Visit Hamer & Konso villages where local life remains insular. Search for the source of the Blue Nile on a boat cruise at Lake Tana, then discover the churches and unique castles of the regal city of Gondar.. Trek the majestic series of undulating amethyst peaks that make up the Simien Mountains, looking out for the distinctive red-hearted Gelada.. Explore Lalibela’s unique churches – astonishing constructions sculpted from huge slabs of stone – that make up one of the world’s greatest historical and religious sites.
Travel to Ethiopia and discover a beautiful country, barely touched by modern society. It’s an incredible combination of history, tradition, culture and nature. From 3 million-year-old fossilised hominid remains in Addis Ababa to the rituals of the Ari, Hamer, Konso tribes and more through to amazing rock-hewn churches, hidden crypts and grottoes in Lalibela – this trip take you deep into human history. The 500-year-old monastery islands of Bahir Dar, the elegant castles of Gondar, the majestic geological formations of the Simien mountains, the giant obelisks that rise out of Aksum, and even the rumoured home of the Ark of the Covenant. This 19 day trip travels through the villages and wildlands of Ethiopia, taking in views of the Blue Nile and trekking to the peaks of the Simien Mountains (meeting red chested Gelada baboons). You’ll be sure to taste the country’s famous coffee and delectable cuisine, and meet the genuine and friendly people along the way. This is an adventure like no other.
Breakfast Included: 18 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included: 5
Welcome to Ethiopia! Begin with a welcome meeting at the hotel at 6pm. If you arrive early perhaps take a tour of this bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants. Established by the Emperor Menelik II in 1887, Addis Ababa is a relatively young city full of contrasts – the Addis Sheraton, with its ‘singing fountain’, is one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, yet you only need to travel a few streets away to find yourself among busy markets, dirt roads and the odd goat or two wandering the street. The optional city tour will include the National Museum, where you’ll find the famous remains of 'Lucy’, and the Ethnographic Museum set within the beautiful gardens of Haile Selassie’s former palace.
After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for a flight to Arba Minch. Then it's onto Konso in a private vehicle, stopping on the way to visit some of the Dorze people, an ethnic group known particularly for their expert weaving and beehive-shaped houses. All roads into South Omo pass through Konso, and this small town serves as a great base for exploring the hillside villages in the surrounding countryside. Keep an eye out for the carved wooden grave markers in the area, a Konso tradition where the deceased warriors features are enhanced by using teeth made from animal bones. As the evening sets in spend time relaxing in the Lodge.
Visit a village within Konso and learn about the clan-based societal arrangement comprised of nine clans. Head onwards to Jinka to visit an ethnographic museum dedicated to the tribes speaking South Omotic languages. Jinka is a lively trading hub and known as a capital of sorts for the range of ethnic groups that call this region home.
Head into Jinka's lush surroundings, home to the traditional Ari people. Spend some time in their villages, some of the most beautiful in the country, surrounded by banana, mango, avocado and enset (false banana) trees. Then it's on to Turmi. Along the way we will stop at either the Thursday market day at Key Afar or the Tuesday cattle market at Alduba. Overnight in Turmi.
Today there will be a chance to visit a local market, savouring the smells and tastes alongside the Karo, Hamer and Benna people while checking out plenty of interesting handicrafts on offer. In the afternoon visit one of the Hamar villages for an insight into their different way of life. There may be a chance to witness the highlight of the Hamar calendar – a bull-jumping ceremony. The culmination of a three-day rite of passage, this ceremony involves a young man having to jump on the backs of, and run down a line of 15 bulls before returning the same way. Back in town we meet some members of the Hamer tribe who will share with us their life experiences and learn of changes from traditional to modern lifestyles.
Travel north to Arba Minch after breakfast. This is a region noted for its variety of peoples and cultures, many of which are nomadic or semi-nomadic and live very differently to what most would consider a modern existence. Arba Minch is bordered by Nechisar National Park and lies between two of Ethiopia's largest lakes, Lake Chamo and Abaya Lake. Climb aboard a boat in the afternoon and travel across Chamo Lake on an excursion to hopefully see the resident hippos, Nile crocodiles, flourishing birdlife and the local fishermen working their trade on the water.
Drive back to Addis Ababa after breakfast. After a lengthy but scenic drive, you will arrive to your hotel in Addis Ababa. You'll have dinner at a local restaurant in the evening and, because this is a combination trip, you may have members of your group departing and new travellers arriving for the second leg of this journey.
Today we will take a spectacular flight to Bahir Dar. From the air we can gaze across the extraordinary nature of the Ethiopian Plateau, repeatedly cut by immensely deep gorges. Bahir Dar is a small but fast growing town on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. It has long attracted religious men and the area contains numerous churches and monasteries, many of them on the thirty or so islands of Lake Tana.
This afternoon, board a sightseeing boat for a cruise around the lake. Covering over 3,500 square kilometres, this is Ethiopia’s largest lake and is home to 37 islands, 20 of which house some of Ethiopia’s most venerated monasteries. Many of these monasteries are believed to date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and feature superb ecclesiastical art. Legend has it that the Ark of Covenant was hidden here for protection during the times when Muslim forces invaded the ancient capital Axum. Your boat trip will take you to the monastery of Ura-Kidane Mehret, which dates from between the 16th and 18th centuries. It is renowned for its collection of crosses and crowns, and its incredible painted walls that offer up a virtual 'who’s who' of Ethiopian saints. The boat returns to your hotel via the source of the ‘Blue’ section of the Nile.
Head out to the Blue Nile Falls today. Located 1.5 hours south of Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile Falls measure over 400 metres wide and crash down 48 metres in full flood. These falls are known locally as Tis Isat (Smoking Water) and are a spectacular sight when the water’s high. New hydro-electrical plants and dams have somewhat impacted on their magnificence, but the sight is still a memorable one. You can take a longer scenic walk past the main viewpoint (1.5 kilometers) or a shorter walk to reach the foot of the falls. You will then cross the Nile River by boat to reach your vehicle. After a leisurely lunch back in Bahir Dar, perhaps visit the open air market or take a tuk-tuk up to the town viewpoint.
Head for the regal city of Gondar by travelling north around the edge of Lake Tana this morning, a drive that'll take approximately 4.5 hours including photo stops. Gondar was the capital of Ethiopia through the 17th and 18th centuries, and is famed for its medieval castles and churches. This afternoon or tomorrow, there's the option to visit the city's most significant churches and castles either as part of a tour or unaccompanied. The city's unique Royal Enclosure is a World Heritage site and home to dramatic, Emperor-built castles unlike any other in Africa. Spend the afternoon visiting these medieval castles and stop by the famous church of Debre Berhan Selassie, one of the finest in Ethiopia with walls and ceilings covered in stunning murals of angels.
Today you'll have free time to explore the quiet streets of Gondar for yourself. Take a stroll to the markets, or otherwise perch up at the hotel by the pool. You'll be heading into the mountains tomorrow so there's nothing wrong with enjoying a little bit of luxury while you have it. In the afternoon enjoy a cooking class in a private house in Gondar. Head to the market to gain fresh ingredients, then learn how to make traditional Ethiopian cuisine, such a wot, the national dish, and injera, the staple bread of Ethiopians.
Simien Mountains National Park / Debark
Depart Gondar early in the morning and head towards Debark and the Simien Mountain National Park (approximately 3 hours). The remainder of the day will be to explore the spectacular mountain scenery including viewing Ethiopia's highest point – Ras Dejen (4550 metres). Once you pass the entrance to the park you'll hike and drive along the escarpment up to Sankaber Camp.This area is home to much of Ethiopia's wildlife, including the Gelada baboon, which are only found in Ethiopia and have a shaggy coat with a red patch on their chest, hence being known as the 'bleeding heart baboon'. Return to Debark (approximately 1.5 hours) for the evening.