Explore 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, on this cultural tour in Ethiopia from North to South, featuring places that are of outstanding universal value to mankind. Discover some of the world’s most ancient Christian sites in Aksum, and the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela; important paleontological and prehistoric sites in Tiya, the Lower Valley of the Awash and the Lower Valley of the Omo; the Fortified Historic Towns Harar Jugol and Fasil Ghebbi; and experience the living cultural traditions of the Konso Cultural Landscape.
|UNESCO World Heritage Sites covered in this tour|
|1.||Axum||6.||Lower Valley of the Omo|
|2.||Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region||7.||Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela|
|3.||Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town||8.||Simien National Park|
|4.||Konso Cultural Landscape||9.||Tiya|
|5.||Lower Valley of the Awash|
|Tour Duration||:||27 days|
|Min. Tour Size||:||02 persons|
|Max. Tour Size||:||08 persons|
|Includes international air|
|Tour Price (from)||:||US$|
PART 1: NORTHERN ETHIOPIA
Day 01: Arrive Addis Ababa
Arrival to Addis Ababa, once clearing through Customs & Immigration, you will be met at the exit gate by our local representative for a transfer to the hotel. Check in time starts from 1500 hrs. Addis Ababa - the name of the city, in Amharic, means "new flower". Founded in 1886 by Menelik II, it is located at 2,500 m (8202 ft) above sea level in one of the highest parts of the Entoto Mountain chain (3,000 m/9842 ft above sea level). Addis Ababa is a pleasant city with wide avenues of jacaranda trees, interesting museums and one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, known as the "Mercato".
Overnight: Dreamliner Hotel or Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa (2 nights)
Day 02: Addis Ababa
We start our tour to Ethiopia by exploring Addis Ababa beginning with a visit to the National Museum, one of the most important sub- Saharan museums in all of Africa. The museum is home to the fossilized humanoid Lucy, as well as an amazing collection of artifacts, royal items and art. We then visit the Ethnological Museum, which was the former palace of Haile Selassie. After lunch, we take time in St. George Cathedral, built in 1896 by Emperor Menelik and then continue on to Holy Trinity Cathedral. Holy Trinity Cathedral is the largest Orthodox Church in Ethiopia and has survived through many historical periods, as its interesting architecture can attest to. The Cathedral contains the thrones and the tombs of the emperor and some of the royal family. Visit Mercato, the largest open air market in Africa. (B, L, D)
Day 03: Addis Ababa/Bahir Dar (Flight)
We take a short flight north, to Bahir Dar, this morning. Bahir Dar is a pleasant city located on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. After checking into our hotel, we drive to the Blue Nile Falls, which is known locally as Tissisat (smoking water) falls: 100 m (328 ft) wide, the water plunges for 45 m (148 ft), giving rise to steam clouds and rainbows. We climb down to the base of the falls for an up-close look and then ascend to the other side. This round trip will take about 1hour walking. Then we cross the Blue Nile by boat to return to the point of departure. After lunch weexplore the city of Bahir Dar, including the market and the Bezawit Palace (formerly the Palace of Haile Selassie). A short drive from our hotel, we visit a Woyito Village, where we will see the production of the papyrus boats known as Tankwas.
Overnight: Avanti Blu Hotel, Bahir Dar (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 04: Bahir Dar/Gondar (Boat crossing & drive)
There are 37 islands on Lake Tana and 30 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural interest. We visit the monastery churches of Ura Kidane Mihiret, Azoa Mariam, Narga Silasie and Dago Stifanos. Ura Kidanemihiret is the best known of the monasteries and has an important collection of religious icons from the 16th to 18th centuries A.D. Azoa Mariam is known for its paintings and we also have time to visit the small museum. Next stop is a visit to Debere Sina Church before continuing by road to Gondar.
Overnight: Taye Hotel or Landmark Hotel, Gondar (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 05: Gondar
Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian Empire, which began in 1632. In Gondar, there are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. The city seems more European than African and also has Islamic influences. In the morning, we will visit Fasilidas' Palace which is probably the most impressive of all the castles found in the area and the oldest one, too! We continue on to the bath of Fasiledes and Quskuam Church. In the afternoon we visit the Church Of Debre Berham Selassie (Light of the Trinity). The interior of this is decorated with beautiful frescos, cherubs and paintings. Debre Berham Selassie is rumored to once have been the proposed final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Later on, we will visit the colorful market of Gondar. (B, L, D)
Day 06: Gondar/Simien Mountains (Drive)
A stop will be made to visit the old village of Ethiopian felasha (black Jewish), which is currently inhabited as all have left for Israel, before continue onto Simien Mountains (Simien National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The road passes over mountainous areas of wild beauty, drawing close to the Simien Massif (in Amharic, Simien means north). In the park, many of the mountain peaks exceed 4,000 m (13123 ft); the highest is Ras Dejen, at 4,543 m (1905 ft) above sea level. These mountains consist of volcanic masses that have been eroded away by centuries of rain. Today they have amethyst-colored peaks and deep gullies, which have been further deepened by rivers. The crevices play host to the Walya, the ibex. We reach to the Simien Mountain before lunch. In the afternoon, for those who wish to do some trekking there will be 2-3 hours trekking, where we can see the Gelada Baboons and if we are lucky, the Walya ibex, too.
Overnight: Simien Park Eco Lodge, Simien Mountains (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 07: Simien Mountains/Axum (Drive)
This morning we depart for Axum with the road passes over mountain regions of wild beauty, running alongside of the National Park of the Simien massif. Passing through the Limalimo Mountain, we traverse the Tekeze valley before reaching Axum.
Overnight: Yeha Hotel or Sabean Hotel, Axum (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 08: Axum
Axum, the legends narrated in the Kebre Nagast (‘Book of Kings’) recount how the city of Axum as early as the 10th century B.C was already the city in which the Queen of Sheba resided. It is recounted that the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to Axum and it remains there to this day, preserved in a sanctuary. Famous long before the time of Christ, Axum was the capital of the long Axumite reign, one of the oldest African empires, and represented a crucial connecting-point between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years. A visit is organized to the steles: granite monoliths dating from pre-Christian times and decorated with symbolic engravings. There is also a visit to the church of Santa Maria of Zion, which contains the crowns of Ethiopian kings and other treasures. (B , L, D)
Day 09: Axum/Lalibela (Flight)
A short flight this morning takes us to Lalibela. The city contains a highlight of cultural tours in Ethiopia, 11 monolithic churches that were built in the 12th century and are carved out of the pink granite rock; they have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each church (Bet) has a unique architectural style; all are superbly carved and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings. The entire city may be described as a sculpture dedicated to the glory of God. The afternoon is dedicated to visiting the first group of churches, known as the Northern Group of Churches. Bet Medihanialem is the largest, supported by 72 pillars and houses the 7kg (15 lbs) gold Lalibela Cross. We go through a tunnel from Bet Medihanialem to Bet Mariam, in which there is a pillar; it is said that Jesus Christ leaned against this pillar when he appeared in a vision to King Lalibela. Bet Mariam also contains fabulous carvings of various birds and animals. We also visit Bet Danaghel; a chapel built in honor of martyred nuns. Bet Golgotha and Bet Mikael are twin churches and many believe that a visit to Bet Golgotha alone can guarantee your place in heaven! The twin churches also contain many important religious items and some of the best examples of early religious art in the country. The last church we visit today is Bet Giyorgis, one of the more recent churches and best preserved. We walk back to our hotel and on the way back if time allows, we will have stops at the souvenir shops and around the city center.
Overnight: Lal Hotel or Tukul Village Hotel, Lalibela (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 10: Lalibela
This morning we visit the Eastern Rock Churches. Bet Amanuel is one of the most beautifully carved churches in Ethiopia in the Aksumite style. Bet Merkorios has a wonderful painting of The Three Wise Men, which dates back to the 15th century A.D. We also stop to see Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gebrieal-Reafael, which might have once been the home of the royal family before becoming a church. This afternoon, we visit the Nakutelab Rock Hewn Church, built under a natural cave. Tonight, we have a special treat, participating in The Coffee Ceremony, a ceremony of hospitality in Ethiopia. (B, L, D)
Day 11: Lalibela/Addis Ababa (Flight)
We take a flight back to Addis Ababa this morning. After lunch, we enjoy a free afternoon; you may want to visit one of the many museums or the interesting Mercato or have a free time for shopping.
Overnight: Dreamliner Hotel or Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa (1 night) (B)
Day 12: Addis Ababa/Dire Dawa (Flight)/Harar (Drive)
Today we fly from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa, then drive to Harar (50Km) in Dire Dawa. We will visit the railway that links Addis Ababa to Djibouti, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century with the co-operation of the French government. Then we drive to Harar where the road and the surrounding fertile lands rise up the Dengego Mountains (3,000 meters above sea level), offering magnificent panoramas. The women of this region wear very bright colored clothes. Soon we begin to see crops of ‘chat’, a bush whose leaves are chewed because they provide light stimulation. En route we will visit the Awoday chat market. Afterwards we arrive in Harar.
Overnight: Heritage Plaza Hotel or Ras Hotel, Harar (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 13: Harar
Located at an altitude of 1,800 meters, Harar is a labyrinth of small streets surrounded by old city walls. Its architecture reflects a strong Islamic influence. We take a walk through the old city and visit the house where Rimbaud lived. Harar was the poet’s favourite city and he established quarters there in order to trade in arms destined for the emperor Menelik. It is largely 16th century and later, but some of the mosques were founded as early as the 13th century. Until relatively recently it was venerated by Muslims as a center of pilgrimage, the most holy city in the Horn of Africa, with large numbers of mosques and Koran schools. Our visit will include some of these as well as some of the traditional old houses of Harar. The main sights are: the city walls and gateways, the Friday Mosque, the Museum, the Ras Makonnen House and the supposed house of Rimbaud. This evening after dinner there is a visit to the hyena men (the men who feed the hyenas). (B, L, D)
Day 14: Harar/Dire Dawa (Drive)/Ababa (Flight)
We fly back to Addis Ababa, today. Afternoon is free for relaxation or last minute shopping. This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner and a traditional show.
Overnight: Dreamliner Hotel or Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa (1 night) (B)
PART 2: SOUTHERN ETHIOPIA
Day 15: Addis Ababa/Hosanna (Drive)
An early morning departure takes us south of Addis Ababa towards the Rift Valley. Our first stop is at Melka Kunture in the Lower Valley of the Awash*, one of the most important Paleolithic sites in Ethiopia. Along the Awash River where Melka Kunture is located, have been found the fossils of hippopotamus, rhinoceros and elephants. Continue to the church of Adadi Mariam, the southern-most rock hewn church in Ethiopia. Contemporaneous with those of Lalibela (in fact local tradition says that it was built by King Lalibela in 1106), the church was carved below ground level and contains 24 windows surrounded by a wide, high tunnel. It is still being used today. Our next stop is at Tiya*, where we can see the northernmost example of a peculiar type of engraved standing stone monolith that stretch across parts of south Ethiopia. Then we drive down the beautiful landscape and picturesque Oromo and Gurage people’s rural village to reach our today’s destination, Hosanna.
Overnight: Heme Hotel, Hosanna (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 16: Hosanna/Arba Minch (Drive)
Drive from Hosanna to Arba Minch: Passing though the wonderful panoramic landscape of the Hadiya and Wolayita People. En route we will visit the Ajora falls and make a detour to the highland people of Dorze who live high in the mountains. They are famous for their beehive-shaped bamboo houses. They use ingenious terracing and have a unique traditional life style with their colorful weaving products. Afterwards we commence descending towards the lakes of the Rift Valley. The Rift Valley is a deep fission that extends for over 6,000 km from the Middle East to Mozambique – testimony to the (most recent) violent and massive shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates. The rift contains a marvelous series of lakes, which are teeming with fish and provide a habitat for hundreds of species of birds. We travel along the side of Lake Abaya and arrive at Arba Minch late afternoon.
Overnight: Paradise Lodge or Ker Awud Hotel, Arba Minch (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 17: Arba Minch
In the morning, we visit Nech Sar National Park. The broad grass plains of Nech Sar National Park lies 510 km south of Addis, near the town of Arba Minch between the lakes Abaya and Chiamo. A wide variety of plain game roams freely amongst 514m2 of Savannah, dry bush and groundwater forest, which are also the habitat of 188 recorded species of birds. In the far eastern part of the park, hot springs bubble to the surface. A backdrop of hills and mountains combine to make Nech Sar one of the most attractive national parks in Ethiopia. In the afternoon take a boat trip on Lake Chiamo, that is populated by crocodiles and hippos. (B, L, D)
Day 18: Arba Minch/Key Afer/Jinka (Drive)
Early morning drive to Jinka with a stop to visit Key Afer. As today is a Thursday, you will visit one of the most colorful multicultural weekly markets whereby the Tsemai, the Ari, and the Benna people meet.
Overnight: Resort Hotel or Eco Omo Lodge, Jinka (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 19: Jinka/Mursi Village/Turmi (Drive)
Today we head to a Mursi Village to visit this extraordinary people of Mursi. The Mursi people are typically known for the clay lip plates the women insert in their lower lips. This practice is regarded as a sign of beauty among the Mursi – the bigger the plate, the more beautiful the wearer. You will have a light picnic lunch on the way. Continue onto Turmi. Visit the Hamer people whose women are famous for their typical skirts and hairdressings. The Hamer people are also noted for their ‘Bull Jumping’ Ceremony where boys jump lines of bulls to show the community that they are old and matured enough to carry the responsibility of marriage. Hamers have remarkable hairstyles made from ochre, water, and binding resin. They rub the mixture into their hair then twist the strands repeatedly to create coppery-colored locks. This is a sign of wealth and welfare. Hamers are considered to be masters of body decoration.
Overnight: Buska Lodge or Turmi Lodge, Turmi (3 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 20: Excursion trip to Omorate
Today you will have an excursion trip to Omorate, which is found east of the Omo River; the sole feeder of Lake Turkana or Lake Rudolf. We cross Omo River by a small boat and walk 20 minutes to the Gelab (Dassanech) tribal village. Dasenech people are also known for their body painting and body scarification. After a quick box lunch head for Dimeka to attend a weekly Saturday market of the Hamer people. (B, L, D)
Day 21: Excursion to Murulle
We take an excursion to Murulle to visit the Karo people (numbering only about 1,500 individuals) in the Lower Valley of the Omo*. The Karos are famous for tattooing, scaring and body painting. They reside by the side of the Omo River. After your visit drive back to Turmi. The entire trip is about 116 km, and takes about 7 hours with the visit. Then, our guide will arrange for a typical Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Turmi. (B, L, D)
Day 22: Turmi/Erbore/Konso (Drive)
This morning we depart the Lower Omo Valley. Our route today continues into the savannah, running alongside the mountains of Men, and then rises up into the Karkerte Mountains, providing us with splendid panoramic views. We visit the Erbore people before we reach the soft, terraced hills of the Konso Cultural Landscape*. The people of Konso are known for their terraced agriculture and wooden totems commemorating their ancestors. Afternoon visit a local village.
Overnight: Kanta Lodge, Konso (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 23: Konso/Elsod/Singing Wells/Yebello (Drive)
After breakfast, we drive to Yabello to see the Borena Oromo people and their singing wells. For 500 years, the Borena, Ethiopia’s semi-nomadic pastoralists, have survived their harsh environment by ingeniously sourcing water from wells that are up to 30 meters deep. The dust kicks up as a long line of camels and cows wander down a path dug below ground level, leading to a deep well. Men stand on top of each other, forming a human chain down the well; they toss buckets between each other on a precarious ladder, gathering water. There is a loud chorus of singing, which keeps the rhythm going; the yellow buckets are lowered and raised at a mesmerizing pace and the troughs are gradually filled at the mouth of the well.
Overnight: Mobile Hotel, Yebello (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 24: Yebello/Yirgalem (Drive)
We drive Yebello to Yirgalem, you will travel back crossing fertile land planted with bananas, cereal and tobacco, and inhabited first by the Oromo people and then by the Sidamo. We can find many types of fruit sold along the roadside. Continue northward to reach the lodge at mid afternoon. Nestled between coffee fields and lush vegetation in Yirgalem town, the lodge is a peaceful haven for those who seek relaxation and is also a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Overnight: Aregash Lodge, Yirgalem (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 25: Yirgalem/Awassa (Drive)
The nearby forest is home to diverse prolific flora and harbors over 100 species of birds and some mammals. The coffee plantations and the nightly visits of jackals and hyenas are the further attraction to be found in the surrounding area. Whatever your preference, there are a variety of activities to allow you to explore the surrounding countryside. These include guided treks in the nearby forest; horseback and mountain bike riding and visits to historical caves, sacred sites and natural hot and cold water springs. Continue onto Awassa.
Overnight: Haile Hotel, Awassa (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 26: Awassa/Addis Ababa (Drive)
This morning departure takes us to Lake Awassa. Set in a volcanic crater, Awassa Lake is the smallest in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. Here, we may view hippos, grivet monkeys, and colobus monkeys with their wonderful white faces encircled by deep ebony crowns. Birdwatchers will especially enjoy such avian wonders as the silvery-cheeked hornbill, black-winged lovebird, and Abyssinian black-headed oriole. The city of Awassa with its diverse ethnic mix will be especially enjoyable as we walk through the daily market where colorful villagers negotiate for fish. Visit the Rift Valley Lakes of Abyata and Shala, part of a national park, to view the rich concentration of brightly colored flamingoes. Shala, the southern lake, fills a crater almost 1000 feet deep, while nearby Abyata is a shallow pond – each creating its own environmental niche. Continue onto Addis Ababa.
Overnight: Dreamliner Hotel or Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 27: Depart Addis Ababa
After our incredible journey of marvelling at Ethiopia's cultural and natural heritage, we are transferred to the airport. (B)
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
English Speaking Departures (Please contact us for information on French, German, Italian and Spanish speaking departures).
Jun 26; Jul 17; Aug 07; Sep 18; Oct 09*; Nov 06; Dec 18
Feb 26; Mar 26*; Apr 16; May 07; Jun 25; Jul 16; Aug 06; Sep 17; Oct 08*; Nov 05; Dec 17
(*) what's this?
Tour PriceWe accept payment in US $ (US Dollars), CA $ (Canadian Dollars) or equivalent EURO (for clients outside North America). Bestway Tours & Safaris offers conversion rate protection. Once full payment has been received, and no modification has been made to the tour itinerary, we will honour that rate. For complete payment procedures, please click here
|Departure(s)||Per Person on Twin Sharing||Single Room Supplement|
|2017||US$ 7295||US$ 880
|2018||US$ 7395||US$ 895
Estimated International Airfare (International airfare is NOT included in this tour)
This tour operates on a minimum of 02 and a maximum of 08 participants
If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.
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