ETHIOPIA - The Hidden Jewel of Africa

Addis Ababa – Bahir Dar – Gondar – Lalibela– Axum – Yeha – Arba Minch – Jinka – Mursi – Mago – Murile – Omo Rate – Turmi – Arba Minch – Awasa – Addis Ababa

About the Program:
Length: 18 days
Min/max: 6/18
Tour type: cultural expedition

Located in the heart of the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is the tenth largest African country by land area and the third largest in terms of population. It is a varied country in terms of geographical features. The central highlands start at 6500 feet reaching their highest peak in the Simien Mountains. Lake Tana is generally accepted to be the source of the Blue Nile, while the eastern highlands run along the Rift Valley Escarpment, sloping steeply to the east and widening and descending into the Danakil Depression at 380 feet below sea level.

The history of Ethiopia, known to many as Abyssinia, is rich, ancient and still in part unknown. Anthropologists believe that East Africa's Great Rift Valley is the site of the origin of humankind. The first recorded account of the region dates back to almost 5,000 years ago during the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, when the ancient Egyptians sent expeditions down the Red Sea in quest of gold, ivory and slaves. It is in the Afar region of Ethiopia where scientists discovered the remains of "Lucy" or Dinkenesh, meaning "thou art wonderful", as she is know to the Ethiopians.

The country's rich history is woven with legends of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; the Ark of the Covenant is said to rest in Axum; the great Axumite Kingdom and the story of King Lalibela, who is believed to have constructed eleven rock-hewn churches, still standing today and considered the eighth wonder of the world.

Our journey will provide you with a unique firsthand view of a seldom-visited country. From the fabulous 12th century rock-hewn churches in the north to the animist tribes of the Omo River Valley in the South. You will return from this journey to see why Ethiopia is the true jewel of Africa.

2011 - 2012
Contact us for more information.

COST (Per Person)
Land only (twin): upon request 
Single supplement: upon request 

Price Includes:

  • Domestic flights
  • Land transportation
  • Transfers in each city
  • 4 & 5-star hotels in major centres and best available in remote areas
  • Meals indicated as B (breakfast), L (lunch) and D (dinner)
  • Guided sightseeing and entrance fees
  • Visa application supporting documents
  • Services of English speaking guides
  • Travel manual

Price Excludes:

  • International flights: home city to Addis Ababa and return
  • Travel insurance (strongly recommended)
  • Visa fees
  • Gratuities to guides, drivers, porters and hotel staff
  • Personal expenses




Day 1, Saturday - arrive Addis Ababa
Arrive in Addis Ababa airport where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Welcome dinner.
D Hilton Addis Ababa

Day 2, Sunday -  Addis Ababa
City tour of Addis, which includes the National and Ethnological museums, the largest open air market in Africa ( Mercato ), and Mount Entoto for a view of the city.
BLD Hilton Addis Ababa

Day 3, Monday - Addis Ababa/Bahir Dar
Morning flight Addis Ababa – Bahir Dar (50min). Bahir Dar, is a pleasant city located at 1,800 metres above sea level on the shores of lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. Today, we visit the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as the Tisisat Falls: 100 metres wide, the water plunges 45 metres, giving rise to steam clouds and rainbows. In the afternoon, we have a city tour in Bahir Dar including the Market and the Bezawit Palace.
BLD Tana Hotel

Day 4, Tuesday- Bahir Dar/ Lake Tana / Gorgora / Gondar
This day is dedicated to a boat cruise on Lake Tana. There are 37 islands on lake Tana and 30 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural interest. We will visit the monastery churches of Ura Kidane Mihiret, Azoa Mariam, Narga Silasie and Daga Stifanos. Later arrive on the north shore of Lake Tana at the town of Gorgora where we will collect our vehicle and drive to Gondar
BLD Goha Hotel

Day 5, Wednesday- Gondar
Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of Fasilidas. 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 afternoon, we visit the palaces, residences and baths of Fasilidas; afterwards, we visit the Quskuam church and the church of Debre Berham Selassie (Light of the Trinity), which is located at the summit of a hill and surrounded by fortified walls. The interior is decorated with beautiful frescos. Dinner and overnight stay are in a hotel with a splendid panoramic garden.
BLD Goha Hotel


Day 6, Thursday - Gondar/Lalibela
Today we will take a flight from Gondar to Lalibela. Lalibela is located at an altitude of 2,600 metres above sea level. The city contains 11 monolithic churches that were built in the twelfth century and are carved out of the pink granite rock. They have been classified as one of the wonders of the world. Each church 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 day is spent visiting the first group of churches and the city itself. In the evening we will attend a show featuring traditional dance.
BLD Roha Hotel

Day 7, Friday -  Lalibela
In the morning we go on foot or riding on mules to visit some rock-churches outside the city (about a 3-hour walk). In the afternoon, we visit the second group of churches in Lalibela.
BLD Roha Hotel

Day 8, Saturday -  Lalibela/Axum
Today we will take a flight from Lalibela to 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 where it is believed to reside to this day, preserved in a sanctuary. Famous long before the time of Christ, Axum was the capital of the 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 organised to the steles, which are granite monoliths dating from pre-Christian times and decorated with symbolic engravings. In ancient times, there were seven steles, the last, having resided in Rome since the Second World War, is now back in Axum. There is also a visit to the church of Saint Mary of Zion, which contains the crowns of Ethiopian kings and other treasures.
 BLD Yeha Hotel


Day 9, Sunday -  Axum/Yeha/Axum
By way of a beautiful panoramic road, we drive to Yeha, where we visit the Temple of the Moon (dating from pre-Christian times). A little further along the road we find the monastery of Debre Damo, the oldest church in Ethiopia (dating from the Axumite epoch). Only men are allowed visit the church and it is necessary to climb up to it with the aid of a rope. Later we will return to Axum.
BLD Yeha Hotel

Day 10, Monday - Axum/Addis Ababa
We will fly from Axum to Addis Ababa. This afternoon is free to explore the city or relax at your hotel. In the evening we dine in one of the capital’s restaurants.
BLD Hilton Addis Ababa

Day 11, Tuesday - Addis Ababa/Arba Minch
Drive by 4 x4 from Addis to Arba Minch: Passing though the rift valley lakes and the wonderful panoramic landscape of the Wolayita People. En route we will visit a Dorze village. The Dorze are famous for their fine woven cotton cloth as well as their unique beehive-shaped dwellings. Arrive in Arba Minch in the late afternoon.
BLD Swaynes Hotel

Day 12, Wednesday - Arba Minch/Jinka/Mago
Drive Arba Minch - Jinka - Mursi - Mago. Mago National Park is located on the east bank of the river Omo and ranges in altitude from 450 to 2,528 metres above sea level. After about 2 hours of rough road, we arrive at the camp where we spend the night in tents. The campsite is in a beautiful clearing among towering trees, which provide shade, and near the river Neri. We visit the Mursi village, whose women have the custom of expanding their lower lips using disks that gradually get larger and larger. These are people who farm the land and breed livestock; they live in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world. We return to the camp; there are not many animals visible during the day in the park, but by night we are surrounded by thousands of sounds, among which is the trumpeting of elephants.
BLD Camping

Day 13, Thursday - Mago/Caro/Murile
From here on, there is no real track any more. Instead, we travel through the savannah in a typically African landscape, frequently meeting herds of Oryx and gazelle. We arrive at Murile Lodge, which consists of bungalows and a campsite right on the river Omo, surrounded by huge trees. This is the land of the Caro tribe and it is possible to meet them along the river.
BLD Camping

Day 14, Friday - Murile/Omo Rate/Turmi
We continue through the savannah along tracks that are barely visible, passing through a vast meadowland with shrubs and umbellifers (‘umbrella’ acacia trees). We pass through the Omo River. We encounter the Galeb people in the street; in the river people bathe and wash their clothes. Afterwards continue on to Turmi where every Monday there is a spectacular Hamer market. The Hamer is one of the most beautiful and dignified people of the Omo basin. The women colour their hair with red earth and butter, and wear elegant leather skirts festooned with tiny pearls. We will spend the afternoon at the market before heading to our campsite for the evening.
BLD Evangadi Lodge & Campsite, Turmi

Day 15, Saturday - Turmi/Konso/Arba Minch
This morning we depart the Lower Omo Valley. Our route today continues into the savannah, running alongside the mountains of Men, then raises up into the Karkerte Mountains – providing splendid panoramic views – until it reaches the soft, terraced hills of Konso. The people of Konso are known for their terraced agriculture and wooden totems commemorating their ancestors. Afterwards we commence our return northwards, 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 marvellous 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 Chamo and arrive at Arba Minch towards lunchtime. In the afternoon, we visit the park of Nech Sar, located between lakes Chamo and Abaya, where one can see gazelles and zebras.
BLD Swaynes Hotel

Day 16, Sunday - Arba Minch / Awasa
In the morning take a boat trip on Lake Chamo, which is populated by crocodiles and hippos. Later, we will travel back up the Rift Valley, 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. Lake Awasa is surrounded by mountains and populated by countless species of birds. There is a beautiful track running along the lakeside, perfect for a walk. Overnight stay in an Eco-Lodge built in the local style.
BLD Aregash Lodge

Day 17, Monday -Awasa/Langano/Addis Ababa
Crossing a fertile area cultivated with many kinds of tropical fruit, we reach the hot springs of Wondo Genet, where there is also a charming swimming pool. The site is an ancient and inactive crater, surrounded by a fine wooded area populated by baboons. After a relaxing stay in Wondo Genet we continue to Lake Langano. Langano is a holiday resort noted for its splendid beach and pinkish volcanic water ideal for swimming. Afterwards visit the nearby park around both Lakes Abyata and Shala. The park provides beautiful vistas over the two lakes and the valley which is covered in acacia trees. Numerous birds live on the shores, one of which is the pink flamingo. We will continue driving to Addis Ababa, arriving late in the afternoon. This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner and traditional show.
BLD Hilton Addis Ababa

Day 18, Tuesday - Addis Ababa/home city
Day at leisure until you are transferred to the airport for your flight home