Preliminary Day by Day Itinerary
September 17 Depart U.S.A.
Meet your travel companions for departure from Dulles International (IAD), Washington, DC at 11:00 AM local time with Ethiopian Airlines ET501.
September 18 Arrive Addis Ababa
Arrive in Addis Ababa (ADD), Ethiopia at 7:10 AM. Welcome to Ethiopia! Upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, we will easily secure our visas and be welcomed and assisted by our tour guide and driver. There will be a short drive to the lovely Radisson Blu Hotel (5*).
We will have time for a short rest in the morning, and in the afternoon start our city and sightseeing tour of Addis Ababa, which includes the National Museum, Ethnographic Museum and Merkato. Enjoy lunch this afternoon.
Addis Ababa, founded in 1886 by Menelik II, is situated at 2,500 meters (8000 ft.) above sea level. It is the highest capital city in the world, after La Paz and Quito in South America. Only 9 degrees north of the equator, the city enjoys an excellent climate all year round, with an average temperature of 25C (77F). With a multi-ethnic population of over 5 million, Addis Ababa is a pleasant city with wide avenues of jacarandas, interesting museums, and one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, known as the “Merkato”.
The National Museum of Ethiopia is one of the best museums in quality and diversity. Archaeological exhibits include the 3.5 million-year-old fossil of Lucy (or Dinkinesh – ‘thou art wonderful’- in the native language), a humanoid woman of the specious of Australopithecus Afarensis. The discovery of Lucy’s fossil in 1974 forced a complete rethink of human genealogy, providing that our ancestors were walking 2.5 million years earlier than had been supposed. The National Museum also contains many wonderful artifacts dating back to pre-Axumite civilization.
The Ethnographic Museum is very different to the National Museum, but equally absorbing. This museum exhibits a varied array of artifacts and daily objects related to most ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The city tour of Addis will continue with a drive through the Merkato, the largest open-air market in the continent. The Radisson has a nice dining room and two coffee shops. Enjoy free time this evening to have dinner on your own tonight and retire early. (L)
Radisson Blu-Addis Ababa
September 19 Addis Ababa
Blue Nile Falls
In the morning, fly to Bahirdar. We have an arrival transfer then check in to hotel on the shores of Lake Tana. Walk around the beautiful town of Bahirdar and visit the bustling local market.
After having lunch at the hotel, we drive 22 miles to visit the majestic Blue Nile Falls. Eighteen miles downstream the river empties into Lake Tana. The Blue Nile plunges over a 148 ft high face. Although some of the water has been diverted to the hydro-electric plant, it is still one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Africa. Walking to the falls through the beautiful river gorge on the ancient bridge from the 17th century, and meeting the local people at the small villages on the way to the falls is also a great experience. (B-L-D)
Avanti Blue Nile Resort
September 20 Bahirdar-Lake Tana
In the morning, we will take a boat cruise over Lake Tana to visit the ancient 14th century island monasteries of Lake Tana. The 37 islands of Lake Tana shelter twenty monasteries-surviving remnants of an old, contemplative tradition. Because of their isolation, they were used to store treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country. The Lake’s monasteries are famous for their typical Ethiopian religious paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and other ancient church treasures. The monasteries that we are going to visit include Kibran Gebriel, Ura Kidane Mihret and Azua Mariam.
The rest of the day, relax at our beautiful lakeside lodge. (B-L-D)
Avanti Blue Nile Resort
September 21 Bahirdar-Gondar
After breakfast, drive towards Gondar, passing through the beautiful countryside scenery, arriving around midday for check-in.
After lunch, explore the ancient city of Gondar. It was founded by Emperor Fasiledas around 1635, and is famous for its many medieval castles. The design and decoration of its churches, in particular Debre Birhan Selassie, represents a masterpiece of unique Ethiopian School of traditional art.
Today you will visit the Royal Enclosure, a walled compound having 6 different castles built from the 17th century by different kings who ruled in different times. See the pool of King Fasilidas, which still serves as a baptismal pool during Ethiopian Epiphany. Visit the famous Deberberhan Sillassie adorned with brilliant frescoes from inside. (B-L-D)
September 22 Gondar-Simien
Friday Mountains National
After an early breakfast, we will drive towards Axum through the Simien Mountains National park. En-route we will be visiting the “Felasha” or the Black Jewish village. It is believed that the “Felashas” settled in this village during the time of King Minlik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.
When driving from Gondar up to Simien Mountains National Park, nothing prepares you for the spectacular scenery that awaits you at the top of the massif. The rolling grassy plateau comes to an abrupt stop, and sheer cliffs plunge almost vertically for 1,000 meter (3,280 feet) to the plains below.
The massif itself has been sculpted by 30 million years of up thrust and erosion into a wonderland of jagged ridges, pinnacles and strangely cropped conical mountains. Looking out over the heart-stopping precipice, you feel you might just be at the edge of the world!
The rest of the day, trek to explore the surrounding of Snakaber, part of the Simien Mountains National Park. You very likely will see some interesting wildlife here. The elevation of the Simien Lodge “The Highest Lodge in the World”, is 10,695 feet. (B-L-D)
Simien Lodge-Buyit Ras
September 23 Simien Mountains
After breakfast, continue to Axum through the beautiful sceneries of Simien Mountains, Limalimo and Tekeze River Gorge.
We will have a brief stops at different parts of the park for the best views. Enjoy a picnic lunch near the Tekeze River Gorge whilst enjoying the beautiful Simien Mountains scenery from a distance. (B-L-D)
September 24 Axum-Yeha
After breakfast, we will begin the visit of the ancient city of Axum. This is the birthplace of Ethiopian civilization. By the first century, Axum was a major trading center for exotic goods from Egypt, Rome, Nubia, Greece, Syria, and India. It is believed that the Holy Ark of the Covenant was brought here before the destruction of the Jewish Temple, and Axum is reputed to be the second Jerusalem.
Our visit in Axum includes: the Stele Square, Kaleba Tombs, the 4th century Christian inscription of King Ezana, Queen of Sheba’s Palace, Archaeological Museum, and Tsion Mariam Church where the original Ark of the Covenant is said to be housed.
In the afternoon, make an excursion to Yeha, “Temple of the Moon”, a pre-Christian temple from the 5th century BC and center of the Sabaean Civilization which preceded the Axumite era. (B-L-D)
September 25 Axum-Lalibela
After having breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Axum Airport for your flight to Lalibela. After check in, we will drive to the site where we find a concentration of some of Ethiopia’s most famous rock-hewn churches, mostly referred to by many as “the living wonders of the world.” These churches are, and they have been for at least 800 years, active Christian shrines, the spiritual center of the country’s religious life. The monolithic churches were carved out of 8,530 square feet natural rock terrace in the 12th-century AD by King Lalibela.
Bete Medhani Alem, the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world, measures 37.7 ft. in height, covers an area of almost 2625 square ft and has walls that are up to six feet thick. A plain building supported by 36 pillars on the inside and another 36 pillars around the outside, Bete Medhani Alem was modeled on the original St. Mary Zion Church built in Axum by King Ezana during the 4th century.
The rock-hewn churches that we will visit today include: Bete Medhani Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil, Bete Golgotha Michael and Bete Giorgis. Our guide will arrange for helpers and/or mules to assist us as we navigate the steps and pathways. Ride a mule if you wish.
In the evening, there will be Ethiopian traditional coffee ceremony for the group prepared at a local house. Those who can’t face their day without a cup of coffee may be surprised to know that in its birthplace in Ethiopia’s Kaffa region-from which it gets its name. Originally, the berries were eaten, never roasted and ground for a drink. Only since the 13th century has coffee has been made a hot drink. Holding a coffee ceremony is a traditional Ethiopian way of welcoming a guest and giving the guest the best hospitality. It is probably one of the most celebrated Ethiopian traditions, and a lifestyle - in which most Ethiopians can identify themselves. (B-L-D)
Tukul Village Hotel-Lalibela
September 26 Lalibela-Asheten
Tuesday Mariam-Meskel Eve
In the morning, have a mule ride, and trek to the top of Asheten Mariam Monastery. The famous 12th-century monastery church located at 10,298 ft above sea level provides a beautiful view towards Axum. We will trek/mule ride through dramatic highland scenery, which eventually ends in a beautiful serene agricultural hamlet.
After having lunch and rest at the hotel, we will continue our journey into Ethiopia’s long and marvelous past with a visit to other St. Lalibela’s remarkable churches. Their architecture and artistry must be seen to be believed. Once we finish visiting the second group of churches we will walk to the village through the complex and bewildering labyrinth of underground tunnels to the monastery where the monks and nuns live.
The rock-hewn churches that we will visit this afternoon include: Bete Gebriel, Bete Mercorios, Bete Amanuel, Bethlehem and Bete Aba Libanos.
Late in the afternoon, attend Demera, which is the eve of Meskel. At the Demera, there will be a lot of dancing and singing by the priest, deacon and the local people around a pile of bonfire to be burned the next morning. (B-L-D)
Tukul Village Hotel-Lalibela
September 27 Meskel Festival
Wednesday Yimrhane Kirstos
Early in the morning, we will witness one of the most colorful festivals - Meskel. The faithful will come to the Demera to share the blessing and to dance and sing around the bonfire. This ceremony is performed colorfully by priests and deacons with drums and sitars with a capacity crowd in front of the first group of rock-hewn churches.
After breakfast we drive to Yimrhane Kirstos through Bilbala Giorgis and Bilbala Cherkos, en route visiting some of the most ancient rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia, some of them dating back to the 6th century and even earlier. These are living proof that stone craft started in Ethiopia even much earlier than thought by many people. The built-up cave church of Yimrhane Kirstos itself predates the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela by eight years. This is one of the most beautiful built-up cave churches, built from marble, wood and beautifully decorated from inside and outside with untold architectural skill. In the backside of the cave, you will also see many mummified bodies of pilgrims from centuries ago. The rest of the day is at leisure. (B-L-D)
Tukul Village Hotel -Lalibela
September 28 Lalibela-Addis Ababa
After breakfast, transfer to Lalibela airport for the flight to Addis Ababa. After check in at the hotel, the rest of the day we will have city tour of Addis Ababa which includes the view of Addis Ababa from Entoto. We will also have the chance to walk around Piassa and Churchil Avenue for shopping.
Day rooms will be available at the Radisson Blu hotel until evening. Enjoy a Farewell Dinner party with traditional buffet and local drinks. This evening transfer to Bole International Airport for flights back home with Ethiopian Airlines ET500 departing at 10:50 PM. (B-D)
September 29 Arrive U.S.A.
Arrive at Dulles International airport (IAD)at 8:40 AM. Welcome home!
Note: Flight schedules always subject to change.
September 28 - February 9, 2018
11 extra days • from Addis Ababa
Preliminary Day by Day Itinerary
September 28 Addis Ababa
Begin our Omo Valley tour with an overnight in Addis Ababa. (D)
Radisson Blu-Addis Ababa
September 29 Addis Ababa-Tiya
In the morning, drive south of Addis Ababa on the Butajira Road to Langano en-route enjoying the stunning views and visiting Gurage Village and Tiya.
At Tiya, you will visit the northern most example of a peculiar type of engraved, standing stelae which stretch across parts of southern Ethiopia. These stelae are believed to have been erected between the 12th and 14th centuries and are almost certainly grave markers.
On the shore of Lake Langano, check in to the Sabana Lodge. We can relax along the shore of the beautiful Rift Valley lake or take a relaxing trek in the acacia forest full of beautiful endemic birds. (B-L-D)
September 30 Lagano-Arbaminch
After breakfast, drive to Arbaminch on the way visiting the different towns and villages such as Shasemene, Welyita and Tembaro. (B-L-D)
October 1 Arbaminch-Konso
After an early breakfast, we will drive to Turmi visiting different cultural people and their villages including the Konso and the undulating landscape of the Konso area.
The Konso are famous for their old and unique terracing and unusual engraved wooden statues of Konso grave markers. Between Konso and Turmi, you will also have brief stops to visit the different cultural people and their villages like: Tsemay near Weito River, the Bena at Keyafer and the Ari at Kako Village. (B-L-D)
October 2 Turmi-Omorate
In the cool morning, we will drive to Omorate to visit the Desanech (Geleb) tribal village after crossing the Omo River by boat. The Desanech are nomadic pastoralists found across the western bank of the Omo River south of Lake Turkana very close to the Kenyan boarder.
Late in the afternoon, we will drive to the Hamer Village. The Hamer, display an elaborate and diverse selection of body decorations. They are also identifiable for their high cheekbones, elaborate custom of beads, cowries and leather, and thick copper necklaces. At the same village we will enjoy the seasonal cultural activities including the famous Evangadi (Hamer Dancing). (B-L-D)
October 3 Turmi-Dimeka Market
In the morning, we will drive to Jinka en-route visiting different tribal villages including Ari and Bena.
In the afternoon, drive to Dimeka to visit the colorful multi ethnic and multi-cultural weekly tribal market. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, fair number of the Hamer and the Bena tribes walk to the market from miles around. Here we will have the chance to see the tribes of the surrounding area in their traditional marketing activities and displaying their local handicrafts. We will also have an opportunity to bargain for varieties of handicrafts. The rest of the day, explore the surrounding of the Turmi area. Continue to Jinka for overnight. (B-L-D)
Eco Omo Lodge -Jinka
October 4 Jinka-Mursi Village
Wednesday Mago National Park
After having an early breakfast, we will drive from Jinka to Mursi Village. The Mursi, undoubtedly the most celebrated residents of South Omo are a distinctive group of pastoralists. The Mursi are best-known for their unique item of decoration - lip plates. Women of Mursi wear a circular clay plate on their lower lip and the bigger a women can wear, the greater her value when she gets married.
After our visit to the Mursi Village, we will have our picnic lunch in the Mago National Park and continue driving back to Jinka through the park. (B-L-D)
Eco Omo Lodge-Jinka
October 5 Jinka-Arbaminch
In the morning, drive back to Arbaminch with brief stops at different villages including Erbore Village where the nomadic Cushitic Speaking Erbore tribes live. (B-L-D)
October 6 Arbamich-Lake Chamo
Friday Chencha-Arbaminch Chencha Village
After breakfast, we will have a boat cruise over Lake Chamo to see some of the largest African crocodiles, hippopotamus, and many beautiful aquatic birds including the lovely Kingfisher and African Fish Eagle.
In the afternoon, drive to the mountain village of Chencha, home of the Dorze people. The Dorze people, renowned cotton weavers whose tall beehive-shaped and bamboo woven dwellings - Tukul, are among the most distinctive structures to be seen anywhere in Africa. (B-L-D)
October 7 Arbaminch-Langano
After breakfast, we will start driving north to Langano en-route visiting different villages and some of the most beautiful Rift Valley lakes.
After check in to Bishangari Lodge, located on the shore of Lake Langano, you will have a relaxing walk in the well conserved natural forest full of different species of endemic birds and different mammals. You will also have the chance to relax along the shore of Langano. (B-L-D)
October 8 Langano-Addis Ababa
After spending part of the morning relaxing around the lake, we will continue driving north towards Addis Ababa with brief stops at different towns such as Mojo and Debrezeit.
Spend the rest of the day with a city tour of Addis Ababa and some souvenir shopping. In the evening, transfer to Bole International airport for the flight back home with Ethiopian Airlines ET500 departing Bole (ADD), Addis Ababa at 10:50 PM. (B-L)
October 9 Arrive U.S.A.
Arrive Dulles International airport (IAD), Washington D.C., at 8:40 AM. Welcome home!
Note: Flight schedules always subject to change.