Day 1: Arrive Date - City Tour
up on arrive in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, A driver will meet you at the airport and escort you to the hotel. You will have some free time to rest up from jet-lag after checking in. This afternoon, enjoy a city sightseeing tour. First stop is at the magnificent Trinity Cathedral. Continue to the National Museum, close to the University of Addis Ababa Graduate School, which houses numerous antiquarian relics and archaeological artifacts showing the history of Ethiopia from prehistoric times to the modern day. Its most famous exhibit is a replica of the 3.2million-years-old skeleton of 'Lucy'.
Continue to St. George’s Cathedral, dedicated to the national saint of Ethiopia. The museum houses a wide collection of important religious paintings, crosses of many designs, historic books and parchments, and beautiful handicrafts. There are also fine examples of modern paintings by the famous Ethiopian artist Afewerke Tekle. Last stop of the day is at the Zoological National History Museum at Addis Ababa University (AAU) which displays specimens of the wildlife attractions of Ethiopia. Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight and get your first taste of Ethiopian cuisine.
Day 2: Drive to Arbaminch
Today head back to the airport to board your flight to Arba Minch (in Amharic it means “40 springs”), located in a beautiful setting at the foothills of the Rift Valley escarpment and overlooking Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo. In the afternoon we visit the Dorze village, known for their weaving culture which is reflected in their beautiful cotton clothes, fences, and beehive shaped bamboo huts. Men weave and women spin. Each Dorze bamboo house has its own small garden surrounded by beds of spices, cabbage and tobacco. Their staple food is Kocho, made from the false banana. The evening is free to enjoy the amenities and spa services of our lodge while taking in the breathtaking view over the two valley lakes.
Day 3: Lake Chamo - Konso Village - Turmi
In the morning, take a boat excursion on the southernmost Rift Valley lake of Ethiopia, Lake Chamo. One can spot many hippos and giant crocodiles, and the scenery is truly unforgettable. Fishing for Nile perch and many other species by locals on their traditional boat is by far the best in the country. We can also watch various lowland Aquatic birds like the African Fish Eagle, Great White Pelicans, and egrets. Leaving Lake Chamo behind, we visit the Konso village where we enjoy lunch. The cultural landscape of Konso is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is comprised of stone-walled terraces and fortified settlements in the highlands stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years). Konso is known for its religious traditions, waga sculptures and nearby fossil beds.
Day 4: Karo & Hamer Villages
Today’s drive takes you to Koricho, a settlement for the Karo Nilotic ethnic group, famous for their body paintings. They are also one of the smallest tribes in the region with an estimated population between 1,000 and 3,000. They paint themselves daily with colored ocre, white chalk, yellow mineral rock and pulverized iron, all-natural resources local to the area. This is an elaborate process, which ranges from fine details to rough, but striking paintings traced with the palms or fingers. The Karo people also scarify their chests to beautify themselves by cutting with a knife or razor and rubbing ash into the wound to create a raised effect.
In the afternoon, we visit the Hamer tribe, whose women are known for their striking appearance, adorned with ochre-colored hair hanging in a heavy fringe, leather skirts decorated with cowries, and many copper bracelets fixed tightly around their arms. The men are noted for the initiation ceremony of jumping over bulls.
Day 5: Dassanech Tribe / Jinka
This morning travel closer to the Kenyan border to visit the people of the Dassanech tribe. We cross the Omo River, one of the major rivers of the country that drains into Lake Turkana of Kenya, to visit one of the villages of the Dassanech tribe (meaning “people of the delta), who are the southernmost people of the country and are known for their scarifications. Over time the tribe absorbed a wide range of different people and it is now divided into eight main clans. Each clan has its own identity and customs, its own responsibilities towards the rest of the tribe and is linked to a particular territory. Continue with our drive to Jinka, the biggest town in the Omo region and our base to visit Mago National Park in whose lands reside the Mursi, perhaps the most famous of all the peoples of Southern Ethiopia.
Day 6: Mursi & Ari Tribes
After breakfast, we leave Jinka and drive to Mursi village to visit one of the most fascinating tribes in Africa. they still adhere to their traditional and unique culture. They are renowned for the strange custom followed by their women who on reaching maturity, have their lower lips slit and circular disks inserted, indicating her worth before getting married. Men of the Mursi also use white paint for their bodies and faces.
Just like any other ethnic tribe in the lower valley, the men must pass a test before they can get married. A Mursi man is given a stick called a “Donga “and must face one opponent. The men then battle it out, beating each other with the sticks.
In the afternoon visit the Ari people, the biggest group in the Omo region, numbering over 100,000. Ari are living in wider villages with private compounds on which they have their huts and grow a variety of crops. They have large livestock herds and produce large quantities of honey. Ari women are famous for their pottery which they sell to support their families.
Day 7: Return to Addis Ababa
Enjoy a morning of leisure, or further tribal explorations before your transfer to the airport for our mid-day flight back to Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, our group returns
to the selected Hotel, do some more exploring on your own, and enjoy fine dining at a hotel restaurant.
Day 8: fly to Bahridar
Today’s morning flight takes us north to the third largest city in Ethiopia, Bahir Dar. It is located on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia and the source from where the Blue Nile starts its long journey to Khartoum. There it joins with the White Nile and continues to the Mediterranean. Upon arrival, we drive to the Blue Nile Falls, flowing out of Lake Tana with tremendous force and volume over the basalt shoulder of a giant cataract and onwards from there, ever downwards towards the deserts of Sudan, on its way to enrich Egypt's fertile delta.
The power of the Blue Nile may best be appreciated twenty miles downstream from Lake Tana, where a rumble of sound fills the air and the green fields and low hills tremble as the falls plunge 150 fifty feet down a sheer gorge throwing up a continuous mist that drenches the countryside up to a kilometer away. In turn, this deluge produces rainbows that shimmer across the gorge under the changing arc of the sun and a perennial rainforest. The pillar of cloud in the sky above, seen from afar, explains the local name for the falls, “Tissisat” or water that smokes. It takes about one hour to walk to reach the Falls and another hour to return. We check in at our hotel and the evening is at leisure.
Day 9: Lake Tana Island
We cross Lake Tana in morning to visit the monastery of Ura Kidane Miheret, and Azwa Mariam located on the peninsula of Zegue. The round Ura Kidane Mihret Church has a straw-thatched roof that follows the classic structure of the churches of the region. Azwa Mariam Monastery, dating back several centuries, is known for its colorful murals depicting biblical stories that cover every surface. In the afternoon, we take time to explore Bahir Dar which is distinctly known for its wide avenues lined with palm trees and a variety of colorful flowers. The city was awarded UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize for managing to address the challenges of rapid urbanization.
Day 10: Drive to Gondar - Simien Mountains National Park
In the morning we drive to Gondar, an important town for over two centuries, and a thriving center of religion, art and culture. Arrive in Gondar just in time for lunch. Afterwards, drive to the Simien Mountains, a stunning mountain range, alive with exotic plant and animal life. The highest mountain here, Ras Dashen at 14,905 feet above sea level, proudly carries the local moniker ‘The Roof of Africa.’ These spectacular segments of the Simien Mountains are considered the wildest and most beautiful sites of all Ethiopian landscapes and serve as home to many endemic animals like the highly endangered Ethiopian wolf, Waliya ibex, and Gelada baboons, and plants like the Giant Lobelia. The massive 13,000-foot-high table of rock offers easy but immensely rewarding trekking along the edge of a plateau that falls sheer to the plains far below. The scenery and the variety of wildlife will leave you speechless. We stay at a lodge sitting atop an escarpment with wonderful views of the mountains, and our second day here is dedicated to exploring in the mountains.
Day 11: Simien Mountains / Return to Gondar enjoying another activity in the Simien Mountains
This morning and then travel back to Gondar. Founded around 1635 by Emperor Fasilidas, he originally used the city for a residence but about a year later he moved his capital here. By the late 1640’s he had built a great castle, the recently restored Fasilidas Palace. With its large towers and looming battle walls it looks as
if a piece of medieval Europe has been transported to Ethiopia. This afternoon we enjoy a tour of Debre Berhan Selassie, one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful churches. Located on the summit of a hill and surrounded with fortified walls, the breathtaking inner sanctuary features stunning frescos which represent a masterpiece of the Gonderian School of Art.
Day 12: Gondar (A full day of Gondar culture and history await you!)
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, the Fasilidas Palace stands in a compound filled with juniper and wild olive trees. The compound includes the Enqulal Gemb, or Egg Castle, named after its domed roof, the archive, many impressive churches and monasteries and a stable. These exemplify architecture that is marked by both Hindu and Arab influences, subsequently transformed by the Baroque style that the Jesuit missionaries brought to Gondar. This delightful mix has earned the city the nickname “The African Camelot”.
Day 13: Lalibela
A morning flight transports us to the mountain village of Lalibela, one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities. Once the thriving and populous capital city of a medieval dynasty, the passing centuries have reduced Lalibela to a mere village. Nearly invisible from the road below, Lalibela, previously known as Roha, is named after a 12th century king. Myth and legend claim he had
a near-death experience which prompted a vision to build many churches like the world has never seen. Once he was crowned, he gathered masons, carpenters, and tools, set down a scale of wages and purchased the land needed for the buildings.
These awe-inspiring, towering edifices were hewn out of the solid, red volcanic rock on which they stand. They seem to be of superhuman creation – in scale, in workmanship and in concept. Some lie almost completely hidden in deep trenches, while others stand in open quarried caves. A complex and bewildering labyrinth of tunnels and narrow passageways with offset crypts, grottoes and galleries connects them all – a cool, lichen- enshrouded, subterranean world, shaded and damp, silent but for the faint echoes of distant footfalls as priests and deacons go about their timeless business. We spend two exciting days exploring these architectural marvels. We also enjoy an opportunity to meet with the clergy and have a brief discussion about the history of the churches. We spend these two nights in a lodge centrally located among all the churches and other historical sites in the surrounding area.
Day 14: Return to Addis Ababa
Today those who are concluding their tour catch a short flight back to Addis where we enjoy free time to explore on our own and do some last-minute shopping. In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner with traditional Ethiopian food, music, and dance. A dayroom is provided for you at the hotel. After dinner, those who are ending their trip are escorted to the airport for their return flight home. Flights typically take off after midnight.
Day 15: Fly to Axum
After breakfast, we check out and take a morning flight from Addis to Axum, a town littered with the ruins of palaces, underground tombs, mysterious monolithic stelae carved from single pieces of granite, and many other historical relics. The founding of the Empire of Axum in the 5th century BC is often taken as the starting point of the Ethiopian civilization. This is also the place where one of the most important churches and pilgrimage sites in all of Ethiopia is located, where the Ark of the Covenant is reputed to be located. In the afternoon visit the most amazing sites of Axum, including its collection of ancient stelae, the bath and the palace of the Queen of Sheba, the museum, St Mary of Tsion Church (Ark of the Covenant site), the tombs of former emperors King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, and the chapel (only men are allowed to enter). Overnight in Axum.
Day 16: Gheralta
After breakfast, a four-hour drive takes us through spectacular countryside to Gheralta. Some of the rock churches here are famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and old manuscripts, while others are known for their magnificent views and difficult ascents. We enjoy two days in the Gheralta area, with its unique chain of mountains, exploring the Gheralta Cluster of churches, visiting the marvelous houses of worship that dot this remote and inspiring landscape. A visit will be organized to the churches of Dugem Selassie, Mariam Korkor (most impressive architecturally), and Daniel Korkor (most impressive view), some requiring stamina and physical ability to reach. Your guide will explain the difficulty and make provisions for alternative visits based on ability. These churches are the greatest of the historical, cultural heritages of the Ethiopian people, and the scenery is spectacular.
Day 17: Dallol
We get an early start this morning for a three-hour drive to Dallol to enjoy the spectacular view of the small hills and colorful hot springs. These hot springs are composed of different minerals along with sulfurs and potash to create spectacular colors. Dallol volcano is located in the Danakil Depression in Northeast Ethiopia, in a remote area subject to some of the highest average temperatures on the planet. The sultry Danakil Desert surrounds the desiccated settlement, which contributes to Dallol’s unforgivingly hot climate. The annual average high temperature is 105 ˚F. Heat and drought pummel Dallol, making visitors feel
like they’re on another planet. It is one of the most inhospitable regions of the world but is nonetheless spectacular. We drive back to Wukro for the night.
Day 18: Return to Addis Ababa
We drive back to Mekele Airport to catch our morning flight back to Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, you can enjoy the rest of the day relaxing or exploring the capital city. In the evening, enjoy a second farewell dinner with traditional Ethiopian food, music, and dance. After freshening up at the hotel, your tour of Ethiopia concludes with a drop-off at the airport for your flight home, arriving the next day.
END OF TOUR