Take in the capital city of Addis Ababa, its Ethnographical Museum, and the National Museum, home to the famous skeleton of Lucy, a 3.1-million-year-old skeleton from the Great African Rift Valley. At Bahir Dar, cruise Lake Tana, the largest highland lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile. Visit the Zeghie Peninsula, known for its 14th century, round, grass roofed churches with their magnificent wall murals. Travel to the magnificent Simien Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for distinctive wildlife. At Axum, renowned for its cathedral of St. Mary Zion, where legend has it the original Ark of Covenant is housed; several standing monolithic stelae; and the ruins of Queen of Sheba’s palace. Savor this remarkable journey into Ethiopia’s rich heritage and landscapes.
Price starts at $750 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.
Day 1: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Welcome to Addis Ababa, the capital of the African Union and Ethiopia. Begin your Ethiopia adventure right from the airport as you enjoy your first glimpse of the city. Begin at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, built to commemorate the country’s liberation from Italian occupation. It is also the burial place for many famous people and was once the largest Ethiopian Orthodox cathedral. The next stop is the Ethnographical Museum with its main exhibits covering local crafts, regions and people. It is an ideal place to begin to discover Ethiopia’s rich ethnic diversity. The museum has an impressive array of religious crosses, triptychs and murals. It also features former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie’s bedroom and bathroom. Finally, visit the National Museum, which houses the famous skeleton of Lucy, discovered in 1974 by Donald Johnson. This 3.1-million-year-old skeleton was found in the Great African Rift Valley. This excellent museum has many ancient exhibits that reflect the importance of Ethiopia as the ‘Cradle of Mankind’. There is also an historic room featuring finery worn in the wars, including crowns, weapons and pictures of wartime heroes and kings. Then, discover Merkato, Africa’s biggest open air market, where you can try your hand at bargaining. Sheraton Addis Ababa (L,D)
Day 2: Addis Ababa / Bahir Dar
Following an early breakfast, you transfer to Addis Ababa’s Bole Airport for your flight to Bahir Dar, “by the side of the sea.” After check in at Kuriftu Resort & Spa, you set out on a cruise of Lake Tana, the largest highland lake in Ethiopia. Lake Tana is also the source of the Blue Nile, a fact that may explain many of Ethiopia’s links with the ancient world. Even today, the papyrus tankwa that sail the lake bear a striking re-semblance to the boats of Ancient Egypt.
Visit the Zeghie Peninsula, known for its 14th century, round, grass roofed churches and their magnificent wall murals. The Azoa Mariam Church and the Ura Kidane Mehret Church have an architectural style typical of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with mud plastered round walls and conical thatched roofs. Ura is known especially for its fine frescoes, manuscripts, ecclesiastical objects like crowns of various emperors dating from the 14th century CE, processional crosses of silver and gold, silver-drum and royal vestments.
After lunch, visit the Blue Nile Falls is 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 stream clouds and rainbows. Kuriftu Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 3: Bahir Dar / Simien Mountains National Park
Today, travel to the magnificent Simien Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. En route, visit the former Felasha (Ethiopian Jews) village at Wolleka. Most of the Felasha or Bete Israel, as they prefer to be called, were taken to Israel in the 1980s. Also, you stopover at Kossoye viewpoint, about 40km/25 mi from Gonder on the way to the Simien Mountains National park. At an altitude of about 2,300 m/7,546 ft, this beautiful spot provides magnificent views of the Simien Mountain range and as well as of the lower ridges and valleys. Queen Elizabeth II once stopped here while traveling to Axum. The Simien Mountains National Park presents perhaps the most dramatic scenery in Africa great volcanic plugs, formed some 40 million years ago.
Here, you can see the endemic Gelada or bleeding-heart baboon, the lion monkey, the Walia ibex, the Semein wolf (the rarest canid in the world) and rock hyrax, and endemic birds such as the thick billed raven, black headed siskin, white collared pigeon, wattled ibis, white billed starling, spot breasted plover and white backed black tit. Cruising Lammergeyers are often seen. The park is also famous for its Afro-Alpine flora, meadows and grasslands punctuated by giant lobelia and flowering red hot pokers.
The rest of the day is spent at Sankaber, the first camp sight of the park. Enjoy the beautiful landscape and the flora and fauna before driving to Debark and checking into your lodge, which is perched on the edge of the escarpment. This is a perfect place to experience Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park. Combining simple luxury and elegant design in a stunning setting, the lodge promotes sustainable tourism with minimal environmental impact, and provides new opportunities to the local community. Limalimo Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4: Simien Mountains National Park
Following breakfast, drive to the Hyena Meda (field) to enjoy the view before continuing to Chenek, at an altitude of 3,620 m/11,877 ft. The campsite offers spectacularly scenic mountains range, an impressive escarpment, and varieties of plant and animal species. Spend the day discovering the ecosystem and your surroundings at Chenek. It is a home for the endemic Walia ibexes. Return to your lodge. Limalimo Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5: Simien Mountains National Park / Gondar
Following breakfast, drive to Gondar, savoring the views and countryside along the way. Gondar, “the Camelot of Africa,” is famous for its medieval castles and churches. Gondar was founded by Emperor Fasiladas in 1636 as the royal capital of Ethiopia. For several centuries, Ethiopia had been ruled from a succession of temporary capitals and Fasiladas recognized that a permanent capital might help provide greater internal stability. By the time of Fasiladas’ death in 1667, Gondar was the largest and most important city in the empire. It retained its position as the capital of Ethiopia for 250 years, though this status was largely nominal from the late 18th century onwards. Visit the Royal Enclosure or Fasil Gibbi, encompassing the castles of various Gondarene emperors. The Fasiladas Palace, and the Quskuam Church (believed to be the home of famous explorer James Bruce during the 1770’s). A short drive from the town center is the bath of King Fasilides. The pool is now the central stage on which the Timkat or Epiphany festival is celebrated in Gondar. Debre Berhane Selassie church with its remarkable walls and ceiling is completely covered with murals. The angels’ faces on the ceiling have become a common motif in Ethiopian design. Mayleko is a luxury lodge surrounded with breathtaking beauty and nature. It blends traditional elegance with modern luxury and will offer cuisine and service of fittingly standard. Mayleko Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6: Gondar / Axum
Following breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Axum. Check in to Sabean International Hotel and enjoy the sightseeing in Axum, which is renowned for its cathedral of St. Mary Zion, where, as legend has it, the original Ark of Covenant is housed. There are several standing monolithic stelae made of single pieces of granite of which three of them have identical decoration. The Queen of Sheba’s Palace is believed to be the oldest building in Axum. The site contains the remains of what was once a massive palace with finely mortared stonewalls, deep foundations and its own impressive drainage system. Sabean International Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 7: Axum / Lalibela
Following breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Lalibela. Ethiopia is one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity early in the fourth century CE. Its historical roots date to the time of the Apostles. Lalibela is famous for its rock-hewn churches that date from the seventh to 13th centuries. Known as the “New Jerusalem,” the town is recognized for its renowned rock-hewn churches. Each church was carved from a single piece of rock to symbolize spirituality and humility. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is stunning to investigate. After checking in to your hotel, set out to see the first group of churches; a group of six churches that lies in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mika-el, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel and Bet Medhane Alem.
Bet Medhane Alem, the largest, is built like a Greek temple. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant and majestic of all the Lalibela churches, lies somewhat isolated in the southwest part of the village on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached through a tunnel. Later, take part in a traditional coffee ceremony. Mountain View Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8: Lalibela
Following breakfast, travel by road about 40 km/25 mi to the cave church of Yemrehane Christos, built by the king of the same name before the reign of King Lalibela. The church is constructed inside a cave, in Axumite style, similar to the church at Debre Damo, with alternating levels of wood and stone. This afternoon, explore the group of four churches south of the Jordan River – Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercuiros, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufa’el. Bet Emanuel’s elaborate exterior is much praised by art historians.group of four churches south of the Jordan River. Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercuiros, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufa’el. Bet Emanuel’s elaborate exterior is much praised by art historians. Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant and majestic of all the Lalibela churches, lies somewhat isolated in the southwest part of the village on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached threw a tunnel. Mountain View Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 9: Lalibela / Addis Ababa
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Addis Ababa. The rest of the day leisure at your hotel. Tonight, you will have a wonderful cultural evening at one of Addis Ababa Restaurants. Ethiopia is a mosaic of people with more than 80 languages, different lifestyles, costumes and cultural dances. Take a chance to experience some of these cultural dances and traditional meals with a drink of Tej, a type of wine made from honey. Sheraton Addis Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 10: Addis Ababa / Depart
Transfer to the airport for your international flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from US$750 per person per day.