Ethiopia is one of the most exciting countries in Africa, a nation that is overflowing with history and culture yet quietly keeps its charms to itself, devoid of the visitors one might expect. This tour explores Ethiopia’s historic northern region with a taste from the incredible simian mountain scenery and trekking. The tour includes jewels of the country ��' enchanting Lalibela with its amazing 11th century rock cut churches. We spend time exploring both the main churches and lesser known ones - the region of Tigray. similar to Petra with churches hewn out of the surrounding landscape, but many feel far more spectacular, with many churches built halfway up almost inaccessible cliff faces. We spend time learning about the history of the ancient Axumite Empire at Axum and travel to ‘Africa’s Camelot’ the wonderful castles and palaces of Gondar. Ethiopia’s natural beauty reveals itself in the Simien Mountains, where we walk amidst some of Africa’s most captivating scenery, looking for endemic Gelada baboons. We will also visit the isolated island monasteries on lake Tana, home to treasured religious artifacts and strong monastic traditions. This two week tour gives a fantastic insight into the cultural heritage of this spectacular nation.
Day 1: Addis Ababa city tour
Addis Ababa, founded more than a century ago, means 'New Flower' in Amharic. At an elevation of 2400m, the third highest capital in the world, theclimate is pleasantly cool. The city mixes past and present. Statues from the imperial times coexist with placards from the former Marxist Regime all over the city.
We will visit historical sites in Addis Ababa including the National Archaeological Museum, where we will view the 3.6 million year old remains of “Lucy”, whose skeletal remains when discovered in 1974. We will also visit the Ethnological Museum at Addis Ababa University, Holy Trinity Cathedrals, Mercato- the biggest open market in Africa and Mount Entoto which rises up to an altitude of 3200 meters and offers the panoramic view of the metropolis.
Day 2: Drive to Bahir Dar
Early in the morning, we depart north to Bahir Dar via Debre Markos. On the way visit the Debre Libanos monastery that lies 104 km north of Addis Ababa which is considered as one of most holy sites. The monastery was found in the 13th century by a priest credited not only with the spread of Christianity throughout the high land, but also with restoration of Solomonic line of kings. En route we will also visit the Portuguese bridge, which was the first bridge
in Ethiopia. Continuing to Bahir Dar we will pass through the spectacular Blue Nile Gorge.
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 3: Bahir Dar Boat Trip on Lake Tana and drive to Tiss Abay
Bahir dar, a door step to the mystical Lake Tana, is described by it people as their Riviera and, with its wide streets shaded by palm trees and sweeping views across shimmering blue waters, it is hard to argue. In the morning, we will take a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the island monasteries. Namely Azuwa Maryam and Ura Kidane mihiret; Zege peninsula’s most famous monastery known for its verybeautifully painted ‘meqdas’ , it also holds Ethiopian religious iconography important collection of 16th and 18th century crosses and crowns . In the afternoon, drive to the majestic Blue Nile falls (water that smokes) for a short hike. The excursion to the Blue Nile falls is about 35kms from Bahir Dar. The falls is one of the most spectacular in Africa. We will return to the city late in the afternoon. We have the privilege to take a calm walk in the main streets of the city witnessing the vibe and the culture.
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 4: Drive to Gondar to visit the castle and the church
Today we continue our journey to Gondar. It’s not what Gondar is, but what Gondar was that is so enthralling. After settling in the hotel, we will explore the castles of King Fasilidas, which is said to be the wall of the castles bathed in blood and painted in the pomp of royalty. Often called the Camelot of Africa, this description does the royal city a disservice: Camelot is legend where as Gondar is reality. Drifting through the old palaces, banqueting halls and former gardens it’s not difficult to imagine the courtly pageantry, ceremony and intrigue that went on here. The entire compound contains numerous castles and the place has been completely preserved with the aid of UNESCO and was made one of world heritage sites in 1979. By far Fasilada’s palace is the most impressive and also the oldest building. Continue our visit to the one of the most famous and stunning church of the nation “Debre Birhan Selassie church”. The church would have probably been destroyed like most of the Gondar churches by the marauding armies of the dervishes in 1880s if it weren’t for a swarm of bees. When the dervish show up at the gate of the church, a giant swarm of bees surged out of the compound and chased the invaders away.
Day 5: Gondar Simien Mountains
Starting early in the morning from Gondar you will be driven through the mountainous country, The Simien Mountains. The Semien Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa - great volcanic plugs, formed some 40 million years ago and eroded over the eons into fantastic crags, pinnacles and flat topped mountains. The 'chess pieces of the gods', as one writer described them, tower over precipitous gorges, river valleys and plains stretching all the way to Eritrea
You stop for an early lunch in the market town of Debark. Then head off to Sankaber to see the spectacular views of the Simien Mountains. There are particular good views between Michibi and Sankaber and do Look out for the gelada baboons.
Overnight Camping /Hotel
Day 6: Drive to Axum
Drive through the remarkable Tekezze Gorge to the earliest capital of Ethiopia, Axum, through the Semien mountain national park escarpments.
Day 7: Axum
we explore the historical landmarks of the ancient Axumite Empire, including the Queen of Sheba's Bath, King Bazen's tomb, the ancient stelae erected as burial tombs for the most respected Kings and St Marry of Zion church. Axum is more than just a collection of lifeless ruins though, the town, albeit rural at heart, has vibrant life and continuing national importance very rarely found at ancient sites. Pilgrimage still journey here in their thousands to pay homage at it is believed that the Ark of the Covenant resides here. It is also considered to be one of world heritage sites and undoubtedly one of the most important and spectacular ancient site in sub Saharan Africa.
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 8: Drive to Hawzen via Adigrat
In the morning, we go even further back in history as we explore the ruins at Yeha, 58 km north of Adwa, which is considered the birth place of Ethiopia’s earliest civilization nearly three millennia ago. Yeha ruins are impressive for their sheer age, dating between the 5th and 8thcentury BC, and for their stunning construction. We will also stop at the Debre Damo monastery for the men to climb to the plateau above for a visit (women are not allowed.) for those scared of giant serpents, the monks will pull us up the cliff face using a slightly too-weathered looking leather rope.
Overnight stay lodge
Day 9: Rock- Hewn churches of Tigray-Mekele
Getting a taste for what's to come in Lalibela, we visit the rock-hewn churches of the Tigray region in the Gheralta cluster before proceeding to Mekele for overnight. Between Adigrat and Mekele there’s plethora of churches, 120 at last count. Some of the 120 odd churches (plus a few invisible ones) mayeven predate those at Lalibela, and may possibly represent a crucial link between Axum and Lalibela chronologically, artistically and technically. The architectural features, though less perfect than at Lalibela, are just as remarkable and intriguing. Remember patience is essential for your enjoyment as it can often take an hour to locate some priests and also inaccessibility of visiting some of the church. With a full day, 4WD and quick keyed priests, we can usually see three, possibly four churches. Namely Abreha Asbeha, Abune yemata, wukro cluster.
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 10: Drive to Lalibela through Ankober
Today we precede driving to Lalibela, en-route visit to NA’AKTOL’AB will make our tour more interesting. It lies 7 km before we reach Lalibela and it is attributed to king Lalibela‘s successor. It’s simple but attractive and built under a natural cave. The church boasts various treasures that belonged to its founder, including crosses, crowns, gold painted drums and an illuminated bible.
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 11: A Visit to the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela
Morning visit the 1st group Northwestern group of the rock-hewn churches. Bet Medihaniyalem (savior of the world) impressive for its size and majesty. Bet Maryam connected to Bete Medhaniyalem by a tunnel is a large courtyard containing three churches. In to the courtyard’s northern wall at Bete mariyam is the tiny semi-chapel of the Bet Meskel. Keep an eye out for the cross carved in relief beneath stylized foliage on one of the spandrels of the arches. Bet Denaghel found to the south of Bet Mariyam courtyard, said to have been constructed in memory of the nuns martyred on the orders of the 4th century Roman emperor Julian in Edessa (modern day Turkey). The third tunnel at the southern end of the Bet Maryam courtyard connects it to the twin churches of Bet Golgota&Bet Mikael (also known as Bet Debre Sina).
In the afternoon we will visit the remaining five southeastern group churches in Lalibela. Although smaller in number and in size than the northwestern groups, the south eastern cluster offers not only one of Lalaibela’s most finely carved churches but also some intrigue, with various historians debating whether some churches had past as prisons and palaces. The names of the church are Bet Gabriel-Rufaiel, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanuel, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Giyorgis.
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 12: Drive to kombolcha
Drive from Lalibela passing through the historical town of Wuchale via Woldia to Kombolcha. The drive to this old town situated below craggy hills is going to be gentle and scenic. En-route we pass through Dessie which is a major transportation hub to Lalibela. Our stop at the little town of Hayk for beautiful views over Lake Hayk will be worthwhile. We continue driving for our overnight stay in kombolcha.
Overnight stay hotel
Day 13: Final journey back to Addis
Our final day drive from Kombolcha to Addis Ababa through a fascinating topography and small villages along the road. Kombolcha is about 376 km from Addis Ababa. This is a full day's drive across the Shoan Plateau, the largest area of continuous altitude on the whole continent of Africa. It is where the Shoan Amhara princes left their legacies. Roadside views include fields of teff (an indigenous grain) and barley, shepherds, sometimes in their reed raincoats, with sheep, goats and cattle, and Amhara women in their pleated highland skirts.
Complimentary farewell dinner party from VIVA ETHIOPIA will follow in one of the most renowned cultural restaurant in Addis to test the cultural food and drinks, enjoying dances from the different ethnic groups.
The tour ends at the end of the farewell dinner party on day 11. You may choose to fly out that same evening/night or you have the choice of spending one
more night in Addis. The preceding morning can be used for city tour, souvenir shopping, taking walks on the main streets of Addis, and discovering Addis’ bustling outdoor markets, exotic dishes, espresso bars and patisseries which are reminiscent of Rome and the Mediterranean
...End of tour...
Extension to HARAR & AWASH National Park for 400.00$
Standing on the east wall of the Great Rift Valley, the medieval walled Islamic city of Harar is famous for its historical and cultural sites. The dominant features are the traditional Harari house; the childhood home of late Emperor Haile Selassie; the exciting open market that presents medley of people and culture; the Rimbaud House named after the French poet who lived there in 1880 and the hyena-feeding ritual - where, after dark, the legendary Hyena Man feeds meat by hand - and mouth - to the wild hyenas that haunt the city's fringes.
How will the Extension blend with the Program?
Day 13: Kombolcha/Awash N.P
We will drive through the Yangudi-Rassa National Park, home to the very rare African wild ass. Overnight in Awash. The Awash National Park, Lying in the lowlands at the east of Addis Ababa and striding the Awash River, the Awash National Park is one of the finest reserves in Ethiopia.
Overnight in Awash fall lodge
Day 14: A visit in Awash N.P - Drive to Harar
Early in the morning we will visit the Awash National Park, with wonderful birdlife, hot springs, and the Awash waterfalls. After our break with nature, we continue to Harar for overnight.
Harar is a place apart. With its 368 alleyways squeezed in to just 1sq km, it’s more reminiscent of Fez in morocco than it is of any other Ethiopian city. Its countless mosques and shrines, coffee scented streets, animate exciting market place - probably the most colorful in Ethiopia, crumbling walls and charming people will make us feel like we’ve floated right out of the 21 century and back though time. Harar is considered to be Islamic forth most Holy city after Makah, Medina and Jerusalem. .
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 15: In Harar
Fear not you can’t get lost in Harar. Harar’s old walled town is so compact that you will eventually come to a major street or wall that will lead you back to the Harar main get.
After breakfast we will visit The City Wall, the Gates and the narrow streets lined with traditional Harari Gegar houses, the colorful Muslim and Christian markets (known for basketry). After lunch visit the Hareri museum, Rimbaud House, a fine traditional house dating from the period when the French poet Rimbaud lived in Harer. Finally we will visit the traditional Hararie house within the famous walled city & the hyena-feeding ritual.
Overnight stay Hotel
Day 16: Journey Back to Addis
...End of tour...
Start/End: Tour starts and ends in Addis Ababa.
Upon arriving in Addis ABABA You will be introduced with your guide and driver and then you will be transferred to your hotel for overnight stay. A detailed itinerary and map would be provided for every member.
Flexibility: This itinerary is subjected to certain degree of flexibility and change as per the group interest and ground conditions that may prevail.
Fixed departures: the fixed departures are designed in a way to meet with the colorful market days
Accompanies: Experienced group leader, Expert 4x4 drivers, local guides, Boat men, scout, Village leaders.
Communication: mobile telephone will be provided to communicate with our base in Addis Ababa.
Group Size: Max. 15, Min. 5 please contact for individual or other group size rate
Transport: Fully insured 2010/11 Nissan patrol and/or Toyota land cruiser and 2010 Double AC Toyota HIACE minibuses for city tour. Three group members in one 4x4 basis.
Accommodation: This tour assumes four star accommodations in Addis and the best available greener outside of Addis Ababa. The names of the Hotels used would be disclosed upon inquiry. This tour also assumes twin bed room arrangement.
My Own Room: please do advice while booking if you are seeking a single room arrangement throughout the trip.
Personal activities: please write to us your personal interests and more activities you want to add in this tour and we would be very happy to incorporate it.
Local Currency: Ethiopian Birr.
Meet and greet at the airport
Air port /Hotel Transfer in and out
One night and one day use in four Star Hotel Accommodation in Addis Ababa.
Best accommodations available outside Addis as per the itinerary.
Meals on the tour on full board base in reputable restaurants and hotels
Bottled water, soft drink and coffee throughout the trip
Professional multi Language speaking guide (group leader) accompanying throughout the trip
All Transportation costs with the mentioned fully insured vehicle and Expert 4x4 driver allowance.
Boat trip costs, Local guide, Scout and all entrance fees and embarkation fees
Addis Ababa city tour
International air fair
Camera &video fee
Laundry & other personal interests
A final copy of your Trip Details, local cost over view, Joining Instructions, Emergency Contact, What to Take, Checklist, Money Exchange, confirming prices and other practical information available upon inquiry.