Ethiopia
Credit: Julia Bayne / Getty Images

Africa's oldest independent country, Ethiopia has evolved into one of the continent's most fascinating, affordable, safe and friendly travel destinations since the end of the Eritrean-Ethiopian war in 2001. Lalibela, in the country's rugged north, mesmerizes with 900-year-old monolithic churches carved from the surrounding rock. Once you've admired the architecture, head off into the highlands of the surrounding Latsa Mountains with excellent tour operator Highland Trekking Ethiopia, run by a lively local named Daniel Melese. His tours, which cost thousands less than safaris in Tanzania or Kenya, can be as mild as day trips to see the Gelada Baboons in the highlands to four-day treks featuring homestays and pack mules to haul your luggage.