Day 1: Departure

Arrive Addis Ababa in the morning. After a leisurely morning to relax we will spend the afternoon on a site-seeing tour of Addis Ababa. We will visit the National Museum which houses some of the country’s historic treasures. The collection of fossils and bones of early hominids discovered in Ethiopia include the 3.5 million year old remains of “Lucy”, the oldest hominid every found. We will also visit the Holy Trinity Church, Ethiopia’s main cathedral and home to the remains of the last emperor, Haile Selassie. Finally we will visit Menelik”s Mausoleum.

Day 2 Fly to Bahir Dar

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. The afternoon is free, perhaps to enjoy the remarkable birdlife in the area, but most people will probably want to take the excursion by boat on the lake to visit some of the monasteries. The nearest one, the 15th century Kebrane Gabriel, is forbidden to women, but Ura-Kidanemereth, on a peninsula jutting out into the lake, is open to all. Under the thatched roof are some distinctive colourful paintings of religious scenes, and an impressive display of illuminated bibles written in Ge’ez, the religious language from which Amharic is derived.  Over Night Hotel

Day 3 Bahir Dar

Early in the morning we travel to the Tississat, or Blue Nile, Falls, located about thirty kilometers from Lake Tana. amazing to see the Blue Nile pouring over the fern-fringed lip to be channeled into the incredibly narrow gorges on its journey to Khartoum in Sudan. We take a gentle walk to the falls (approx two hours round trip) before stopping to admire them. From here we head back to the river for a short boat ride to meet the vehicle. (N.B. A shorter visit to the falls can be arranged for those who don’t want such a long walk). We then return to Bahir Dar for lunch and explore the town. We may choose to visit the local market or watch the activity in and around the lake where the main means of transport is the traditional boats made of bundled papyrus known as Tankwa


Day 4 Drive to Gondar

This morning we drive north to Gondar, the former capital of Ethiopia. After lunch we will explore Gondar and visit the castles, which were built in the 17th and 18th century by several generations of Ethiopian kings. Nearby is Debre Birhan Selassie church with its sensational angelic ceiling, and the bathhouse of Fasilides where thousands of Ethiopians celebrate Timkat festival every January19 .

Day 5 Drive to Semien Mountain and Trek

After breakfast we drive to Debark on the edge of the Simien Mountains. The road has considerably improved and the drive should take about 2hrs. In the late morning we drive up into the mountains for some spectacular views of this unique ecosystem. The highland plateau is capped by a dramatic skyline of jagged volcanic plugs and split by deep gorges and gullies. On a good day, the views are sensational and the striking towers and formations have been described as the ‘chess pieces of the Gods’. We take an optional 1.5hr walk, mostly flat or downhill, and hope to see the endemic Gelada baboons and Klipspringers before returning to Debark. The maximum altitude we reach is 3250m.

Day 6 Fly to Lalibela

We take a short flight to Lalibela and visit the first cluster of rock-hewn churches in the afternoon. These churches are Ethiopia’s top attraction. The churches are mostly cut from solid rock, and therefore have the appearance of being underground. The most famous church is Bete Giorgis (St George, patron saint of Ethiopia), carved in the form of a Greek cross. It is exceptionally well preserved and visually almost flawless.

probably one of the most fascinating places not only in Ethiopia but also in the world. In fact it was included in the World Heritage list by the UNESCO. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Axum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Lalibela was intended to be a New Jerusalem in response to the capture of Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187, and many of its historic buildings take their name and layout from buildings in Jerusalem b/n the 12th and 13thC. There are 11 churches, assembled in 3 groups.


Day 7 Lalibela - Excursion Mule trek to Ashatan Maryam

In the morning we enjoy an optional adventurous mule journey to visit Ashetan Maryam (St Mary), built on a ridge with excellent views over the surrounding countryside. The trip takes approximately 4 hours (round trip) and will start early to avoid the heat. We will ride the mules up the mountain for approximately an hour, before hiking the rest of the way up the mountain to the church. After visiting the church we will walk back down to the village on slippery mountain paths. In the afternoon we visit another cluster of churches that include the churches of Bete Gabriel and Rafael, Merkorous, Emanuel and Abba Libanos. Bete Emanuel is the best in this group and exceptionally carved with unique Axumite building features, such as the indentations on the walls, symbols of the multi-storey building taken from the stelae of Axum, monkey heads and false windows. The rest of the day is spent absorbing the atmosphere of this extraordinary town with its Tukul or round houses. Made as two-storey buildings, they are unusual in Ethiopia.


Day 8 Fly to Addis Ababa

Fly back to Addis Ababa. Those on the group flights will be have access to day use rooms in the hotel in Addis Ababa before being taken to the airport for the overnight flight back to your home. The trip ends in Addis Ababa.

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