Situated in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia boasts extraordinary natural features, a vast range of wildlife, and a captivating historical and cultural heritage. An increasing number of visitors are frequenting this treasure trove filled with unique attractions. Popular attractions include the medieval castles of Gondar; the walled city of Harar; and Lalibela, a pilgrimage site known for its ancient monolithic churches, hewn into the area’s steep rocky hillsides. Ethiopia’s stunning natural landscapes are the real tourist drawcard.
From the lush Simien Mountains to the Sulphur vents of the Danakil Depression, the country’s outstanding natural environment is unforgettable. Bahir Dar, located on Lake Tana, is popular as a base from which to explore the fascinating monasteries situated on the numerous islands dotted around the lake, as well as the Blue Nile Falls, which are arguably the most spectacular falls in North Africa.
Regarded as the land of history and the cradle of mankind, Ethiopia is distinguished from many African destinations by its wealth of historic sites and the identity of its unique and diverse cultures. Among the best-known historic sites are Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela, all of which speak of the people’s great faith and unmatched architectural skills, and which together make up the northern historic route and are a highlight of this itinerary.
This trip will also provide discovery of the tribes of Omo Valley, the most fascinating on the continent of Africa and around the world, who keep their unique and diverse traditional costumes, traditions and beliefs, and the central rift valley lakes region and national parks.
Day 1: Arrival – Bahir Dar
Arrive in Addis Ababa, and connect directly to your flight to Bahir Dar. Be welcomed and transferred to your resort on the shores of Lake Tana.
Activities & services: Bahir Dar, Accommodation on BB basis at Jacaranda hotel.
Bahir Dar – Situated on the southern shores of Lake Tana in northern Ethiopia, Bahir Dar serves as the capital city of the Amhara region. The city features palm-lined avenues and was awarded the ‘UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize’ in 2002, for addressing the challenges of rapid urbanization.
Bahir Dar is a popular tourist destination in Ethiopia offering a wonderful selection of attractions in the surrounding area. Visitors can enjoy a wide selection of interesting sites including visiting some of the world’s oldest medieval monasteries and churches on the islands scattered within the Lake Tana, and discovering the spectacular Blue Nile Falls, featuring a 45-metre drop, an impressive 400-metre width and an array of misty rainbows.
Day 2: Bahir Dar
Full day in Bahir Dar. Boat trip on Lake Tana, visit some of the ancient monasteries on the Zege Peninsula. In the afternoon, optionally visit the Blue Nile Falls or the market in the city.
Activities & services: Lake Tana, Zege Peninsula, Accommodation on BB basis. at Jacaranda hotel.
Optional: Blue Nile Falls
Day 3: Bahir Dar – Gondar
Drive to visit the Awra Amba village then continue to Gondar. Sightseeing in Gondar including the castles known as the Camelot of Africa, Fasilides Castle and Debre Birihan Selassie Church.
Activities & services: Awra Amba, Gondar, Fasilides’ Bath, Debre Birhan Selassie Church, Accommodation on BB basis at Zobel Resort.
Gondar – Situated southwest of the Simien Mountains, north of Lake Tana, Gondar once served as the royal capital of the ancient Ethiopian Empire. Known as the ‘Camelot of Africa’, Gondar is home to the World Heritage Site of Fasil Ghebbi, a fortress-city previously inhabited by the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides.
Visitors can enjoy a wide selection of wonderful activities including discovering the ancient Gondar Castle, a medieval castle and palace complex, exploring the 17th century Church of Debre Sina, featuring biblical murals on every wall and visiting the nearby Simien Mountains National Park. Don’t miss a visit to Ras Dashen, the highest mountain in Ethiopia.
Day 4: Gondar – Lalibela
Fly from Gondar to Lalibela. Visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and participate in an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Activities & services: Lalibela, Bete Maryam, Bete Golgotha, Bete Giyorgis, Accommodation on BB basis at Cliff Edge Hotel.
Lalibela – Situated in northern Ethiopia, the town of Lalibela is named after King Lalibela of the Zagwe Dynasty. The town is considered Ethiopia’s cultural capital and one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, it serves as a centre of pilgrimage. The undeniable highlight of this ancient capital is dubbed the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and includes eleven rock-hewn churches dating back to the 13th century.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is carved out of solid rock and includes subterranean monoliths, a network of interconnected tunnels, and chambers featuring magnificent frescoes. Lalibela also plays host to some of the most famous church festivals in Ethiopia.
Day 5: Lalibela
Excursions to outlying churches in the countryside including Yemrehane Christos, or take a mule ride or walk to Asheton Maryiam. In the afternoon, visit the rest of the churches in Lalibela.
Activities & services: Yemrehana Krestos church, Accommodation on BB basis at Cliff Edge Hotel.
Optional: Asheton Maryam
Day 6: Lalibela – Addis Ababa – Jinka
Fly from Lalibela to Addis Ababa and connect to your flight to Jinka. Visit the cultural museum in Jinka.
Activities & services: Jinka, Jinka museum, Accommodation on BB basis at Jinka Resort.
Jinka – Located in southwestern Ethiopia, near the borders of Sudan and Kenya, Jinka is the largest town in the Debub Omo Zone. It serves as an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding area. This remote market town is home to the Mursi people, who are well known for their elaborate lip plates made of clay.
At the South Omo Research Center and Museum, visitors can learn more about the Mursi, as well as other groups in the region, through a series of exhibits detailing the cultures and customs of local tribes. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the nearby Mago National Park, where abundant wildlife finds shelter in the dense acacia woodland.
Day 7: Jinka – Turmi
Drive to Mago National Park and visit the Mursi tribe. In the afternoon, drive to Turmi and if the day is Tuesday or Saturday visit Dimeka market.
Activities & services: Mago National Park, Mursi Village, Accommodation on BB basis at Turmi Lodge.
Turmi – This small market town in southwestern Ethiopia functions as a central transport hub as well as an important meeting point for the area’s weekly Monday market. The local Hamer inhabitants of the surrounding villages flock here to buy and sell local produce and handicrafts. Visitors to the area can enjoy culturally fascinating guided tours of the surrounding villages.
Popular cultural attractions include traditional Hamer dance performances and exhilarating ‘Jumping of the Bulls’ ceremonies which form the culmination of a three-day-long rite of passage for any young man within the Hamer tribe. Turmi is a great choice of destination for travellers in search of a unique and authentic African experience in one of the most remote places on the continent.
Day 8: Turmi
Drive to Omorate and visit the Dasenech tribe. If there is a bull-jumping ceremony you’ll also attend this. You can also visit the Caro or Hamer, tribes.
Activities & services: Omo National Park, Dasenach Tribe, Accommodation on BB basis at Turmi Lodge.
OPTIONAL: Hamer Market, Caro Tribe.
Day 9: Turmi – Arba Minch
Drive from Turmi to Arba Minch. En-route visit Konso village. Upon arrival at Arba Minch, have a boat trip at Lake Chamo.
Activities & services: Arba Minch, Konso, Lake Chamo, Accommodation on BB basis at Ezana Arbaminch Hotel.
Arba Minch – Situated in southern Ethiopia at the base of the western side of the Great Rift Valley, the city of Arba Minch is the largest city in the Gamo Gofa Zone. Surrounded by forested mountains and home to two of Ethiopia’s largest Rift Valley Lakes, Arba Minch is named after the abundant springs found in the area.
This resort town rests on the edge of Lake Chamo where it has a stunning view of the aptly named ‘Bridge of God’, an isthmus that separates Lake Chamo from the neighbouring Lake Abaya. This stretch of land is home to zebras, gazelle, kudus and other wildlife. The Dorze village is also a popular attraction in Arba Minch – here tourists can visit the famous beehive huts built by the Dorze tribe.
Day 10: Arba Minch – Departure
Excursion to Dorze village, then being transferred to the airport for your flight back to Addis. Remain at the airport for your international departure.
Options are of course many and varied and in many cases, we can be flexible about the itinerary for accommodation facilities and the extension of the safari destinations.