Ethiopia has to be one of the most exciting countries in Africa, a nation that is overflowing with history and culture yet quietly keeps its charms to itself, devoid of the visitors one might expect. This tour explores Ethiopia's historic northern region, a land of ancient monasteries and castles where tradition rules. Starting off in Addis Ababa, we explore its many sites before flying to one of the jewels of the country - enchanting Lalibela with its amazing 11th century rock cut churches.
We spend time exploring both the main churches and lesser known ones before driving to the region of Tigray, similar to Petra with churches hewn out of the surrounding landscape, but many feel far more spectacular, with many churches built halfway up almost inaccessible cliff faces. We spend time learning about the history of the ancient Axumite Empire at Axum then travel to Africa's Camelot, the wonderful castles and palaces of Gondar. Ethiopia's natural beauty reveals itself in the Simien Mountains, where we walk amidst some of Africa's most captivating scenery, looking for endemic gelada baboons. And to round off our exploration we visit the isolated island monasteries on Lake Tana, home to treasured religious artefacts and strong monastic traditions.
This two week tour gives a fantastic insight into the cultural heritage of this spectacular nation.
Day 1 – Addis Ababa
Arrive in Addis Ababa and transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax. Overnight Dreamliner Hotel or similar.
Day 2 – Lalibela
Fly to Lalibela with its wonderful rock cut churches, known in some circles as the 8th wonder of the world. In the afternoon we visit some of these intriguing monuments to discover more about Ethiopia’s enigmatic past. Overnight in Roha Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 3 – Lalibela
Morning excursion by mules to the Asheten Mariam Church, known for its wonderful views. Alternatively a visit will be arranged by car to the cave church of Naktuleab. Afternoon visit to the remaining churches in Lalibela. Overnight in Roha Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 4 - Mekelle
After an early breakfast start the journey to the town of Mekelle. Along the way there will be plenty of opportunities for photo stops as we pass through small Amhara villages. Overnight Axum Hotel or similar. (BD)
Please note that today involves between 9 and 10 hours driving.
Day 5 – Tigray churches
Today we explore the marvellous rock-hewn churches dating from the 8th to the 15th centuries that dot this remote and inspiring landscape. Many of the churches are carved directly into the cliff walls of the ‘Ambas’ - typical Ethiopian mountains with flat tops and almost vertical sides. Overnight Agoro Lodge or similar. (BD)
Day 6 – Axum
Today we drive to Axum through some spectacular views. En route we visit the 5th century temple of Yeha, displaying incredible skills in stonework and in fact the oldest building still standing in Ethiopia. Overnight Yeha Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 7 - Axum
Visit the amazing sites of Axum, including its collection of ancient stelae, the bath and the palace of the Queen of Sheba and St Mary of Tsion Church, which legend says is where the Ark of the Covenant is located. Overnight Yeha Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 8 – Simien Mountains
A long drive today to the Simien Mountains, a spectacularly scenic area with interesting endemic mammals, including the gelada baboons and as well as various species of birds. Depending on our arrival time we may have time to do a short walk in the park before our main walk tomorrow to experience the breathtaking beauty of these mountains. Overnight Simien Lodge or similar. (BD)
Please note that due to intermittent road construction activity the driving time on this day can be up to 10 hours.
Day 9 – Simien Mountains
We spend today walking through the mountains to visit awe-inspiring viewpoints and spot some of the wildlife. For those that do not want to do a long full day trek a shorter alternative can be taken. Overnight Simien Lodge or similar. (BL)
Day 10 – Gondar
Drive to Gondar, a city famous for its amazing collection of old castles and palaces. We visit the main sites of the town, including the palaces and castles of King Fasiladas and the beautifully decorated Debre Birhan Selassie Church (Light of Trinity) with its wonderful murals. Overnight Goha Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 11 –Bahir Dar
We head to Bahir Dar, stopping en route for any sites of interest. On arrival we drive to the Blue Nile Falls where we take a short walk to view the falls themselves. Later we return to Bahir Dar, where our hotel tonight overlooks Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile. Overnight Tana Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 12 – Lake Tana
This morning we take boats out onto Lake Tana to explore its fantastic collection of ancient monasteries, dramatically situated on the lake’s islands and peninsulas. This afternoon is free to explore Bahir Dar, with the option of visiting Bezawit Palace, built for Emperor Haile Selassie. Overnight Tana Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 13 – Addis Ababa
Fly back to Addis. Subject to time you will have an afternoon tour of the capital. Visit the Entoto Mountains, with a fantastic view over the city the National Museum, St George’s Cathedral and the Merkato, reputedly the biggest open air market in Africa. Overnight Dreamliner Hotel or similar. (BD)
Day 14 – Addis Ababa
Tour ends. (B)
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