Extraordinary Ethiopia Safari

15 days

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In 1960, Ethiopian Abebe Bikila became the first African to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics. When a journalist asked him if he was exhausted right after the event, Bikila replied: ‘I could have done with another 10 kilometers.’ His response is a testament to the perseverance and independent streak of the people.

Ethiopia is a land of spectacular color, intricate cultures and glorious festivals. It is the spiritual home of the Rastafarians, but also a country where monolithic Christian churches have been carved from rock and mountain. This land is where the Ark of the Covenant is marched to the nearest water accompanied by thousands of locals dressed in dazzling white and shaded by sequined velvet umbrellas.

Ethiopia is all of that and we haven’t even touched on the wonderful food and overwhelming physical beauty. We will understand entirely if you, like Abebe Bikila, tell us at the end of your safari in Ethiopia, that you could have done with 10 more days.

{this itinerary is only a suggestion – our Guest Itineraries are designed exclusively and confidentially}

Highlights

  • Discovering the cultural and culinary wonders of Addis Ababa
  • The “living rock” churches of Lalibela
  • The monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles of Axum
  • Gondar, the Camelot of Africa
  • The extraordinary inhabitants of the Beshada, Ari, Bumi, Hamer and Mursi villages
  • The traditional Timket and Christ Mas ceremonies
  • Lake Tana boat trip

Itinerary

DAY 1

Arrive Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Welcome to Ethiopia! Upon arrival, you will be met by a representative and transferred directly to your four-star hotel to settle in before your first tour in Addis Ababa. Time permitting, visit the National Archaeological Museum where many wondrous exhibits await, but you might be most excited to meet Lucy—the 3.5 million-year-old ancestor of humanity.

DAY 2

Lalibela – Northern Church Tours

Depart this morning on a flight to Lalibela, then transfer with a private driver to the unique Tukul Village Hotel, where you will be within walking distance of many ancient rock-hewn churches. Visit the monastery of Na’akuto La’ab Church built by King Lalibela’s nephew and successor Na’akuto La’ab then in the evening attend a service at the carved church of Bete Maryam (the House of virgin St. Mary).

DAY 3

Lalibela – Hiking, Cave Church visit, and Coffee Ceremony

In Lalibela, you have a rare opportunity to stroll around the hills and visit the local bars and Tej (Amharic for honey wine) houses while enjoying the distinctive dancing style of the region. During the afternoon, travel with your guide to the cave church of Yemrehanna Kristos, built by the king of the same name before the reign of King Lalibela. When you return to the town, partake in a traditional evening coffee ceremony.

DAY 4

Lalibela – Southern Church Tours

Lalibela still has more to offer. Six churches lying in rock cradles, one behind the other all await your visit, from the largest which is built like a Greek temple to one that can only be reached through a dark, narrow tunnel and more elaborate exteriors and symbolic graves.

DAY 5

Axum – Historic City Tour

Board your morning flight to Axum, the sacred heart of Ethiopia, where you will stay at the Sabean International Hotel. Enjoy an afternoon tour of Axum including the Obelisk of Axum – the largest single piece of stone erected anywhere. You will also visit the tombs and castles of kings, Axum Museum, and Mariam Tsion Church, built on the site of Ethiopia’s first church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe that a chapel within the church compound houses the Ark of the Covenant.

DAY 6

Gondar – Castles and Festival Site Explorations

Fly away to Gondar and Mayleko Lodge this morning. Here you will visit the Royal Enclosure of Fasil Gibbi, which encompasses the castles of various Gondarene emperors including the Fasiladas Palace and the Quskuam Church. You will also explore the bath of King Fasilides where the Timkat or Epiphany festival is celebrated in Gondar. The Debre Berhane Selassie church, with its remarkable walls and ceiling, is completely covered with murals and the angels’ faces on the ceiling have become a common motif in Ethiopian design.

DAY 7

Bahir Dar – Lake Cruise, the Blue Nile, and Waterfalls

Depart by road to Bahir Dar after breakfast to check in at Kuriftu Resort & Spa where you can immerse yourself in more of the history of Ethiopia with the landscapes of native architecture and cool shore side weather all year round. Lake Tana awaits. Take a cruise on the largest highland lake in Ethiopia and source of the Blue Nile. Visit the Zeghie Peninsula, known for its 14th century, round, grass-roofed churches and their magnificent wall murals, the Azoa Mariam and Ura Kidane Mehret churches. Tour around the city of Bahir Dar including the Bazawit Hill Top which offers a spectacular view of the surrounding, the city, the islands of Lake Tana and the Blue Nile leaving the lake. Here you will visit the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tissiat – which means ‘Smoking Water’. The Falls are 328 feet wide and the water plunges some 150 feet, giving rise to picturesque steam clouds and rainbows.

DAY 8

Arba Minch – Boat trip and Wildlife Viewing

This morning fly from Bahir Dar to Arba Minch and the lovely Paradise Lodge in southern Ethiopia, established on a hilly area in Arba Minch from where the jungle forest can be seen. Abaya is the second largest lake in Ethiopia and is joined to Lake Chamo by a natural bridge locally known as “the Bridge of God’’. This afternoon you can enjoy a boat trip on Lake Chamo to view large number of hippos and crocodiles from a very close range.

DAY 9

Turmi – Konso, Erbore and Hamer Village visits

This morning you will depart by road to Turmi via Konso & Weito. Drive through the Konso village; whose people are known for their intricately terraced hillsides, fine woven materials, and the carved totems with which they decorate their graves. Your next stop is the far more rustic Erbore village in south Omo where several tribal boundaries converge. Your drive concludes in Turmi, home to the colorful Hamer tribes. Here, Buska Lodge offers travelers ecologically-friendly accommodation overlooking the plains of Buska Mountain.

DAY 10

Turmi – Bumi and Karo Tribe Interactions

This morning, cross the Omo River to learn about and spend time with the Bumi tribe. The Bumis are specialized crocodile hunters, using harpoons from a dugout canoe. Once again, cross the Omo River and drive to the village of Kolcho to meet the Karo tribes who are considered the masters of body painting. Return late in the day to Turmi for the evening.

DAY 11

Jinka – Investigate Villages and Markets of the Omo Valley

Depart to the Benna village for some time with the Beshada people, who are typically adorned with clay and impressive headdresses. Continue to Jinka to visit the South Omo Research Center, Yetnebersh village and the Ari tribe. Browse small markets along your route. Spend the night at Eco Omo, another eco-friendly lodge on the border of the Neri River.

DAY 12

Arba Minch – Mago National Park drive and Mursi Village excursion

Enjoy a scenic drive through the Mago National Park, which was founded in the 1960s. Dense acacia forests and open savanna provide sanctuary to nearly one hundred mammal species and three hundred bird species. Visit a Mursi village where the tribe and their decorative lip plates have become a cultural symbol of the Lower Omo Valley. Conclude your drive in Arba Minch where you will overnight at Paradise Lodge for the evening.

DAY 13

Addis Ababa – Dorze Village Weaving and Flight to Addis Ababa

Today you will enjoy a visit to the Dorze village at Chencha. These renowned cotton weavers whose tall beehive-shaped dwellings are among the most distinctive traditional structures to be seen anywhere in Africa. In this region the main occupations are subsistence farming and weaving and the shama cloth produced around Chencha is regarded to be the finest in Ethiopia. After your visit you will fly to Addis Ababa where you will once again overnight at the Golden Tulip Hotel.

DAY 14

Addis Ababa – Ethnographic Museum Tour and Traditional Dance

Start your day with an Addis Ababa Tour exploring the Ethnographic Museum. In the afternoon you can visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral which is renowned for its stunning stain-glassed windows. Tonight a farewell dinner is enjoyed at a cultural restaurant accompanied by traditional Ethiopian music and dance.

DAY 15

Addis Ababa – Entoto Mountain Tour – Begin Your Journey Home

Enjoy your last early morning Ethiopian coffee today and take advantage of your last day in Addis Ababa to take a drive to the eucalyptus-covered hills of Entoto Mountain, towards the north of the city. This will offer a glimpse of rural Ethiopian life and you might even spot an Olympian or two in training. Tonight you depart for your international flight home.