Day 1 – Arrive Addis Ababa: You will be welcomed by your guide on arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, and transferred to your hotel. Overnight Jupiter International Hotel or similar.
Day 2 – Bahir Dar: Fly from Addis to Bahir Dar and visit the Blue Nile Falls before lunch. In the afternoon, take a boat trip on Ethiopia’s largest body of water – Lake Tana (2,237 square miles) to visit the island monasteries of Ura Kidane Mihret and Azwa Mariam from the 14th century. Overnight Abyminch Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 3 – Simien Mountains: After breakfast, leave Bahir Dar and drive to Sankaber, where the Simien Mountain National park is located, passing rural villages and crossing mountain passes with stunning vistas. The Simien Mountains National park occupies a surface area of 180 km sq. The park, situated between 6,200 and 4,500 feet, boasts varied flora with three marked botanical areas. The highest parts have meadows with little vegetation, characteristic of afro alpine zones. Here we can find the endemic Lobelia rhynchopetalum, small groups of perpetual flowers, Helichrysum, and the striking Kniphofia foliosa. Spend the afternoon walking near your lodge to spot the endemic Gelada baboon and appreciate the breathtaking scenery. Overnight at Simien Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 4 – Simien Mountains: After breakfast head out on a day hike with picnic lunch. Depart the lodge for Chenek where it’s possible to spot the endemic Walia Ibex. The landscape in the area is remarkably picturesque with panoramic vistas overlooking the deep gorges of the Escarpment. Explore the pinnacles, valleys and wildlife of this stunning region. The beauty of the ranges can be discovered by following century old footpaths, and don’t forget to look out for the Gelada Baboons who reside here amidst the local pasture lands. Overnight at Simien Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 5 – Drive To Gondar: After breakfast, drive to Gondar visiting the former village of the Felasha (African Jews), who have now migrated to Israel. Spend the afternoon exploring the Royal Enclosure and its buildings. The fortress, which is surrounded by a 300-foot-long wall, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest and most impressive structure in the compound is the two-story palace of Emperor Fasilidas, built of solid basalt stones. Other royal buildings of interest include the library of Emperor Yohannes I, the House of Song where royal ceremonies took place, the elegant reception and banquet hall of Emperor Bakaffa, and the palace of the king’s wife. Also visit the nearby bath of King Fasiledes, where modern-day Timkat ceremonies are performed. Finally, view the Church of DebreBirhan Selassie, an imposing structure with brightly colored ceilings. Overnight Goha Hotel or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 6 – Lalibela: In the morning, fly to Lalibela – home of the 12th century AD rock-hewn churches of King Lalibela. And in the afternoon, visit the second and the third group of churches of King Lalibela (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Overnight Roha Hotel or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 7 – Lalibela: In the morning, mule back ride to the hilltop semi-monolithic church of Asheton Mariam (13th century AD). Getting to the top of the hill rewards you with great and unforgettable scenery of the area. In the afternoon, visit the remaining second and the third group of the churches of Lalibela. Overnight at Roha Hotel or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 8 – Fly To Axum: After breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly to Axum. This simple frontier town is in fact a city of great importance as the ancient capital of Ethiopia. According to local legend, Axum was home to Queen Sheba and the current resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. As we explore Axum, and its ancient relics, our sense of adventure and imagination guides us through this mysterious and historic place. Have a sightseeing tour of Axum which includes visiting the Archaeological museum of Axum, the famous stele park (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the church of St. Mary of Zion which is believed to be the last resting place of the original Ark of the Covenant, the palace and tomb of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel (6th Century AD), and the ruin palace of the Queen of Sheba (9th Century BC). Overnight at Sabean Hotel or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 9 – Addis/Langano: Fly back to Addis and drive 124 miles south of Addis to the Rift Valley region visiting the chains of Rift Valley Lakes of Ziway, Langano, Abiyatta, and Shalla. Spot various birds at Lake Ziway, and enjoy swimming at Lake Langano. Overnight Sabana Beach Resort or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 10 – Arba Minch: Drive 186 miles south to Arba Minch, visiting the Alaba, the Wolita and the Dorze people on your way, also visiting the Sinkile Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see the endemic Swain’s heartbeast amongst other animals. Overnight Paradise Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 11 – Arba Minch: After breakfast drive to Chencha, to visit the Dorze village. The Dorze people are well known for the weaving tradition and their attractive elephant shaped traditional hut made from bamboo and false banana tree leaves. After your visit, drive back to Arba Minch for lunch and a boat trip on Lake Chamo, where you will visit the Crocodile Market featuring a large number of crocodiles, different aquatic birds, and hippos. Overnight Paradise Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 12 – Jinka: Drive south of Arba Minch on a rough road to Jinka crossing the Weito Valley and visiting the Tsemay village and Woito people who live in the area around Woito River. Visit the Konso village, which is recently registered as the 9th UNESCO World heritage site in Ethiopia. The Konso people are noted for their rock terracing and colorful hand woven cotton clothes. Overnight Eco Omo Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 13 – Jinka/Mursi Village: After breakfast, leave Jinka and drive to Mursi village to visit and appreciate the very attractive culture of Mursi tribe. They are renowned for the strange custom followed by their women who on reaching maturity, have their lower lips slit and circular disks inserted. Then drive to Turmi to the settlement of the Hamer people. The women of the Hamer are known for their thick plaits of ochre-colored hair hanging down in a heavy fringe, leather skirts decorated with cowries, and their dozen or more copper bracelets fixed tightly around their arms. The men are noted for the initiation ceremony of Jumping over the Bulls. Catching this interesting ritual is entirely a matter of chance. Overnight at Buska Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 14 – Murulle: In the morning, you will make an excursion trip to Murulle – the village of Karo people, who are the tribe with the least in number of members, and known for their body paintings they indulge in before important ceremonies. The most striking thing about Karo people’s symbolic and ornamental expressions is the painted body and face decorations. In the afternoon, visit the Hamer village at Turmi. Overnight Buska Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)
Day 15 – Addis Ababa/Depart: After breakfast, transfer to Arbaminch to take an afternoon flight to Addis Ababa and enjoy shopping in Addis Ababa. In the evening before departure, you will be invited a farewell dinner party at one of the best traditional restaurants in Addis where you taste variety of Ethiopian meals, and watch the folkloric dances of the Ethiopian people. Transfer to the airport for your outbound flight. (B, D)
Please note driving distances can be long but are broken up with visits, photo stops, and lunch.
Photo Credit: Andy Richter
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