Eritrea is a heartbreaker. It was once heralded as a good place for travelling and, with a bit of luck, it could soon be so again. But as long as the country is at odds with its neighbour Ethiopia, its sworn enemy, tourism development won’t be a priority. One of the most secretive countries in Africa, Eritrea seems doomed to remain a hidden gem. Unsurprisingly, it falls below many travellers’ radars.
On the bright side, unlimited opportunities for off-the-beaten-track exploration abound. Who knew that Asmara, the capital, boasts the most shining collection of colonial architectural wonders in Africa? It is like a film set from an early Italian movie, with vintage Italian coffee machines and outstanding examples of Art-Deco architecture. On the Red Sea Coast, the sultry town of Massawa is redolent with Islamic influence. It is also the starting point for visits to the Dahlak Islands, one of the least spoilt and least known reefs in the Red Sea. Southern Eritrea features a superb array of archaeological sites that recount volumes of history. The apocalyptic wasteland of Dankalia, stretching to the south, is considered one of the most arresting places on earth and has a desolate magnetism. Eritrea’s nine colourful ethnic groups are diverse and individual, and are a major highlight.
Isn’t that enough? Although the country faces numerous hardships, it paradoxically remains one of Africa’s most peaceful, secure and welcoming destinations. Come and see for yourself!
Ethiopia & Eritrea: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Ethiopia & Eritrea guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip...