Day 1: Addis Ababa
Upon arrival at Bole International Airport, your driver will meet you just outside the airport terminal and transfer you to the luxury Sheraton Hotel. Freshen up in the hotel before taking your first steps in the bustling capital city, Addis Ababa (meaning 'New Flower'). The city lies in the central highlands at 2700m above sea level and is Africa's diplomatic capital. Founded in 1887 by Emporer Menelik II, it is now the home of over 3 million people, along with a portfolio is fascinating museums, historic sites, churches, and sprawling markets. The Mercato market is the largest open-air market anywhere in Africa, and the surrounding Entoto hills offer dramatic views over the entire city.
Entoto Hills offers the best introduction to Addis. Mt. Entoto is the highest peak around the capital with stunning views over the city and the surrounding area from the summit. It was the first settlements of the city back when Menelik II built his palace in 1887; a unique place which offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Ethiopia’s distinct culture. The compound at the peak hosts the Entoto Mariam church, an Ethiopian artefact museum as well as Menelik II’s palace. As you drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in temperature and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees which line the road. Roadside stalls offer fresh Ethiopian coffee (the best in the world). If you have an interest in Ethiopian traditional clothes it may be possible, depending on time, to stop by at Shero Meda Market, where there is a wide variety of beautiful fabrics, shawls, scarves, dresses, tops and jewelry, offering good ideas for gifts.
As an alternative to Entoto, you can head to The National Archaeological Museum which ranks among the most important museums in Sub-Saharan Africa. The museum houses the 3.5 million year old fossil of ‘Lucy’, believed to be the ancestor of all humankind. Lucy is just one of the countless ancient exhibits in the museum which pronounce the importance of Ethiopia as the ‘Cradle of Mankind’. Its historic rooms feature finery worn in the wars, including crowns and weapons, alongside pictures of wartime heroes and kings.
For lunch, we have the option of Kategna Restaurant, one of the capital's highest rated local restaurant - lunch here is an introduction to Ethiopian cuisine like no other. Alternatively, we can spend a couple of hours on the Go Addis food tour.
After lunch, head to St. George’s Cathedral (Giorgis Cathedral) which lies at the north end of Churchill Road. Designed in the traditional octagonal shape, this cathedral was built in 1896 to commemorate Ethiopia's victory over the Italians at the Battle of Adwa. The Cathedral houses the work of Afewerk Tekle, the renowned Ethiopian artist responsible for the stained-glass windows of the Africa Hall, and also houses a small museum in the compound.
Vvisit the famous open-air market in Africa, Mercato, covering several square miles and employing an estimated 13,000 people in 7,100 business entities.
In the evening, you have plenty of choice for restaurants and bars, and there are a handful of cultural restaurants that showcase Ethiopian dancing from across the country. Well worth a visit on your first evening in the country. Overnight at the luxury Sheraton Hotel, one of Addis's best 5* offerings.
Day 2: Bahir Dar
Catch a morning flight to Bahir Dar. Our driver will meet you just outside the airport terminal and transfer you Kuriftu Resort & Spa. Bahir Dar is home to Lake Tana, the largest highland lake in Ethiopia. Lake Tana is also the source of the Blue Nile, a fact that may explain many of Ethiopia's links with the ancient world. Even today, the papyrus tankwa that sail the lake bear a striking re-semblance to the boats of Ancient Egypt.
Today you'll head out on a boat trip onto Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake which is dotted with more than 30 islands, many of which house churches and monasteries. Take a boat trip over the lake to Zege Peninsula to visit two of the renowned Island Monasteries: Ura Kidane Mihret and Azua Mariam, both of which have wonderful paintings depicting scenes from the Old and the New Testaments of the Holy Bible. The monastery of Ura which is found hidden within the mangrove forest of the Zege peninsula. Its architectural style is a typical example of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church having mud plastered round wall with conical thatched roof. Ura is known especially for its fine frescoes, manuscripts, ecclesiastical objects like crown of various emperors dated from the 14th century, processional crosses of silver & gold, silver-drum and royal vestments.
Returning to shore we head for the market to buy local ingredients. We'll be preparing a traditional Ethiopian meal with the guidance of a local family, meaning you can experience the entire process from end to end, learn what goes into making traditional Ethiopian cuisine, and share the meal round the table with the family.
Late afternoon enjoy the sightseeing in Bahir Dar - have a look around the city of Bahir dar including the Bazawit Hill Top which offers a spectacular view of the surrounding, the city, the islands of Lake Tana and Blue Nile leaving the lake. With some luck hippopotamus colonies can be seen at the bottom. There is the palace of Emperor Hailesillasie built in the 1960s which you could see from the outside.
Day 3: Lalibela
A morning flight takes you to Lalibela, one of Ethiopia's most remarkable destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries King Lalibela of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches in this spot, calling it New Jerusalem. Physically shaped from the rock in which they stand, these towering edifices seems to be a superhuman creation in scale, workmanship and concept. 11 churches in the town are named after the King.
Today’s tour will see you explore the first group of six churches in town. This group of churches lie in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel and Bet Medhane Alem. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest, is built like a Greek temple. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Your guide will help you appreciate the cultural and historical significance of this ancient town.
Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
Ethiopia's coffee ceremony is an integral part of social and cultural life. An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered as a mark of friendship or respect and is an example of Ethiopian hospitality.
In some Ethiopian households, the coffee ceremony is conducted three times per day by a female member of the family. The ceremony starts with raw coffee beans, which are washed and then roasted over a fire or stove in a long-handled pan until they’re black and oily, and invites guests to come closer and savor the smell.
The hostess then grinds the coffee with a mortar and pestle, and adds it to water that’s boiling in a coffeepot called a jebena. When it’s ready, she holds the jebena high in the air and pours the coffee into small cups. Pouring neatly takes skill and grace. Often, each cup is served with a heaping spoonful of sugar and a snack of fresh popcorn or bread (Anbasha). Guests typically drink three rounds of coffee, using the same grounds. The first cup is called ABOOL, the second TONA, and the third BEREKA. The third cup is said to convey a blessing. This is a social ceremony and will last for at least half an hour.
A short drive outside the town sits Mezena Lodge, one of Lalibela's finest accommodation options offering stunning views out of Lalibela.
Day 4: Lalibela
In the morning, visit the second group of the rock churches. The south-east cluster of churches is more irregular in design than the north-western cluster. Several of the individual churches in this cluster are thought to have been secular in origin, and some predate the reign of King Lalibela by five centuries. The churches in the south-east cluster include Bet Gebriel-Rafael, Bet Abba Libanos, Bet Lehem, Bet Emanuel, and Bet Mercurios. According to legend, Bet Abba Libanos was built overnight by Lalibela's wife, Meskel Kebre, who was assisted by a group of angels.
Then visit Bet Giyorgis, the most elegant and visually striking of all the Lalibela churches. The church lies somewhat isolated in the southwestern part of the village on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached via tunnel.
In the evening go to Torpido Tej Bets (Honey wine houses); it’s decorated in cow skins and traditional Ethiopian fabrics. This is a place where you will experience a real Ethiopian traditional music. They have its own potent wine in varying degrees of strength. And, if you are interested you can get up and shift your shoulders like you have never done before.
Return to Mezena Lodge for your final night.
Day 5: Arba Minch
As your time in the North draws to a close, you adventure into the incredible Omo Valley begins.. After breakfast, catch a flight to Arba Minch via Addis Ababa.
Arba Minch (Forty Springs), is the largest town in Southern Ethiopia and the gateway to the Omo Valley. The town lies at an elevation of around 1300m in the foothills of the Rift valley wall above a cliff overlooking the mountains separating the lakes of Chamo and Abaya. With mountains rising to almost 4000m to the west, it is difficult to think of a more perfectly situated town anywhere in east Africa - wherever you walk and at whatever time of day, there are stunning views in all direction.
On arrival drive & visit the home of the Dorze people at Chencha. The Dorze are renowned cotton weavers whose tall beehive-shaped dwellings are among the most distinctive traditional structures to be seen anywhere in Africa. The main occupations of the region are subsistence farming and weaving. The Shama cloth produced around Chencha is regarded to be the finest in Ethiopia: Plain white Gabbi robes and brightly colored scarf-like Netalas are sold along the roadside.
Today experience their traditional foods. The local chef will explain to you their best traditional foods, the components and how it is prepared… you will also be invited to taste.
Then return for your overnight stay at Paradise Lodge, a great lodge offering beautiful views from the restaurant and terrace.
Day 6: Omo Valley
After breakfast, head out on a boat trip over Lake Chamo where you'll find hippos and crocodiles at a close range. The place known as “Azo-Gebeya"", meaning Crocodile Market, and it offers one of Africa's most impressive displays of big crocs.
Then you proceed to Jinka via Konso.The Konso people are known for their characteristic intricately terraced hillsides, fine woven materials, and the carved totems with which they decorate their graves. Then you continue to Weito and to Jinka, where you visit the Museum of the South Omo Research Centre to learn more about the ethnic groups of southern Ethiopia. In Yetnebersh, you visit a village of the Ari people. The villagers will show you how they make liquor out of Sorghum, garlic and maize.
If today is Thursday, you get to attend the weekly market in Key Afer with great opportunities for colourful photos of the traders.
If time permits, visit the Omo Child Project.
Day 7: Omo Valley
Following breakfast, leave for one of Africa’s vast wildernesses, Mago National Park. Mago was founded in the 1960s and it encloses dense acacia forests and open savanna and provides sanctuary to nearly one hundred mammal species and three hundred bird species, though population densities are sparse these days.
Visit the Mursi village, 140kms round trip. They are known for fierce warrior disposition and wildly decorative appearance, with large circular clay labrets that the women wear in the lower lip. The larger the lip plate, the greater the woman’s value when she is married. She removes her plate for eating and sleeping. Mursi has become a cultural symbol of the Lower Omo Valley. They are the most renowned of the Omotic - speakers, famed for their practice of inserting large clay plates behind the lower lips of their women and colourful dresses and also they go in for body scarification.
Then head to Turmi & on your way stop in Benna village to visit the Beshada people. They are adorned with clay and an impressive headdress.
Turmi is a place for the Hamer tribes. Visit the Hamer village they are a fine looking people, both men and women take great pride in their appearance, shaving and coloring their hair, oiling their bodies and decorating themselves with beads and bracelets worn around arms and legs. They are famous for their body decoration, moonlight dance (Evangedi Dance) and bull-jumping. Bull jumping marks the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. It is not a done every day.
The Hamer villages are incredibly neat and constructed entirely from mud, wood and thatch, one of the most striking aspects of these small villages –which typically consist of a few extended families across perhaps 10-15huts –is the total absence of non –organic or western artifacts.
If Tuesday - Dimeka women’s market. The other beautiful South Omo tribes Market held on Tuesdays & Saturdays. Here you could meet no less than four different tribes at a time, namely the Bennas, the Hamer, Erbore & Ari tribes. Proceed to Turmi.
Day 8: Omo Valley
"Following breakfast drive to the village of Kolcho and visit the Kara tribes. They are considered the masters of body painting, in which they engage when preparing for a dance, feast or celebration.
Drive back to Turmi and you will experience the special dish of Hamer tribes.
Overnight Buska Lodge.
Day 9: Omo Valley
Following breakfast you drive back to Konso via Erbore village. Arbore / Erbore, is far more rustic and unaffected than many similarly size towns in south Omo, in common with their linguistically and culturally affiliated Tsemai neighbors, the Arbore migrated to their present homeland from Konso perhaps two centuries ago. Because they have ancestral and cultural links to Konso and the pastoralists of the surrounding lowlands, the Arbore traditionally played an important role as middlemen in trade between the Omo River and the Konso Highlands. The town of Arbore lies in an area where several tribal boundaries coverage.
Then to Konso & visit Konso Cultural Community
The rolling hills of Ethiopia’s Southern Rift Valley, dotted with bright green moringa trees and quaint thatched huts, are home to the Konso people – traditional farmers who cultivate cereals and cotton and rear cows and goats.
The vast and majestic landscape provides a stunning backdrop for the unique Konso culture. Konso villages, known as kantas, are built into the hillsides and encircled with stone walls for protection. The winding paths that weave through the village all lead to the mora, a large, thatched pavilion which acts as a special meeting place for the people of the surrounding villages. At night the young, unmarried men sleep here to protect the community and learn about life.
The Konso culture has much to offer visitors. From cultural performances to handcraft demonstrations, visitors can learn about the traditions of the Konso people and the important roles these traditions still play in their lives
Konso cuisine – today you learn about how to make cheka and kurkufa; a local drink and food of Konso People.
kurkufa is usually prepared for breakfast; this is a type of local meal made of maize or sorghum flour mixed with cabbage. Cheka is a local food/drink, made from maize or sorghum flour. There are two types of cheka: alcoholic and non-alcoholic, the latter is meant for children to consume. The alcoholic one is for marketing to earn cash.
Overnight at Kanta Lodge.
Day 10: Yirgalem
Following breakfast head to Yirgalem, and visit a number of coffee and various fruit cultivating towns with splendid greenery everywhere. And spend the night at the Aregash Lodge; nestled between coffee fields and lush vegetation in Yirgalem town. The Aregash Lodge is a natural retreat of astounding beauty and tranquility. The Bamboo thatched Tukuls.
Tasting the Sidama”s known cultural ‘Bursame” with Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Contemplate the traditional Sidama village that inhabit nearby. The nearby forest is home to diverse, prolific flora and harbors with over 100 species of birds and mammals. The coffee plantation and the nightly visits of jackals and hyenas are further attractions to be found in the surrounding area. Activities include trekking, horseback riding, and visits to historical caves, sacred sites and natural hot and cold-water springs.
Overnight Aregash Lodge.
Today explore the Sidama Village at Yirgalem.
The main food for the society is made from false banana tree called “ enset” it’s called in local terms like kotco and bula. It’s a kind of food extracted from the enset tree for example kotcho is used to prepare meals like Omolcho, Duwame , Bursame and other meals are prepared from it .In some parts of the sidama barely and maize is also used.
Experience their special food Kocho – which is prepared from Enset – the 'False Banana'.
Kocho usually served with the meat dish called “kitfo,” and / or a cabbage called “Ubasha Cabbage”, which is high in vitamin A.
Kocho is starchy food product obtained from a mixture of the scraped pulp of pseudo stem and pulverized corm of enset plant (Ensete ventricosum). Ensete ventricosum is a drought resistant plant and can be cultivated as an alternative food source for food security problem.
The green leaf sheaths of this plant are scraped with a bamboo scraper. The scrapings are then put in a pit in the ground, lined with Enset leaves, along with some yeast mixed into the scrapings. The pit is then covered with Enset leaves, and rocks. It is allowed to ferment for at least a month; generally much longer — up to two years is not uncommon. The pit might be opened up once and twice, and the contents stirred. The longer it ferments, the better the taste. The scrapings are green before fermentation in the ground; afterwards, they turn white, and have a smell like cheese.
Kocho can be removed from the pits as needed for use. The women are in charge of the pits, treating them as household assets. The woman might even take out some for sale at the market, to buy other things.
To make bread from it, the amount needed is taken out of the pit, and chopped for a few minutes with a large knife blade to make sure any fibres remaining are chopped up.
This “dough” is then mixed with spices and butter, and formed into flatbreads. These can be baked on griddles or clay pans, or wrapped in leaves and baked in an oven pit. The bread will keep for a few days.
Overnight at Aregash Lodge.
Day 12: Addis Ababa
Following breakfast you drive to Awassa, 40kms. Lake Awassa is a beautiful freshwater lake, set amongst hills and luxuriant vegetation, quite unlike the alkaline lakes to the north. Birds are so very plentiful here little energy is required in finding them and hopefully get some good views of the beautiful Black and white Colobus Monkeys. Enjoy Awassa's magnificent spectacle of water birds.
Visit “Amora Gedel”-the daily fishing market on the shore of Lake Awassa and get really close to pelicans, storks and other birds very much used to human company.
Visit of Castel Winery garden & wine testing at Ziway
Tonight you will have a wonderful cultural evening at one of Addis Ababa Restaurant; Ethiopia is a mosaic of people with more than 80 languages, different lifestyles, costumes and cultural dances. Take a chance to experience some of these cultural dances and traditional meals with a drink of Tej, a type of wine made from Honey.
Then Transfer to the airport for your Departure.
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
Pricing is per person based on two travellers.
Single Supplement And Child Policy
Single Supplement: 426 USD.
- Expert English speaking birding guides.
- Airport transfers and road transport via air-conditioned vehicle.
- Accommodation based on twin rooms.
- Meal plan full board.
- Fees for entrances, local guides and compulsory scouts for activities mentioned in the itinerary
- All government taxes for the services included in the tour price.
- International flights and domestic flights fees.
- Activities not mentioned or stated as optional in the itinerary.
- Fees for photos and video.
- Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc.