On this two – week adventure through Ethiopia, you will learn about the only African nation to never be colonized. Visit the most important historical sites in the north: the enigmatic stellae at the seat of the ancient Axumite empire, island monasteries on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, the Royal Enclosure of Gondar and the rock churches of Lalibela in continuous use for 900 years. As you venture to the southern part of the country, you will enter a completely different and rapidly changing world. Along the Omo Valley are tribes who until recently had lived in isolation from the outside world for centuries. Meet the Karo people, recognized by their extensive body painting; the Hamer, known for their cattle jumping ceremonies; and the Mursi, one of the last tribes in Africa whose women still commonly wear clay lip plates.
Arrive at Bole International Airport. A representative will meet you and take you to your hotel.
Tour the Ethnographic Museum, a great introduction to Ethiopian culture and history. Visit the National Museum, home of the 3 million year old skeleton “Lucy.” Visit the Mercato, one of Africa’s largest outdoor markets and the Trinity Cathedral, resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie. Drive to the Entoto Hills for a panoramic view of Addis Ababa.
Fly to Bahar Dar on Ethiopian Airlines. Take a boat tour on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile and tour ancient island monasteries. Visit the marketplace in Bahar Dar.
Drive through the countryside to Gondar. After lunch, tour the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring five castles built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings beginning in the early 17th century. Having survived several wars, including air raids during World War 2, the castles are a testament to the resilience of this once mighty African Empire. Visit the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, famous for its religious art and especially its iconic ceiling depicting angels. Visit the baths of King Fasilides which still serves as a baptismal pool during Timkat.
Fly to Lalibela on Ethiopian Airlines 700 kilometers north of Addis Ababa. Tour the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs and fabulous examples of icon paintings.
Take a morning trek with mules to Mount Asheton with its 13th century rock-hewn monastery and great views of the town. Return to Lalibela for lunch at the Kana Restaurant or Seven Olives. In the afternoon, visit the second group of rock-hewn churches in the afternoon.
Fly to Axum on Ethiopian Airlines. Tour the ancient stelae fields standing for 2000 years. Visit the new and impressive Archaeological Museum. Lunch at Antica restaurant. See St. Mary Tsion Church, which houses the Ark of the Covenant according to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (no one is allowed to see the ark.) Visit other tombs and archeological sites as time permits.
Fly to Addis Ababa and connect to an early afternoon flight for Arba Minch, the gateway to the Omo Valley. Upon arrival, meet with your guide and driver. Drive to a Dorze village in the Guge Mountains. The Dorze are known for their tall, beehive-shaped bamboo houses. If the base becomes infested with termites, the entire house can be lifted and moved to another location. Return to Arba Minch for the night.
Take a boat trip on Lake Chamo and view some of the largest crocodiles in the world sunning on the banks of the lake. Hippopotami and birdlife are also abundant. Drive to Jinka through areas inhabited by various people such as the Konso, Tseme, Benna and Ari. Stop at Key Afar’s weekly market and wander among the various tribes that have gathered to barter their goods. Continue to Jinka.
Early morning drive to the Mago National Park to visit the Mursi people. The Mursi women are known for the clay plates they insert into their lower lips. Visit the Omo Valley Museum in Jinka.
Visit the Jinka weekly market and an Ari village. Drive to Turmi, via the Demeka Market where the Hamer and Konso people trade. Visit Turmi, home of the Hamer people, known for their body decorations and the clay and ochre that they put in their hair.
Excursion to Omorate. Cross the Omo River via a traditional canoe to visit the Dasanch Tribe. Return to Turmi stopping at the Demeka market where the Hamer and Karo people trade.
Visit the weekly Turmi market. Drive to Konso, recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. A highland people, the Konso are known for the ancient and intricate terraces that encircle their well-planned villages.
Drive from Konso to Arbaminch for the flight to Addis Ababa. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant featuring dancers and musicians representing some of the country’s many ethnic groups. Transfer to airport for a late – night departure or additional hotel night booked upon request.