The festival of Timkat celebrates the baptism of Christ, and is considered to be Ethiopia's most spectacular event. Our 13-day small group tour begins in Addis Ababa, where Timket is at its most impressive, and includes visits to Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile Falls, Gondar, and the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Places on our small group tour are limited to a maximum of 10.
The night before the festivities begin, priests take the Tabots (symbols of the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments) from the church, to a tent beside a consecrated pool or river. The ritual takes place amidst a cacophony of bells and trumpets and clouds of incense.
At 2 am crowds carry flaming oil lamps to a special Mass. As dawn breaks, a priest uses a ceremonial cross to extinguish a candle that is burning high on a pole, set beside the consecrated river or pool. This is the sign for members of the congregation to leap into the water. The Tabots are then transported back to the churches in colourful processions, accompanied by horsemen, and the three days of festivities and celebration begin.
Day 1 Depart from London Heathrow on the overnight Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa.
Day 2 On arrival into Addis Ababa in the early morning, your professional guide/tour leader and your driver will meet and assist you. Transfer to Jupiter International Hotel for a 2-night stay, all meals included. Relax for the morning. In the afternoon, take a tour of the capital highlights and witness some of the Timkat preparations.
Day 3 Attend the Timket festivities: they are at their most spectacular in Addis Ababa, due to the large numbers of attendants and participants involved. Overnight in Jupiter International Hotel.
Day 4 Transfer to the airport for the early morning 1 hour flight to Bahir Dar, where you stay two nights at Abayminch Lodge with all meals included. Take a boat trip on the deep blue Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest body of water (3600 km sq) to see the regions famed, round, grass-roofed island monasteries with their magnificent friezes.
Day 5 Visit Africa's second largest waterfalls, the Blue Nile Falls. The Blue Nile plunges over a 45m high rock face into a steep narrow gorge to form one of Africa's most spectacular waterfalls, known locally as Tis Abay (Smoke of the Nile). Note that the 30 - 40 minute walk from where vehicles park to the falls viewpoint is on uneven surfaces. Spend the rest of the day on a tour of Bahir Dar, visiting the colourful local market.
Day 6 After breakfast, set off on the 2hr,30min drive along the scenic shores of Lake Tana from Bahir Dar up to Gondar, where you visit the town's attractions, best known of which are the impressive 17th century castles in the Imperial Compound. This is one of Ethiopia's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You will also see the ‘Bath of Emperor Fasilidas’ and the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, praised for its 'hallmark' wall and ceiling murals. Day ends at Goha Hotel for an overnight stay with all meals included
Day 7 Set off early morning on the two hour drive to the Simien Mountains National Park, another of Ethiopia's World Heritage Sites and one of Africa's largest mountain ranges with varied flora in three distinct biospheres. Stay overnight in an en-suite gojo/bungalow at Simien Lodge, all meals included. Visit Sankaber nearby, in the beautiful Afro-alpine zone. There, and at the lodge, Ethiopia's most distinctive endemic primate, the Gelada monkey, is commonly seen as groups frequent both places. It is the world's only primate which grazes and males sport the magnificent, leonine manes.
Day 8 After a visit to Chennek to try to seek critically endangered Wahlia ibex, you will be driven back to Gondar for further sightseeing in this interesting town. Overnight in the hill-top Goha Hotel with all meals included.
Day 9 Transfer to Gondar airport for the morning flight to Lalibela, Ethiopia's best known World Heritage Site, thanks to its awe- inspiring 12th AD rock-hewn churches, cut into the mountainsides here. Visit the first group of churches with your guides. Overnight at Maribela Hotel with all meals included.
Day 10 This morning, visit the semi monolithic church of Asheton Mariam from where there are splendid views over the area. In the afternoon your guides will take you to the remaining second and third group of churches including Yemrehane Kristos. Overnight in Maribela Hotel.
Day 11 Transfer to the airport for flight to Axum in the semi arid northern part of the Historical Circuit, for a 1 stay in the Sabean Hotel , all meals included. Visit the many attractions of this town, notably the Obelisk Park, the Axum museum, the remains of the Bath of the Queen of Sheba and the Mariamtson Church where the original stone tablets of the Ark of the Covenant are said to be housed. Spend the night at Sabean Hotel.
Day 12 Fly to Addis Ababa where you will be taken to see more of the city's attractions including the Merkato, Africa's largest market districts selling everything from casual clothes and spices to spare parts. This evening will be a farewell dinner at a traditional restaurant in Addis to enjoy a variety of Ethiopian dishes and traditional dances. Evening transfer to the Bole International Airport for your…
Day 13 Ethiopian Airline flight departing in the early morning to London Heathrow.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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