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Northern Splendor: Lalibela and Gondar Tour — 3 Days

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  • Trip Type Cultural Tour
  • Tour Code GHET-WE4
  • Private Journey
  • 3 Days
  • This is a journey to Ethiopia’s past and present. This cultural tour takes you to the two ancient cities of Ethiopia on Ethiopia’s Historic North. Both are listed under UNESCO’S World Heritage. The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are world's most incredible man-made creations, commonly referred by many as the “living wonders of the world” These remarkable edifices were carved out of solid rock, in a region where the rugged landscape still protects the churches from mass tourism.

This is a journey to Ethiopia’s past. This cultural tour takes you to the two ancient cities in Ethiopia’s Historic North. Both are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are one of the world's most incredible manmade creations, commonly referred to by many as one of the “living wonders of the world”. These remarkable edifices were carved out of solid rock, in a region where the rugged landscape still protects the churches from mass tourism.

The 11 manmade churches are found in the town of Lalibela, and they are a lasting monument to man's faith in God. The medieval castles and the Debre Birhan Selassie Church, one of the finest examples of Ethiopian Art, are must-sees in Gondar. 

Trip Highlights

  • Visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Be amazed by a visit to the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, one of “the living wonders of the world”
  • Discover the fairytale castles of Gondar
  • Visit various less-visited sites and meet with the local people
  • Try the varied Ethiopian food
  • Attend an Ethiopian coffee ceremony

Itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa, Lalibela

After breakfast, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for the flight to Lalibela. After checking in to your hotel, we drive to the site where you will find a concentration of some of Ethiopia’s most famous rock-hewn churches, mostly referred by many as one of “the living wonders of the world”. These churches are, and they have been for at least 800 years, an active Christian shrine, the spiritual center of the country’s religious life. The monolithic churches were carved out of a 2,600-square-meter natural rock terrace in the 12th century AD by King Lalibela.

Bete Medhani Alem, the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world, measures 37.7 ft. in height, covers an area of almost 2625 square ft., and has walls that are up to 6 feet thick. A plain building supported by 36 pillars on the inside and another 36 pillars around the outside, Bete Medhani Alem was modeled on the original St. Mary Zion Church built by King Ezana in the 4th century at Axum.
 
The rock-hewn churches that you will visit today include Bete Medhani Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil, Bete Golgotha Michael, and Bete Giorgis.

After having lunch and a rest at the hotel, you will continue your journey into Ethiopia’s long and marvelous history with a visit to more of St. Lalibela’s remarkable churches — their architecture and artistry must be seen to be believed. After we finish visiting the second group of churches, we will walk to the village through the complex, bewildering labyrinth of underground tunnels to the monastery where the monks and nuns live.
 
The rock-hewn churches that we will visit this afternoon include Bete Gebriel, Bete Mercorios Bete Emanuel, Bethlehem, and Bete Aba Libanos.

In the evening, there will be a special traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony for the group prepared at a local house. In the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia’s Kaffa region, from which it gets its name, the berries were originally only eaten, never roasted and ground for a drink. Only since the 13th century has coffee been made into a hot drink. Holding a coffee ceremony is a traditional Ethiopian way of welcoming a guest and giving the guest the best hospitality. It is probably one of the most widespread and celebrated Ethiopian traditions.

Overnight: Harbe Hotel, Lalibela

Day 2: Lalibela, Gondar

After breakfast, transfer to Lalibela airport for the 30-minute flight to Gondar. After checking in to Goha Hotel, located on a hill overlooking the city, and having lunch there, you will start your tour of Gondar.

Gondar, founded by Emperor Fasiledas around 1635, is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches — in particular, Debre Birhan Selassie, which represents a masterpiece of the unique Ethiopian School of traditional art.

This afternoon, you will explore the ancient city and its famous sites including the Royal Enclosure, a walled compound having six different castles built starting in the 17th century by different kings who ruled in different times. You will also see the pool of King Fasiledas, which still serves as a baptismal pool during Ethiopian Epiphany, and the famous Debre Birhan Selassie, which is adorned with brilliant frescos from inside.

Overnight: Goha Hotel, Gondar

Day 3: Gondar, Addis Ababa, Departure

In the morning, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for the flight back to Addis Ababa. End of tour.

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