Ethiopia lies in the Horn of Africa, in the northeastern part of the continent. To the north is Eritrea; Djibouti lies to the northeast, Somali to the east, Kenya to the south and Sudan to the west.

A little larger than Ontario, Ethiopia has varied and spectacular landscapes. Most of the country consists of an enormous plateau more than two kilometres above sea level. The plateau has mountains over 4,500 metres high and some of the world's deepest canyons. Fertile areas called tablelands are used for agriculture and livestock rearing. The Great Rift Valley, an earthquake fault line traversing Africa, runs from northern to southern Ethiopia and splits the plateau into west and east sections. The western section, called the Amha Plateau, includes the Simn, Entoto and Choke Mountains; Ras Dashen, at 4,572 metres, is the country's highest peak. The majority of the population lives on the Plateau, which constitutes the country's weina dega or temperate zone. Temperatures are pleasant, averaging 15 to 20C.

The capital city, Addis Ababa, is located in the Entoto range of the western plateau. Northwest lies Ethiopia's largest body of water, Lake Tana. The or Blue Nile river, Ethiopia's greatest river and the chief tributary of the Nile, begins at Lake Tana and flows through the plateau's western section.

The eastern or Somali Plateau section includes the Mendebo and Ahmar mountain ranges, and a semi-arid region called the Ogaden. The plateau area is called the dega (cool) zone: temperatures can drop to freezing during winter. Rainfall is less plentiful than on the west side, and growing crops more of a challenge.

The plateau drops off on all sides to hot lowlands (the kolla areas). In the northeast is the Dnakil Depression, a desert area that is one of world's hottest places In the southwest, Rift Valley lakes such as Ziway and attract wildlife in the otherwise dry environment.

Ethiopia has a wet and dry season, but the country's diverse topography means rainfall varies widely. Much of the land is rolling savannah, fertile in good years, but vulnerable to drought. Fertile areas have bamboo and rainforest. African birds and animals such as lions, elephants, zebras, and flamingos are common, as well as seven species of indigenous mammals. The country also has the world's largest remaining concentration of antelopes, giraffes, gorillas and rhinoceros.

  Did you know?
Ethiopia is famous as the country of "13 months of sunshine." The Ethiopian year is based on the Julian calendar, which has 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month called Pagume, which has five days (or six in a leap year).

  Did you know?
Coffee originated in Ethiopia. The word coffee comes from Kefa, the name of a province in southern Ethiopia.