Signature Journeys: EthiopiaAn exclusive 10 day & 9 night itinerary through Ethiopia
Teeming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a variety of astonishing landscapes, Ethiopia remains a less explored region of East Africa that invites adventurous and bold travelers alike.
A Fascinating Tale of Religion
To the north, Ethiopia’s fascinating island monasteries, medieval castles and rock hewn churches are threaded together by a series of awe-inspiring stories and interwoven with a rich orthodox Christian faith – the oldest form of Christianity in the world.
Tribes & Cultural Encounters
To the south, a true adventure awaits in every sense of the word. The Omo Valley and southern areas of Turmi are rough and raw – perhaps one of the most ethnographically diverse regions in the world with difficult roads and challenging meetings of cultures.
Beyond historical and cultural wonders, Ethiopia boasts a diverse natural landscape like no other: some of the world’s deepest canyons, mountainous terrain marking the fourth highest peak in Africa, desert plains of volcanic rock, forested highlands with waterfalls, and rivers and lakes that feed that waters of the Nile.
Addis Ababa: Welcome to Ethiopia
Welcome to Ethiopia. Your host will greet you at the Addis Ababa arrivals terminal after you clear customs, and transfer you to your hotel. Spend the rest of your morning recuperating from your journey and settling in. Ethiopia’s sprawling capital is filled with quirky museums that exhibit Ethiopian art, traditional crafts and prehistoric fossils, as well as churches and historical government buildings.
In the early afternoon, you will be met by your expert guide and taken on a historical tour of the city. Visit the Holy Trinity Church where Haile Selassie, the last emperor of the nation is buried. This Gothic church has an impressive structure and is an important pilgrimage site for locals. Your guide will offer you an introductory talk about the history and heritage of Ethiopia.
Later, visit Sabahar, an Ethiopian company that produces uniquely designed, handmade cotton and silk textiles. Their products are entirely handmade in Ethiopia from ethically- sourced natural fibers. You will have a chance to meet the owner, Kathy Marshall, a Canadian by birth but a twenty-year veteran of Ethiopia. Her passion for preserving and celebrating the rich weaving traditions of Ethiopia combined with her desire to create respectful and ethical work opportunities for people have laid the foundation for the company.
The artisans will show you the different processes of making the cotton cloth and give you a tour of their workshop. Afterwards, enjoy a traditional coffee ceremony and a chance to purchase some of these beautiful pieces. Recommended dinner at your hotel.
Bahir Dar: Lake Tana’s Island Monasteries
Greeting by your guide and private transfer to the Addis Ababa airport where you will board your short flight to Bahir Dar - a port on Lake Tana and home to medieval island monasteries and towering cliffs along the Blue Nile Falls. Flight arrival at Bahir Dar where you will be transferred to your hotel, located on the shores of Lake Tana.
Board your private motorboat to explore the calm blue waters of Lake Tana and its island monasteries and convents. This boat ride will introduce you to the beauty of Lake Tana and its lush shoreline. Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake and its waters are the source of the Blue Nile, which flows north to the Nile River. The lake is dotted with dozens of islands that are home to centuries-old monasteries, full of fascinating paintings depicting Biblical stories and traditions.
Disembark at an island called Ura Kidane Meret, where a short 20-minute hike through the forest will take you to a beautiful monastery that can be most appreciated from the inside rather than the outside. This is a 16th century structure with a breathtaking inner sanctuary that remains in use to this day.
Return to your hotel in the late afternoon for sunset drinks and dinner.
Bahir Dar: The Blue Nile Falls
Depart your hotel in the morning for a dirt road drive through Bahir Dar’s small town, to the Blue Nile Falls. Reach a small village in the countryside where you will begin your trek to the falls. This lovely walk takes you through Ethiopia’s green farmlands and pastures.
Arrive at a spectacular lookout point of the Blue Nile Falls. They are estimated to be 45 metres high, consisting of four streams that vary from a trickle in the dry season to over 400 metres wide in the rainy season. They are known as Tis Isat, the local name for the Blue Nile Falls. Enjoy a light snack with views of the falls and later, walk back to the village with your guide. Private transfer back to your hotel with photo-op stops along the way.
Afternoon at leisure. Enjoy a relaxing massage at your hotel’s spa. Recommended dinner at your hotel.
Lalibela: Majestic Rock-Hewn Churches
Greeting by your host and private transfer to the Bahir Dar airport for your quick flight to Lalibela. Arrival at Lalibela where you will be greeted by a driver and transferred to your hotel overlooking the valley. The Maribela Hotel boasts incredible views from its simple but comfortable rooms. Have a traditional Ethiopian lunch at the restaurant.
In the afternoon, you will begin your exploration of Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches. Lalibela is known for its religious history, frozen in time by the impressive churches built into the earth. Travelers and pilgrims alike have been in awe of its ancient buildings for hundreds of years, since the 10th century. This is where the oldest form of Orthodox Christianity is kept alive by locals, priests and nuns who practice vigorously. The UNESCO sites that dot Lalibela are world wonders that will forever stand as symbols of ancient genius and wisdom.
Today, visit Bet Emanuel and Bet Maryam - these are some of the most famous churches of Lalibela. Meet the priests of each church and walk down to the entrance through winding trenches. You will have the unique opportunity to enter the churches and spend time inside the limestone hollow -- the churches are built from a single, giant limestone!
In the evening, have dinner at your hotel.
Lalibela: Spirit of the Noble North
The following morning, depart Lalibela with your guide to visit one of the most beautiful churches of the region, located approx. 1.5 hours away: Yemrehanna Kristos. After the drive through the countryside, a 20-minute hike up a mountain will lead you to this incredible site. This church is unique because it is built, rather than excavated, into a cave. The facade is made of alternating ebony wood and stone layers. Meet the priest and explore the interior of this amazing structure.
At mid-day, head to Ben Abeba, a quirky local restaurant with vertiginous views of the surrounding lunar landscape. Fresh produce is sourced from local farmers and supplies a much-needed income to the local economy.
Later in the afternoon, visit the most impressive church of all: St. George’s. This is the iconic church of Lalibela that attracts travelers from all over the world. It is a true architectural masterpiece that represents the epitome of the rock-hewn tradition. Visually perfect, it is a 15m-high Greek cross-shaped building, soaring out from under the earth. Thanks to its genius design, it requires no pillars in the inside, and is carved out from one large piece of stone. Step inside to see how the natural light filters in from the windows. Your guide will show you the 800-year- old boxes that locals believe were carved by King Lalibela himself and now hold the church’s treasures.
Arba Minch: Southern Nations & People’s Region
Early in the morning, witness Christianity in its most raw and powerful form at a morning mass at one of the churches of Lalibela. After this amazing experience, private transfer to the airport for your flight to Arba Minch via Addis Ababa.
Upon arrival at Arba Minch, meet your driver and head towards Gamo Gofa to visit a Dorze Chencha village. The Dorze Chencha are an ethnic minority of Omotic tribal roots, and they are mainly known for their weaving and hocket style music. You will be greeted by a local Dorze host, who will show you around his village and home. The dorze Chencha are warm and hospitable; they will welcome you inside their unique Elephant-shaped huts, demonstrate their unique weaving style and share with you how they cook fake-banana leaf flatbread, their staple food, and invite you to share a snack with them.
Depart the village and drive to your hotel, with scenic photo-ops of the vibrant landscape along the way. Arrive at your lodge, situated on the fringes of Nechisar National Park, between Lake Chamo and Abaya. Evening at leisure, recommended dinner at the lodge.
Omo Valley: Tribes of the South
After an early breakfast, depart Arba Minch on the way to the Omo Valley. This full day drive will take you through a changing landscape of humid tropics, lush rolling hills, and the dry flats of the Omo Basin.
Stop on the way to visit a village home to the Konso people, a community known for their unique hierarchical social structures and agriculture techniques involving a complex irrigation system on mountain-slope terracing. A local Konso will guide you through the stone-walled village, built in circular layers that demarcate the status of different families, embracing a central totem-pole carved with the community census.
After the village visit, stop for lunch at a nearby lodge before continuing on to the Turmi, the heartland of the Hamer tribe. Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel and take the rest of the evening at leisure to relax and recover from the bumpy day-long drive.
Omo Valley: Hamer, Karo and Tribal Market
Today begins your exploration of the fascinating Omo Valley, believed by many to be the birthplace of mankind. The lower Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia is home to a melting pot of tribal cultures and communities, retaining some of the greatest genetic diversity in Africa.
Your first encounter will be with the ochre-skinned Hamer Tribe, known for their ‘cattle-leaping’ rite of passage ritual for young boys and distinct mud and butter hair style of the women. Traditionally agro-pastoralists, the Hamer are curious and warm people keeping some of the most fascinating tribal customs alive.
A short drive away is Turmi, where a tribal market attracts people from all over the Omo region to trade in goods and produce. This is a unique opportunity to see the vibrant diversity of the vast Omo Valley in one place and witness the social relations tribesmen and women have between eachother. Lively Turmi market is a great opportunity to purchase authentic goods and crafts directly from the source.
Return to the lodge for a quick lunch before driving deeper into the Omo basin towards the shores of the river to encounter the Karo tribe. The Karo are known for the rich cultural symbolism infused in their body art, scarification and ornate headdresses. Unlike the Hamer, the Karo are sedentary agriculturalists. Out of the total 16 Omotic tribes, the Karo tribe and lifestyle is under considerable risk, due to the construction of a nearby dam that is forcing them out of their ancestral lands. Return to the lodge, evening at leisure.
Arba Minch: A Drive to Remember
After an early breakfast, check-out of the lodge and depart for a day-long drive back to Arba Minch. Among the numerous stops along the way, have lunch at Konso and take the lesser known route through the cloud-forest before descending onto Arba Minch. Check-in to your hotel and spend the rest of the evening at leisure.
Addis Ababa: Bid Ethiopia Farewell
After breakfast, greeting by your host and private transfer to the airport where you will be assisted with check-in for your flight to Addis Ababa. Arrival at Addis Ababa where you will be greeted and transferred to a cultural restaurant for your final dinner. Enjoy an exciting show that incorporates music and dance from the different tribes of Ethiopia.
Later in the evening, private transfer to Addis Ababa airport where you will board your flight home.
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