Best Of Ethiopia Arba Minch

Best Of Ethiopia

  Tour operator: Intrepid Travel  
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Description

  • Visit Hamar villages, sitting with barely any influence from the outside world. If you're lucky, you might get a glimpse of the energetic 'jumping of the bull' – a long running initiation ceremony.
  • Meet a Mursi tribe and learn about their unique traditions of extending their lower lips and brutal stick fighting.
  • Search for the source of the Blue Nile on a boat cruise at Lake Tana, then discover the churches and unique castles of the regal city of Gondar.
  • Trek the majestic series of undulating amethyst peaks that make up the Simien Mountains, looking out for the distinctive red-hearted Gelada.

The Best of Ethiopia tour starts in Addis Ababa and ends in Lalibela. The Best of Ethiopia is an Explorer tour that takes 19 days taking you from Addis Ababa to Lalibela and through other destinations in Africa. 

Travel to Ethiopia and discover a beautiful country, barely touched by modern society. It’s an incredible combination of history, tradition, culture and nature. From 3 million-year-old fossilised hominid remains in Addis Ababa to the rituals of the Mursi, Hamar, Konso tribes and more through to amazing rock-hewn churches, hidden crypts and grottoes in Lalibela – this trip take you deep into human history. The 500-year-old monastery islands of Bahir Dar, the elegant castles of Gondar, the majestic geological formations of the Simien mountains, the giant obelisks that rise out of Axum, and even the rumoured home of the Ark of the Covenant. This 18 day trip travels through the villages and wildlands of Ethiopia, taking in views of the Blue Nile and trekking to the peaks of the Simien Mountains (meeting red chested Gelada baboons). You’ll be sure to taste the country’s famous coffee and delectable cuisine, and meet the genuine and friendly people along the way. This is an adventure like no other.

NEW UPDATES FOR 2019
In 2019 this itinerary will no longer camp in Mago NP or visit the Mursi tribe but rather have more time in Jinka to learn about injerra making and local life. Further the itinerary will not camp in Simien Mountain NP but rather return to a hotel in Debark. There will be additional day will be in Gondar to have free time discover this historic small town. The length of the trip, day of departure and start & finish points will remain unchanged.

ITINERARY
Day 1: Addis Ababa

Welcome to Ethiopia! Begin with a welcome meeting at the hotel at 6pm – please ask the reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for this, please arrive a day early so you are able to attend. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting. 

If you arrive early perhaps take a tour of this bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants. Established by the Emperor Menelik II in 1887, Addis Ababa is a relatively young city full of contrasts – the Addis Sheraton, with its ‘singing fountain’, is one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, yet you only need to travel a few streets away to find yourself among busy markets, dirt roads and the odd goat or two wandering the street. The optional city tour will include the National Museum, where you’ll find the remains of “Lucy’, the Ethnographic Museum, set within the beautiful gardens of Haile Selassie’s former palace.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 2: Arba Minch

After breakfast, drive south to Arba Minch, a region noted for its enormous variety of peoples and cultures. Many of these populations are nomadic or semi-nomadic and, far from the influence of the modern world, their ancient traditions remain intact. As the drive pushes onwards to Arba Minch, take a short detour to visit the Dorze people. The Dorze are renowned for their cotton-weaving techniques and beehive shaped houses constructed entirely from organic materials. These native speakers of the Omotic tongue are thought to have occupied this small highland enclave for at least 500 years. On a brief stay here, learn about their life and traditions, including the architecture behind their unique homes before proceeding on to Arba Minch. The road continues, climbing 1600 metres (5249 feet) on a series of switchbacks to provide dramatic views of the Great Rift Valley below.

Set in dramatic surroundings, Arba Minch lies on a cliff overlooking Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya, set under the stunning backdrop of the mountains to the west. Although there’s not much to do in town, it serves as the gateway to the endless green wildlands of the Omo Valley. Arrive at the lodge in the late afternoon where you’ll stay for the night.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 3: Jinka / Mago National Park

After an early breakfast, climb aboard a boat and travel across Lake Chamo on an excursion to hopefully see the resident hippos, Nile crocodiles, flourishing bird life and local fishermen working their trade on the lake. As today’s adventures continue, travel through the territories of several different tribes while trying to keep an eye out for the lands of the Konso, revered for their famous farming practices.

Head onwards to Jinka to visit an ethnographic museum dedicated to the South Omotic tribes. Jinka is known as a local capital to the South Omotic people, and many inhabitants of the surrounding areas come to visit the local markets to trade. There’s a mix of Aari, Banna, Besheda and Basketo people often seen passing through the area, adding a dash of cultural spice to the lively trading hub. After departing from Jinka, continue on to the Mago National Park where you’ll spend the night listening out for the chirp of birds and the howls of the African wild dogs.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Camping (basic facilities)
Day 4: Turmi

Continue on by driving northwest of Mago National Park (1.5 hours) to visit one of the villages sitting on the Mursi planes. Afterwards, return to Jinka and proceed to one of the local Ari villages before continuing to Turmi for an overnight stay.

The Mursi, possibly the most well known tribe in the area, is famous for both their women who practice extending their lower lips with clay discs and their men who engage in ruthless stick-fighting rituals called Donga. 

When a Mursi woman reaches 20 years of age, a slit is made beneath the lower lip where a clay plate is then inserted. Every year, a larger plate is added, stretching the lower lip until it juts out so far that a 5 centimetre (2 inch) plate can be worn and the lip can be stretched by the woman right over her head. This is considered to be the height of attractiveness. Mursi men do not escape unscathed however, as they take part in the Donga stick fights that sometimes end in the death of one of the participants. Decorated with white clay, they whack each other with 2 metre (2.1 yard) long poles. The winner is carried off by a group of eligible girls who then decide which one will marry him.

On the other hand, the people of the Ari tribe live in the lush surroundings of Jinka and grow coffee and enset (false banana) for trading and self-consumption. Their villages are some of the most beautiful in the country, surrounded by banana, mango, avocado and enset trees that clasp the colourful traditional huts. A brief stop at these villages offer a glimpse into authentic African life, albeit two very different sides of that coin.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Lodge
Day 5: Turmi

Travel south in the morning towards Omorate along a 75 kilometre (47 mile) stretch of paved road. As you pass through the acacia forests, savour encounters with men and women of the Hamar tribe as they herd their cattle on route before stopping in to meet the Daasanach people further down the road.

Omorate lies on the bank of the Omo River, close to the border to Kenya and serves as a popular base for exploring the rugged area. Wildlife roam freely in the nearby landscapes and there’s a good chance of seeing some form of antelope grazing on the ground or raptor birds stalking their prey overhead. The local tribes, Hamar and Daasanach, both cling to their cultures fairly tightly – you may witness evidence of their scarification practices or witness their more obvious and somewhat elaborate hairstyles. 

This afternoon’s visit to one of the Hamar villages proves rewarding, as the chance to inspect one of the local mud houses and small thatched huts offer a glimpse into another way of life divorced from the influences of the outside world. There’s the chance to witness the annual highlight of the Hamar calendar as the annual Bull Jumping Ceremony takes place – the culmination of a three day ‘rite of passage’ ritual where a young initiate has to jump up and down a line of 15 bulls before returning the same way. The ceremony is usually held around December/January and in August, right after the harvest season. 

There may be the chance to engage in a vibrant local market, savouring the smells and tastes while bumping shoulders with the Karo, Homer and Benna tribes. There’s plenty of interesting handcrafts on offer too – don’t forget to haggle for a better deal!

ACCOMMODATION

  • Lodge
Day 6: Konso

The drive today offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding scenery, including a glimpse of the terraced hills of Konso. All roads into South Omo pass through Konso, and this small town serves as a great base for exploring the hillside villages in the surrounding countryside. Visit a mora, a central communal building used by men and boys as a social area – women are unfortunately excluded. Keep an eye out for the carved wooden grave markers in the area, a Konso tradition where the deceased warriors features are enhanced by using teeth made from animal bones. As the evening sets in, spend time relaxing in the Kanta Lodge as you share tales with friends on the last night of your adventure.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Lodge
Day 7: Addis Ababa

Return to Arba Minch in the morning before taking a flight back to Addis Ababa. Enjoy a free day in the city before meeting up with your new group in the evening before setting off on the next part of your Ethiopian adventure. Tonight dinner is included at a local restaurant.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 8: Bahir Dar

Today we will take a spectacular flight to Bahirdar. From the air we can gaze across the extraordinary nature of the Ethiopian Plateau, repeatedly cut by immensely deep gorges. Bahirdar is a small but fast growing town on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. It has long attracted religious men and the area contains numerous churches and monasteries, many of them on the thirty or so islands of Lake Tana.
This afternoon, board a sightseeing boat for a cruise around the lake. Covering over 3,500 square kilometres, this is Ethiopia’s largest lake and is home to 37 islands, 20 of which house some of Ethiopia’s most venerated monasteries. Many of these monasteries are believed to date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and feature superb ecclesiastical art. Legend has it that the Ark of Covenant was hidden here for protection during the times when Pagan forces invaded the ancient capital Axum. Your boat trip will take you to the monastery of Ura-Kidane Mehret, which dates from between the 16th and 18th centuries. It is renowned for its collection of crosses and crowns, and its incredible painted walls that offer up a virtual 'who’s who' of Ethiopian saints. The boat returns to your hotel via the source of the ‘Blue’ section of the Nile.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 9: Bahir Dar

Head out for the Blue Nile Falls today. Located 32 kilometers south of Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile Falls measure over 400 metres wide and crash down 48 metres in full flood. These falls are known locally as Tis Isat (Smoking Water) and are a spectacular sight when the water’s high. New hydro-electrical plants and dams have somewhat impacted on their magnificence, but the sight is still a memorable one. You can take a longer scenic walk past the main viewpoint (1.5 kilometers) or a shorter walk to reach the foot of the falls. You will then cross the Nile River by boat to reach your vehicle. After a leisurely lunch back in Bahir Dar, perhaps visit the open air market to take a tuk tuk up to the town viewpoint.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 10: Gondar

Travel north around the edge of Lake Tana this morning and head for the regal city of Gondar. This drive will take approximately 4.5 hours, including stops for photos along the way. Gondar was the 17th and 18th century capital of Ethiopia, and is famed for its medieval castles and churches. 
This afternoon, there is the option to visit Gondar’s most significant churches and castles, either as part of a tour or unaccompanied. The city's unique Royal Enclosure is a World Heritage site, home to dramatic Emperor-built castles unlike any other in Africa. The architecture shows the richness of Axumite traditions as well as the prosperity of Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries. Spend the afternoon visiting these medieval castles – like the two-storied palace of Emperor Fasilades – and stop by the famous church of Debre Berhan Selassie. The church is one of the finest in Ethiopia, with walls and ceilings covered stunning in ancient murals of angels.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • Gondar - Church & Castles tour - USD 30
  • Gondar - Church of Debre Berhan Selassie - ETB 100
  • Gondar - Fasil Gimb Castles Compound - ETB 200
Day 11: Debark

After breakfast there is free time to explore the quiet streets Gondar or perhaps enjoy the views from the hotel poolside. After an early lunch in the city, we make the drive to Debark (approximately 3 hours), your base for exploring the Simien Mountains. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore the small town of Debark on your own.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 12: Simien Mountains National Park

Enjoy a full day to explore the spectacular scenery of the Simien Mountains National Park. The park is a majestic series of undulating amethyst peaks, including Ethiopia’s highest point – Ras Dejen (4550 metres). The peaks have been eroded over millions of years and have left strange and wonderful geological formations behind. The mountains are also home to much of Ethiopia’s wildlife and are great for bird watching. Once you pass the entrance to the National park, you will hike and drive up to Sankaber and enjoy dramatic views of the mountain landscape. The park is home to some of the world’s most elusive animals, and while you're here you might encounter troops of the endemic Gelada baboons. The baboons, only found in Ethiopia, are often referred to as the ‘bleeding heart baboon’ or the 'lion monkey’. Their coat is shaggy, resembling a lion, while their chest has a marked ‘red heart’ or patch. The Gelada baboon doesn’t have natural enemies and so can be found in good numbers and are quite easy to approach. After the hike set up camp within the park to experience the park by night. The camp has no showers and basic facilities.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Camping
Day 13: Aksum

Take the asphalt but winding road up to the fabled city of Aksum, crossing the lowlands of the Simien Mountains and the Tekeze River gorge (approximately 7 hours). Though this is a long and winding journey, the spectacular views of the mountains makes the time slide away. You’ll arrive in Aksum in the late afternoon. Aksum was once the capital of Africa’s oldest empire – the Kingdom of Aksum lasted from 1 AD to 700 AD and grew to rank among the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient world. It was positioned at the centre of an important trading route that stretched from Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea and all the way to India and Sri Lanka. Axumite society was rich, well organized and technically advanced. In this period, bronze, silver and gold coins were produced, amazing tombs and monoliths constructed and Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 14: Aksum

Today is a free day with the option to tour the incredible historical sites of Aksum. Visit the stele fields, several tombs, the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s palace and an archaeological museum. The field is home to over 100 stele – the largest one measuring 33 metres and weighing an incredible 517 tones. Stele (or monoliths) are carved from a single piece of granite, and are often elaborately decorated to resemble a multi-story house complete with windows, doors, locks and structural beams. Their scale reflects how important Axum once was, and they were probably transported by elephants from a nearby quarry. The mausoleums in this area include the tomb of the false door and also the tombs of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, while the archaeological museum houses fascinating displays. An unimposing building with a green picket fence is the St Mary of Zion Church, the first built in sub-Saharan Africa. This holds the crowns of various former Ethiopian emperors and is even said to house the most fabled biblical relic in history – the Ark of the Covenant. The afternoon is free for you to keep exploring – you might like to see some of the handcraft shops or take a walk out of Aksum for an hour or so to see Gobodera, the quarry place for the stele and rock lioness relief.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • Aksum - Historical Site Tour - USD 30
  • Aksum – Stele field & Archaeological museum - ETB 100
  • Aksum - St Mary Zion church, castle church (men only) & museum - ETB 200
Day 15: Mekele

Leave Axum for Mekele, looking across to see the spectacular Adwa Mountains and the battlefield of Adwa, where the Ethiopians defeated the Italians in 1896. Stop to visit the Pre-Christian Pagan Temple of Yeha before breaking for lunch at Adigrat. Yeha is though to have been Ethiopia’s first capital and the temple has been dated to around the 6th century BC. After lunch, drive to Enda Teka Tesfay and walk to the rock church of Medhane Alem Adi Kesho (approximately 4 hours). There are numerous magnificent rock-hewn churches in the Tigray region, but Medhane Alem Adi Kesho is one of the best in terms of architectural quality. The outside is roughly carved, but the interior ceiling is elaborately sculpted. Spend the night in nearby Mekele.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 16: Lalibela

Start the long journey to Lalibela early in the morning on a smooth paved road and, after a couple of hours, reach the spectacular mountain range of Amba Alaje. Continue through green valleys and flat plains before turning west towards Lalibela at Woldia (approximately 4.5 hours). The road after Woldia offers one of the most scenic routes in the country. It involves climbing on winding roads along steep hills and evergreen lush valleys up to the Delanta Plateau (3,500 metres), then contouring around the valley for a couple of hours, before arriving at Lalibela in the late afternoon (approximately 4 hours). Despite the town of Lalibela being isolated in the Lasta Mountains at 2,630 metres above sea level, it is still the home of Ethiopia’s top sight, and one of the world's greatest historical and religious sites.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 17: Lalibela

Today you’ll use the morning and afternoon to visit Lalibela’s amazing churches, which look like they've been dropped down from the sky. Between 1137 and 1270, several astounding rock-hewn churches were constructed in Lalibela; astonishing because most are not built from carved freestanding rocks, but instead created from huge single blocks of stone unearthed by the digging of enormous pits. The Northern Group contains seven churches, a tomb, a chapel and a sunken chapel. At the centre of the group is Bet Medhane Alem, measuring 33.5 metres by 23.5 metres and said to be the largest rock-hewn church in the world. A tunnel connects three of the churches in a courtyard to the east, whilst another tunnel connects two other churches to the west of Bet Medhane Alem. However it is Bet Giyorgis (St George's), carved in the form of a Greek cross and lying slightly apart from the main northern cluster, which is the most famous and frequently photographed. This church is exceptionally well-preserved and is probably the most visually perfect. The Eastern group of five churches includes the only hypogeous church, where only the roof remains attached to the overhead rock.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 18: Lalibela

This morning we trek to the rock church of Asheten Mariam, which sits on the 3,150-metre-high Abune Josef mountain that overlooks Lalibela. You will climb for 2.5 hours to the summit, where the church is carved out of a cleft into the cliff face. The monastery houses ancient parchments and crosses, but the real treasure is the setting and the view. Descend the mountain and return to the hotel for lunch. This afternoon is free to relax or continue exporing this fascinating town. This evening you will enjoy a special dinner at Ben Ababa open air restaurant.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 19: Lalibela

This trip comes to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave at any time.

 

MEALS

  • 18 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 5 Dinner

TRANSPORT

  • Private vehicle , Boat , Plane

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES

  • Lake Tana - Boat Cruise
  • Bahir Dar - Blue Nile Falls
  • Simien Mountains National Park - Entrance fees
  • Simien Mountains National Park - Hike
  • Aksum - Yeha Temple
  • Tigray - Rock Church of Medhane Alem Adi Kesho
  • Lalibela - Afternoon Tour
  • Lalibela - Asheten Mariam Hike

Description

  • Visit Hamar villages, sitting with barely any influence from the outside world.…

Read More

Description

  • Visit Hamar villages, sitting with barely any influence from the outside world. If you're lucky, you might get a glimpse of the energetic 'jumping of the bull' – a long running initiation ceremony.
  • Meet a Mursi tribe and learn about their unique traditions of extending their lower lips and brutal stick fighting.
  • Search for the source of the Blue Nile on a boat cruise at Lake Tana, then discover the churches and unique castles of the regal city of Gondar.
  • Trek the majestic series of undulating amethyst peaks that make up the Simien Mountains, looking out for the distinctive red-hearted Gelada.

The Best of Ethiopia tour starts in Addis Ababa and ends in Lalibela. The Best of Ethiopia is an Explorer tour that takes 19 days taking you from Addis Ababa to Lalibela and through other destinations in Africa. 

Travel to Ethiopia and discover a beautiful country, barely touched by modern society. It’s an incredible combination of history, tradition, culture and nature. From 3 million-year-old fossilised hominid remains in Addis Ababa to the rituals of the Mursi, Hamar, Konso tribes and more through to amazing rock-hewn churches, hidden crypts and grottoes in Lalibela – this trip take you deep into human history. The 500-year-old monastery islands of Bahir Dar, the elegant castles of Gondar, the majestic geological formations of the Simien mountains, the giant obelisks that rise out of Axum, and even the rumoured home of the Ark of the Covenant. This 18 day trip travels through the villages and wildlands of Ethiopia, taking in views of the Blue Nile and trekking to the peaks of the Simien Mountains (meeting red chested Gelada baboons). You’ll be sure to taste the country’s famous coffee and delectable cuisine, and meet the genuine and friendly people along the way. This is an adventure like no other.

NEW UPDATES FOR 2019
In 2019 this itinerary will no longer camp in Mago NP or visit the Mursi tribe but rather have more time in Jinka to learn about injerra making and local life. Further the itinerary will not camp in Simien Mountain NP but rather return to a hotel in Debark. There will be additional day will be in Gondar to have free time discover this historic small town. The length of the trip, day of departure and start & finish points will remain unchanged.

ITINERARY
Day 1: Addis Ababa

Welcome to Ethiopia! Begin with a welcome meeting at the hotel at 6pm – please ask the reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for this, please arrive a day early so you are able to attend. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting. 

If you arrive early perhaps take a tour of this bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants. Established by the Emperor Menelik II in 1887, Addis Ababa is a relatively young city full of contrasts – the Addis Sheraton, with its ‘singing fountain’, is one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, yet you only need to travel a few streets away to find yourself among busy markets, dirt roads and the odd goat or two wandering the street. The optional city tour will include the National Museum, where you’ll find the remains of “Lucy’, the Ethnographic Museum, set within the beautiful gardens of Haile Selassie’s former palace.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 2: Arba Minch

After breakfast, drive south to Arba Minch, a region noted for its enormous variety of peoples and cultures. Many of these populations are nomadic or semi-nomadic and, far from the influence of the modern world, their ancient traditions remain intact. As the drive pushes onwards to Arba Minch, take a short detour to visit the Dorze people. The Dorze are renowned for their cotton-weaving techniques and beehive shaped houses constructed entirely from organic materials. These native speakers of the Omotic tongue are thought to have occupied this small highland enclave for at least 500 years. On a brief stay here, learn about their life and traditions, including the architecture behind their unique homes before proceeding on to Arba Minch. The road continues, climbing 1600 metres (5249 feet) on a series of switchbacks to provide dramatic views of the Great Rift Valley below.

Set in dramatic surroundings, Arba Minch lies on a cliff overlooking Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya, set under the stunning backdrop of the mountains to the west. Although there’s not much to do in town, it serves as the gateway to the endless green wildlands of the Omo Valley. Arrive at the lodge in the late afternoon where you’ll stay for the night.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 3: Jinka / Mago National Park

After an early breakfast, climb aboard a boat and travel across Lake Chamo on an excursion to hopefully see the resident hippos, Nile crocodiles, flourishing bird life and local fishermen working their trade on the lake. As today’s adventures continue, travel through the territories of several different tribes while trying to keep an eye out for the lands of the Konso, revered for their famous farming practices.

Head onwards to Jinka to visit an ethnographic museum dedicated to the South Omotic tribes. Jinka is known as a local capital to the South Omotic people, and many inhabitants of the surrounding areas come to visit the local markets to trade. There’s a mix of Aari, Banna, Besheda and Basketo people often seen passing through the area, adding a dash of cultural spice to the lively trading hub. After departing from Jinka, continue on to the Mago National Park where you’ll spend the night listening out for the chirp of birds and the howls of the African wild dogs.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Camping (basic facilities)
Day 4: Turmi

Continue on by driving northwest of Mago National Park (1.5 hours) to visit one of the villages sitting on the Mursi planes. Afterwards, return to Jinka and proceed to one of the local Ari villages before continuing to Turmi for an overnight stay.

The Mursi, possibly the most well known tribe in the area, is famous for both their women who practice extending their lower lips with clay discs and their men who engage in ruthless stick-fighting rituals called Donga. 

When a Mursi woman reaches 20 years of age, a slit is made beneath the lower lip where a clay plate is then inserted. Every year, a larger plate is added, stretching the lower lip until it juts out so far that a 5 centimetre (2 inch) plate can be worn and the lip can be stretched by the woman right over her head. This is considered to be the height of attractiveness. Mursi men do not escape unscathed however, as they take part in the Donga stick fights that sometimes end in the death of one of the participants. Decorated with white clay, they whack each other with 2 metre (2.1 yard) long poles. The winner is carried off by a group of eligible girls who then decide which one will marry him.

On the other hand, the people of the Ari tribe live in the lush surroundings of Jinka and grow coffee and enset (false banana) for trading and self-consumption. Their villages are some of the most beautiful in the country, surrounded by banana, mango, avocado and enset trees that clasp the colourful traditional huts. A brief stop at these villages offer a glimpse into authentic African life, albeit two very different sides of that coin.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Lodge
Day 5: Turmi

Travel south in the morning towards Omorate along a 75 kilometre (47 mile) stretch of paved road. As you pass through the acacia forests, savour encounters with men and women of the Hamar tribe as they herd their cattle on route before stopping in to meet the Daasanach people further down the road.

Omorate lies on the bank of the Omo River, close to the border to Kenya and serves as a popular base for exploring the rugged area. Wildlife roam freely in the nearby landscapes and there’s a good chance of seeing some form of antelope grazing on the ground or raptor birds stalking their prey overhead. The local tribes, Hamar and Daasanach, both cling to their cultures fairly tightly – you may witness evidence of their scarification practices or witness their more obvious and somewhat elaborate hairstyles. 

This afternoon’s visit to one of the Hamar villages proves rewarding, as the chance to inspect one of the local mud houses and small thatched huts offer a glimpse into another way of life divorced from the influences of the outside world. There’s the chance to witness the annual highlight of the Hamar calendar as the annual Bull Jumping Ceremony takes place – the culmination of a three day ‘rite of passage’ ritual where a young initiate has to jump up and down a line of 15 bulls before returning the same way. The ceremony is usually held around December/January and in August, right after the harvest season. 

There may be the chance to engage in a vibrant local market, savouring the smells and tastes while bumping shoulders with the Karo, Homer and Benna tribes. There’s plenty of interesting handcrafts on offer too – don’t forget to haggle for a better deal!

ACCOMMODATION

  • Lodge
Day 6: Konso

The drive today offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding scenery, including a glimpse of the terraced hills of Konso. All roads into South Omo pass through Konso, and this small town serves as a great base for exploring the hillside villages in the surrounding countryside. Visit a mora, a central communal building used by men and boys as a social area – women are unfortunately excluded. Keep an eye out for the carved wooden grave markers in the area, a Konso tradition where the deceased warriors features are enhanced by using teeth made from animal bones. As the evening sets in, spend time relaxing in the Kanta Lodge as you share tales with friends on the last night of your adventure.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Lodge
Day 7: Addis Ababa

Return to Arba Minch in the morning before taking a flight back to Addis Ababa. Enjoy a free day in the city before meeting up with your new group in the evening before setting off on the next part of your Ethiopian adventure. Tonight dinner is included at a local restaurant.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 8: Bahir Dar

Today we will take a spectacular flight to Bahirdar. From the air we can gaze across the extraordinary nature of the Ethiopian Plateau, repeatedly cut by immensely deep gorges. Bahirdar is a small but fast growing town on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. It has long attracted religious men and the area contains numerous churches and monasteries, many of them on the thirty or so islands of Lake Tana.
This afternoon, board a sightseeing boat for a cruise around the lake. Covering over 3,500 square kilometres, this is Ethiopia’s largest lake and is home to 37 islands, 20 of which house some of Ethiopia’s most venerated monasteries. Many of these monasteries are believed to date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and feature superb ecclesiastical art. Legend has it that the Ark of Covenant was hidden here for protection during the times when Pagan forces invaded the ancient capital Axum. Your boat trip will take you to the monastery of Ura-Kidane Mehret, which dates from between the 16th and 18th centuries. It is renowned for its collection of crosses and crowns, and its incredible painted walls that offer up a virtual 'who’s who' of Ethiopian saints. The boat returns to your hotel via the source of the ‘Blue’ section of the Nile.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 9: Bahir Dar

Head out for the Blue Nile Falls today. Located 32 kilometers south of Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile Falls measure over 400 metres wide and crash down 48 metres in full flood. These falls are known locally as Tis Isat (Smoking Water) and are a spectacular sight when the water’s high. New hydro-electrical plants and dams have somewhat impacted on their magnificence, but the sight is still a memorable one. You can take a longer scenic walk past the main viewpoint (1.5 kilometers) or a shorter walk to reach the foot of the falls. You will then cross the Nile River by boat to reach your vehicle. After a leisurely lunch back in Bahir Dar, perhaps visit the open air market to take a tuk tuk up to the town viewpoint.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 10: Gondar

Travel north around the edge of Lake Tana this morning and head for the regal city of Gondar. This drive will take approximately 4.5 hours, including stops for photos along the way. Gondar was the 17th and 18th century capital of Ethiopia, and is famed for its medieval castles and churches. 
This afternoon, there is the option to visit Gondar’s most significant churches and castles, either as part of a tour or unaccompanied. The city's unique Royal Enclosure is a World Heritage site, home to dramatic Emperor-built castles unlike any other in Africa. The architecture shows the richness of Axumite traditions as well as the prosperity of Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries. Spend the afternoon visiting these medieval castles – like the two-storied palace of Emperor Fasilades – and stop by the famous church of Debre Berhan Selassie. The church is one of the finest in Ethiopia, with walls and ceilings covered stunning in ancient murals of angels.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • Gondar - Church & Castles tour - USD 30
  • Gondar - Church of Debre Berhan Selassie - ETB 100
  • Gondar - Fasil Gimb Castles Compound - ETB 200
Day 11: Debark

After breakfast there is free time to explore the quiet streets Gondar or perhaps enjoy the views from the hotel poolside. After an early lunch in the city, we make the drive to Debark (approximately 3 hours), your base for exploring the Simien Mountains. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore the small town of Debark on your own.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 12: Simien Mountains National Park

Enjoy a full day to explore the spectacular scenery of the Simien Mountains National Park. The park is a majestic series of undulating amethyst peaks, including Ethiopia’s highest point – Ras Dejen (4550 metres). The peaks have been eroded over millions of years and have left strange and wonderful geological formations behind. The mountains are also home to much of Ethiopia’s wildlife and are great for bird watching. Once you pass the entrance to the National park, you will hike and drive up to Sankaber and enjoy dramatic views of the mountain landscape. The park is home to some of the world’s most elusive animals, and while you're here you might encounter troops of the endemic Gelada baboons. The baboons, only found in Ethiopia, are often referred to as the ‘bleeding heart baboon’ or the 'lion monkey’. Their coat is shaggy, resembling a lion, while their chest has a marked ‘red heart’ or patch. The Gelada baboon doesn’t have natural enemies and so can be found in good numbers and are quite easy to approach. After the hike set up camp within the park to experience the park by night. The camp has no showers and basic facilities.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Camping
Day 13: Aksum

Take the asphalt but winding road up to the fabled city of Aksum, crossing the lowlands of the Simien Mountains and the Tekeze River gorge (approximately 7 hours). Though this is a long and winding journey, the spectacular views of the mountains makes the time slide away. You’ll arrive in Aksum in the late afternoon. Aksum was once the capital of Africa’s oldest empire – the Kingdom of Aksum lasted from 1 AD to 700 AD and grew to rank among the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient world. It was positioned at the centre of an important trading route that stretched from Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea and all the way to India and Sri Lanka. Axumite society was rich, well organized and technically advanced. In this period, bronze, silver and gold coins were produced, amazing tombs and monoliths constructed and Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 14: Aksum

Today is a free day with the option to tour the incredible historical sites of Aksum. Visit the stele fields, several tombs, the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s palace and an archaeological museum. The field is home to over 100 stele – the largest one measuring 33 metres and weighing an incredible 517 tones. Stele (or monoliths) are carved from a single piece of granite, and are often elaborately decorated to resemble a multi-story house complete with windows, doors, locks and structural beams. Their scale reflects how important Axum once was, and they were probably transported by elephants from a nearby quarry. The mausoleums in this area include the tomb of the false door and also the tombs of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, while the archaeological museum houses fascinating displays. An unimposing building with a green picket fence is the St Mary of Zion Church, the first built in sub-Saharan Africa. This holds the crowns of various former Ethiopian emperors and is even said to house the most fabled biblical relic in history – the Ark of the Covenant. The afternoon is free for you to keep exploring – you might like to see some of the handcraft shops or take a walk out of Aksum for an hour or so to see Gobodera, the quarry place for the stele and rock lioness relief.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • Aksum - Historical Site Tour - USD 30
  • Aksum – Stele field & Archaeological museum - ETB 100
  • Aksum - St Mary Zion church, castle church (men only) & museum - ETB 200
Day 15: Mekele

Leave Axum for Mekele, looking across to see the spectacular Adwa Mountains and the battlefield of Adwa, where the Ethiopians defeated the Italians in 1896. Stop to visit the Pre-Christian Pagan Temple of Yeha before breaking for lunch at Adigrat. Yeha is though to have been Ethiopia’s first capital and the temple has been dated to around the 6th century BC. After lunch, drive to Enda Teka Tesfay and walk to the rock church of Medhane Alem Adi Kesho (approximately 4 hours). There are numerous magnificent rock-hewn churches in the Tigray region, but Medhane Alem Adi Kesho is one of the best in terms of architectural quality. The outside is roughly carved, but the interior ceiling is elaborately sculpted. Spend the night in nearby Mekele.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 16: Lalibela

Start the long journey to Lalibela early in the morning on a smooth paved road and, after a couple of hours, reach the spectacular mountain range of Amba Alaje. Continue through green valleys and flat plains before turning west towards Lalibela at Woldia (approximately 4.5 hours). The road after Woldia offers one of the most scenic routes in the country. It involves climbing on winding roads along steep hills and evergreen lush valleys up to the Delanta Plateau (3,500 metres), then contouring around the valley for a couple of hours, before arriving at Lalibela in the late afternoon (approximately 4 hours). Despite the town of Lalibela being isolated in the Lasta Mountains at 2,630 metres above sea level, it is still the home of Ethiopia’s top sight, and one of the world's greatest historical and religious sites.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 17: Lalibela

Today you’ll use the morning and afternoon to visit Lalibela’s amazing churches, which look like they've been dropped down from the sky. Between 1137 and 1270, several astounding rock-hewn churches were constructed in Lalibela; astonishing because most are not built from carved freestanding rocks, but instead created from huge single blocks of stone unearthed by the digging of enormous pits. The Northern Group contains seven churches, a tomb, a chapel and a sunken chapel. At the centre of the group is Bet Medhane Alem, measuring 33.5 metres by 23.5 metres and said to be the largest rock-hewn church in the world. A tunnel connects three of the churches in a courtyard to the east, whilst another tunnel connects two other churches to the west of Bet Medhane Alem. However it is Bet Giyorgis (St George's), carved in the form of a Greek cross and lying slightly apart from the main northern cluster, which is the most famous and frequently photographed. This church is exceptionally well-preserved and is probably the most visually perfect. The Eastern group of five churches includes the only hypogeous church, where only the roof remains attached to the overhead rock.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 18: Lalibela

This morning we trek to the rock church of Asheten Mariam, which sits on the 3,150-metre-high Abune Josef mountain that overlooks Lalibela. You will climb for 2.5 hours to the summit, where the church is carved out of a cleft into the cliff face. The monastery houses ancient parchments and crosses, but the real treasure is the setting and the view. Descend the mountain and return to the hotel for lunch. This afternoon is free to relax or continue exporing this fascinating town. This evening you will enjoy a special dinner at Ben Ababa open air restaurant.

ACCOMMODATION

  • Hotel
Day 19: Lalibela

This trip comes to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave at any time.

 

MEALS

  • 18 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 5 Dinner

TRANSPORT

  • Private vehicle , Boat , Plane

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES

  • Lake Tana - Boat Cruise
  • Bahir Dar - Blue Nile Falls
  • Simien Mountains National Park - Entrance fees
  • Simien Mountains National Park - Hike
  • Aksum - Yeha Temple
  • Tigray - Rock Church of Medhane Alem Adi Kesho
  • Lalibela - Afternoon Tour
  • Lalibela - Asheten Mariam Hike
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Days : 19 | Nights : 18


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