With its stunning unblemished beaches and incredible highland views, you might be wondering why more people don’t visit Eritrea. In fact, Eritrea is Africa’s most secretive state, nicknamed ‘The North Korea of Africa’, and is one of the world’s hardest countries to get into. Their visa is one of the most difficult in the world to obtain, and even if you manage to complete this Herculean task, your struggles aren’t over, as you need permits to visit almost every site in the country. Yes, separate permits for every site, and they will be checked, so chancing it isn’t an option. Even leaving the capital city requires a permit. And be prepared for countless travel restrictions and checkpoints along the way. The only way to arrive in Eritrea is by flight, and the country has just one international airport; Asmara International Airport just outside the capital city. At present, it only serves six international airlines: Air Arabia, EgyptAir, FlyDubai, Nova Airways, Sudan Airways and Turkish Airlines.
Historically, tourism has not been a big industry in Eritrea, and visitors are treated with suspicion as the government fears foreign influence. This is understandable, given Eritrea’s history of invasions. It was first colonised by Italy, then Britain, then Ethiopia before it gained independence in 1991 following a bloody 30-year war, the longest African war in the 20th century which cost over 65,000 lives. However, the country is becoming more welcoming following the 2017 announcement that the city of Asmara has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Asmara, nicknamed ‘Africa’s Miami’, is an incredible city of contradictions, a tribute to Ottoman, Egyptian, Italian, British and Ethiopian architecture. It is a city of both the past and the future, as it dotted with 1930s futurist buildings. Just outside the city is the Military Tank Graveyard, a jarring scrapheap of armoured vehicles and relics of war, both saddening and intriguing. Massawa is a pretty port city, and boat tours of the pristine waters surrounding the Dahlak archipelago are becoming increasingly popular with visitors. Perhaps you’ll even catch a glimpse of the incongruous private luxury resort the Qatari royal family invested $50 million in. As with all secretive countries, the mystery just makes it even more appealing.
Africa’s Hermit Kingdom has so much to offer geographically, historically and architecturally. Eritrea is a country with a dark past, a turbulent present and a mysterious future that is sure to see an influx of tourists as it further opens its borders.