The Best of Ethiopia

This two week premium experience takes you across the Northern and Southern Highlands of Ethiopia, into the kaleidoscopic landscape of the Danakil Depression, and to the furthest corners of the Lower Omo Valley. Travel by a mix of commercial domestic flights and charter aircraft where necessary.

16 Days

$21,650

The Best of Ethiopia - 16 - $21,650

Itinerary Map

Start from Addis Ababa and end at Addis Ababa

Landmarks visited on The Best of Ethiopia

Itinerary

Day 1: The adventure begins

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport, your guide will meet you outside the airport terminal and transfer you to your hotel. Spend the first day exploring the bustling capital city of Ethiopia. 

Overnight at Sheraton Hotel, the best accommodation in the city. 


Day 2: Danakil Depression

An early start today. Catch an early morning flight to Mekelle. You will be met outside the airport terminal and transfer to the town of Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region. This morning, visit the Yohannes IV Museum, named after the 

19th Century emperor Yohannes IV (r 1872-89). The museum’s exhibits include Tigrayan crafts and a selection of royal regalia and religious artefacts. 

Once you have had lunch, when the temperature cools somewhat, drive on to Hamed Ela, where your campsite for the night awaits. In the late afternoon you will get to experience a dramatic sunset over the salt lake, with camel caravans returning home after a busy day of salt mining.

Overnight: Camping at Hamed Ela


Day 3: Danakil Depression to Korkor Lodge

This morning, after a campsite breakfast, set off for the Dallol Depression, which straddles the Eritrean border to the east of the Tigraian Highlands and is listed as the hottest inhabited location on earth - with an annual average temperature of 34-35 degrees centigrade. 

Much of this vast and practically unpopulated region lies below sea level, dipping to -116m at Dallol, near Lake Asale, the lowest point on the African continent; and one of the driest and most tectonically active areas on the planet. Marvel at the otherwordly scenes of vividly colored Sulphur Pools and rock formations. 

Spend the morning exploring Dallol before returning to the campsite for lunch. After lunch, bid Hamed Ela adieu and journey on to Gheralta. With its unique chain of mountains, the Gheralta area is the home of the rock churches famous for their architecture, ancient paintings, and manuscripts.

Overnight: Korkor Lodge


Day 4: Tigray
After breakfast, take a short drive (approx. 10 min) to visit Abune Yemata, a rock-hewn church, carved on the cliff face of one of the mountains of Guh. The scenery is breath-taking and the mountains resemble pillars reaching to the sky. The church is carved on the cliff face of the Guh Mountains. The challenging and the only way to the church are footholds and handgrips in the rock face. Just before the entrance to the church there is a narrow ledge carved in the cliff from which one can view a sheer drop of approximately 250m to 300m. In fact, the church is not only known for its difficult ascent but also for its truly remarkable murals. It is colourfully decorated wall to wall with exciting murals of Old and New Testament stories. Nine of the twelve apostles are depicted in a round frame.

Enjoy a delicious lunch looking out over the crags of the Gheralta Mountains – a scene of spectacular rugged beauty, then spend the afternoon at leisure.

Overnight: Korkor Lodge


Day 5: Lalibela

Korkor Lodge

Today, after an early breakfast, drive to Axum airport (approx 136km), where you will board your flight (40 min) to Lalibela. Lalibela is rightly acknowledged as being one of the Wonders of the World.  At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries King Lalibella of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches in this spot, calling it New Jerusalem. 11 churches in the town are named after the King.  

After checking into your hotel, have lunch at Ben Abeba restaurant, which offers traditional Ethiopian & western food, in comfortable surroundings, with a spectacular view. This afternoon you will begin your tour of the first group of six churches in town. The first 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.  The group of four, south of the Jordan River, comprise Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercuiros, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufa'el Bet Emanuel's elaborate exterior is much praised by art historians.

Overnight: Mezena Lodge


Day 6: Lalibela

Once you have had breakfast you will get to explore 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 (as legent has it) assisted by a group of angels. Bet Giyorgis, probably the most elegant and majestic of all the Lalibela churches, lies somewhat isolated in the southwest part of the village on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached via a tunnel. 

After lunch, you will visit the monastery of Nakuto Le’ab, located six kilometers outside Lalibela and accessible by car. It is a simple, yet fascinating example of Lalibela’s eastern group of rock hewn churches. In the late afternoon you will visit the open market of Lalibela. Thereafter you will experience authentic Ethiopian hospitality during a traditional coffee ceremony.

Overnight: Mezena Lodge


Day 7: Simien Mountains National Park

This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight (30 mins) to Ethiopia’s very Camelot – the magical town of Gondar! The city was the first capital of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632, with the reign of Fasilides; and the kings of Ethiopia based their power there for over two centuries.

You will have lunch in Gondar before driving (approx. 2 hrs) to the Simien Mountain National Park,  an area of highlands in the northern part of Ethiopia consisting of some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world! It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1978. With a total area of 190km², the Simien Mountains boast 57 tree species, a wealth of herbaceous plants, 22 large and 13 small mammals and about 180 recorded bird species. Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf, Menelik's Bushbuck and the Gelada baboon are among the list of endemic species.

Overnight: Limalimo Lodge


Day 8: Simien Mountains National Park

After breafkast you will visit Sankaber (20km drive). You will leave the vehicle at Sankaber and hike 1 ½ to hrs to the Jinbar Falls. Sankaber is an excellent spot for viewing the Gelada baboons. After an exhilirating morning you will return to the lodge for lunch. You will have the afternoon at leisure. Ifyou wish, you can visit the village and school, which are situated about 20 minutes‘ walk from the lodge. You can also see how traditional injera is prepared.

Referred to as ‘The Roof of Africa’, the Simien Mountains are located in the north of Ethiopia, forming a landscape so vast and spectacular that it is considered to rival the Grand Canyon in Colorado. The highest peak, Ras Dashen, towers a staggering 4,620m above sea level. The Simien Mountains National Park, which was established in 1969, is protected by the National Areas Protected Areas legislation. It is also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’. Comprising high plateaus and deep, rugged gorges, carved by erosion over millions of years, the terrain rises to form towering cliffs that plummet – some as much as 1,500m, into vast valleys as one range of mountains gives rise to another. The area is home to endemic species of flora, fauna and avifauna that have captivated the interest of nature and wildlife enthusiasts from around the world. According to UNESCO: “The park is of global significance for biodiversity conservation because it is home to globally threated species, including the iconic Walia ibex - a wild mountain goat found nowhere else on earth, the Gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf”.

Overnight: Limalimo Lodge


Day 9: Gondar

After breakfast, you will be drive back down (approx. 2 hrs) to Gondar, the imperial city of Fasilides. After checking into your hotel you will embark on an interesting exploration of this city of castles. The city was the first capital of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632, with the reign of Fasilides; and the kings of Ethiopia based their power there for over two centuries.

 In Gondar, there are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. Many picturesque ruins lie in the royal enclosure, like fairy-tale castles dating back to the 17th century. The castles reflect the glory of Gondarine kings and is characterised by its distinctive architectural style. The other place of interest is the Fasilides pool, in which pilgrims still take a plunge during the Timket (Epiphany) celebrations. Afterwards, you will visit Debre Birhan Trinity Church, (rewarding for the magnificent murals adorning the ceiling and walls), and Kuskuam Church, situated on a hillscape, just outside the town.

During this day of remarkable sights, you will pause for breath and for lunch at the Four Sisters Restaurant, which offers a delicious buffet selection of Ethiopian cuisine.

Overnight: Gondar Hills Resort


Day 10: Bale Mountains National Park

This morning, after breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your commercial or charter flight to the Bale Mountain National Park. 

You will have lunch on arrival, then visit Dinsho, head-quarters of the Bale Mountain National park, which is inhabited by Oromo people. Look out for three of the endemic mammals: Menelik's Bushbuck, Simien Fox (Wolf) and Mountain Nyala.  Endemic avian species include the Blue-winged goose, Spot-breasted lapwing, Abyssinian long claw, Wattled ibis, Black-headed siskin, Rouget’s rail. Other noteworthy species  you can expect to see here are warthog, boor reedbuck and Gureza monkeys. On the birding front there are several aquatic and grassland species.  

The Bale Mountains National Park spans over 2,200km² - a protected area that is currently on UNESCO’s tentative list. The highest peak, Tullu Dimtuu, towering 4,377 meters above sea level, is the second highest peak in Ethiopia.  Habitas comprise woodlands in the north, a small grassland valley area, extensive Afroalpine plateau in the central part and the southern escarpment comprising the spectacular indigenous Harenna Forest.  The park has a flourishing plant life. The extensive Afroalpine plateau is characterized by erica shrubs, and giant lobelia that stand up to 10ft high. The park is home to 1,321 species of flowering plants, 163 of which are endemic. There is also a high concentration of medicinal plants and wild forest coffee.

Overnight: Bale Mountain Lodge


Day 11: Bale Mountains National Park

Once you have had a bite to eat you will set out for a day visit (complete with a picnic lunch) to the Harenna Forest and Sanetti Plateau. The Sabettu Plateau is situated 4,000m above sea level and characterized by its striking Afro-Alpine flora, such as the Giant Lobelia and Red Hot Poker. It is the best place in Ethiopia to see the Simien Wolf, the rarest canid in the world, while the huge rodent population, including the endemic Giant Mole Rat, supports a variety of raptors. The rare Wattled Crane is often seen, while there are a good number of the Spot-breasted Plover. Tullu Dimtu, towering at 4,377meters above sea level, is the second highest mountain in Ethiopia. 

You will also visit one of the largest remaining natural forests in Ethiopia. Hugging the southern escarpment, which falls rapidly in altitude  (3200m to 2000m, over a distance of 8km), the Harenna Forest presents a diverse abundance of flora, fauna and avifauna. Look out for black-and-white colobus monkey and the elusive Bale monkey as well as Menelik’s bushbuck. Birds in the area include the grey cuckoo shrike, Abyssinian catbird, Ruppell’s robin-chat, Abyssinian ground thrush, white-cheeked turaco and many more.

Ethiopia is one of the only, if not the only, country where coffee still grows wild. Ask your guide to show you some of these wild coffee plants, which flourish in the shade of the tall trees. For thousands of years families have harvested the coffee berries; many depending on the sale of coffee as their sole income. Organic wild honey is another delicious offering of the Harenna Forest; extracted from hand-carved beehives that are perched high in the trees on the southern slopes. 

Overnight: Bale Mountain Lodge


Day 12: Omo Valley

Following breakfast you will be transferred to the airport to board your charter flight to Murulle in the South Omo Valley. 

Visit the Karo (Kara) village Duss. The Karo number less than 1000 in number and are characterized by ritual body scarification, colorful body painting and flashy beadwork. Duss is the seat of the Karo government and their unique log constructed parliament.Lale’s Camp

After breakfast visit the unforgettable visit to the remote region of the Mursi. The Mursi are noted for their body scarification, body painting and most striking is the clay plate that is inserted into the lower lips of the women. They can be reached after boating upstream and then a short hike to their village.

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. After lunch boat ride to Muguj / Kwegu.  The Kwegu people (or Muguji people) are hunter-gathering and agro-fishery people of Surmic ethnic extraction inhabiting the shores of the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. The ethnic Kwegu who are one of the smallest ethnic groups in Ethiopia with the population of about 700 and facing extinction resides predominantly Southwest, Omo River west bank, Kuchur village, and a small group in the north. They are primarily fishermen, hunters and cultivators, they spend a large part of their time on the river and are noted for their canoe-making skills. The speed of the river's current and the dangers from the crocodiles render these skills vital.

Overnight: Lale's Camp


Day 13: Omo Valley to Addis Ababa

Following breakfast road journey to Turmi, 75kms/ 3hrs drive. Turmi is the home for the Hamer tribes who are well known for their body decoration, moonlight dance (Evangedi Dance) and Bull jumping. Bull jumping is a ceremony, which marks the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. The elite jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls four times completely nude without falling and joins the next rank called Maze. Maza are other men that have successfully completed the bull jumping event. Note: as bulljumping and other ceremonies are part of cultural life (and not role-play), it is not guaranteed that you will witness this event, but there is much to see and experience that will make this visit well worthwhile!Lale’s Camp

After breakfast you will drive to Jinka (approx. 2 hrs), where you will board your return flight to Addis Ababa. On arrival in Addis Ababa you will be transferred to your hotel.

Once you have freshened up and had some lunch you will be drive to Entoto Hills, the highest peak in Addis Ababa, giving the chance to catch stunning views over the city and the surrounding area from the summit. It is the first settlement in Addis Ababa where Emperor Menelik II resided and 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.     

Tonight you will enjoy a memorable farewell dinner at one of Addis Ababa’s wonderful cultural restaurants.

Overnight: Sheraton Hotel


Day 14: Returning Home

This morning you will check out of your hotel and transfer to the Bole International Airport for your international departure flight out of Ethiopia.

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Price is per person based on two people travelling together. 

Includes

  • All transportation by air-conditioned vehicle.
  • Charter flight on day 12 to Murulle.
  • All entrance fees during your excursions.
  • All accommodation, unless indicated otherwise.
  • All meals.  Bottled water is included for your comfort, whilst on route. In general, hotels and lodges also make complimentary bottled water available in guest rooms.
  • 6 commercial domestic flights as per the itinerary.
  • Escort guide throughout the trip. 

Excludes

  • International flights and visa fees.
  • Lunches and dinners, unless stated as included above.
  • Activities not mentioned or stated as optional in the itinerary.
  • Fees for photos and video.
  • Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc.

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