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Back Ethiopia  
Ethiopia - one of the oldest countries of the world
Hidden treasures on the Horn of Africa
Ethiopia Culture & Nature Safari
rock-hewn churches, fascinating tribes, endemic species, breathtaking landscape
Oct 27 - Nov 11
2012
It is hardly possible to name another country in the world that is so ignored on the map of adventure tourism, yet has so much to show, to share and to teach. Ethiopia's headlines usually consist of news about droughts, tribal disputes, starvation and overpopulation, but one hardly ever hears (or remembers) that Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world. Its first Emperor, Menelik, was the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The oldest remains of the human race, like the famous "Lucy", have been excavated here, so Ethiopia may well be the birthplace of human kind. Under the name Abyssinia, its culture and traditions date back 3000 years, and it was the second country to officially become Christian. Many people forget that Ethiopia possesses an architectural treasure trove with hundreds of churches carved into giant granite rocks, and superb ecological phenomena such as the Simien Mountains - one of the world's highest and most stunning places with unique and endemic wildlife. Ethiopia is also where coffee was born and where some of the last truly tribal people of the African continent live.

Behind the one-sided international news, lies a country of rich tribal culture, Christian history, endemic wildlife and gracious landscape, with remarkable manner in which ancient historical traditions have been preserved, and with great efforts to similarly preserve its natural heritage. An outstanding destination for the adventurous traveler.
Detailed itinerary:
Oct 27 Addis Ababa arrival
  Our first day is dedicated to our international arrivals. You are welcome to land in Addis Ababa at any particular time throughout the day - we will all be picked up at the airport and transported to our comfortable hotel for a great rest and to prepare for our Welcome Dinner and orientation this evening.
  Accommodation: Dreamliner Hotel
Oct 28 Addis Ababa
  After a relatively early, yet fulfilling breakfast, we head out to explore the city. Addis Ababa in Amharic language means "New Flower". Founded by Emperor Menelik in 1887, Addis is the capital of modern Ethiopia and has a population of about 6 million. It is known as Africa's diplomatic capital with the presence of the headquarters for the African Unity, and is the port of entry for most travelers. First we quickly drive through the Mercato (the largest open market on the continent), and then proceed to the National Museum where cultural and archaeological relics, including "Lucy" the 3.2 million year-old hominid, are on display. The Ethnological Museum exhibits the culture and handicrafts of various Ethiopian ethnic groups. After the two museums, we return "home" to have lunch and a short break then continue on with visiting a selection of special churches in Addis. The Ba'ata Church (known as the Menelik Mausoleum), shelters the crypts of Emperor Menelik, Empress Taitu and their daughter Empress Zauditu. Located on the grounds of the Imperial Palace of Menelik II, the church houses ecclesiastical and historical relics. Another beautiful landmark is the Trinity Cathedral, which was built in 1941 to European design in commemoration of Ethiopia's liberation from the Italian occupation. It is highly decorated and boasts magnificent windows of stained glass. For the rest of the evening, we drive up to Mount Entoto and the hills that overlook Addis. The Church of St. Mary, built on Entoto in 1885, has a museum with historical and royal exhibit. As the sun goes down over the city, we take some last images and return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
  Accommodation: Dreamliner Hotel
Oct 29 Addis Ababa/Arba Minch
  Today we are heading to the southern part of Ethiopia, which is the wilder section of the country and famous for wildlife and an incredible variety of tribes and cultures. Our destination is the southern town of Arba Minch, 500km of paved roads or 9 hours of drive away. Based on the large distance ahead of us, we have breakfast at 6 in the morning and take off before 7. We are choosing the so-called Butajira road, which, after 50 km or so, will take us to the archaeological site of Melka Kunture on the Awash River. It is here where one of the best-preserved Acheulean remains of the Homo erectus, our 800.000 years old ancestor had been excavated. These people lived here "just" before they went off to explore Eurasia. A few kilometers down the road is Tiya village, best known for its adjacent archaeological site, which is distinguished by 36 standing stones or stelae, 32 of which are engraved with enigmatic symbols, notably swords, marking a large, prehistoric burial complex. After visiting this World Heritage Site, we continue south, have a quick lunch en route and shall arrive at Arba Minch just before dark. The city's name in Amharic means "Forty Springs", referring to the innumerable little springs that bubbles up in the evergreen forest covering the flats below the town. It is the site of the only ground-water forest of the country. Upon arrival, we check in at our hotel and shall be able to enjoy the sunset over the panoramic views of Nech Sar NP and its two bordering lakes, Chamo and Abaya. After our dinner at the hotel, we get to bed early to be fresh enough for another day of exploration.
  Accommodation: Paradise Lodge
Oct 30 Nech Sar NP/ Lake Chamo
  Today we'll focus entirely on local exploration. Our first destination is the nearby Nech Sar National Park, and wildlife is the main attraction, thus we have another early breakfast in order to be in the park for the best morning lights, when wildlife is most active. Nech Sar is known for its great scenery and rare species, which include Burchell's Zebra, Swayne's Hartebeest and Lesser Kudu, as well as more common ones like Plains Zebra, Greater Kudu, Grant's Gazelle, bushbuck, warthog, Anubis Baboon and Black-backed Jackal to name a few. We will also keep an eye open for unique and endemic bird species. Shall we have enough time on our hand, we might visit a Gujji (Oromo) village in the park. We return to our accommodation for lunch and a short siesta, followed by an afternoon boat excursion on Lake Chamo. The lake is believed to host the largest freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus nioloticus) of the world, which often gather in the number of hundreds at certain points of the lakeshore. We will approach many of these spots by our boat, also keeping an eye on hippopotamuses, pelicans and other aquatic birds. We will admire the sunset from the terraces of our hotel, and retire early after dinner to recharge our batteries for another interesting day in Southern Ethiopia.
  Accommodation: Paradise Lodge
Oct 31 Arba Minch/Konso/Erbore Village/Turmi
  Today we are taking off on the real expedition-style leg of our great Ethiopian adventure: we are going to the famous Omo River Valley of Southern Ethiopia, near the Kenyan border. We have about 300km to go on dirt roads, so we shall have breakfast again at 6 am and take off before 7. Our first destination is Konso Village - home of the unique Konso people who are famous for their terraced landscapes and wagas (large carved totems erected over graves). From Konso we keep driving east-southeast, soon crossing a gorge area of great geographical land formations called "The New York of Africa", where we stop to take images. After lunch in Weyto, we will be passing through the dry area of the unique Erbore people and visit their village as well, before we enter the greener and more mountainous landscape of the Omo Valley. It will be very near the end of the day by the time we arrive to Turmi. We will utilize the last few minutes of daylight to watch an incredible sunset, before retiring to our lodge for a fulfilling dinner. Following dinner we can head to the outdoor bar for a nightcap and listen to the sounds of the African night.
  Accommodation: Buska Lodge
Nov 1 Turmi
  The area around Turmi is where the Hamar people live, famous for their bull-jumping ceremonies and great body decoration. After our early breakfast at our lodge, first we drive to the Omo River and cross it, in order to reach a village on the other side, called Omorate. This area is inhabited by the Daasanach people, known for their very basic house designs and body painting. We stay with them for a couple of hours, then cross the river again and drive back to our lodge for lunch and a short break from the heat. Once it gets a little cooler, we take off to visit a couple of Hamar villages, or in case there is one held at the time of our visit, a Hamar bull-jumping ceremony. We return to our lodging right around sunset and enjoy another great dinner and evening in Ethiopia.
  Accommodation: Buska Lodge
Nov 2 Turmi/Dimeka/Jinka
  Today we are moving our base of exploration about 120 north of Turmi, to a small township called Jinka. Once we depart after breakfast, we head west on the road we drove on from Arba Minch, but soon take off northbound, towards a village called Dimeka. The place itself isn't very picturesque, but every Friday, the nearby Hamar settlements all gather in Dimeka for a colorful market and the bland landscape serves as a superb backdrop. We stop here for a couple of hours to visit a Banna village, followed by the market to watch the people, animals and all sorts of products pass by, before we keep traveling north. Our next port of call is a beautiful acacia tree, under which we take our packed lunches, before we continue on. We also stop for a short break and a drink in Key Afer, before we keep pushing forward, until we reach Jinka, our final destination today. We quickly check in at our safari camp, and if our timing is good, we will have enough time left to visit a village of the Ari people in the outskirts of Jinka. We will be back to our accommodation at sunset and retire early right after our delicious local dinner.
  Accommodation: Eco-Omo Lodge
Nov 3 Jinka/Mago NP/Mursi People/Jinka
  Today we arise to yet another great day of exploration in Southern Ethiopia. As early as 6 am, we shall board our vehicles and start a 40km drive southward, to Mago, one of the most remote national parks of the country. Although Mago NP has quite a few buffaloes, zebras and other antelopes to see, its main attraction is the scenery and its people. The park is divided into two sections by the Mago River, which supports acacia forests and the interesting Neri Swamp, before it joins the Omo River. We spend most of the morning admiring the scenery and looking for some wildlife and unique bird species, after which we drive a bit further south, into the area of the famous Mursi people. The Mursi women are well known for their piercing of their lips and inserting a large wooden plate into it. They also employ other unique body piercing and build interesting houses, so it is very unique experience to be able to spend half a day in their village, exploring their lifestyle and getting to know a few families. We will have packed lunch with us today again, because we will only return to Jinka late in the afternoon to have our well-deserved showers at the hotel and rest a little bit before dinner. The next day we have a long drive ahead of us again, so an early night is recommended.
  Accommodation: Eco-Omo Lodge
Nov 4 Jinka/Key Afar/Arba Minch
  Today we are taking a road we already know, so we can prepare and time ourselves very well. We shall have breakfast at 6am and depart before 7. Within an hour or so, we cross the Weyto River. This is an area inhabited by the semi-nomadic Tsemay people, whose village we'll visit, followed by a quick stop at some interesting Konso totem poles, before we stop for lunch near Konso village. Another long stretch of drive will take us all the way back to Arba Minch. We are planning to arrive at about 2 pk take our now familiar rooms, and take off soon again to visit another village, called Chencha. The local Dorze people are renowned for their very fine weaving crafts and their extremely tall bamboo houses. After a short visit and some great photography in the village, we return to Paradise Lodge and gather for dinner after a great shower and some rest. Today we summarize our experiences about the southern part of the country and say goodbye to this area, because next day we drive back to the capital and start exploring the historic north soon thereafter.
  Accommodation: Paradise Lodge
Nov 5 Arba Minch/Addis Ababa
  For one more time, we have a long day of driving ahead of us, all the way back to Addis Ababa. Today we are taking a route that is different from the one we came on, so there will be a lot of new things for us to see. We shall leave our hotel as early as 6 in the morning, and will have a lunch break in Shashemene, the town famous for its rastafari community. From here on, we are visibly traveling on the bottom of the Great Rift Valley, which is scattered with soda lakes, supporting a great variety of birdlife. Depending on our timing, we will attempt to visit at least one of the lakes – most probably Lake Ziway futher north. The forests around the lake contain many endemic or interesting bird species, such as Yellow-fronted Parrots, Black-headed Forest Orioles, Golden-backed Woodpeckers, Grosbeak Weavers and Mountain Wagtails, many of which we will attempt to see. From here we continue on northbound, until we reach Addis Ababa just around sunset. We take our well-deserved comfortable rooms in our familiar hotel and will gather for a fantastic dinner from our five star chefs. Early bedtime, in preparations for the second leg of our trip, which will take us to the historic northern part of the country.
  Accommodation: Dreamliner Hotel
Nov 6 Addis Ababa/Lalibela
  After a very early breakfast at 4:30 am, we drive to the airport and fly to Lalibela (Ethiopian Airlines ET122, 07:10 - 09:40), one of the most fascinating historical sites of Ethiopia. Upon arrival we transfer to our comfortable hotel and immediately take off to explore this wonderland. It is in Lalibela where at the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century King Lalibela of the Zaghwe dinasty built a series of rock-hewn churches. All physically praised from the rock in which they stand, resulting in towering buildings that seem absolutely superhuman in scale of workmanship and concept. It is thought to have around 1.000 of such rock-hewn churches in Northern Ethiopia, but there is no other site like Lalibela, where over 25 of them are in almost walking distance from each other. These churches are so magic that they are often referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the world". The churches in Lalibela are divided into two groups by the rivers Yordanos and Jordan. This morning we visit a group of six churches: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel and Bet Medhane Alem. This latter one, which is also the largest one, is built like a Greek temple. In a corner there are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. From here we return to our accommodation for lunch and a short siesta, before we continue exploring the fascinating churches. At this time we go to Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant of all Lalibela churches, which lies somewhat isolated in the southwest part of the town on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached through a tunnel. For the evening, we visit another group of four, south of the Jordan River, before we return to our accommodation for a great dinner. The adventurous ones can join us tonight to one of the most authentic local Ethiopian pubs, where we can try tej, the traditional and popular honey-wine of the country. This is also a great place for experiencing the Ethiopian tradition of azmari music, where a couple of wandering minstrels - a girl with a strident voice clapping in time to the music, accompanied by a man playing a single string violin called masinqo, entertain the listeners.
  Accommodation: Mountain View Hotel
Nov 7 Lalibela/Gondar/Simien Mountains NP
  After an early breakfast we will leave our accommodation for the airport and take off towards Gondar on Ethiopian Airlines ET 122 departing lalibella (LLI) at 08:55, arriving in Gondar (GDQ) at 09:35. After our short 30-minute flight, we get on our local transportation and take off towards one of the most famous national parks of Africa, The Simien Mountains. At Debark, we pick up our rangers and continue into this incredible landscape. The Simien Mountains present perhaps the most dramatic scenery in Africa. Great volcanic plugs (formed some 40 million years ago and eroded into fantastic crags, pinnacles and flat-topped mountains) tower over precipitous gorges, river valleys and plains. There are many peaks over 4.000 meters (Ras Dashen at 4.620 m is the highest in the country), which is why the park is often referred to as "The Roof of Africa". At around 5 in the afternoon, we will reach a small place called Sankaber, where the park's only lodge stands. We quickly check in and go for a short walk in the surrounding area, to take great images of the sunset and the dramatic scenery in the last bits of sunlight of the day. Once back to the lodge, we take a well-deserved shower and gather for a fantastic Ethiopian dinner.
  Accommodation: Simien Lodge
Nov 8 Simien Mountains NP
  Our entire day is dedicated to the exploration of this fascinating landscape and to catch up with a little bit of rest and siesta. Since we are in the wilderness, we take off with the first sunlight to see wildlife and to use the soft morning light for photography. The park has several rare and unique animals, which are hard to see anywhere else in the world, such as the Gelada Baboon, the Walia Ibex, and the Ethiopian Wolf - the most endangered canid. The baboon is an easy species to see, but biologists think that there is only about 400 specimen left of the ibex and about 600 of the wolf, so this morning we are driving to an area (called Chenek) where we have a chance to see both. During our long morning walk, while searching for these rare creatures, we will also admire the scenery and keep an eye out for interesting bird species like Thick-billed Raven, Black-headed Siskin, White-collared Pigeon, Wattled Ibis, White-billed Starling, Spot-breasted Plover and the majestic Lammergeiers. This area is also famous for its afro-alpine flora, meadows and grasslands punctuated by giant lobelias and flowering red hot pokers. We will return to our lodge for a great lunch and will have an excellent free afternoon in the park, with an optional walk to a magic waterfall. We will meet for another gorgeous dinner, before we retire for yet another outstanding day to come.
  Accommodation: Simien Lodge
Nov 9 Simien Mountains NP/Gondar
  This morning those keen photographers can be up with the first light and take additional images of landscape and wildlife around the lodge, but then we will all meet at the breakfast table at 7am. Around 8, we take off and drive back to Gondar, arriving probably around one in the afternoon. We check in at our hotel, take a nice shower, have lunch, then take off to explore this interesting town. Gondar is a town founded in 1636 by the great Emperor Fassiladas, serving as the royal capital of Ethiopia for over 230 years. The two most interesting sites to visit are the royal castle compound with all of its buildings, and the Debre Birhan Sellasie church with its amazing ceiling decorations of biblical lore and medieval history. Before sunset, we also visit the bath of King Fasil, before we return to our hotel. Today we are going out for a traditional music and gastronomy experience.
  Accommodation: Goha Hotel
Nov 10 Gondar/Lake Tana/Bahir Dar
  Today we rise to yet another long day packed with great explorations and adventures. We shall start our breakfast no later than 6 in the morning and take off half an hour later towards the largest lake of Ethiopia: Lake Tana. We reach the lake at 8 in the morning at Gorgona, and board a motorized boat for a pleasant full-day journey down the extent of the lake, visiting 3 of the 20 monasteries built on the lake's individual islands. The monasteries date from as early as the 14th century, built in a distinctive round style of mud, wood and reeds woven into intricate patterns and are decorated with colorful, almost Byzantine, frescoes that reflect Biblical traditions and legends. Our first stop is at one of the most beautiful monasteries, Narga Selassie, which dates to the 17th century. After visiting this interesting site, we have a great picnic lunch on board, before arriving at the 14th century Azua Mariam monastery. Our last visit is to Kabrane-Gabriel, the lake's principal monastery, which has an impressive cathedral-like building and a wonderful treasury with many artifacts claimed to date from the year of its opening in 1313, including the original iron cross. We are very sorry to say, but since this is the principal church, ladies are not allowed on this island, so women will be obliged to visit a small church on the nearby island of Entos. At around 6-7 in the evening, we disembark at the pretty market town of Bahir Dar and check into our beautifully located hotel for a great farewell dinner and a good night sleep.
  Accommodation: Tana Hotel
Nov 11 Bahir Dar/Addis Ababa/departure
  Today we rise to our last day in Ethiopia. Our destination of the day is the gorgeous Blue Nile Falls, a 400m wide and 45m high waterfall 45 min drive and 20 min walk from Bahir Dar. We'll finish our breakfast at around 7 and be at the falls by 8 to admire the scene and check the bushes for some wildlife. The source of the Blue Nile was sought in vain by Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans, while eventually the first European to discover the source of the Nile (which is officially Lake Tana) was the Portuguese Father Paez. From here we return to our accommodation for lunch, and spend the next few hours with a fantastic re-cap, and with refreshing ourselves and re-packing our entire gear for our flight home. We take off from Bahir Dar (BJR) at 17:00 on Ethiopian Airlines ET141 for a 55 min direct flight, arriving in Addia Ababa (ADD). If time allows, upon arrival back to Addis Ababa, we transfer to the famous restaurant of Yod Abyssinia for our fantastic Dinner. We won't only have the best examples of prime Ethiopian traditional dishes, but will also have the chance to watch a traditional music and dance show. At around 9 pm or so, we will have to leave our restaurant behind and drive to Addis Ababa airport, to check in for our Ethiopian Airlines flights to either Frankfurt or Rome (or any other flights you prefer), both departing around midnight. This is the official finish of our great Ethiopian adventure, have a safe flight home!
 
Ethiopia Trip mapCopyright © WantExpeditions

Trip price: in double room: 0
  in single room:  


Nick B. from Walnut Creek:
" Our trip to Ethiopia with Akos and Jessica in November 2010 was simply wonderful! Ethiopia is such a blend of many things - rich history, culture, landscapes, animals, ancient religions, tribal peoples and modern, emerging Africa. We did so much in such a short time and took lots of wonderful photos. Truly a fabulous expedition. The combined skills and knowledge of Akos, Jessica and Itbarek (our Ethiopian guide) maximized our experiences. I highly recommend this trip!"

Trip images:
Burchell's Zebra at Nech Sar NPCopyright © WantExpeditions
Crocodiles and pelicans on Lake ChamoCopyright © WantExpeditions
Great White Pelicans on Lake ChamoCopyright © WantExpeditions
Goliath Heron on Lake ChamoCopyright © WantExpeditions
Erbore boy in his hutCopyright © WantExpeditions
Daasanach girl in OmorateCopyright © WantExpeditions
Daasanach family in OmorateCopyright © WantExpeditions
Hamar ladies at the market in TurmiCopyright © WantExpeditions
Hamar man jumping the bullsCopyright © WantExpeditions
Hamar lady after being whipped during bull jumping ceremonyCopyright © WantExpeditions
Hamar womenCopyright © WantExpeditions
Hamar men at the bull jumping ceremonyCopyright © WantExpeditions
Banna boy in his villageCopyright © WantExpeditions
Banna boys in their villageCopyright © WantExpeditions
Banna lady making coffeeCopyright © WantExpeditions
Hamar girl at the market in DimekaCopyright © WantExpeditions
Ari girl making injera near JinkaCopyright © WantExpeditions
GŁnther's Dik-dik in Mago NPCopyright © WantExpeditions
Mursi womanCopyright © WantExpeditions
Mursi womanCopyright © WantExpeditions
One of the rock-hewn churches of LalibelaCopyright © WantExpeditions
Religious celebration on St Michael's dayCopyright © WantExpeditions
Orthodox priest in LalibelaCopyright © WantExpeditions
Orthodox priest in LalibelaCopyright © WantExpeditions
Amazing scenery in the Simien MountainsCopyright © WantExpeditions
Amazing scenery in the Simien MountainsCopyright © WantExpeditions
The endangered Walia IbexCopyright © WantExpeditions
The famous GeladaCopyright © WantExpeditions
The famous monasteries of Lake TanaCopyright © WantExpeditions
The famous monasteries of Lake TanaCopyright © WantExpeditions


Tour leader: Rita NEMES-CSONTOS
Trip price: in double room: 0
  in single room:  
Price includes:
· all accomodation
· all meals
· all activities mentioned in the program
· all land transportation
· bottled water in transport vehicles
· all airport and local transfers
· all national park fees
· all entrance fees
· all local guiding fees
· international tour leader
· all tips
· all government taxes and levies
· photography education and assistance

Price excludes:
· international flights
· travel insurance
· personal expenses at accommodation
· departure taxes at airports
· visa fees
· any other items not mentioned above
· all domestic flights