Ethiopia is like nowhere else on earth – a beautiful country with an amazing history – the oldest independent country in Africa.
We go to Axum, the land of the Queen of Sheba; explore the Simien Mountains National Park; discover mystical Gondar, known as “the Camelot of Africa”; cruise on Lake Tana; visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lalibela; have an excursion to the medieval town of Harar and stay at an Eco Lodge beside Lake Langano.
– All airfares & taxes (Emirates)
– Stopover in Dubai on the way to Ethiopia and on the way home
– Accommodation in 3-star & 4-star hotels and lodges
– 18 breakfasts, 15 lunches and 15 dinners
– Visa for Ethiopia
– Touring by private coaster bus
– Group tipping
– Services of English-speaking national guide (and local guides)
– Assistance of your Tour Leader, Janet Shankland
– Land Only price on application
– Extending your stay – before or after Tour Dates
– Group Size: 19 travellers (max)
Meal Codes: B = breakfast L = lunch D = dinner
After meeting up in Auckland and our short pre-tour briefing we board our Emirates flight to Dubai.
We arrive at Dubai airport early this morning and transfer to our hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
This afternoon we travel to the airport for our flight to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. On arrival this evening we transfer to our hotel.
Addis Ababa means “New Flower” and the city is the fifth highest capital in the world, at 2355m (7726ft). We visit the National Archeological Museum, especially famous as the home of Lucy, the fossilised hominid skeleton found in 1974. We will also visit the Ethnographical Museum which focuses on Ethiopia’s diverse regions and people.
The added attraction is that the museum itself was once Emperor Haile Selassie’s palace. Next we visit Holy Trinity Cathedral. Built in 1945, this cathedral is renowned for its stunning stain-glassed windows. Our Addis programme also includes a visit to the largest market in Africa, the Merkato. And tonight while out to dinner, we will encounter another of the country’s treasures – Ethiopian jazz.
We rub shoulders with royalty and head to Gondar with its medieval castles and churches. Also known as ‘The Camelot of Africa’, at its height over 65,000 people lived here and the wealth of the city was legendary.
It will take us most of the day to drive to our next destination, the Simien Mountains, but there is always plenty to see en route in Ethiopia as daily life seems to focus on the roads – you’ll see Ethiopian priests, school children, and lots of livestock in beautiful condition, all out and about along the road.
We will have a picnic lunch in a nice spot with a great view.
We will spend the day exploring the Simien Mountains National Park. Along with the spectacular scenery the park is home to many species of mammals and birds and we’ll be doing our best to help you see these.
We drive to the Hyena Meda (field) for the view and then ascend, by vehicle to Chenek at 3926m. This campsite has spectacular panoramas of the mountains and this is one of the best places to encounter Simien wildlife such as the native Walia ibexes.
After breakfast we will have a morning drive to Gondar. After lunch we’ll explore mystical Gondar. Known as “The Camelot of Africa” it’s famous for its medieval castles and churches. We will also see Fasilidas’ pool (thought to have been a royal swimming pool as well as having religious significance) in which pilgrims still take a plunge during Timkat (Epiphany) celebrations.
This morning we travel to Bahir Dar. Lake Tana is regarded as the source of the Blue Nile, which flows 5223km from here to the Mediterranean. It’s the largest lake in Ethiopia and is studded with islands.
We will have lunch before we set off for the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tis Abay or Tissia , the “Smoking Waters”. The falls plunge over a 42m sheer drop and stretch more than 100 metres. The walk into the falls through Ethiopian countryside is lovely anyway with some extremely interesting birds and flora to see (and occasionally a crocodile to spot in the river too)!
It will be back to Bahir Dar next and up to the Bazawit Hill where there are great views of the city and especially of Lake Tana and its islands.
We have a full day cruise on Lake Tana and take a picnic lunch. Before embarking on our private boat in Gorgora, we will visit the church of Debre Sina Marian, famous for its beautiful wall paintings.
We will be stopping at Dek Island to visit 18th century Narga Sellassie, the central monastery. Then we will sail to the Zeghie Peninsula, known for its 14th century, round, grass-roofed Azoa Mariam and Ura Kidane Mehret churches and their magnificent wall murals.
We will be off to the airport this morning for our short flight to Lalibela. Our stay in Lalibela will undoubtedly be one of the absolute highlights of our trip. Lalibela is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its incredible collection of 11 medieval, monolithic, rock-hewn cave churches.
In the morning, we continue our exploration of rock hewn churches. These include Lalibela’s masterpiece, the famous Bete Georgis. This Greek cross-shaped church is located in a deep pit with perpendicular walls; accessible only by a tunnel located a small distance away.
In the afternoon, visit a local household in Lalibela to experience Ethiopia’s unique traditional cuisine and experience Ethiopian cooking traditions with full demonstration. Here, we will also attend a traditional coffee ceremony where we observe the time- honoured roasting and brewing process, which is done in a special jebena (clay kettle).
Today we fly to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s fourth biggest city and with an intriguing mix of cultural influences including Arab, French and Italian. It’s famous for its markets which we will visit. We will also see remnants of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway, the work of the Imperial Rail Company, which reached Dire Dawa in 1902.
A short drive from Dire Dawa will take us to the medieval town of Harar which is set among green mountains on the east wall of the Great Rift valley.
Harar is considered to be the fourth most sacred centre of the Islamic world and its Grand Mosque dominates the town. Rightly renowned for its intricately worked filigree jewellery in silver, gold and amber, the town’s Megalo Gugo Market is also a centre for beautiful baskets of woven grass, decorative wall-mats and bright shawls, as well as locally grown fruit, vegetables, spices and grains.
We will spend time exploring the old walled town including the colourful Shoa Gate Market which sells incense and spits, along with local handcraft and jewellery.
During our day out, time permitting, we will visit the Lega Oda cave paintings (these date back to 5000 years) and make a stop at the Commonwealth War Graves Dire Dawa African Cemetery.
We leave Dire Dawa this morning to drive to the Awash National Park. Among the animals that live in the park are the Beisa Oryx, Soemmerrings Gazelle, warthog and wild pigs. There are also waterbuck, tiny dik-dik, baboons and rock hyrax. At the bottom of the gorges live Colobus monkeys, crocodiles and hippo.
We have a game drive and look for birds this afternoon and also tomorrow morning.
We’re off to Lake Langano today. We make a stop at Lake Ziway, the largest of the northern group of Rift Valley Lakes. We will then continue to Lake Langano set against the blue backdrop of the Arsi Mountains soaring up to 4000 metres.
Today we will spend the day in the Langano area – we will watch the hippos in the lake and also have a boat cruise on the lake to the nearby forest famous for its bird life. We try to track down Abyssinian Black Wheatear, Hemprich’s and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, Boran Cisticola, African Hill Babbler, Yellow-fronted Parrot, White-winged Black Tit and White-rumped Babbler.
After breakfast, we head to Abiata Shalla National Park.
We then drive to Addis Ababa via Butajira visiting the UNSECO registered site of Tiya and Melka Kunture archeological museum.
Tonight we will say farewell to Ethiopia at a special dinner which will include performances of many of Ethiopia’s wealth of traditional dances.
Today we fly to Dubai where we overnight at our hotel in Bur Dubai.
We transfer back to the airport this morning for our homeward flight.
Home to New Zealand with special memories of our time in enchanting Ethiopia.
Janet’s love of travel has taken her places far and wide. Although Janet has visited an impressive number of countries and all 7 continents, every new trip brings a new adventure so Janet reckons she will never stop travelling.
Early travels ignited her wanderlust and with a rucksack and a cheeky smile at the age of 23 off she went to Europe on her big OE – only to return to her hometown of Auckland for good a couple of years ago, with John, her husband in tow.
A warm and bubbly person Janet certainly knows her stuff about international travel.
Well organised and able to problem solve, we found Janet easy to relate to.