EXPLORE Ethiopia'S WONDERS AND RICHES
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, 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: WEDNESDAY, MAY 5
Arrive Addis Ababa, where you will be met by guide and driver and taken to hotel for check in and the chance to rest. Today we rest at hotel, with a driving tour of the city for those interested. Welcome dinner to get acquainted with your fellow travelers. Overnight at Best Western Hotel.
(Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 2: THURSDAY, MAY 6
Addis Ababa to Lalibela
Morning 1-hour flight takes us to Lalibela. Another 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. Overnight at Sora Lodge.
DAY 3: FRIDAY, MAY 7
Day excursion to countryside and Yemrehanna Kristos Church
A 42 kilometer drive brings us to the uniquely beautiful Yemrehanna Kristos Church, older than the rock hewn churches and built from wood and stone rather than excavated. The drive into the countryside permits us to see rural life in Ethiopia. Return in late afternoon to Lalibela for sunset drinks and dinner at Ben Abeba Restaurant, considered one of Ethiopia's coolest restaurants. Overnight at Sora Lodge.
DAY 4: SATURDAY, MAY 8
Further exploration of the rock-hewn churches
We have saved the most impressive of the 11 churches for last, and today will visit the northwestern group of churches, including the most famous of all, St. George's. Overnight at Sora Lodge.
DAY 5: SUNDAY, MAY 9
Drive from Lalibela to Bahar Dar
Today we have a 6-hour drive across interesting landscape to reach Bahar Dar on the shores of Lake Tana, Ethiopia's largest lake by mid afternoon. Bahar Dar is sometimes called the Ethiopian Riviera due to its attractiveness and pleasant vibe). The many islands in the lake are home to many lovely churches and monasteries of historical and cultural interest, we take a boating excursion to visit the most interestingof these. Before returning to town, visit the source of the Blue Nile River, this area also home to hippopotamus which are usually visible. Return to Bahar Dir to watch the sunset over the lake. Overnight at Kuriftu Resort.
DAY 6: MONDAY, MAY 10
Blue Nile Falls
Relax this morning at our lakeside resort, later in day we drive one
hour to location near Blue Nile Falls, these impressive 150 foot falls
are set in rural Ethiopia. The 45-minute hike (there is a shorter, though less scenic route for those who prefer less walking) takes,us through beautiful countryside and across 4-century old Portuguese built stone bridge. Return to hotel for relaxing late afternoon and sunset drinks by Lake Tana. Overnight at Kuriftu Resort.
DAY 7: TUESDAY, MAY 11
Drive from Bahar Dar to Gonder
A morning 3-hour drive brings us to Gonder: the Camelot of Africa. Gonder's wealth and splendor were legendary in the 17th century, and Emperor Fasilides 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 8: WEDNESDAY, MAY 12
Gonder to Simien Mountains
A 2.5-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 9: THURSDAY, MAY 13
Today we spend the entire day exploring the Simien Mountains National Park. Overnight at Simien Lodge.
DAY 10: FRIDAY, MAY 14
Simien Mountains to Gonder
A leisurely mid-morning return to Gonder, where we have the day to explore the other castles, some interesting churches and one of the towns inhabited by Ethiopia's ancient Jewish community. Overnight at Goha Hotel.
DAY 11: SATURDAY, MAY 15
Gonder to Harar
Today is big travel day as we fly from Gonder to Dire Dawa via
Addis Ababa and once arrived in Dire Dawa then drive
90-minutes to the ancient walled city of Harar, our home for the
next 3 nights. Harar is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is
often said to be the most atmospheric city in Ethiopia. Founded
by Moslems in the 10th century, it has the look and feel of an
ancient settlement with its many mosques and shrines, old walls
and lively markets. We will explore the museums, palaces and
markets over the next few days. Overnight at Grand Gato Hotel.
DAY 12: SUNDAY, MAY 16
Exploration of Harar
Today we will visit more of the many sights in and around Harar, and
in the evening have the opportunity to observe men of Harar who feed wild hyenas, a practice begun in the 1950's to gain them good luck, and continued to this day. While many find this fearsome, we have been assured the hyenas never attack and the event makes for an unforgettable experience. Overnight at Grand Gato Hotel
DAY 13: MONDAY, MAY 17
Today we continue to explore Harar and its environs.
Overnight at Grand Gato Hotel.
DAY 14: TUESDAY, MAY 18
Return to Addis Ababa
This morning an hour long flight takes us back to Addis Ababa. For
those returning home today, you will have the day free in Addis with a guide to assist you or take on any last minute sight seeing and then transfer you to airport for onward flight.
Those continuing to the Omo Valley will have a short layover at the
airport and then onward flight to Arba Minch in Ethiopia's Omo Valley.
Day room at Addis Ababa Hotel.
PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION
(Inclusive of 13 nights in Ethiopia, a day room for the final day, all meals, bottled water in the vehicle, 4 internal domestic flights, ground transportation; entrance fees; services of licensed Ethiopian guide and driver; services of USA-based trip leader.)
$5200. (Based on double occupancy)
$5800. (Based on single occupancy)
NOTE: International airfare, gratuities, alcoholic beverages other than local beer with meals, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature and travel insurance are NOT included. Negative Covid-19 test required for entry to Ethiopia and re-entry to USA also NOT included.
As travel in these pandemic times is not the same as it was (though we are confident it will still be enjoyable and safe, there are some additional requirements). Proof of Covid-19 vaccine and negative Covid-19 test are required for participation on this trip. Travel insurance also required for this trip.
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 4 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 $250).
For those arriving before May 5, we can arrange additional nights in the hotel.
Ethiopian visa is easily available on arrival for $50.
On the final day of the journey we will provide you will a day room at Addis Ababa hotel, as most flights depart in the evening. If you wish to stay the night in Addis Ababa, we are happy to provide hotel reservation for this night or any additional nights.
Those continuing on to the Omo Valley will have only air connection in Addis Ababa, onward flight is not long after arrival from Dire Dawa.