IDEAL WEATHER, RICH EXPERIENCES
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: SUNDAY, FEB 2
Arrive Addis Ababa, where you will be met by guide and driver and taken to hotel for check in and the chance to rest. After lunch we visit the Mercato, the largest open air market in Africa, full of people, wares and astonishing sights you'll want to photograph. Mercato is one of the spectacular experiences of Addis Ababa, and will fill and indulge all your senses. Welcome dinner in local restaurant. Overnight at Best Western Hotel.
(Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 2: MONDAY, FEB 3
Addis Ababa to Bahar Dir, Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls
Mid-morning flight to Bahar Dir on Lake Tana (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 interesting of 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 3: TUESDAY, FEB 4
Hike to 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 4: WEDNESDAY, FEB 5
Bahar Dir 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 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: THURSDAY, FEB 6
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 6: FRIDAY, FEB 7
Exploration of Simien Mountains
Today we spend the entire day exploring the Simien Mountains National Park. Overnight at Simien Lodge.
DAY 7: SATURDAY, FEB 8
Simien Mountains to Gonder
A late morning drive takes us back to Gonder. We have a mostly leisurely day, and for those interested, we can revisit the castles, or visit the remaining Ethiopian Jewish community who have lived here for over a millennia. Overnight at Goha Hotel.
DAY 8: SUNDAY, FEB 9
Gonder to Lalibela
Morning 1-hour flight takes us from Gonder 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. Overnight at Sora Lodge.
DAY 9: MONDAY, FEB 10
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 10: TUESDAY, FEB 11
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 11: WEDNESDAY, FEB 12
Lalibela to Gheralta
This morning we fly 2-hours to Mekele (connection via Addis Ababa). From Mekele another 2-hour drive brings us to the beautiful and unique Gheralta region. Home to many churches and to perhaps the best hotel in Ethiopia, the Gheralta Lodge, you will enjoy spending the days and nights here in the amazing grounds and rooms of the lodge. Late afternoon drive into scenic countryside for photographs. Overnight at Gheralta Lodge.
DAY 12: THURSDAY, FEB 13
Drive from Axum to Gheralta
Gheralta region is home to stunning natural scenery and equally stunning man made ancient churches. We'll spend the day exploring and viewing the wonders of the Gheralta region. Overnight at Gheralta Lodge.
DAY 13: FRIDAY, FEB 14
The Danakil Depression
Often said to be the most surreal place on earth, the Danakil Depression is a dry lake bed, 400 feet below sea level; here we witness volcanic activity as the ground spews forth sulfur and manganese in multicolored formations that look more like a coral reef than anything found on the surface of the earth. You will observe multi-hued rock monoliths, endless passing camel caravans carrying blocks of salt mined from the lake bed, and the actual process of salt mining. Overnight at the basic Outdoor Camp.
DAY 14: SATURDAY, FEB 15
Danakil Depression to Mekele to Addis Ababa
This morning we drive to Mekele, to catch our flight to Addis Ababa. Check into hotel upon arrival, and then have afternoon to shop, sight see or relax at hotel. Farewell dinner this evening. Most flights from Ethiopia leave late at night, so we check out of our hotel to transfer to airport. (NOTE: for those staying longer in Ethiopia, we can arrange hotel rooms and guide if desired). 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, 5 internal domestic flights, ground transportation; entrance fees; services of licensed Ethiopian guide and driver; services of USA-based trip leader.)
$5100. (Based on double occupancy)
$5600. (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.
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 $300).
For those arriving before October 1, 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.