THE BEST OF ETHIOPIA: NORTH AND SOUTH
Ethiopia fascinates us, a heady mixture of ancient and modern, with many of the ancient sites continuously occupied since their construction lending a timelessness to the country. The home to Africa's only castles and the world's only rock hewn churches, carved out underground from single solid piece of stone, and still full of devout parishioners. There is so much in Ethiopia to make you say "wow." And while Ethiopia does not have the vast numbers of animals seen in some parts of Africa, its nature is really out of this world, with rock formations and vegetation not found elsewhere on the planet, and these areas are home to many birds and some unusual and rare mammals. All of which we are likely to see as we make our way from central to northern Ethiopia, and then to the remarkable Omo Valley in the south, traveling in comfortable vehicle, taking local flights and spending the night in some of the best lodges and hotels Ethiopia has to offer.
DAY 1: THURSDAY, JAN 4
Arrive Addis Ababa, where you will be met by guide and driver and taken to hotel for check in and the chance to rest. Depending upon arrival time, you can either have day to rest or sightseeing with guide. Overnight at Best Western Plus Hotel.
DAY 2: FRIDAY, JAN 5
Addis Ababa to Lalibela
Morning 1-hour flight takes us from Addis Ababa to Lalibela. A UNESCO World Heritage site, and the home of 11 rock hewn monolithic churches constructed in the 12th century. Imagine excavating 4 stories down into the rocky ground and carving underground churches from single piece of stone. Access to the churches is via a maze of passageways and tunnels, and inside are intricately carved reliefs and astonishing icon paintings; yours to gaze upon and photograph. All 11 churches are still in use, as we explore them we meet priests, deacons, nuns and parishioners. Ethiopian Christmas, called Genna is celebrated January 7, but January 5 and 6 are the days when Lalibela will be full of people celebrating, dressed in their finest clothes and we have unique opportunity to witness this solemn and colorful ceremony. Overnight at Sora Lodge.
DAY 3: SATURDAY, JAN 6
This morning we take a short drive out of Lalibela to visit Yemrehana Kristos Church, unique among Lalibela's churches as it was built and not excavated, and often referred to as the gem among the local churches. In the afternoon we visit the most impressive of the 11 excavated churches, the famous St. George's Church. Overnight at Sora Lodge.
DAY 4: SUNDAY, JAN 7
Lalibela to Gonder Exploration of Simien Mountains
A morning hour flight brings us to Gonder: the Camelot of Africa. Gonder's wealth and splendor were legendary in the 17th century, and Emperor Fasiladas made this his capital and a series of 7 phenomenal castles were constructed by him and his descendants. We explore the compound of this once grand empire, and visit all the atmospheric castles/palaces. Gonder is a pretty town, with interesting churches, Italian era buildings and one of the best restaurants in Ethiopia, the famed Four Sisters where we'll enjoy food and entertainment. Overnight at Goha Hotel.
DAY 5: MONDAY, JAN 8
Gonder to Simien Mountains
A 3-hour-drive brings us to the Simien Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage site and considered one of Africa's most beautiful mountain ranges. The large plateau with gullies, cliffs and pinnacles is home to different vegetation zones, interesting wildlife (gelada monkeys, walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf and fantastic bird life) and much natural beauty. We'll take several hikes here with our guide and a park ranger. Overnight at Simien Lodge.
DAY 6: TUESDAY, JAN 9
Exploration of Simien Mountains
The Simien Mountains are unique in many ways, home to some the rare Afro-Montane Forest with interesting vegetation and dramatic geological formations which we will explore today by vehicle and foot. We have the full day to see this unusual part of Africa today. Overnight at Simien Lodge.
DAY 7: WEDNESDAY, JAN 10
Simien Mountains to Gonder to Arba Minch
Early departure from Simien Lodge to drive to Gonder, where we catch flight to Addis Ababa and then connecting flight to Arba Minch in southern Ethiopia. Most of the day will be spent traveling, though once arrived in Arba Minch we check into the 5 star Haile Resort overlooking the lake from where we can enjoy sunset and dinner. Overnight at Haile Resort.
DAY 8: THURSDAY, JAN 11
Explore Arba Minch and visit Dorze Tribe
The Dorze tribe live in the forested mountains an hours drive from Arba Minch. The Dorze are known for their 20 foot tall unique domed shaped homes, constructed entirely of bamboo and banana leaves, some say they look like giant beehives, others say they look like elephants, we leave this for you to decide. Dorze men are skilled weavers and you can both admire and purchase these beautiful items. Late afternoon we explore the small yet interesting town of Arba Minch. Overnight at Haile Resort.
DAY 9: FRIDAY, JAN 12
Arba Minch to Turmi
Today's drive takes us into the Omo Valley. The Omo was not part of Ethiopia until 1890 and is ethnically and scenically different from the rest of the country. One of the least visited parts of Ethiopia, it is also one of the most fascinating. Here we meet tribal people whose way of life has not changed much in the past 100 years. We meet these people in the company of our tribal friends who grew up living traditional lives, and now move easily between modern and traditional ways. In their company our welcome will be warm and we have the opportunity to observe a way of life unique and probably soon to disappear, as the forces of modern Ethiopia attempt to integrate these people into the fabric of the nation. Right or wrong is a topic of endless conversation and our local guides who themselves are the product of these cultures have their own take on this topic, there is much to see and plenty of food for thought in our Omo Valley visit. Overnight at Buska Lodge.
DAY 10: SATURDAY, JAN 13
Dassanech and Hamer Tribe visit
After breakfast we drive south to the settlement of Omorate on the Omo River, and then cross the river by dugout canoe to visit the Dassanech tribe. Our local guide will introduce us to this people and explain their customs and traditions. The Dassenech were once entirely nomadic, but now live a more sedentary life, but their nomadic roots are visible in their impermanent looking homes. We return to Turmi for lunch and rest and then in afternoon take optional hike in nearby savanna, and later afternoon visit a Hamer village to meet its inhabitants. Our local guide is from Hamer village and will introduce us to his friends and family as we explore the village. The Hamer women are known for their elaborate hair styles and friendly demeanor. Overnight at Buska Lodge.
DAY 11: SUNDAY, JAN 14
Meet the Karo Tribe
This morning we drive through beautiful savanna with many termite mounds that rise up to 20 feet high. It is said that the volume and weight of Africa's termites outweigh that of all other wildlife. The termite mounds are certainly impressive and the scenery along the way is home to antelope, monkeys and numerous birds. The Arbore village is situated at a bend in the Omo River. These people are known for their elaborate body paintings and for small fee you too can have your face or torso turned into a work of art by one of the local painters (not to worry, all natural materials are used and the paint easily washes off). Late afternoon hike in the vicinity of the lodge. Overnight at Buska Lodge.
DAY 12: MONDAY, JAN 15
Turmi to Jinka
Today we drive 4 hours to reach Jinka, stopping in the market town of Key Afer to see the local wares on display. This is not a tourist market, but offers items that locals use for for food and daily use. There are however some of the masks and jewelry used by locals for sale, so this can be good place to purchase some of the elaborate items that locals use to adorn themselves. Once arrived in Jinka we will visit the Aari tribe, susbsistence farmers who grow vegetables and are famed for the quality of the honey they produce. Overnight at Eco-Omo Lodge.
DAY 13: TUESDAY, JAN 16
Excursion to Mursi Village
The Mursi are the most striking of all the tribes in the Omo Valley. Starting at puberty the women insert disks in their lower lips, and ear lobes, plus both sexes scarify themselves in distinctive and unique designs. Their appearance is unusual and their nomadic way of life also fascinating. We have as local guide a tribe member who has become a good friend of Champaca Journeys and with his introduction, our arrival is warm and we have a unique opportunity that many visitors do not have. Why? Simply as the unusual appearance of the Mursi is sometimes treated with shock from visitors, which has at times caused friction between Mursi and visitors, with our local friend/guide to introduce us, this is not a concern. Late afternoon visit to the small but excellently curated local ethnological museum. Overnight at Eco-Omo Lodge.
DAY 14: WEDNESDAY, JAN 17
Jinka to Addis Ababa
Today we return to Addis Ababa, an hour long flight from Jinka. We have time to relax in Addis before setting out for a farewell dinner and culture/dance show at the famed Yod Abysinnia Restaurant. Overnight at Best Western Plus Hotel.
DAY 15: THURSDAY, JAN 18
Time to relax at hotel before drive to airport to catch flight home or to onward destination.
PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION
(Inclusive of food, non-alcoholic beverages, accommodations, airport transfers, ground transportation, entrance fees, services of licensed Ethiopian guide and driver, services of USA based trip leader, and airport taxes.)
$6600. (Based on double occupancy)
$7300. (Based on single occupancy)
NOTE: International airfare, gratuities, alcoholic beverages, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature, travel insurance and Ethiopian visa are NOT included.
Participants are responsible for their own air transportation to Addis Ababa airport where the journey begins. Many airlines serve this airport, including ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, a highly regarded carrier with high marks for both safety and service. Ethiopian Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance. The 5 internal flights on this journey are also with Ethiopian Airlines and are included in the cost of the journey IF you travel to Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (if not there is a surcharge of $400).
Ethiopian visa is easily obtainable online for cost of $52.
For participants arriving before start of trip, or staying after final day we can arrange rooms in Best Western Plus Hotel. Cost is $135 for double occupancy, tax and breakfast included, and $100 for single occupancy, tax and breakfast included.