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adventure travel trip to Ethiopia
Meet a wide variety of people in Ethiopia, including a visit with the Hammer tribe.
  • Sep 7-26, 2014
  • Dec 31-Jan 19, 2015
  • Privately on Request
  • View all trip dates
  • Duration 20 days
    Group Size 2-7
    Land Cost $6,495 Details
    Single Supplement $1,475 Details
    Additional Expenses See Estimated Budget
    Lodging 1 star-3 stars
    Grade II
    Best Time

    Ethiopia Timkat Festival & Cultural Odyssey

    Axum, Gondar, Lalibela, Bahir Dar, Gelada baboons, and the Omo Valley

    Day 1      Arrive Addis Ababa

    Upon arrival in Addis Ababa, you will be met and transferred to the Hilton Hotel (or similar). Located in the heart of the city on a 15-acre site, the Hilton is an ideal base for exploring. Addis Ababa means “new flower” in Amharic, and it is Ethiopia’s largest city. Sitting at an elevation of about 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level, it enjoys an excellent climate all year, with an average temperature of 75˚F. Tonight you will have a welcome dinner at the Hilton, followed by your overnight.

    Meals: Dinner
    Lodging: Hilton (or similar)

    Day 2      Addis Ababa Sightseeing

    This morning, you will take a tour of Haile Selassie’s former palace, which is now the home of the Ethnological Museum. Exhibits here represent the best arts and crafts of the country and give an in-depth view of the various peoples of Ethiopia. You may also be able to meet with one of the professors from the Ethiopian Studies department who will also be available for questions about what you’ve seen if his schedule that day permits. Then, visit Ba'ata Church (Menelik’s Mausoleum) one of the oldest churches in Addis Ababa. Observe its beautiful paintings and the royal tombs of past emperors. Finally, visit the National Museum, considered by many to be the best museum in Africa. Here, cultural and archaeological relics, including a plaster cast of "Lucy," the 3.2 million-year-old hominid, are displayed. At the end of the day, you will see the Mercato, which is said to be Africa’s largest open-air market. Rumor has it that you can bargain for anything there, even a new soul! Time permitting, we may be able to visit Churchill Street, known for its many curio shops selling traditional Ethiopian crafts and fine quality silver and cotton. Dinner will be eaten out at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hilton (or similar)

    Day 3-4      Lalibela Timkat Festival

    After a very early breakfast, you will head to the airport about 5:30 am for your two-hour flight to Lalibela, where you will spend the next two nights at the Mountain View or Roha Hotel (or similar), both furnished and decorated with artifacts inspired by the area's rock-hewn churches. At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, King Lalibela organized the construction of a series of churches hewn from pink granite, now classified as one of the ancient wonders of the world. Each church has a unique architectural style, all are superbly carved, and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings. The largest, Bete Medhani Alem, is 100 feet long, 70 feet wide, 35 feet high, and has walls that are up to six feet thick.

    Your first day in Lalibela is Timkat Eve, so the city will be quite festive. On this first day you will visit some of the rock-hewn churches and in the afternoon you will attend the Timkat procession. The procession arrives at a water source and events culminate around 2 am when the priests perform mass and and bless the water. A communal baptism follows, with the most fervent Christians throwing themselves fully clothed into the water!

    On the second day, the festival is in full swing, and you will attend the morning celebration followed by visiting more rock churches in the afternoon, trading off the festival crowds for the opportunity to share in the celebration. Timkat is the most important festival in the Ethiopian calendar. Crowds of revelers, all dressed in white, dance and sing in the streets to the beating of drums. Priests, dressed in jewel encrusted velvet and satin robes, carry a replica of the Arc of the Covenant, known as a tabot, in a grand procession through the streets.

    Elevation:  2,630 m  / 8,626 ft

    Meals: 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
    Lodging: Mountain View or Roha Hotel (or similar)

    Experience the sights and sounds of the Timkat festival
    Day 5      Axum / Treasury and Stelae

    After breakfast, you will fly on a ~40-minute to Axum around 9:30 am. The legends narrated in the Kebre Nagast ˜Book of Kings” recount how, as early as the 10th century B.C., the city of Axum was already the city in which the Queen of Sheba resided. It is recounted that the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to Axum, where it remains to this day, preserved in a sanctuary. Famous long before the time of Christ, Axum was the capital of the long Axumite reign, one of the oldest African empires, and represented a crucial connecting point between Africa and Asia for almost 1,000 years. Visit the stelae, granite monoliths dating from pre-Christian times and decorated with symbolic engravings, and the church of Saint Mary of Zion, which contains the crowns of Ethiopian kings and other treasures, and the 6th century tombs of King Kaleb and his son, Gebremeskal.  Also visit the Queen Sheba Palace and bath and the archeological museum. Dinner and overnight at the Yeha or Remhai Hotel.

    Elevation:  2,131 m / 7,546 ft

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Yeha or Remhai Hotel (or similar)

    Day 6      Axum / Gondar / Semien Mountains Hiking

    After breakfast, you will fly around 10:45am on a 1.75-hour flight to Gondar (elev 2210 m) and then drive to Debark (2-3 hour drive), the headquarters of the Simien Mountains National Park. After picking up a guard and a guide, you continue to Buit Ras, where you will spend the night at the Simien Lodge. The latter part of the day will be spent watching the Gelada Baboons, known for having bright red, hairless chests and throats. They live in groups of as many as 400 individuals, spend days foraging in the alpine meadows, and spend nights sleeping on cliff ledges.

    Six hundred million years ago, the mountains were an enormous volcanic mass; rain and ice have carved deep fissures into them and rivers have continued the work of erosion, creating one of the greatest sculptures on the planet: peaks, canyons, gorges, clefts and pointed amethyst-colored pinnacles like obelisks. We arrive in Debark in the afternoon in a large village 3,000 meters above sea level, your base for excursions into the park.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Simien Lodge (or similar)

    Watch the habits and activities of entertaining Gelada baboons
    Day 7      Gondar

    After breakfast, you will have the opportunity to hike the escarpments for about an hour and then you will drive back to Gondar, Ethiopia's royal capital until 1868. Its position at the intersection of several caravan routes made it the perfect location for a capital city. Gondar was previously the home of the Falasha, the "Black Jews" of Ethiopia, most of whom left for Israel in 1991. Founded by Emperor Fasilides in 1635, it has been called the "Camelot of Africa" because of its churches and a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of almost 250 years. It is not known for certain who built the castles, but many surmise they are the work of Portuguese craftsmen. The day will be spent touring the fascinating sights for which Gondar is famous. You will explore the Royal Enclosure, which lies in the heart of the city and is surrounded by high stone walls and Fasilides’ Palace. From the southwestern corner of the structure, there is a terrific view all the way to Lake Tana. You will also visit the Debre Birhan Selassie Church, famous for its ”winged angel” faces that decorate the entire ceiling. Called the “Trinity at the Mount of Light,” it is one of Ethiopia’s most renowned places to visit. The ceiling and wall paintings depict the life, wit and humanity of Ethiopia. Dinner and overnight at the Goha Hotel (or similar).

    Elevation:  2,210 m / 7,249 ft

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Goha Hotel (or similar)

    Explore Gondar Castle
    Day 8      Bahir Dar

    Today you will drive to Bahir Dar, a pleasant city located 1,800 meters above sea level on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, passing through many small towns and beautiful landscapes along the way. In the afternoon, visit the city of Bahir Dar, including a visit (exterior only) of the Bezawit Palace built in 1965 by Emperor Haile Selassie I, with its panoramic view of the city. Dinner and overnight at the Tana / Summerland Hotel, where you can relax in the pleasant lakeside garden (or similar).  This afternoon we may be able to visit a local residence to cook injera.  The group might choose to experience cooking and eating a complete meal with their hosts.
    (Approx. 4-5 hours of driving today, not including visits)

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Tana / Summerland Hotel (or similar)

    Day 9      Blue Nile Falls / Lake Tana

    In the morning, we will visit one of the country's oldest monasteries, Ura Kidane Mihret, at Zegie Peninsula on Lake Tana. Of the 37 islands on Lake Tana, 30 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural interest. On your way back, look for hippos and see the Blue Nile on a crossing of Lake Tana. The boat trip will take approximately 4 hours. Locally known as Tissat Falls, Blue Nile Falls is a 100-meter wide cascade (seasonally, and not in January), plunging 45 meters, giving rise to clouds of mist and rainbows. You will have the opportunity to descend to the base of the falls, climb back up the other side, and cross the Nile in a boat, returning to your point of departure. Overnight again at the Tana / Summerland Hotel.

    Lake Tana Elevation: 1,788 m / 5,866 ft

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Tana / Summerland Hotel (or similar)

    Marvel at detailed wall paintings at Lake Tana
    Day 10      Addis Ababa / Debre Zeit

    Today you will fly back to Addis Ababa, arriving at approximately 11:00 am.

    We will visit the Red Terror Martyr's Museum this afternoon, after which we will have lunch at Linda's, a famous Italian restaurant.  Following lunch we head off to Debre Zeit where we will spend the evening at the Kuriftu Resort.   Time permitting, those who wish can visit Donkey Sanctuary, a non-profit organization that serves as an educational outreach program to ensure the continued health and welfare of country's donkey population.  Others may choose to go directly to the resort to enjoy its location along one of the rift valley lakes, on which they can kayak, paddleboat or birdwatch. 


    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Kuriftu Resort (or similar)

    Day 11      Debre Zeit / Langano

    Today you will drive to Lake Langano in the Oromia region, the starting point of your Omo Valley exploration.  Along the way, we will have several stops for some birdwatching. Not far from Addis Ababa, this popular holiday resort area has a splendid beach dotted with acacia trees and pinkish volcanic water ideal for swimming. The lake is full of inhabitants; there are many birds, monkeys, baboons, and (occasionally) hippos along the lake side. Overnight at Sabanna Beach Resort (or similar).
    (Approx. 4-5 hours of driving today, not including visits)

    Lake Langano Elevation:  1,585 m / 5,200 ft

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Sabanna Beach Resort (or similar)

    Find beehive houses of the Dorze
    Day 12      Arba Minch Dorze Region

    On the road to Arba Minch, you will cross fertile land planted with bananas, cereals, and tobacco. On your way, you will visit the Alaba tribes in their village and the Dorze people at Chencha. The Omo River Valley is very special, because nowhere else in the world are there so many ethnic groups inhabiting such a small area. During the next couple of days, you will continue to see many of these people, all of whom have their own languages and, for the most part, have few interactions across groups. The Dorze people are famous for their textiles and their bamboo “beehive” houses, each surrounded by a small garden. Participate in a coffee ceremony with the Dorze, observe “enset,” a false banana tree used by the Dorze practically in its entirety from roots to leaves, taste the local alcoholic drink, “areki.” Arba Minch is known for its delicious fish, fresh from Lake Chamo, and its spectacular wildlife found in the Nechi Sar National Park. Overnight stay and dinner at the the Paradise Lodge or Swayne's Hotel (or similar) in Arba Minch.
    (Approx. 5-6 hours of driving today, not including visits)

    Arba Minch Elevation:  1,219 m / 3,999 ft

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Paradise Lodge or Swayne's Hotel (or similar)

    Watch Dorze weavers, famous for their textiles
    Day 13      Lake Chamo, Konso Village, Turmi

    In the morning, you will take a boat trip on Lake Chamo, populated with the largest crocodiles in Africa (7 meters) and hippos. You'll also spot many birds, including the African Fish Eagle. This afternoon you drive through the villages of the Konso and the Erbore tribes on your way to the small town of Turmi. The Konso boast a rich culture and a highly-specialized agricultural economy. Their beautifully-constructed buttressed stone terraces have allowed them to carve out a living from the dry and unyielding land around them. You may see totem poles erected on the tombs of their dead. The Erbore are a group of about 4,000 who subsist as agropastoralists, growing maize and sorghum and practicing animal husbandry. Living along the River Woyto, they have developed an elaborate irrigation system for their crops and, during the annual dry season, are able to supply neighbors with grain in exchange for livestock, coffee, tobacco, honey, and pots. To the southeast of the Konso village are the Borena, who are semi-nomadic shepherds. Their lives revolve around their cattle, and they take extraordinary steps to ensure a water supply for them during the dry season. (Note: the Borena Oromo Tribes cannot be visited on this day, as they live far from Konso, but will be seen on coming days.) Overnight stay and dinner at Buska Lodge (or similar).
    (Approx: 6-7 hours of driving today, not including visits)

    Lake Chamo Elevation:  1,235 m / 4,052 ft

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Buska Lodge (or similar)

    Visit the Erbore tribes
    Day 14      Omorate / Turmi Market

    Today you will drive to Omorate, a town a few hours north of the Omo valley, crossing the Omo River on a wooden boat to visit the Dasanech people. Although they originally led an almost totally nomadic lifestyle, the abundant water frontage and fertile soil of their present territory has subsequently led them toward a more diverse agricultural economy. Despite these changes, their nomadic roots are still clearly visible in their traditional villages comprised of small, domed huts, reminiscent of the impermanent structures of other nomadic peoples. Drive back to Turmi for lunch and a visit to the weekly Hamer market. The Hamer, one of the largest groups in the valley, cultivate millet, vegetables, tobacco, and cotton, as well as raising cattle and goats. They are known for their fine pottery and remarkable hairstyling. Most dramatic of all are the clay hair buns with ostrich feathers that the men don after killing a fierce animal, something they then wear for 3-6 months at a time! The women wear beaded necklaces and iron coils around their arms, and their skin is decorated with cowry shells. These decorations indicate the wealth and prestige of a woman’s husband. Dinner and overnight at Buska Lodge.
    (Approx. 4 hours of driving round trip, not including visit to Dasenach)

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Buska Lodge (or similar)

    Sing with the Hamer people
    Day 15      Karo Tribe

    In the morning, drive to Korcho Village to visit the Karo people and then drive to Jinka. The Karo are one of the most endangered tribes of the region, with only about 1,000 people who inhabit the eastern bank of the Omo. Formerly herders, they have since turned to agriculture because many of their cattle have been wiped out by disease. These people are masters at body decorating during festival time, using chalk to imitate the spotted plumage of the guinea fowl and making unique jewelry from most everything they find. Dinner and overnight at Jinka Resort Hotel (or similar).
    (Approx. 5 hours of driving today, not including visits)

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Jinka Resort Hotel (or similar)

    Bumpy roads are worth enduring for what lies at their ends
    Day 16      Mursi Tribe

    Today you will drive through the Mago National Park to meet the Mursi tribes. The Mursi are perhaps the best known of the tribal peoples in the Omo Valley due to the many documentaries made about them. They are nomadic pastoralists that move with the season and live in very low huts made of straw leaves. The most famous Mursi traditions include the lip and ear plates worn by the women and the hairstyles and fierce stick fighting done by the men. In the afternoon, visit the Ari village to meet the locals, especially the blacksmiths and potters. You'll also visit the museum at Jinka to learn more about the tribes of the Omo Valley. Dinner and overnight at the Jinka Resort or similar.
    (Approx. 4 hours of driving round-trip, not including visits)

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Jinka Resort Hotel (or similar)

    Meet Mursi women and their tribes people
    Day 17      Jinka / Key Afer / Borena Tribe/ Yabelo

    Today you will drive to Key Afer, where you'll visit the colorful market to meet the Tsemai, Benna, and Ari trips. Hundreds of tradesmen from the Konso, Benna, and Tsemay tribes meet here to exchange their goods and to buy whatever their families or villages need. The market starts around 11:00 am and affords a great opportunity to meet these people and take some wonderful photographs. You will then drive to Yabelo, passing through the Borena Oromo villages, meeting people along the way. You'll spot many birds along your drive as well. Overnight at the Yabelo Motel or similar.
    (Approx. 7 hours of driving today, including market and tribe visits)

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Yabelo Motel (or similar)

    Meet the Tsemai tribes people
    Day 18      Around Yabelo and Awassa

    Today you will drive around Yabelo to see the singing well where local people get water for their cattle and themselves. Then continue on to Awassa, passing through the coffee plantations and the Sidama villages, meeting locals along the way. Arrive in Awassa around 5:30 pm, where you will overnight at the Haile Resort Hotel.
    (Approx. 4 hours of driving today, not including visits)

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Haile Resort Hotel (or similar)

    Day 19      Awassa / Tiya Stele / Addis Ababa

    Early in the morning, visit the Fish Market at Lake Awassa and then drive to Addis Ababa, passing through the Gurage villages. Here you'll visit the Tiya Stele (World Heritage site) in the afternoon and then arrive in Addis Ababa around 5:00 pm. Transfer to your hotel and then have a farewell dinner at Yod Abyssinia, one of the best folkloric restaurants in Ethiopia, with traditional Ethiopian dishes, music, and dances from different regions of the country. Overnight at the Hilton Hotel.
    (Approx. 6.5 hours of driving today, not including visits)



    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hilton (or similar)

    Day 20      Addis Ababa and departure

    You have the morning free to explore and do some last-minute shopping before being transferred to the airport for your flight home.



    Meals: Breakfast

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