Cultural Tour to the Historic Route of Ethiopia — 7 Days
Tour ID : GHET-017
Transport : Air and surface
Activities/Sights: Ancient colorful festivals, ancient history, age-old culture, breathtaking highland scenery, waterfalls, castles, rock churches, unique tribal culture, game animals, and much more
Day 1: Arrive Addis Ababa
Arrive in Addis Ababa (ADD), Ethiopia at 20:55. Welcome to Ethiopia! Upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you will be welcomed and assisted by your tour guide and driver and transported on a short drive to Jupiter Hotel (4*).
Addis Ababa, founded in 1886 by Menelik II, is situated at 2,500 meters (8000 ft.) above sea level. It is the 5th highest capital city in the world. The city enjoys an excellent climate year-round, with an average temperature of 25C (77F). With a multiethnic population of over 5 million, Addis Ababa is a pleasant city with wide avenues of jacarandas, interesting museums, and one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, known as the "Mercato".
After a brief rest in the morning, take a sightseeing city tour of Addis Ababa, which includes the National Museum, Ethnographic Museum, Mercato, Piassa, and other parts of the city, for the rest of the day.
In the morning, you will visit the National Museum and the Ethnographic Museum. The National Museum of Ethiopia is one of the best museums for quality and diversity of the exhibits. Archeological exhibits include the 3.2 million-year-old fossil of Lucy (or Dinkinesh — ‘thou art wonderful’ — in the native language), a hominoid woman of the species Australopithecus Afarensis. The discovery of Lucy’s fossil in 1974 forced a complete rethink of human genealogy, proving that our ancestors were walking 2.5 million years earlier than had been supposed. The National Museum also contains many wonderful artifacts dating back to the pre-Axumite civilization.
The Ethnographic Museum is very different from the National Museum, but equally absorbing. This museum's exhibits include a varied array of artifacts and daily objects related to most ethnic groups in Ethiopia.
In the afternoon, your city tour of Addis will continue with the Mercato, the largest open-air market on the continent and the other part of the city including Piassa and Churchill Avenue.
Accommodation: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa
Day 2: Addis Ababa, Gonder, Simien Mountains
In the morning, fly to Gonder. At Gonder airport, we will meet our driver for the drive to the spectacular Simien Mountains National Park and spend a night at the Simien Lodge, a Gold Winner, Skal Sustainable Tourism Awards 2016, rural accommodation. www.simiens.com
On the journey from Gonder all the way to Simien Mountains National Park, you will be stunned by the spectacular scenery — especially that which awaits you at the top of the massif. The rolling grassy plateau comes to an abrupt stop, and sheer cliffs plunge almost vertically for 1,000m (3280 ft.) to the plains below. The massif itself has been sculpted by 30 million years of upthrust and erosion into a wonderland of jagged ridges, pinnacles, and strangely cropped conical mountains, so that looking out over the heart-stopping precipice you feel you might just be at the edge of the world.
The rest of the day, walk/trek to explore the surroundings of Sankaber, part of the Simien Mountains National Park. Here you have a good chance of spotting groups of Gelada Baboons, one of Ethiopia’s endemic animals.
Accommodation: Simien Lodge, Buit Ras (Meals: B, L, D)
Day 3: Simien Mountains, Gondar
Early in the morning, enjoy the magnificent view with a beautiful sunrise accompanied by troops of Gelada Baboons.
After breakfast, drive to the ancient city of Gondar. Founded by Emperor Fasiledas around 1635, Gondar 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 from 17th century by different kings who ruled in different times; the pool of King Fasilidas, which still serves as a baptismal pool during Ethiopian Epiphany; and the famous Debre Birhan Selassie, which is adorned with brilliant frescos from inside.
Accommodation: Goha Hotel, Gondar (Meals: B, L, D)
Day 4: Gondar, Bahirdar
After breakfast, we will drive to Bahirdar through the beautiful countryside scenery of Gondar and the Fogera Plains.
After checking into the hotel, we will take a boat cruise on Lake Tana and visit the ancient 14th century island monasteries of Lake Tana. The 37 islands of Lake Tana shelter twenty monasteries — surviving remnants of an old, contemplative tradition. Because of their isolation, they were used to store treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country. The lake’s monasteries are famous for their typical Ethiopian religious paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and other ancient church treasures.
Accommodation: Avanti Blue Nile Resort, Bahirdar
Day 5: Bahirdar, Lalibela
After breakfast, we will transfer to Gondar Airport for the flight to Lalibela. After checking into Harbe Hotel, we will drive to the site where you will find a concentration of some of Ethiopia’s most famous rock-hewn churches, mostly referred to 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 ft. 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.
Accommodation: Harbe Hotel, Lalibela (Meals: B, L, D)
Day 6: Asheten Mariam, Lalibela
In the morning, walk or ride on a mule back to the top of the Asheten Mariam Monastery. This is very famous for its 12th century monastery church and beautiful view at 10,298 ft. above sea level. We will walk/mule ride through dramatic highland scenery that eventually ends in a beautiful, serene agricultural hamlet.
After having lunch and resting at the hotel, you will continue your journey into Ethiopia’s long and marvelous history with a visit to more of 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 were the monks and nuns live.
Today, you will be able to witness the special ceremony of Holy Thursday around the rock-hewn churches where the priests perform different ancient Christian practices with the faithful. The rock-hewn churches that we will visit this afternoon include Bete Gebriel, Bete Mercorios Bete Amanuel, Bethlehem, and Bete Aba Libanos.
In the evening, there will be a special Ethiopian traditional coffee ceremony for the group prepared at a local house. In the birthplace coffee, Ethiopia’s Kaffa region — from where 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 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 celebrated Ethiopian traditions, and a tradition of most Ethiopians.
Accommodation: Harbe Hotel, Lalibela (Meals: B, L, D)
Day 7: Lalibela, Addis Ababa
After breakfast, transfer to Lalibela airport for the flight to Addis Ababa.
Overnight: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa (Meal: B)