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Highlights Northern- and Southern Ethiopia (18 days)

About this Tour:

This tour combines the highlights of Northern- and Southern Ethiopia. The tour is ideal for travellers, who wish to combine two completely different parts of the country in one intense, yet very comfortable trip. You will be surprised and fascinated by this incredibly diverse journey.

Highlights:

North:

  • Blue Nile Falls, Bahir Dar
  • Boat trip on lake Tana with unique island monasteries and nature (animal viewing- and excellent birding)
  • Former imperial town of Gondar (UNESCO world heritage site)
  • Breath-taking landscapes of the Simien Mountains with numerous endemic animals (UNESCO world natural site)
  • Former imperial town of Axum with many relicts of a several thousand-year-old civilizations (UNESCO world heritage site)
  • Famous Rock-hewn churches of Tigray in the Gheralta mountains
  • Lalibela, the unofficial 8th wonder of the world (UNESCO world heritage site)

South:

  • Stelae of Tyia (UNESCO world heritage site)
  • Boat Safari in lake Chamo with the Africa’s biggest crocodiles, hippos and numerous bird species
  • Mago National Park and Omo Valley (UNESCO world heritage site) with unique tribes
  • Visit of the colourful markets of Key Afer and Dimeka in the Omo Valley
  • Authentic encounters with locals during visits of several communities
  • Visit of the Konso region (UNESCO world heritage site)

Short Info:

  • Tour code: WET-NESE-18
  • This tour may be conducted during the whole year (from mid-June – mid September local heavy rain showers are to be expected in the Northern highlands, however, in many places, the rainy seasons has its special delights).
  • Date for next seat-in group tour (max. 8 Pax): 29.11. – 16.12. 2018
  • Overnight: in good middle-class hotels and lodges
  • Number of domestic flights: 3
  • Required fitness level: no required

Day 1: Arrival in Addis Ababa and City Tour

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport you will be met by a Welcome Ethiopia Tours representative and be taken to your reserved hotel. Depending on your arrival time, we have various sightseeing options:

  • Mount Entotowith the best views over the capital.
  • Institute of Ethiopian Studies, where you can see a variety of artifacts from all the different regions reflecting the history and culture of the country
  • National Museum which among other exhibits the 3.5-million-year-old bones of Lucy.
  • George Cathedral, where paintings by the famous Ethiopian artist Afework Tekele and other ecclesiastical wealth and cultural heritage of the past are displayed.
  • Trinity Cathedral: this is the burial place of members of the imperial family and noted patriots; the cathedral is the most magnificent of its kind in the country, ornamented with carvings, mosaics and other artistic works.
  • The Mercato, the largest open-air market in Africa

Accommodation: Lobelia Hotel or similar, Addis Abeba (www.hotellobeliaaddis.com)

Day 2: Addis Ababa – Bahir Dar (flight)

Morning: Boat trip on Lake Tana
In the morning, you will fly together with your guide to Bahir Dar, where you will be picked up by your driver and taken to your hotel. We then go on a boat trip on Lake Tana to explore the nearby monastery of Ura Kidane Mihret on the Zege peninsula, known for its 14th century, round, grass-roofed churches and their magnificent wall murals, the Azoa Mariam and Ura Kidane Mihret churches. Its architectural styles with mud plastered round wall and a conical thatched roof are typical examples of ancient Ethiopian orthodox churches. The monastery is found hidden in the forest of the Zege peninsula. Ura is especially well known for its fine frescoes, manuscripts, ecclesial objects, such as the crown of various emperors dating from the 14th century, gold and silver processional crosses, silver drums and royal vestments. On our walk through the densely-forested area we hope to encounter monkeys and abundant bird life. On the lake, you will also have a chance to see hippos and more wildlife.

Afternoon: Visit to the Blue Nile Falls
After lunch we will visit to the magnificent Blue Nile Falls. The water plunges here for 45m (148ft). It is about 35km/1hour drive from town. In the later afternoon, we drive back to Bahir Dar and discover the market, where you may purchase handicrafts like jewellery, woven and embroidered garments, ox-horn cups or grass baskets (Agelgil), for which Bahir Dar is well known, or simply watch the indigenous culture of the local community.

 

Hotel: Jacaranda Hotel or similar, Bahir Dar (www.jacarandahotelbahirdar.com)

Day 3: Bahir Dar – Gondar (170 km)

Morning:
After breakfast we drive to Gondar, a 17th century royal city of Ethiopia, affluent in the imperial structure of a Castle Compound and the spectacularly painted Debre Birhan Selassie Church.

Afternoon:
After lunch, we visit to the royal enclosures of Fassil Ghibe and all the castles of the Gonderian emperors as well as the famous Debre Berhan Selassie Church, which is completely covered in murals, with the angels’ faces on the wooden ceiling that have become a trademark of Ethiopian art and design.

Hotel: Goha Hotel, Gondar (www.gohahotel.com)

Day 4: Gondar – Simien Mountains National Park (120 km)

Morning /Afternoon:
Early in the morning, we continue our journey to the Simien Mountains National Park. We will reach the Simien lodge, the highest lodge in Africa, around noon. After lunch, we start exploring the Simien Mountains National Park. Due to its unique landscape and its endemic fauna the park has been declared a UNESCO world nature heritage site in 1996. In the park, you may experience the very close interaction with the friendly Gelada Baboons. We drive up to Sankaber (3’220m) and admire the impressive scenery with its deep gorges and valleys and the highest waterfall in Ethiopia. Here a gentle walk would take us about 2 hours. We hope to encounter further endemic animals, such as the Walia Ibex and the Simien fox. In the late afternoon, we will return to Simien Mountains Lodge, where we will spend the night. The highest lodge in Africa offers a high standard and a lot of cosiness as well as spectacular views on the surrounding mountain ranges.

Overnight: Simien Lodge (www.simiens.com)

Day 5:  Simien Mountains National Park – Axum (240 km)

After breakfast, we continue to Axum (approx. 7h) with once again stunning views. Axum at an altitude of 1637m is considered a holy city in Ethiopia where Christianity had begun, dating back over 2000 years. The Axumite kingdom was also the cradle of Ethiopian civilization.

Hotel: Yared Zema International Hotel, Axum (www.yaredzemainternationalhotel.com)

Day 6: Full day in Axum

The city tour of Axum includes: Axum stelae or obelisks, the largest single piece of stone erected by human beings anywhere in the world, castles of former monarchs, Mariam Tsion Church which is built on the site of Ethiopia’s first church, the Palace of Queen Sheba, the inscriptions King Ezana and the tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel.

Hotel: Yared Zema International Hotel, Axum (www.yaredzemainternationalhotel.com)

Day 7: Axum – Yeha – Hawsen / Gheralta (200 km)

Morning:
After breakfast, we will visit the temple of Yeha (approx. 50km / 1 hour.). The way passes through Adwa, where in 1896 the famous battle between the Ethiopians and Italians tool place. Yeha was a pre-axumite settlement and is famous for its well-preserved stone temple with 12 m high walls estimated to be 2‘500 years old.

Afternoon:
We continue our drive to the Gheralta Lodge in Hawsen (approx. 3 hrs.). The great Gheralta lodge is built in the typical Tigrinya style and located in a beautiful setting.

Overnight: Gheralta Lodge, Hawzen (www.gheraltalodgetigrai.com)

Day 8: Full Day in the Gheralta Mountains, Tigray

Morning:
We have the option to visit some of the famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray. If we have a late afternoon flight, we may go on a spectacular half day trek in the Gheralta Mountains around Hawzen to explore the churches of Maryam and Daniel Korkor spectacularly built on top of a several hundred-meter-high cliffs. The views from the top over the plains of Hawzen are simply are breath-taking.

Afternoon:
After lunch, we the option to also visit the famous rock-hewn churches of Wukro Cherkos or Abreha We Atsbeha.

Overnight: Gheralta Lodge, Hawzen, (www.gheraltalodgetigrai.com)

Day 9: Hawzen – Lalibela (400 km)

Morning / Afternoon:
Today we continue our drive through ever changing landscapes to Lalibela (approx. 8 hours). We will reach Lalibela in the late afternoon.

Hotel: Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela (www.mountainview-hotel.com)

Day 10: Full Day in Lalibela

Morning:
We will visit the 11-renowned rock hewn churches of Lalibela, also known as the “8th wonder of the world”. The Lalibela rock hewn churches are physically carved from the rock on which they stand. These towering edifices seem to be a superhuman creation in scale, workmanship and concept. Some are sculptured out of a solid volcanic rock, others are connected by long underground tunnel and mazes. Some are quarried enlargements of caves. The first group of six churches lies in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikeal, Bet Mariam, Bet Maskel, Bet Dangal and Bet Medhanealem. Bet Medhanealem, the largest rock hewn church in the world is built like a Greek temple.

Afternoon:
After lunch, we will visit to the second group of churches located to the south of the river Jordan. The second group comprises Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant of all the Lalibela churches. Bet Giyorgis lies somewhat isolated to the southwestern part of the village on a slopping rock terrace and can only be reached through a tunnel. The group of four churches, south of the river, comprises Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercurios, Bet Aba Libanos and Bet Gabriel and Rufeal. Bet Emanuel’s elaborated exterior has been much praised by international art historians.

Hotel: Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela, (www.mountainview-hotel.com)

Day 11: Lalibela – Addis Ababa (Flight)

Morning:
Depending on the flight times, we could visit the Ne’akuto Le’ab Monastery outside the town.

Afternoon:
You will be picked up at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa and taken to your hotel. According to your interests, there are various sightseeing and shopping opportunities.

Hotel: Monarch Hotel or similar 4-star hotel, Addis Ababa

Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa

Day 12: Addis Ababa – Arba Minch (465km)

Morning / Afternoon:
After breakfast, we drive to Arba Minch (approx. 7h), with a stop on the way at Tiya (80 km from Addis Ababa) to explore the Stelae field of Tiya, listed as UNESCO world heritage site. Mysterious engraved stelae stretch across Southern Ethiopia. The field comprises some 45 stones of up to 2-3m in height. We then continue to Arba Minch with some fantastic scenery, including the best spot to view the two rift valley lakes, Lake Abaya to the north and Lake Chamo to the south. We arrive at the lodge in the late afternoon. The views from the terrace are terrific.

Overnight: Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch (www.paradiselodgeethiopia.com)

Day 13: Arbaminch – Lake Chamo – Arbaminch

Morning:
After breakfast, we will visit Dorze people with some fantastic scenery, including the Wolayta farmlands, with views of the lush green hills and valleys. The Dorze village is found high in the Guge Mountains overlooking Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo.

Afternoon:
We undertake a boat cruise on lake Chamo and search for Africa’s biggest crocodiles (up to 6m long), hippos and a large variety of bird life.

Overnight: Paradise Lodge, Arbaminch. (www.paradiselodgeethiopia.com)

Day 14:  Arbaminch – Jinka (240 km)

Morning / Afternoon
After breakfast, we continue our drive to Jinka (approx. 4 hrs.). On the way, we will pay a visit to Konso, another UNESCO Cultural Heritage site. We will visit the village compound and the he local museum, and usually we are also welcomed in the Konso chief’s compound, which includes the family graveyard and house mummies. The Konso have a rich agrarian culture constructing ingenious terraces and walls that encircle their fields and villages for protection against livestock damage and flooding. We will reach Jinka in the late afternoon.

Overnight: Eco-Omo Lodge, Jinka. (www.eco-omo.com)

Day 15: Jinka – Mago National Park (Mursi) — Turmi (265 km)

Morning:
We enter the Mago National park (travelling time approx. 2hrs each way), admiring different mammals and birds on the way; and proceed to visit to the Mursi tribe and their villages. One of the most unique tribes in Africa. Here women use huge round lips plates for beauty reasons

Afternoon:
After lunch, we continue our trip to Turmi (approx. 3 hrs), where we will meet the fascinating Hamer tribe. Turmi is our base to explore the Southern tribes of the Omo Valley. The whole region of the Southern Omo is UNESCO world heritage site since 1980.

Overnight: Busca Lodge, Turmi (www.buskalodge.com)

Day 16: Turmi – Omorate – Turmi (140 km)

Morning: Turmi – Omorate- Turmi
Today we take an excursion to visit the Dassanech Ethnic group (70 km, one way), famous for their nomad lifestyle and very interesting decoration and scarification on their bodies. There are also great views of the Omo river when crossing in a dugout canoe

Afternoon:
Turmi is well known for its traditional events and with some luck we will even participate in a Hamer marriage ceremony, with its bull jumping ceremony and more! We will also visit a nearby Hamer village and encounter the tribe in its daily life surroundings. We also hope to witness a moonshine dance (Evangadi), a traditional dance of young Hamer men and women.

Overnight: Busca Lodge, Turmi (www.buskalodge.com)

Day 17: Turmi – Dimeka – Konso (180 km)

Morning:
After breakfast, we drive back to Konso (approx. 3.5 hrs.). On the way, we will visit the colourful market in Dimeka (Saturdays only), frequented by several tribes of the Omo valley.

Afternoon:
Time allowing, we may visit the spectacular “New York“ gorge near Konso, formed by erosion.

Overnight: Kanta Lodge, Konso.

New York Gorge, Konso

Day 18: Konso – Arba Minch – Addis Ababa (flight)

Morning:
We drive from Konso to Arba Minch (1 h).

Afternoon:
We fly back to Addis Ababa with flight ET134 at 13.35. Arrival at 14.30h. You will be picked up at Bole Airport and be transferred to your reserved hotel (day use room)

Evening:
In the evening, you will be invited for a traditional Ethiopian dinner and dance show at a renowned restaurant of Addis Ababa. Then you will be transferred to the airport for your departure.

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