ADDIS ABABA ARRIVAL AND CITY TOUR
On arrival in Addis Ababa you will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel. Addis was founded in 1886 by Menelik II, and situated at an elevation of around 2438m which makes third highest capital city in the world. Addis Ababa enjoys an excellent climate all year round, with an average temperature of 25°C. we will start our site-seeing by National museum which houses some of the country’s historic treasures. The collection of fossils and bones of early hominids discovered in Ethiopia include the 3.5 million year old remains of ‘Lucy’, the oldest hominid every found. Proceed visiting to the two major highlights of the city, the Ethnographic Museum and the church of the Holy Trinity, Ethiopia’s main cathedral and home to the remains of the last emperor, Haile Selassie.
DRIVE TO BAHIR DAR
After breakfast drive to Bahir Dar via Debre Markos a total of 565 kms and on the way after 103 kms drive, visit the 13th C monastery of Debre Libanos which founded by Tekle Haymanot. Further down, you will enjoy the fabulous Blue Nile Gorge, which spans altitudes of around 2,500 to 1,200 m, is comparable in scale to America’s Grand Canyon. After lunch in Debre Markos, keep driving through the beautiful scenery and Amehara peoples’ villages. In the late afternoon arrive in the Bahir Dar and check-in to the Hotel.
BAHIR DAR – VISITING THE BLUE NILE AND LAKE TANNA
Full day visiting in Bahar Dar, capital of the Amhara region situated on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country. Bahir Dar is one of the best well-planned cities in Ethiopia. This morning we take a boat trip on the lake to learn the secrets held by the monasteries and churches on the islands. We will visit Ura Kidane Mihret church on Zeghie peninsula. Under the thatched roof are some distinctive colourful paintings of religious scenes, and an impressive display of illuminated bibles written in Ge’ez, the religious language from which Amharic is derived. In the afternoon we will visit Tississat Falls, Amharic for ‘water that smokes’ located about 32km south of Bahar Dar. Due to a nearby hydro electrical power scheme, the waterfalls can no longer be guaranteed to be in full force.
DRIVE TO GONDAR (UNESCO – WORLD HERITAGE SITE)
This morning we drive for the 3-31/2 hour (185km) north to Gondar, the former capital of Ethiopia. Gondar has now become one of Ethiopia’s largest and most impressive cities, with its walled Royal Enclosure. Gondar’s most famous monuments are its exceptionally well preserved 17th century castles. The largest and best is that of King Fasilidas. It is a stone-built construction with round turrets and wooden balconies. The king also built a remarkable bath a mile or so outside of town known as the ‘Pavilion of Delight’. The Bathhouse of Fasil at which thousands of Ethiopians celebrate Timkat festival every January. This whole complex of buildings is unique in Ethiopia and unlike anything found elsewhere in Africa. This afternoon we’ll also make a visit to the Debre Birhan Selassie church (Light of Trinity) with its sensational angelic ceiling and mural.
SIMIEN MOUNTAINS (UNESCO – WORLD HERITAGE SITE)
After breakfast we drive to Debark on the edge of the Simien Mountains. In the late morning we drive up into the mountains for some spectacular views of this unique ecosystem. We take an optional 1.5hr walk, mostly flat or downhill, and hope to see the endemic Gelada baboons, Klipspringers, Lammergeyer vultures, and bushbuck. The scenery is truly breathtaking and there will be time for a walk around the Sankaber region of the National Park. The maximum altitude we reach is 3250m.
SEMEIN MOUNTAINS TO AXUM
After morning breakfast, continue on the rugged road for a full day’s drive to the ancient city of Axum via the lowlands of the Simien Mountains and Tekeze River gorge. Though this is a long drive the spectacular views make time slide away. This full day drive affords some excellent photo opportunities of this dramatic landscape. In the late afternoon after checking into the hotel, there will be time to relax in this town that was once the capital of a large empire.
AXUM (UNESCO – WORLD HERITAGE SITE)
Axum is the seat of the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Axum, which was once one of the most powerful in the ancient world. Located at the centre of the trading routes between the Mediterranean and India, and the great port of Adulis on the Red Sea, it was economically, politically and technically advanced and at times had control over both sides of the Red Sea. Axum is also the origin of Christianity in Ethiopia and believed to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. The old church of St Mary of Zion was the first church to be built in Sub-Saharan Africa around 330AD. Its ruins can be seen in the precinct of the church compound. We visit the famous monolithic stelae of Axum, the tallest one still standing reaches over 21 metres and the greatest one of them all, once 34 metres high now lies toppled on the ground. However, it is still the largest monolith ever erected by man. The subterranean tombs, stone inscriptions of ancient Axumite kings and the small archaeological museum are also living witness of the ancient Axumite history. We will also visit the ruined palace of the Queen of Sheba who is said to have given birth to Menelik the First, fathered by King Solomon, the founder of Ethiopia’s ruling family until the late Emperor Haile Selassie.
DRIVE AND VISIT YEHA AND ADWA; CONTINUE TO GHERALTA
Today we head east from Axum to Yeha, said to be Ethiopia’s oldest settlement, probably dating back almost 3,000 years. A large temple, dedicated to the moon god Ilmuqah, is related to other pagan temples to the same god in Yemen, indicating connections across the Red Sea from the earliest times. The temple was later converted into a church in the 6th century, but still has wonderful friezes of ibex carved into the façade. We shall also make a visit to the important town of Adwa, set amidst rugged mountains. It was at Adwa that the Ethiopians became the first African nation to repel a colonial power, when they defeated the Italian army in 1896. Since then, Ethiopia has been a symbol of African independence, free from European control. This afternoon we continue to the town of Adigrat.
VISIT TIGRAY CHURCHES; CONTINUE TO MEKELE
Today we will explore this rarely visited corner of Ethiopia and discover the remarkable Rock-cut Churches in this region. These architectural gems were created prior to the 16th century and unknown to the outside world until the 1960s. About 150 are now known to be in existence with all but a handful still in active use by the orthodox Christian community. We look to explore two clusters including Abreha We Atsbeha and Degum Selassie at Gheralta and the sandstone church of Chirkos at Wukro with its cruciform pillars and barrel vaulted ceiling. In the afternoon enjoy the wonderful serenity of the Tigray landscapes and proceed to the town of Mekel.
DRIVE TO LALIBELA
We have a full day drive through stunning countryside takes us due south, between the mountains to the west and the start landscape of the Danakil Depression to the east to arrive at the remarkable archaeological site of Lalibela.
VISITING LALIBELA (UNESCO – WORLD HERITAGE SITE)
This morning we will start visiting the first cluster of Lalibela’s rock hewn churches . Lalibela, the ‘New Jerusalem’, thought to have been constructed some 800 years ago by King Lalibela. Although churches carved in rock are found in other parts of the world, those found in Ethiopia are particularly interesting. Generally, they were excavated on all sides of a rectangle, leaving a large block of granite isolated in the center. This rock was then shaped and formed both inside and out and the carvings show extremely skillful workmanship and they have been classified as one of the wonders of the world . Each church has a unique architectural style and all are superbly carved. There are 11 rock-cut churches of which the most impressive is Bet Giorgis. It is carved in the form of a Greek cross and It is exceptionally well preserved.
Today we will visit the church of Yimrhane Kristos. This exquisite church, a masterpiece of Axumite wood and stone construction is renowned for its interior decoration, it’s beautiful wooden coffer ceiling inlaid with hexagons and medallions with both figurative and geometric motifs. Drive back to Lalibela. In the afternoon, we will visit the remaining rock-hewn churches of Lalibela that include the churches of Bete Gabriel and Rafael, Merkorous, Emanuel and Abba Libanos. Bete Emanuel is the best in this group and exceptionally carved with unique Axumite building features, such as the indentations on the walls, symbols of the multi-story building taken from the stelae of Axum, monkey heads and false windows. Overnight in Hotel.
DRIVE TO KOMBOLICHA
After breakfast drive to Kombolicha and on the way we will have a stop to visit the famous Lake Hayik and the ancient church of Hayik Estifanos and keep driving to Kombolicha.
DRIVE BACK TO ADDIS ABABA
In the morning you will drive to Addis Ababa through an interesting Landscape and before arriving to Debre Birehan Town we will have a view point to admire the landscape variation of the central Highland with the Great Rift Valley and continue to Debre Birehan town for lunch and proceed to Addis Ababa.
ADDIS ABABA TO ARBA MINCH
After breakfast, drive to the famous lakeside town of Arba Minch. En route visit the villages of Gurage for their staple food of Kocho made from the false banana. We drive through one of the most colorful and scenic areas of Southern Ethiopia, a land that is inhabited by the Wolayita people, who were once nomads but are now farmers. Before arriving to the town of Arba Minch, a long section of the road offers magnificent views of lake Abaya, surrounded by mountains. The lake has volcanic origins and is almost pink in color.
VISIT THE CHENCHA VILLAGE AND BOAT TRIP ON LAKE CHAMO
Morning drive 40kms northwest of Arba Minch to Guge Mountains to visit the Dorze and Chencha villages. Once warriors, the Dorze have now turned to farming and weaving to earn a living. They speak an Omotic tongue and the Dorze name is synonymous with the best woven cotton cloth. The “elephant huts” of the Dorze are unique and worth seeing. Also, the Dorze beehive-shaped houses are constructed entirely of organic material and has its own small garden surrounded by beds of spices, cabbage and tobacco.Some of Ethiopia’s best woven cottons come from Chencha, which is located 8 km northwest of Dorze Village. Men weave and women spin. Afternoon a boat trip on clear blue waters of Lake Chamo to see the crocodiles, hippos & aquatic bird species. The northern shores of Lake Chamo are famous for its large crocodiles, which can be seen in great numbers lounging in the heat. The lake is about 32km long and provides a lush wetland habitat for many species of flora and fauna.
DRIVE TO JINKA VIA KONSO AND KAY AFER
Early morning drive to Konso where colorfully costumed dress, impressive terracing of the land and unusually engraved wooden statues used as grave markers can be seen. Differing from their neighbours, the Konso are pure agriculturists, famed for their use of the stone terraces that they utilise to such good effect in this dry and barren region of basalt hills. Originally from the east and speaking an east Cushitic language, the Konso live in settlements that are surrounded by stone walls. The age of each town is classified by a generation pole and each family lives in compounds that are accessible only through gateways that require the visitor to enter on all fours thereby rendering any potential attackers vulnerable.Keep driving to Key Afer for the colourful Thursday market where we should see and photographed the Ari, Bena, Hamer and Tsemay people. The Bena and Hamer women usually favour red clay braids in their hair, shiny with butter and perfumed with incense. The long beaded skirts of the Tsemay have a stick incorporated in the back to denote a married woman and the men have elaborately plaited hairstyles decorated with feathers and colourful beads. After visiting the market we drive on to Jinka, often called the gateway to the Omo Valley.
VISIT THE MURSI TRIBES IN MAGO NATIONAL PARK
Early morning drive to Mago National Park, from here, visit the Mursi highlands where the most illustrious of Ethiopia’s unique tribes lives. The Mursi are known all over the world, for their decorative lip plates that adorn the lower lips of the Mursi women. The plates stretch the lower lip beyond imagination and the women’s beauty , pride and desirability is determined in direct proportion to the size of the plate. The Mursi men and women may appear gracious but the Mursi warriors are not to be sneezed at. On their arms are deep crescent incisions that represent each enemy they have killed in battle. The men are also famous for their hairstyle. The various cultural aspects of the tribe will be explained and you will be able to take their photographs but not for free. Back to Jinka for your lunch and afternoon go to the Ari Village near by the town of Jinka for experiencing and learning the culture of Ari tribe and explore how they make their traditional homemade alcoholic drinks.
DRIVE TO TURMI AND VISIT THE HAMER TRIBES
This day, we will continue driving through the Omo Valley region to Turmi via Dimeka. The Hamer tribe is one of the largest groups in the Valley. The Hamer cultivate millet, vegetables, tobacco and cotton as well as raising cattle and goats. They are known for the fine pottery they produce as well as their remarkable hairstyling. Most dramatic of all are the clay hair buns with ostrich feathers that the men don when they have killed a fierce animal. The Hamer women are simply stunning. The women wear beaded necklaces and iron coils around their arms and decorate their skin with cowry shells. These decorations indicate the wealth and prestige of a woman’s husband.
TURMI – MURULLE – TURMI
This day morning, we continue through the savannah along tracks that are barely visible, passing through a vast meadowland with shrubs and umbellifers (‘umbrella’ acacia trees) for an excursion to the Murulle area. We arrive at Korcho village with beautiful views over the Omo River to see the Karo ethnic group, experts in body painting, using clay and locally available vegetable pigments to paint fantastic patterns on each other’s faces, chests, arms and legs. These designs have no special symbolic significance, but are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to out-do their fellow artists. Karo men also sculpt and shave their hair into extravagant shapes, with special ochre “caps” of hair usually containing several ostrich feathers. En route have a picnic lunch. We then drive back to the village of Turmi.
DRIVE BACK TO ARBA MINCH
This day we will drive to Yabello visiting the Erbore people en route. Then we will proceed to the New-York; a bizarre landscape of sand panicles formed by wind and rain (erosion). After lunch stop at Konso, continue Arba Minch for our overnight stops.
DRIVE BACK TO ADDIS ABABA AND DEPARTURE
This day, we drive back to Addis and enjoy more of the Rift Valley landscape and the stunning views over the Lakes of Abijata and Shala. We have the possibility of visiting the Ostrich farm at Abijata Shala National Park. We will arrive in Addis Ababa in early afternoon and transfer to the Hotel and have a room as a day use for wash/change and get ready for the evening flight. You might be interested for the last minute souvenir shopping at the markets. In the evening, we will go out to one of the best cultural restaurant for the Farewell Dinner at traditional restaurant with live traditional dances program. Then, we will transfer to airport for flight home. The trip ends here.