Day 01: Arrive Addis Ababa
Arrival to Addis Ababa, once clearing through Customs & Immigration, we will be met at the exit gate by our local representative for a transfer to the hotel. Check in starts from 1400 hrs. We meet this evening for dinner and orientation. 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: Siyonat Hotel, Addis Ababa (2 nights) (D)
Day 02: Addis Ababa
We spend the day 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
We take a short flight north to Bahir Dar this morning, which 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 we explore 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: Summerland Hotel, Bahir Dar (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 04: Bahir Dar / Gondar
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. We also have time to visit the small museum. Daga Stifanos is the most sacred of the monasteries and unfortunately, only open to men. It holds the tombs of some of the former emperors of Ethiopia, as well as a 16th century A.D. painting of The Virgin Mary. Upon arrival into Gorgora village, we visit Debere Sina Church before continuing by road to Gondar.
Overnight: Taye 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 visit Fasilidas' Palace*, 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 church 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. After this, we will visit the colorful market of Gondar. (B, L, D)
Day 06: Gondar / Simien Mountains
We drive to Simien National Park*. 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 we will have about 4hours trekking in the first campsite area of Sankaber , where we can see the Gelada Babboons and also,if we are lucky, the Walya ibex.
Overnight: Simien Park Eco Lodge, Simien Mountains (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 07: Simien Mountains / Axum
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, 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. We visit the steles, granite monoliths dating from pre-Christian times and decorated with symbolic engravings. In ancient times, there were seven steles, now one of them is in Rome, Mussolini brought it there during Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia. We will also 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
A short flight this morning takes us to Lalibela. The city contains 11 Rock-Hewn Churches* that were built in the 12th century and are carved out of the pink granite rock. 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. If traveling during the Timket Festival then this evening we will be attending mass in one of the main churches – the Eve of Timket.
Overnight: Lal Tukul Hotel, Lalibela (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 10: Lalibela
An early morning wake up at 0500 hrs after a quick breakfast, we head out to the church to attend the Timket celebration & festivity, which will last to about 1100 hrs then walk back to the hotel for lunch. We then go on foot for an approximately 3-hour hike (those who prefer can ride mules) to 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
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: Siyonat Hotel, Addis Ababa (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 12: Addis Ababa / Dire Dawa / Harar
Today, we fly from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa to 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 - the road and 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, Harar (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 13: Dire Dawa
We explore Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town*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: Dire Dawa / Addis Ababa (Flight)
Flight back to Addis Ababa. This afternoon is free to relax and prepare for our southern adventures.
Overnight: Siyonat Hotel, Addis Ababa (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 15: Addis Ababa / Hosanna
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 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: Swayness 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 / Jinka
Early morning drive to Jinka. On the way, visit the Cushitic speaking Tsemay people in the Weyto Valley (where we will have lunch) and the Bena and Ari people.
Overnight: Resort Hotel, Jinka (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 19: Jinka / Mago National Park / Mursi village / Jinka
Today we will meet the 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. (B, L, D)
Day 20: Jinka – Key Afer Market- Turmi
We drive from Jinka to Turmi, the settlement of the Hamer people, via Key Afer. As the day is Thursday, you will visit one of the most colorful multicultural weekly markets whereby the Tsemai, the Ari, and the Benna people meet. Around 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-coloured locks. This is a sign of wealth and welfare. Hamers are considered to be masters of body decoration.
Overnight: Buska Lodge, Turmi (3 nights) (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: 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. At Turmi attend a weekly market of the Hamer people if the day is Monday. (B, L, D)
Day 23: Turmi / Yebello
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. After lunch, we drive to Yabelo 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 / Awassa
We drive Yebello to Awassa, 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 (2 nights) (B, L, D)
Day 25: Awassa
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. Moreover late afternoon, you have a special treat, participating in The Coffee Ceremony, a ceremony of hospitality in Ethiopia. (B, L, D)
Day 26: Awassa / Addis Ababa
This morning departure takes us to Lake Awasa. 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.
Overnight: Siyonat 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)