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Ethiopia...churches, coffee, crosses and culture

Of all the destinations in Africa, Ethiopia takes you back in time in a most unique manner. A country of staggering cultural diversity, especially with its pre-Christian ties with the old world, life is still fundamentally unchanged since biblical times. Once out of the bustle of Addis Ababa, you find yourself in a landscape with teff fields, donkeys and a way of life found nowhere else. Hand weaving, silver of the highest quality and unique churches hewn out of mountains abound. Man was born in the Ethiopian Rift, the highlands house Gelada apes, the scenery is breath-taking – together this forms a cultural and ecological mixture without equal in Africa.

  • Lalibela - Rock Hewn Churches
  • Gelada Baboons
  • Debre Libanos Monastery
  • Steles - World Heritage Site
  • Blue Nile Falls

Overview

Ethiopia is a country with an intriguing and old, very old history. The people are extremely religious and the country operates on a totally different time and calendar than the rest of the world. Amharic is the official language. It is an ancient language officially used throughout medieval times to date. The historical sites are mesmerising. When you stand in awe looking down onto one of the rock-hewn churches it is difficult to imagine man created it – the fable that angels assisted with the work becomes not so far-fetched.

The countryside is postcard beautiful… green hills, rocky outcrops, lakes, high mountains, the origin of the Blue Nile at Lake Tana and picturesque vistas.  Not only the churches are old … the gelada, sometimes called the gelada baboon, is a species of ‘old world’ monkey found only in the Ethiopian Highlands, with large populations in the Semien Mountains. We will go in search of these animals.

Town markets are colourful and a hive of activity with friendly locals eager to sell their goods. Even the children are eager to enter into conversation with visitors. Like many things in Ethiopia the cuisine is also unique and different. Njera, a sponge like pancake made from teff flour is found on every menu. Learn how to eat njera and tibs by only using your right hand. Coffee had its origin in Ethiopia … attending a coffee ceremony is a relaxing, colourful and an interesting experience.

Ethiopia is not an ordinary tourist destination – leave the ordinary and experience the extraordinary of this exceptional country.

Itinerary

Day 1: SOUTH AFRICA - ADDIS ABABA

12h20 Check in for your International flight to Addis Ababa.

14h20 Depart on Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 808 from O R Tambo to Bole Airport in Addis Ababa.

20h50 Arrive in Addis, clear customs and collect your luggage. Proceed to the arrivals hall where you will be met and transfer to your hotel.

O/N: Ambassador Hotel 4* Bed (breakfast)

Day 2: ADDIS ABABA - BAHIR DAR

Enjoy Breakfast at your hotel.

Check-out and settle all extras.

Transfer to Bole Airport.

10h30 Check-in for your flight to Bahir Dar.

11:30 Depart Addis on flight ET 144 for Bahir Dar

12:30 Arrive in Bahir Dar you will be met and spend the morning exploring the town.

Bahir Dar is an attractive town with palm-lined avenues and pretty lakeside vistas located on the south eastern shore of Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. Nearby Lake Tana, 1 800 meters above sea level, is the hidden source of the Nile River.

Check-in at your accommodation and enjoy lunch.

The afternoon will be at leisure.

O/N: Avanti Blue Hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 3: BLUE NILE AND LAKE TANA

Breakfast at your hotel.

Today will be spent visiting a monastery on Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls.

Make sure you wear easy walking shoes.

Depart to the Blue Nile Falls. From the parking area it is an uneven walk to reach the falls. The Tissiat falls (meaning water that smokes) are 30 kms from where the Blue Nile leaves the lake heading towards Khartoum. The falls drop over a sheer chasm more than 150 feet to the valley below.

Enjoy an afternoon boat cruise on Lake Tana and visit an island monastery. Some of these monasteries date back to the 14th century. The lake has a surface of 3600sq. kms and is dotted with 36 islands.

Dinner at the hotel.

O/N: Avanti Blue Hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 4: BAHIR DAR – GONDAR

Breakfast at the hotel.

Depart for Gondar.

Gondar was Ethiopia’s third capital in the 17th and 18th century and is located at the foot of the Semien Mountains.

The city’s unique imperial compound contains a number of castles built from 1632 to 1885 by the various Emperors who reigned during these periods. These castles, unlike any other in Africa display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia.

Also visit the Bath of Fasilades and the church of Debre Birham Sillassie (Light of the Trinity), which is famous for its wall and ceiling paintings.

O/N: Taye Belay (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 5: GONDAR – SEMIEN MOUNTAIN PARK

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel.

Check-out and settle all extras.

Enjoy a drive in the Semien Park in search of the gelada baboon. The Semien Mountains National Park is a World Heritage Site as far as Sankaber. The park offers superb scenery, endemic fauna like the gelada baboon, birds like the Lammergeyer and flora such as the Abyssinian wild rose.

Arrive at your accommodation and check-in.

Dinner at the lodge.

O/N: Siemen Mountain Lodge (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 6: SEMIEN MOUNTAIN PARK - AXUM

Early morning departure. Enjoy breakfast at your hotel, check-out and depart for Axum.

Enjoy the scenic drive as there will be ever-changing views and glimpses of the valley below.

Enjoy picnic lunch en rotue.

Arrive late afternoon in Axum.

O/N : Consular Hotel (breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner)

Day 7: AXUM

Enjoy Breakfast at your hotel.

You will spent the day visiting the Steles a World Heritage site.

The Obelisk of Axum is a 1,700-year-old, 24-metre-tall (79-foot) granite stele/obelisk, weighing 160 tons. It is ornamented with two false doors at the base and features decorations resembling windows on all sides. The obelisk ends in a semi-circular top part, which used to be enclosed by metal frames.

Also visit other archeological sites, the bath and the palace of Queen Sheba, the tomb of the Kings and some churches among which the church of St Mary of Zion (where legend says the Ark of the Covenant, brought there from Israel by King Menelik I, is kept).

Enjoy some time at leisure.

O/N : Consular Hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 8: AXUM

Breakfast at the hotel.

Drive to Adigrat and enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Visit the Debre Damo monastery. Debre Damo monastery is situated on an isolated mountain in the northern part of Tigray. It is unique when compared with most Ethiopian monasteries. Debre Damo was built, in the sixth century AD, with curved wood panels, painted ceilings and walls dedicated to the legend of Saint (Abune) Areg. Debre Damo is only accessible by climbing up with a rope, which is made of "plaited leather", lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is only accessible to men. Women are forbidden to set foot in the monastery, and must remain under the cliffs and pray from there.

We will also visit the oldest standing structure in Ethiopia... The Yeha temple.

Return to Axum for overnight.

O/N: Consular Hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 9: AXUM - LALIBELA

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel.

Check-out and settle all extras.

Transfer to the airport.

10h15 Check-in for your flight to Lalibela.

11h15 Depart on flight ET 123 from Axum to Lalibela

11:55 Arrive in Lalibela and collect your luggage, meet your representative in the arrivals Hall.

Visit the first group of rock hewn churches built in the 12th century. There are no less than 1000 churches in the Lasta region of Lalibela. Some hidden in enormous caves, but it is exceptional to find 11 churches of such master craftsmanship in one location.

Check-in at your hotel.

O/N: Panoramic Hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 10: LALIBELA

After breakfast visit one of the churches out of town. Visit the cave church of Naktule’ab with very nice views of the villages.

Return to Lalibela for lunch. In the afternoon visit the 2nd group of rock hewn churches.

Dinner at the hotel.

O/N: Panoramic Hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 11: LALIBELA – ADDIS ABABA

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel.

Check-out and settle all extras.

Transfer to Lalibela airport to check-in for your flight to Addis.

09h40 Check in for your flight.

10h40 Depart Lalibela on flight ET 120 for Addis Ababa

11h40 Upon arrival in Addis collect your luggage and meet your representative in the arrivals hall.

Depart on a city tour.

Visit the Entoto Mountains to enjoy the view of the capital. Return to the city to visit the National Museum to see the remains of Lucy … in her Ethiopian homeland, Lucy is called "dinknesh," which means the wondrous one. Also visit the St George’s Cathedral where Haile Selassie was crowned. End the tour with a visit to the Merkato, the biggest open air market in Africa.

Enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant while enjoying the performance of local dancers.

O/N: Ambassador Hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Day 12: DEPART

Early check-out and settle all extras.

Take the hotel shuttle to the airport. Early transfer to Bole Airport to check-in for your return flight to South Africa.

06h40 Check in for your International flight.

08h40 Depart Addis Ababa on flight ET 809 for O R Tambo airport, Johannesburg

13h10 Arrive in Johannesburg

END OF TOUR

Dates

On Request

Rates

On request, subject to your preferred dates.

Included

  • Private transport
  • English speaking guide
  • 4 star hotel in Addis Ababa on bed and breakfast basis
  • 2-3 star hotels out of Addis on dinner, bed and breakfast basis
  • All lunches out of Addis
  • Non-alcoholic drinks during meal time out of Addis
  • Half day boat trip on Lake Tana
  • Entrance fees
  • 1 x bottle of water per day

Excluded

  • All International Flights 
  • All Domestic flights in South Africa 
  • Excess baggage
  • Ethiopian visa
  • Any health precautions if applicable
  • Travel, baggage, cancellation and medical insurance
  • All meals and drinks in Addis Ababa
  • All alcoholic drinks
  • All non-alcoholic drinks outside of meals while on tour
  • Any other optional activities 
  • Gratuities and tips for guides and drivers
  • Porterage at airport and hotels
  • Expenses to attend  or see dances or ceremonies
  • Things of a personal nature, i.e. laundry services, room service, minibar, telephone calls etc.