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Ethiopian Christmas on the Historic Route of Ethiopia — 9 Days: Dec. 31, 2018–Jan. 8, 2019

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  • Trip Type Cultural
  • Tour Code GHET-FF5
  • Small Group fixed departure
  • 9 days, 31. Dec 18 – 08. Jan 19
  • This tour give you the chance to celebrate Christmas a second time. Witness an Orthodox Christmas celebration with ancient history & culture of the "Historic Route"

This 9-day Ethiopian Christmas Festival tour on the Historic Route of Ethiopia takes you to Ethiopia’s Historic North with a visit to some of the major highlights including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On this tour, you will celebrate Ethiopian Christmas around the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela with pilgrims who came on their bare feet to share the blessing of this special ceremony. You will also visit some of the major highlights on the Historic Route including the island monasteries of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, the Blue Nile Falls, the fairytale castles of Gondar, the Siimien Mountains National Park, and more.  

At Lalibela, Christmas is celebrated with great devotion, chanting, dancing, and singing around the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela which were built more than 800 years ago. The ancient city of Lalibela will be filled with tens of thousands of pilgrims who come from all directions and from all walks of life to share the blessing of Christmas. Most of the pilgrims reach Lalibela from far away hamlets and inaccessible valleys, walking on their bare feet for days, weeks, and even for months to share the blessing on Christmas day. Even though Ethiopian Christmas is on January 7, there will be different ceremonies held around the rock-hewn churches starting the night of January 4th. This is an ancient Christian tradition that has remained unchanged over the centuries. Witnessing this event, you feel like you are transported back in time.

On the morning of January 7, the biggest celebration will be held around Bete Mariam. On this day, as it has been for centuries, priests will be standing in line with their drums and sistra on the cliff edge of Bete Mariam, called Mame Garia. On the bottom, there will be more priests dressed differently to those up on the top of the cliff. The priests on the bottom symbolize the shepherds, and the priesta on the top cliff symbolize the angels announcing and celebrating the the birth of Jesus. 

Step back in time and explore thousands of years of history, legend, and lore as you visit the Historic Route of Ethiopia and witness one of the most important and ancient festivals celebrated around the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and many more of Ethiopia's amazing delights.

Trip Highlights

  • Celebrate Ethiopian Christmas.
  • Experience Ethiopian Orthodox Christian doctrines and traditions.
  • Visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Be amazed by the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, one of "the living wonders of the world".
  • Enjoy the magnificent nature and endemic wildlife of the Simien Mountains.
  • Discover the fairytale castles of Gondar.
  • Take a boat ride on Lake Tana to visit the ancient island monasteries.
  • See the source of the mighty Blue Nile Rive and the Blue Nile Falls.
  • Visit the vibrant city of Addis Ababa.
  • Meet your ancestor Lucy at the National Museum in Addis Ababa.
  • Try the varied Ethiopian cuisine.
  • Attend an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Tour Guide

This tour will be led by our experienced, A-rated, friendly, cultural tour guides who have led many tours to the Historic Route of Ethiopia and who know the history, culture, nature, and wildlife of Ethiopia well.

Our Drivers

Our drivers are well trained and well travelled in the area. They know all the terrain and valleys you will be traveling in and always make sure you are comfortable and safe. They have been rated excellent by many travelers who have been on the road with them for long periods of time.

Transportation

On this cultural tour to the Historic Route of Ethiopia, you will be traveling primarily by coaster bus. We have well-maintained buses in excellent condition suitable for the road conditions you will be traveling on. All our vehicles have air conditioning and seat belts.

Note: On this trip there will be a domestic flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa that must be arranged separately.

Accommodation

On this trip, you will be staying in a 4-star hotel in Addis Ababa, and on the rest of the trip to the Historic Route, you will be staying in the best-available tourist standard hotels, lodges, and resorts that are selected and regularly inspected by our team.

 

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Addis Ababa

Arrive in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Welcome to Ethiopia! Upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you will be welcomed and assisted by your tour guide and driven to your hotel. If you arrive in the morning, an optional city tour can be arranged.

Overnight: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa

Day 2: Addis Ababa, Bahirdar (B, D)

In the morning, we drive to Bahirdar through the Great Blue Nile Gorge with stopovers at different small towns like Dejen, Chancho, and Goha Tsion.

Overnight: Avanti Blue Nile Hotel, Bahirdar

Day 3: Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls, Bahir Dar (B, D)

After breakfast, we will take a boat ride on Lake Tana to visit the ancient 14th-century island monasteries of Lake Tana. After lunch at the hotel, we will drive 35 km to visit the majestic Blue Nile Falls.

Overnight: Avanti Blue Nile Hotel, Bahirdar

Day 4: Bahir Dar, Gondar (B, D)

After breakfast, we drive to Gondar through the beautiful countryside scenery arriving around lunchtime.

After checking into Goha Hotel and having lunch there, we will start tour of Gondar that includes the Royal Enclosure, the pool of King Fasiledas, and the famous Debre Berhan Selassie adorned with brilliant interior frescos.

Overnight: Goha Hotel, Gondar

Day 5: Simien Mountains National Park (B, D)

After an early breakfast, we will drive to Simien Mountains National Park. Enroute we will visit the “Felasha”, or Black Jewish village.

Driving from Gondar up to Simien Mountains National Park, nothing prepares you for the spectacular scenery that awaits at the top of the massif. For the rest of the day, we trek around the park to explore the stunning views and wildlife of the park including Sankaber.

Overnight: Goha Hotel, Gondar

Day 6: Gondar, Lalibela, Bete Emanuel Night Ceremony (B, D)

After breakfast, we drive through the spectacular landscape to Lalibela. Enroute we will stop at Awramba. This community was founded by Zumra Nuru in 1972 with the aim to live together peacefully and work collaboratively, sympathetically, and cheerfully. Community members treat each other as brothers and sisters. Gender equality and care for the elderly are very important.

In the evening, we will drive to Bete Emanuel to attend the special celebration of Emanuel with chanting and dancing by the priests and deacons. The ceremony will be accompanied by a capacity crowd of pilgrims who came to witness this event from far off hamlets and inaccessible valleys on their bare feet walking for weeks and even months.

Overnight: Tukul Village or Harbe Hotel, Lalibela

Day 7: Lalibela Celebrations at Bete Emanuel (B, D)

In the morning, we will drive to the sites where we will find a concentration of some of the remarkable rock-hewn churches of Lalibela built from 1200 AD.

At night, we will attend the Christmas Eve ceremony with the pilgrims to be held at Bete Mariam Church. The dancing by the deacons and the priests continues throughout the night while the pilgrims clap and ululate to the drum beat. At midnight, there will be a candlelight ceremony to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Overnight: Tukul Village or Harbe Hotel, Lalibela

Day 8: Ethiopian Christmas Eve, Lalibela (B, D)

In the morning, we will once more drive back to Bete Mariam where the biggest festival will be held outside the church on the cliff surroundinf the church. This will mark the final church ceremony of Ethiopian Christmas. On this day, as it has been for centuries, the priests will be standing in line with their drums and sistra on the cliff edge of Bete Mariam, called Mame Garia. On the bottom, there will be more priests dressed differently to those up on the top of the cliff. The priests on the bottom symbolize the shepherds, and the priests on the top of the cliff symbolize the angels announcing and celebrating the the birth of Jesus. 

After lunch and a rest at the hotel, we will continue our journey into Ethiopia’s long and marvelous history with a visit to other Lalibela churches. The rock-hewn churches that we will visit this afternoon include Bete Gebriel, Bete Merkorios Bete Amanuel, Bethlehem, and Bete Aba Libanos. At the end of the tour, there will be a special Ethiopian traditional coffee ceremony for the group prepared at a local house.

Overnight: Tukul Village or Harbe Hotel, Lalibela

Day 9: Lalibela, Addis Ababa, Departure (B, D)

After breakfast, transfer to Lalibela airport for the flight to Addis Ababa. Depending on your departure time, an optional city tour of Addis Ababa can be arranged.

In the evening, there will be Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours complimentary farewell dinner party with traditional special buffet and local drinks. (flight schedule permitting). At the end of the farewell dinner, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for the flight back. End of tour.

 

Rate per Person Sharing Double: $2,212.00 USD
Single Supplement: $602.00 USD

Included

  • Roundtrip as per program
  • All necessary transfers
  • 8 nights accommodation in good hotels (4-star in Addis Ababa) in double rooms
  • All meals as stated in the program
  • All entrance fees
  • English-speaking, qualified national tour guide
  • Farewell dinner (flight schedule permitting)

Not Included

  • Visa fees
  • Tips
  • Meals not stated in the program
  • All expenses of a personal nature (drinks, laundry, phone calls, etc.)

 

 

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