. Promoter: Lonely Planet Publications Ltd of 240 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NW. The winner will be notified via direct message on Twitter. The winner must claim their prize and provide an address for delivery within 7 days of being notified, otherwise the judges may select another winner. Prize: one copy of each of Lonely Planet Kids’ Brain Teasers book, Holiday Scrapbook and Holiday Drawing Book at £7.99/$11.99, £7.99/$11.99 and £8.99/$12.99 respectively.
As temperatures heated up for large swathes of the world in April our Pathfinders embarked on a cross section of adventures certain to stoke curiosity; from wanderings through ghost towns to misadventures in Transylvania, not forgetting a rendezvous with two remarkable women determined to bring vegetarian cuisine to La Paz.
Though it was a tough task to narrow down our favourites, here’s our pick of blog posts from our Pathfinders community in April.
A mysterious ghost town turned giant art canvas? Consider our interest piqued. While managing to combine two popular travel trends – so-called ‘ruinporn’ and street art – Marlo and Kristof’s post about the derelict town of Doel manages to elicit a surprisingly humanitarian story from the striking imagery of abandoned, mural-clad buildings, giving the post a depth that complements its attention-grabbing title.
Marlo and Kristof’s inspirational blog is aimed at those who only travel for short periods. Find out more at alongcameanelephant.com.
Despite boasting awe-inspiring monuments, exceptional wildlife and scenic landscapes, anyone who has spent time in India will know it’s the people that leave the biggest impression, and Dave’s post plays on this theme, capturing a host of colourful characters from Rajasthan. Depicting everything from bearded dervishes to sunglass-sporting children sat atop oxen, the post manages to capture the vibrancy and colour of India in a way that traditional landscape photography could never muster.
Dave is a 30-something Yorkshireman on a quest to see – and photograph – as much of the world as possible. See more of his work at manvsglobe.com.
Travel is more fun when it goes wrong, right? Or at least fun for other people to read about. In this post Justin details his misadventures in Romania, that begin with a wrong train and end at Dracula’s castle – though that isn’t quite as ominous as it sounds. Fast-paced prose and snappy dialogue combine to make this an entertaining and relatable account of that horrible feeling when things start to go a bit pear-shaped on the road. Don’t worry Justin, it happens to the best of us.
When he’s not travelling the world, Justin is a fifth grade maths and science teacher. Follow his blog at justingoesplaces.com.
Travel is about meeting real characters, and Jess’s interview with two women taking on the meat-adoring masses of Mexico by setting up La Paz’s first vegetarian food stand, makes for a wonderful read on many different levels. While the story of Luz and Alexa’s pioneering vegetarian venture is intriguing in its own right, more broadly this is a post about the universal struggles and consequences faced by anyone attempting to change the status quo.
Jess left her graduate job in the city to pursue her love of travel writing. Keep up with her adventures at nomadatravel.co.uk.
We all want to find those authentic little places when we travel – family-run restaurants, traditional bars, welcoming homestays. Pontia’s post is an echo of this collective endeavour, as she goes in search of Tehran’s tiniest, and perhaps best, tea house. The post’s ‘quest’ format, interspersed with entertaining dialogue from locals, makes for compelling and enjoyable reading; after all, who isn’t a little particular when it comes to preparing their morning brew?
Pontia’s blog is dedicated to the country of Iran, delving into its culture, language and sites. Find out more at mypersiancorner.com.
From the wild Scottish Highlands to Seoul’s largest library, April has seen our Pathfinders ‘gramming some of the world’s most magnificent and unusual sights. Skilfully shot and fantastically framed, here are the snaps that gave us wanderlust last month.
‘Wanna know one of the newest hidden gems in Seoul? Then head into Starfield COEX Mall's new library. It's right in the centre of the shopping mall and it has over 50,000 books! I was in awe when I saw this spectacle... and it reminded me of how I haven’t been reading as many books as I want to. Rest assured, there is ample space throughout the library where you can lounge and get cosy as you dig into all the books you desire (there's even a wonderful cafe by the second floor that you must try!)’ – Aileen, @i_am_aileen
Why we like it: Who doesn’t love a library? Just think of the stories all of those books could tell… Aileen has expertly captured the sheer scale of this magnificent literary collection, indicated by the lone escalator rider in the lower centre of her image. The escalator itself also draws the eye up and across the frame, and contrasts nicely with the vibrant orange of the shelves.
‘I was determined to find this shipwreck on the island of Ma'uke. We drove around the rough circle island road and eventually spotted glimpses of it through the thick vegetation. I was more than excited to finally stand next to it and even found a great little sitting spot in the coral for ourselves, with the kids close by. It was an amazing experience!’ – Jessica, @travel_with_jessica
Why we like it: Shipwrecks always provide rich pickings for the adventurous photographer, and this haunting washed-up boat on the coast of Ma'uke in the Cook Islands is no exception. Jessica’s skilful use of a drone camera has produced this incredibly dramatic shot, where the island’s varied elements create the perfect backdrop for the shipwreck, sweeping across the image in bands of foliage, rocky terrain and rugged shallows.
‘Exploring Mauritius was a huge surprise for me. I expected amazing beaches, but there were so many outdoor hikes and activities too. The buzzing markets in the capital, Port Louis, were a great starting point for an insight into daily life on this pristine island.’ – Dan, @danflyingsolo
Why we like it: Dan’s frame of a bustling Mauritian market is a masterclass in movement. By snapping from above, Dan was able to feature not only the vibrant palette of colours that the market’s produce creates, but also its busy shoppers, weaving their way through the stalls. By using a slower shutter speed to capture the moving people, Dan was able to further enhance his razor-sharp focus on the stands of fruit, veg and spices. It’s a real buzzing, frenetic market in motion.
‘Whilst exploring the Scottish Highlands on an Easter road trip, the owner of our lodge insisted that we drive along the 'Road to Nowhere', a 22-mile lane that claims the title of the longest cul-de-sac in the world. After driving for over 10 hours to reach Loch Lochy, we almost couldn't face the thought of a further few hours in a car, but the lodge guestbook convinced us, with many stating it was the most beautiful place they'd ever seen. 30 minutes into the winding road and we were secluded between lakes and snowy mountains, spotting stags among the long grass. This handsome creature was one of many who watched us pass, defending the secrecy of his home.’ – Eppie, @eppie_s
Why we like it: Capturing wildlife in its natural state is no mean feat, but Eppie has managed to frame this majestic stag perfectly against a backdrop of the Scottish Highlands’ rugged, snow-capped mountains. Setting the stag slightly to one side allows the eye to take in the scenic backdrop, before focusing fully on his steely, proud stare, which leaps from the image and brings it to life completely.
‘Hot days, cool nights – the desert has by far my favourite climate. Our group of four set out on the West Fork Oak Trail, wading through some calf-deep waters before finding this campground. The magic of backpacking here is that no matter how many times you go through the red rock dusted canyons, they looks different every time. At one point the water became unexpectedly waist deep, and we had to scout out a way across. It felt a little bit like underwater rock climbing but we made it, and had a blast!’ – Deborah, @dfindles
Why we like it: The rambling, red rock landscapes of Arizona are no stranger to a good photo, but there’s something about the slightly upward angle of Deborah’s shot that captures the sheer scale, and multi-hued beauty of the natural world she is exploring. The light hitting the tops of the rocks creates a path through the image, from the glistening stream of the foreground, to the sunlit treetops in the upper third. It’s the kind of frame that makes you want to lace up your hiking boots and jump right in!
For your chance to be featured in our next round up, sign up to Lonely Planet Pathfinders – our programme for travel-loving bloggers and social content creators. In the meantime, you can get more Instagram inspiration by following @lonelyplanet.
Do you know which country has won the Eurovision Song Contest the most times? Or where fermented herring is considered a delicacy? Test your knowledge of travel trivia with the June edition of our monthly travel quiz, based around stories from this month’s Lonely Planet magazine. Can you score 100%?
'Two months, four provinces and 13,000 km, all condensed into one epic three-minute montage. After years of travelling around the world, I finally made the decision to explore my own country. My husband and I saved up to make this road trip a reality and it surpassed our wildest dreams. We visited all four Atlantic Canada provinces, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and even Newfoundland and Labrador. Atlantic Canada is truly a special place; the landscape, the history and the people make it a great region to explore on four wheels. You'll be captivated by the scenery and get hooked by its charm.’
Atlantic Canada montage - See You Soon
ATLANTIC CANADA ROADTRIP MONTAGE VIDEO! - YouTube
Why we like it: From drone shots to time-lapse and POV footage, we like the varied perspectives in this video. It’s not easy to successfully compress two months of adventures into a three-minute montage, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Hats off to Arienne for some top-notch editing skills!
We also enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of Santa Barbara in California from TravelingJules and Mark Hadj Hamou’s cinematic footage of the Philippines, both of which had us reaching for our passports.
Thanks to all the Pathfinders who submitted their travel videos this month – keep your eyes peeled on our Thorn Tree forum where we’ll post the next submission call-out!
Hannah Karns, Lonely Planet's Midwest Sales Director, recently returned from a trip to Los Angeles, California.
Tell us more… My husband and I spontaneously decided to venture to Los Angeles for five days in December. We were anxious to escape the Chicago winter, and LA promised sun and temperatures in the 70s. With an Airbnb booked and the Lonely Planet Los Angeles guide downloaded via the Guides app, we were ready for our adventure.
Good grub? Despite hearing that LA isn’t particularly walkable, there was plenty to explore on foot in our neighbourhood of Silver Lake and Echo Park. We were thrilled because on our travels we've found walking to be the best way to get a feel for a new place.
We really enjoyed wandering around the shops and foodie spots in our local area, stopping in at the Night+Market Song for some delicious Grapow khai dao (minced chicken, garlic and rice topped with a fried egg) and the Fat Dragon for spicy Sichuan wontons and ma po tofu (a spicy tofu stew). With Pine and Crane’s lovely Dan Dan noodles in between the two, we had quite the flavorful food crawl in just a few blocks.
If you do one thing... I would recommend hiking to the Griffith Observatory. The trail entrance near the Greek Theater was convenient with plenty of parking, the hike was relatively easy (though it is uphill most of the way there) and the views of the city and famous Hollywood sign were great (and make for a lovely sunset setting) – not to mention the whole experience was completely free!
Local gem? From the unassuming exterior, we didn’t quite know what to make of the Thirsty Crow bar. We were pleasantly surprised, however, to discover an old-school, speakeasy-style interior, with friendly bartenders and cozy, red leather corner booths in the back. We were able to relax, enjoy the jazz music and soak up the candlelit ambience.
Bizarre encounter? Though we didn’t see any celebrities, we did have a different kind of memorable sighting. As we made our way back down the Griffith Observatory trail at dusk, we heard a rustling in the hillside shrubbery. I thought it was two dogs who'd got off their leashes, but what emerged from the brush was in fact a deer and its fawn. They eyed us suspiciously, determined we were not a threat and swiftly sprang up the hill with surprising agility. We didn’t see them again, but they were the talk of that evening.
Fave activity? A real highlight of the trip was seeing a show at the Comedy Store. My husband is a huge stand-up fan and this is a legendary spot in Los Angeles. We saw big name acts back-to-back-to-back, and laughed so hard we cried several times. We didn’t want to leave the show – it was promising to go well beyond midnight – but we had to catch our flight early the next day.
Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Lonely Planet Trailblazer Peter Watson got up to on his recent trip to Djibouti.
In our latest Pathfinders spotlight, we chat to Ivan Valor, blogger at acecoolture.wordpress.com and Instagrammer extraordinaire. We like Ivan's clear passion for travel, and knack for taking decent 'in the moment' travel shots.
Tell us about your blog!
When I first started my blog, I had a look at the jungle of blogs and saw where I would find my niche. I realised that most travel blogs talk about their own recommendations based on the amazing landscapes, a travel budget or just a good photo spot.
For me, travelling is about discovering new cultures, or as I say, cool cultures. This is what keeps me travelling all over the world. Culture is the heritage of a community that has been developing for years and we are here to appreciate all that.
I guess I could mention a few, but the one I will never forget is when we found an abandoned cenote in Mexico and we decided to swim in those blue waters on our own. The feeling of adventure and freedom we had and the uniqueness of the spot was incredible. I had to write a TripAdvisor review on it as it wasn’t in the cenote list.
Why do you love travel blogging?
As an adventurer and explorer, I have in mind many movies I watched when I was a kid, like Indiana Jones, Hook and many others. To write about the places I’ve been is almost like if I was writing about Indie’s last adventure (I also take unnecessary risks, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend...). I guess I love writing a travel blog because I’m passionate about my adventures.