Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the most ubiquitously traditional nations of Africa. Tribes display vibrant traditional garments, & it is one of the last bastions of pervasive scarification & the dhebi a tugion, or oversized lip plates of the Mursi people.

                                                         

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activities & experiences

History and culture are the primary attractions of Ethiopia, and its medieval castles and ornate 13th Century churches hewn straight into rock are UNESCO World Heritage sites and unmissable attractions on any Ethiopian adventure. ‘Safari’ in the more conventional African sense, is noticeably absent from an Ethiopian itinerary, as are many of Africa’s animals of celebrity, but if you are willing to dispel convention you will be rewarded with wonderful and endemic species of monkey, deer, fox and many more mammals and birds.

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From the capital of Addis Ababa to its towering mountains and active volcanoes, Ethiopia is full of surprises, and in this diversity lies your reward. If you are open to new experiences, are searching for something a little different and wish to significantly contrast your time on the plains of the Serengeti or Maasai Mara, Ethiopia will more than deliver.

  • Explore the hidden and historical side of Ethiopia’s sprawling modern capital of Addis Ababa
  • Spy unique wildlife, including the world’s rarest ape, the Gelada, or bleeding heart baboon
  • Journey back in time, wandering ancient architecture over 800 years old
  • Enjoy some ornithology at Simien National Park, home to 180 bird species, including the enormous and endangered Lamergeyer vulture
  • Go in search of a 3,000-year-old mystery, hunting the Ark of the Covenant at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion
  • Take the adventure underground, exploring Africa’s longest cave network, Sof Amar
  • Visit some of the world’s oldest cultures in the Omo River Valley.
Ethiopia. Semien Mountains. Gelada Baboon.
Sun Setting At The Rock Hewn Church Of Saint George In Lalibela, Ethiopia

destinations

From the verdant Semien plateau to the ‘gateway to Hell’, Ethiopia has an alarming diversity of landscapes. Arid deserts, forested peaks, winding gorges and hostile volcanic salt and sulphur fields – even the world’s oldest active volcano – Ethiopia is full of surprises.

Beyond the natural scenery, the rich and ancient cultures and archeological sites make this a land of wonder and intrigue.

Simien National Park


Towerting upwards, the rugged peaks of Simien National Park are home to a wealth of wildlife, some, such as the Simien fox, Ethiopian wolf, walia ibex and Gelada baboon, found nowhere else in the world. These impressive and sometimes unreachable pinnacles harbour many natural secrets and rare species, but numerous areas are far more accessible, allowing for hiking and walks to some breathtaking vistas. An ardently protected UNESCO World Heritage site, wandering the canyons and viewing the fauna of Simien National Park is an experience unlike any other.

The Churches of Lalibela


Referred to by some as the New Jerusalem, Lalibela has become a centre of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. The cause of this attraction, and a fascinating attribute for even the least religious of travelers, is the 11 hand-carved churches that have stood here since the 13th Century. What makes these remarkable feats of architecture so impressive, other than their advanced age, is that each has been hand-hewn from the bedrock, reaching up to 40 feet below ground level. Using no bricks or additional materials, the churches have been carved from a single monolith of rock, standing the test of time for over 800 years.

The Danakil Depression


The region’s Afar people call this the gateway to hell, and given the steaming sulphur, soaring heat and active volcano it hardly beggars belief as to why. Though profoundly inhospitable, the Danakil Depression is equally as impressive and worthy of viewing for oneself. The three-way tectonic juncture that tore Asia from Africa, the Danakil Depression is an alien landscape of multicoloured salt lakes and bubbling thermal pools. The hottest place on earth by annual average and sitting 330 feet (100 metres) below sea level, the depression is also home to Erta Ale, one of the world’s longest continually active volcanoes. Though this hostile environment is not a place you’d like to endure for more than a day and is best viewed from the cool comfort of a helicopter, to observe this incredible other-worldly landscape is quite spectacular.

The Omo Valley


Situated at the southern borders of Ethiopia, the Omo Valley is one of Africa’s most culturally rich regions. With several tribes cohabiting in the valley, including the Kara, Mursi and Hamar, this is a wonderful place to witness untouched tribal tradition, with many people living as they have for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Indeed, it has been heralded one of Ethiopia’s several UNESCO World Heritage sites after the discovery of human skeletons some 3 million years old. Active traditions include the Kara tribe’s body painting, the cattle jumping ceremony of the young Hamar men and the distinctive Mursi lip plates, or dhebi a tugion.

Lake Tana


The source of the Blue Nile, which winds its way northwest to join its more renowned sister, Lake Tana is a vast oasis on the Ethiopian landscape. Enjoy a tranquil cruise across its calm waters to spot occasional hippo or crocodile, wander its verdant shores, or take in a spot of fishing. With cooler murky waters, though Lake Tana is supposedly safe to swim in, it lacks appeal. One of its key attractions, however, lies on the few islands within the lake. Ancient monasteries, up to 700 years old, carry tales of treasures, mummified emperors and even the former resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

Gondar


Another of Ethiopia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, Gondar is testament to Ethiopia’s powerful and opulent past. The region surrounding the town of Gondar is peppered with yet more centuries-old castles, including Fasil Ghebbi Palace, the former residence of Ethiopian emperor, Fasilides. Numerous other architectural landmarks are located in the former capital of Ethiopia, and the nearby town of Ambuber offers a reflection of Ethiopian daily life.

The Bale Mountains


Similar in some regards to the Simien Mountains, the Bales are home to the endemic Ethiopian Wolf. Despite having an appearance more akin to a fox, it is related to the coyote and grey wolf and the world’s rarest canid. The curious mountain nyala – a type of deer – the adorable rock hyrax and bushbuck are among other mammals to be found in this alpine region. The area is wonderfully diverse, with plateaux, wide grasslands and deep forests where you can find Bale monkey troupes.

accommodations

Ethiopia is a dichotomy of rural and urban regions. Contemporary hotels offer conventional luxury in major areas, while into some of the more remote destinations you will find traditional tukels (Ethiopian for ‘house’). Though traditionally constructed, with stone walls and grass rooves, these tukels can be anywhere from rustic to sumptuous.

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Simien Lodge, notably the highest hotel in Africa, is the perfect example of traditional-meets-modern accommodation. Happening upon this venue in the mountains of Simien National Park, you might be fooled into thinking you have stumbled upon a traditional village, though venturing inside, you will find all your creature comforts and your own private enclave that, while not the Ritz Carlton, is a more than adequate venue in this remote and adventurous location.

Away from the major cities, high luxury is sparse, but Ethiopia is a country of intrigue and experience, not decadence.

One of the exceptions to this is Gheralta Lodge, in Tigray. The artisanal property is impeccably designed, using traditional techniques yet forming a stunning venue that could be as at home in the Mediterranean as it is in the Tigray foothills.

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ETHIOPIA ESSENTIALS

001 Calendar 01

BEST TIME: Nov – Jan

003 Thermometer 01

CLIMATE: LOW: 54-79ºF (12-26ºC) Oct – Dec / HIGH: 70-95ºF (20-35ºC) Nov – Feb

002 Blood 01

SEASONS: DRY: Oct – May / WET: Jun – Sep

004 Group 01

BEST FOR: Historians and adventurers. Ethiopia is very much an unconventional destination, but well worth the effort.

Ethiopia is one of the most unique destinations in the world. From the ancient buildings to the towering mountains, the bubbling lava and the fascinating cultures. You find find a conventional safari experience here, despite the Simien and Bale mountains offering nature-watching opportunity, but you will find breathtakingly inspiring history and tradition.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND IN ETHIOPIA?

You can ‘dip in’ to Ethiopia as part of a larger itinerary and enjoy one or two of its key attractions, but this will only allow you to scratch the surface of this fascinating country and likely have you booking a longer return trip. Ethiopia is a niche destination, with some more widely enjoyable aspects, but predominantly for those seeking a deeper cultural and historical experience. If you resonate with this sentiment, 10-14 days is recommended to get the fullest from your journey.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?

Ethiopia is highly changeable, with a greatly varied climate from north to south. Danakil in the north can be scorchingly hot throughout the year, reaching upwards of 100ºF (40ºC) and annual daily averages of 95ºF (35ºC). However, central and southern Ethiopia are far more temperate, and short wet seasons give way to a long dry season. To benefit from gentle temperatures and drier weather, November, December and January are the prime months.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM ACCOMMODATION IN ETHIOPIA?

You will find fairly conventional luxury hotels and more traditionally-styled yet adequately comfortable tukels, depending upon your location. Occasional, more architecturally striking venues are rare, though there are a couple of notable accommodations. Ethiopia does not possess the stunning property designs of other African countries, nor the consistency of tourism to make it viable, but we will ensure that you obtain the best the country has to offer and you may even find some venues surprisingly stunning.

OTHER DETAILS:

Visas are required for most visitors and should be organized prior to arrival from your home country. Inoculations may be recommended and we suggest you contact your travel designer or a travel medicine specialist for advice.

International flights fly to Addis Ababa, with small charters available in the north. Road or water transfers are predominant in the south, though private helicopter transfers can be arranged.

Language is rarely an issue, with English widely and well spoken. Guides are exceptional and highly informative. They are also able to assist and translate in the Omo region, where traditional tribal life may erase the need for English in the locals.

Ethiopia is not the most ideal destination for families and we would generally recommend against it. However, older children may find the breadth of culture fascinating and intriguing. If Ethiopia appeals to you, we suggest taking the time to research and consult your Travel Designer extensively to ensure you are familiar with what to expect.

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY

Wow, wow, wow!! We are back in LA now, recovering from jet lag and still in shock and awe regarding our experience. From the moment we landed in South Africa to the moment we touched down in LA, our experience was seamless and amazing. 

- Amy Lundberg

We were thrilled with the trip. It was as good as or better than described at every turn. The prep, attention to detail, willingness to make changes and ensure we were ready and prepared was outstanding. Our Travel Designer was awesome! 

- Betsy Robertson

Choosing a safari expert is never easy given the choice and lists upon lists of "top suppliers"....but we made the BEST choice for us....why....because above all, Rothschild listened ....really listened to what we wanted to experience.

- Dawn Jacobs

It was a well organized trip. It was easy to get around since we were guided through all of our itinerary. Everyone was pleasant and very helpful. This is an excellent way to travel. Rothschild Safari did very well and brought a fantastic African experience to us.

- George Kowalski

My trip was beyond AMAZING! I truly enjoyed every moment. The itinerary allowed me to experience a variety of different activities all of which I enjoyed! When I originally thought of going to Africa I was just thinking of safaris. This trip opened my eyes (and my family/friend's) to so much more Africa has to offer.

- Jackie Smith

Trip was PERFECT!! Every single detail was planned out and the accommodations and people were wonderful. This trip exceeded all of our wildest expectations. Every place we stayed was just lovely and each each camp had a different vibe, which was really neat. Everyone we worked with was outstanding. 

Jamie Scarlett

On behalf of the Moravec’s and the Stone’s……thank you for arranging a trip of a lifetime. Every detail was accounted for and all the recommendations were perfect. It honestly could not have gone any better.

Joe Moravec

Meggan Woody and Kim Killick were extraordinary at crafting THE PERFECT safari for our family of 8. They both listened (actually 'read' my email) to EXACTLY what we wanted, within the budget that we needed, and miraculously pulled off miracles in obtaining the properties that we wanted! 

Kim Mather

Every aspect of my trip went according to plan and the plan Rothschild's help me to orchestrate was magnificent! I loved every lodge that I was blessed to be in! They were all very different yet all high end and very accommodating.

Lisa Anderson

It was the most exciting, scenic, inspiring trip we've ever taken. To say it was a trip of a lifetime doesn't begin to capture our experience. Pam Langhoff and the Rothschild team did an outstanding job of helping us plan this trip.

Mary & Rob Johannigman (& family)