Rating in Ethiopia
$ 4165

Ethiopian Odyssey

Culture
Culture
min $ 4165
Per person
Tour details
Destinations: Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Semien Mountains
Guide language: English
Price: min $ 4165
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  • Overview & dates
  • Itinerary
  • What's included

Overview & dates

INTRO

Explore ancient rock-hewn churches, castles and towering stelae in the north. Trek to the source of the Blue Nile and witness endemic wildlife in the Simien Mountains. In the south, meet the vibrant tribal people of the Omo Valley, experience market day in the villages and take a boat ride on Lake Chamo watching out for crocs, hippos and birdlife. FInish your trip in the ancient walled city of Harar, in Ethiopia's remote east.


DATES

  • 23 Sep 2018 to 13 Oct 2018 - £ 3,295 - CL
  • 21 Apr 2019 to 11 May 2019 - £ 3,295 - AV
  • 22 Sep 2019 to 12 Oct 2019 - £ 3,295 - AV

If these dates do not suit you but you are interested in this tour, please contact us for alternative dates.

AV - Available
GD - Guaranteed
LM - Limited places left
OR - On request (contact us for status)
CL - Closed for bookings


All tours in Ethiopia


HIGHLIGHTS

Meet Lucy, the world’s oldest humanoid

Trek to the source of the Blue Nile

Medieval castles of Gondar

Gelada baboons in the Simiens

Ancient stelae of Axum

Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

Tribes of the Omo Valley

Wildlife & birds in Awash National Park

Old-walled city of Harar


PLACES VISITED

Addis Ababa - Bahir Dar - Gondar - Simien Mountains - Axum - Lalibela - Lake Langano - Arba Minch - Turmi - Omo Valley - Awassa - Awash National Park - Harar Addis Ababa
Bahir Dar
Gondar
Simien Mountains
Axum
Lalibela
Lake Langano
Arba Minch
Turmi
Omo Valley
Awassa
Awash National Park
Harar

Itinerary

ITINERARY

Short | Detailed | PDF


Choose departure date23 Sep 2018 -- 13 Oct 201821 Apr 2019 -- 11 May 201922 Sep 2019 -- 12 Oct 2019

Day 1 : Addis Ababa

Pick up from airport. Transfer to hotel. Afternoon sightseeing. Dinner at traditional restaurant. Overnight in Addis Ababa.

Arrive into Addis Ababa airport, where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and driven to your hotel. Freshen up, rest and have lunch. Spend the afternoon sightseeing: see the St. George Church Museum, Ethnographical Museum, National Museum and Entoto Mountains. In the evening, have dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Overnight in Addis Ababa. 

Meal plan : Lunch & dinner


The National Museum in Addis Ababa holds an interesting collection of artefacts from Ethiopia's illustrious past but the undoubted star of the show is the remains of Lucy, a skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis, named from the Afar region of Ethiopia where she was found. Discovered in 1974, Lucy is 3.2 million years old and shares traits with apes (her skull) and with humans (walking upright), leading to claims of the 'missing link' having been discovered. Sometimes the museum exhibits a replica when Lucy is on tour at museums overseas.

The St. George Church was established in 1982 to preserve and promote Ethiopian Orthodox clergy. It is a small octagonal building that was the site of Emperor Hailie Selassie's coronation.

The two-storey Ethnological Museum is a great place to learn about the diversity of Ethiopia. It is structured like a story book, depicting the journey of life to death from different perspectives. 

Entoto Mountain, located to the north of Addis Ababa, offers a panoramic view of the capital. It is the highest part of the city and is historically covered in Eucalyptus trees, which are often referred to as the 'lungs of Addis Ababa'.

Day 2 : Addis Ababa - Bahir Dar

Drive to Bahir Dar. Enjoy a free evening. Overnight stay in Bahir Dar.

Drive the scenic route to Bahir Dar via the 13th century monastery of Debre Libanos and the Blue Nile Gorge. This is a dramatic road with spectacular views, which are often compared to those of the Grand Canyon in the USA. Arrive to Bahir Dar late in the afternoon and take the evening to relax. Overnight in Bahir Dar. 

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The Debre Libanos Monastery was built in the 13th century by Saint Tekle Haymanot, who supposedly spent 29 years meditating in a cave in the nearby cliffs. The complex is situated on a terrace between a cliff and a river gorge. None of the original buildings have survived, so the current church that stands over the saint's tomb was built in 1961. The nearby Church of the Cross, which is slightly older, allegedly holds a fragment of the True Cross that was used to crucify Jesus Christ. 

Day 3 : Bahir Dar

Morning trek to Blue Nile Falls, source of Blue Nile. Afternoon boat ride on Lake Tana. Walk through jungle to ancient churches. Overnight in Bahir Dar.

In the morning, take a light trek through the rural countryside to the source of the Blue Nile and marvel at the Blue Nile Falls. Enjoy stunning scenery and encounter tribal villages en route. In the afternoon drive to the shore of Lake Tana (the largest lake in Ethiopia) for a boat cruise. Stop off at one of the monasteries on the peninsula to walk through the jungle and visit the ancient churches of Ura Kidane Mihret and Azwa Maryam. On the boat ride back you may see hippos as the sun starts to set. Evening at leisure. Overnight in Bahir Dar.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia,  measuring approximately 84km long and 66km wide,  and is also the source of the Blue Nile. The lake contains 37 islands, however their visibility varies according to seasonal water fluctuations, which are regulated to measure inflow to the Blue Nile Falls. The islands accommodate 20 monasteries, which are used to store religious artifacts due to their remote location. 

The Blue Nile Falls, also known as Tis Abay, mean 'smoking water' in  Amharic. They start as a gentle river flowing 5,223km north of the Mediterranean Sea before joining the impressive falls. The waterfall itself is around 150ft high and half a mile wide, which is just spectacular to witness. Surrounded by immense natural beauty, the falls attract parrots, bee-eaters, white throated seedeaters and vervet monkeys, just to name a few. 

Day 4 : Bahir Dar - Gondar

Drive to Gondar. Spend the afternoon exploring the castles of Gondar and royal bath. Continue driving to Simiens where you will spend the night.

After breakfast set off along the shore of Lake Tana for the castle city of Gondar, stopping en-route at the ruins of the impressive Guzara Castle. On arrival in Gondar, explore the city's medieval castle compound and royal baths. Later, head to the church of Debre-Birhan Selassie. If time permits also visit the local market. Evening free. Overnight in Gondar. 

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


King Fasil (Fasiledes) is believed to have moved his royal camp to Gondar where he settled. Surrounded by fertile land with rich sources of gold, civet and ivory, and at the crossroads of 3 major trading routes, the King established Gondar as a capital city. It is often referred to as the "Camelot of Africa", with several medieval castles rising above a landscape of tin-roofed stone houses. The Royal Court developed into a compound called Fasil Ghebbi which consists of six major building complexes and is surrounded by a 900m long wall. In this area alone, there are around twenty different palaces and royal buildings as well as thirty churches.

Day 5 : Gondar - Simien Mountains

Early morning leave for Simien Mountains. Walk and spot wildlife. Dinner and overnight in Simien.

Early start for drive to the Simien Mountains, famous for its dramatic scenery, gelada baboons, walia ibex and bird life. Spend the day exploring the mountains on foot. Evening free. Overnight in the Simien Mountains. 

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The Simien Mountains are a World Heritage site. The peaks, such as Ras Dashen, stand at an impressive height of over 4,000m high. The fact that it is one of the least developed national parks is part of the reason why it is considered to be one of Africa’s most beautiful mountain ranges. The park is home to many endemic species, like the gelada baboon, Ethiopian wolf and wild ibex, as well as over 50 species of birds, including the bearded vulture. 

Day 6 : Simien Mountains - Axum

Drive to Axum and spend the night.

Drive to the ancient city of Axum across the stunning Limalimo Twist and Tekeze Gorge roads. Stop off to see the incense trees dotted along the valley. Arrive into Axum in the early evening. Check into hotel and take the evening to rest. Overnight in Axum.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Axum is the cradle of Ethiopia’s 3,000-year-old civilisation. In its heyday in the 6th century, the Axumite Kingdom was one of the four great powers of the world and ruled the two southern sides of the Red Sea. The glory of the Kingdom can still be pictured as you gaze out on the colossal rock stelae, the stonework of royal tombs and the legendary bath of the Queen of Sheba.

Day 7 : Axum

Sightseeing of ancient stelae and ruins. Dinner and overnight in Axum.

Full day sightseeing in Axum. Explore the site of the towering stelae (obelisks) which date back to the 4th century. Visit the Church of St. Mary of Zion, believed to house the original Ark of the Covenant (tabot). In the afternoon visit some of the underground tombs and ruins of the legendary Palace of Queen Sheba. Evening free. Overnight in Axum.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The Ark of the Covenant, referred to at several points of the Old Testament, is stored in the Chapel of the Tablet. This is opposite the St. Mary of Zion Church. The Ark is believed to contain the ten commandments given by God to Moses.

The Palace of Queen Sheba, known locally as Dungar, now bears only the remains of the mansion that previously stood in its place. Covering around 3,250 sq/m, a visit to the site will allow you to see the full excavation that has taken place so far. 

The Obelisks of Axum are 1,700 years old and stand 24m high. They are made from granite stele and weight 160 tons altogether. Similar to Stone Henge, the Obelisks of Axum are a mystery and nobody can be certain when they were built or for what purpose. Some think they played an astrological role in the early centuries, while others believe that they mark the burial places of deceased royalty. One of the obelisks was taken by the Italians and resurrected in Rome in 1937 to mark the invasion of Ethiopia. It was only recently returned to Ethiopia in 2005. 

Day 8 : Axum - Lalibela

Morning flight to Lalibela. Transfer to hotel. After lunch, visit the rock-hewn churches (Northern group). Evening free. Ovenight in Lalibela.

In the morning, fly to Lalibela and transfer to hotel. After lunch, explore the Northern cluster of the incredible medieval monolithic cave churches dating back to the 13th century. Evening free. Overnight in Lalibela.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The Northern Group of Churches consists of six churches north of the river Jordan. The Biete Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World) holds the Lalibela Cross, and is believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world. It is linked to Biete Mariam (House of Mary), which is the oldest church of the group, the Selassie Chapel and the Tomb of Adam. In addition to this, there is the Biete Golgotha, which is believed to contain the tomb of King Lalibela. 

Originally known as Roha, the city of Lalibela is believed to pre-date the 12th century. King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela sought to recreate the holy city of Jerusalem there and structured the city accordingly. To this day, many of Lalibela’s features remain similar to those of Jerusalem, such as The Tomb of Adam, the Jordan river and Calvary.

Day 9 : Lalibela

Full day sightseeing of Eastern and Western group of rock-hewn churches, including the spectacular cross-shaped Church of St. George. Evening free. Overnight in Lalibela.

Full day exploring the eastern and western cluster of Lalibela's rock-hewn churches, including the iconic cross-shaped Church of St. George (Giyorgis). Evening free. Overnight in Lalibela.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The Eastern Group of Churches include Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel), Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (House of St. Mercoreos), Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abbot Libanos) and Biete Gabriel Rufael (House of Gabriel Raphael) and Biete Lehem (House of Holy Bread). Biete Mercoreos and Biete Gabriel Rafael most likely used to be royal residences, and their interiors are decorated with murals.

The Western Group of Churches features Biete Ghiorgis (House of St. George), which is believed to be the most finely preserved church carved from a single rock. It is connected to the other churches via a system of trenches.

Day 10 : Lalibela - Addis Ababa - Lake Langano

Fly to Addis Ababa and drive to Langano to spend the night.

Transfer to airport for morning flight to Addis Ababa. On arrival, drive via the Rift Valley to Lake Langano. Evening free.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Addis Ababa is Africa’s fourth largest city, with an area of 250sq/km, and is located at an altitude of 2,300m above sea level. It is a vast place with a thriving population of over 2,750,000 people. There is a wide range of visitor attractions, including many museums and educational institutions. It has most recently become known as the ‘spa city of Africa’.

Lake Langano is one of a series of lakes that run south down the Ethiopian Rift Valley and into Kenya. The eastern shore of Lake Langano is a delight to explore on foot or horseback, and is home to a variety of birds and mammals. The forests consist mainly of podocarpus and wild fig trees, are full of Colobus Monkeys and have over 300 species of birds, seven of which are native to Ethiopia. There are also numerous wild mammals there, although their populations are decreasing in size due to the traditional seasonal hunting of the local communities. 

Day 11 : Langano - Arba Minch

Drive from Langano to Arba Minch. Visit Alaba people and spice markets. Overnight in Arba Minch.

Drive from Langano to Arba Minch. Along the way, visit the predominantly Muslim Alaba people, who are known for their colourful paintings on clean mud huts. They are economically active and their main source of income is cattle. The town itself is known for its spice markets, which attract the surrounding people of Gurage, Silite and Wolaita. Overnight in Arba Minch.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Arba Minch, also known as Ganta Garo, is the largest town in the Gamo Gofa Zone of Southern Ethiopia. The town is well-positioned with some of the most fertile land in Ethiopia, where an abundance of fruit is able to grow. Not only this, but with sights overlooking the Rift Valley and Bridge of God, you are sure to have a memorable experience. 

Day 12 : Arba Minch - Konso - Arba Minch

Explore Chencha and the Dorze people. Travel to Konso to meet the Konso people. Return to Arba Minch and spend the night.

In the morning, head to Chencha, home of the Dorze people, who are known for making beehive-shaped bamboo houses and colourful woven-cotton clothing. The market day of the Dorze people takes place on Thursdays and is a great place to see local villagers trading. After lunch, head to Konso to meet the Konso people. They are made up of 9 different clans and have a tradition of nominating their own King, who then gets his own Palace and servants who work for him. He is a symbol of peace and integrity among the Konso and this unique dynasty goes back many hundreds of years. The Konso have clean, well-built and well-protected villages and each village has a communal house called a 'Mora', where young boys spend their nights protecting the village. Overnight in Arba Minch.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Konso is a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO. The people of Konso are known for their wooden statues with phallic symbols, which they erect over the graves of the dead. They have numerous cults based around the breeding and veneration of serpents. The cornerstone of Konso culture is a highly specialized and successful agricultural economy that, through terracing buttressed with stone, enables them to make a living from the none-too-fertile hills and valleys that surround them. 

Day 13 : Arba Minch - Turmi

Drive to Turmi, stopping at the tribal villages of Arbore and Hamer. Dinner and overnight in Turmi.

Drive deeper into the Omo Valley to Turmi. Stop off to visit the Arbore people. Arrive early evening into Turmi. Evening at leisure.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The Arbore people have a population of around 7,500 peopleand live west of the Woito River in four large villages: Jellifa, Egudi, Gula'ma and Gondara'ba. Similarly, the Tsemay people have a slightly larger population of 10,000 and focus their livelihood around livestock and agriculture.

Day 14 : Omo Valley villages

Visit tribes close to Murelle (Bume and Karo people). Drive to Omo Rate for overnight stay.

In the morning visit the colourful Hamer tribal market in Dimeka (Saturdays). They typically sell honey, coffee beans, butter and cattle. The Hamer people are also famous for their wedding bull-jumping ceremonies and their women, who wear protruding metal necklaces and braid their hair with red clay and fat.

Visit the Karo village in Murelle. The Karo people share their cultural values with the Hamer people, and are known for their colourful body decorations. Later, walk to the nearby Omo river to see the Karo people fishing and the crocodiles that live there. Have a picnic lunch along the road and drive back to Turmi. On Mondays, there is another colourful market with the Hamer tribes. Overnight in Turmi. 

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The Hamers are a large group of agro-pastoralists with a population of more than 40,000 people that are also fine potters. The Hamer people enjoy body decoration and wear colourful beads. The Hamers are famous for their traditional bull-jumping ceremony, which must be done for a boy to pass into early adulthood. Hamer men wear clay hair buns if they have killed an enemy or any dangerous animals.

Turmi is a market town in south-west Ethiopia. It is home to many of the Hamer tribes and has a weekly market on Mondays where you can explore and find unusual items such as incised gourds, used by local women as shopping baskets. Turmi is known for its traditional dances and the Jumping of the Bulls ceremony.



The Karo People have a rather small population of around 1,500 people and are considered endangered. Previously a rich tribe, the Karo people lost the majority of their population due to the Tsetse Fly, a large biting insect. They are related to and look like the Hamer tribe, and often paint their faces with chalk to resemble guinea fowl feathers.

Day 15 : Turmi - Omorate - Turmi

Drive to Omorate. Stop in Kangate to see Bume people. Meet Dassenech people. Overnight in Turmi.

In the morning, start driving from Turmi towards Omorate. Stop in Kangate to visit the Bume people on the way. Cross the Omo River in a traditional dugout canoe to meet the Dassanach tribal people. Their name means 'people of the Delta region' in the local language. Return to Turmi.
 

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


 The Dassanach tribe, also known as Merille, have a population of over 48,000 people that are primarily agro-pastoralist, meaning they place a high value on cattle. These people reside on the northern shore of Lake Turkana and are considered inhabitants of both Kenya and Ethiopia. Their main source of income is cattle rearing, but they are also accustomed to fishing and cultivating crops. Young girls are identified by their colorful goatskin skirts decorated with beads. The men have unique hair patterns that display the age grade system.

Turmi is a market town in south-west Ethiopia. It is home to many of the Hamer tribes and has a weekly market on Mondays where you can explore and find unusual items such as incised gourds, used by local women as shopping baskets. Turmi is known for its traditional dances and the Jumping of the Bulls ceremony.

The Bume people occupy the land just south of the Omo National Park with a tribal population of around 8,000 people.

Day 16 : Turmi - Arba Minch

Drive from Turmi to Arba Minch. Boat trip on Lake Chamo. Overnight in Arba Minch.

Drive from Turmi to Arba Minch, where you will take a boat trip on Lake Chamo to see crocodiles and hippos up close. The lake is also known for its bird life. Evening free. Overnight in Arba Minch.
 

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


The northern end of Lake Chamo is located within part of the Nechisar National Park and is separated from Lake Abaya by the 'Bridge of God'. The scale of the lake is debatable, however it is believed to have a surface area of 317sq/km with an estimated depth of 14m. At over 1,000m above sea level, you will be able to get up close to crocodiles and hippos that inhabit the waters. Notable birds include fish eagles, pelicans and maribu storks, among others. 

Day 17 : Arba Minch - Awassa

Fly from Arba Minch to Addis Ababa. Drive to Awash. Overnight in hotel.

Leave after breakfast for the drive north along the lake towards Awassa. Check into hotel on arrival and rest of the day at leisure. Overnight in Awassa.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Awassa is the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region. Awassa is a beautiful Ethiopian town located on the shores of Lake Awassa, with a pleasant climate and a variety of wildlife to see. The shores of the lake are alive with coffee plantations, fruit groves and the Bale Mountains rising in the east. The Sidama people who live here are recognised by their beautiful beehive-shaped, woven houses that are built out of bamboo and later covered in enset leaves for the rainy season.

Day 18 : Awassa - Awash

In the morning, explore Awash National Park. After lunch, drive to Harar. Overnight in Harar.

Visit the fish market in the morning, then set off through the Rift Valley for Awash National Park. Check into accommodation on arrival and rest of evening to relax. Overnight in Awash.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Taking its name from the Awash River, Awash National Park is one of Ethiopia’s most popular national parks with an excellent array of birdlife, volcanic landscapes and dry acacia savannah. There are over 400 species of birds, ranging from golden-backed woodpeckers to thick-billed raven and wattled ibis. Other animals that are rarely seen but do exist within the park include leopards, lions, jackals and colombus monkeys.

Day 19 : Awash - Harar

Morning free in Harar. Drive to Dire Dawa for sightseeing. Overnight in Dire Dawa.

You will have the morning free to explore Awash National Park. It is known for its spectacular scenery, varied wildlife and great bird-watching opportunities. The park has waterfalls, volcanic landscapes, acacia trees and grasslands. After lunch, drive east towards Harar. Check into hotel and evening free to relax. Overnight in Harar.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


Day 20 : Harar

Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of Harar. Overnight in Harar.

Enjoy a full-day sightseeing tour of the walled city of Harar. In the evening visit the famous 'hyena man' of Harar who hand feeds raw meat to wild hyenas. Overnight in Harar. 

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


To the east of Ethiopia stands Harar, a fiercely religious old-walled city with 99 mosques, including the 16th century Grand Mosque. Harar is considered to be the fourth holiest Islam site after Mecca, Medina and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Until 1887, access to the city was forbidden to visitors when Menelik was restored to central rule. With 368 labyrinth alleyways and a waft of coffee throughout, it is easy to feel that you are in a different era. The city is famed for its silversmiths that create the beautiful necklaces, bracelets and chains sold in the markets. There are two main markets in the town, one Christian and the other Muslim, both within the 1 sq/km walled area.

Day 21 : Harar - Dire Dawa - Addis Ababa

Fly from Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa. Free shopping time and farewell dinner. Return flight home.

Transfer to Dire Dawa to catch flight back to Addis Ababa. On arrival transfer to hotel. You will have the afternoon free for any additional sightseeing or shopping in the local markets. In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at a traditional restaurant before being transferred to the airport for your return flight home.

Note: Ethiopian Airlines flight schedules vary so on some days so an overnight stay in Addis may be required.

Meal plan : Breakfast, lunch & dinner


What's included

INCLUDED Airport pick-up & drop-off Domestic flights Local English-speaking guides Ground transport and driver Accommodation & meals (full board) Daily bottle of still mineral water Entrance fees to sites & parks All activities as per itinerary
All tour descriptions and conditions are given in accordance with the information of Travel The Unknown
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