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17 Days Unforgettable Cultural Safari in Ethiopia

Magnolia Hotel & Conference Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Diverse Cultural Tour Ethiopia

Let Highway Tours provide you with a fascinating insight into the friendly nation of Ethiopia and its ancient civilization, tribal culture, diverse landscapes, and wildlife. The tour follows a route around the historical north of Ethiopia, visiting the country’s best-known monuments and bringing you towards the southern part of the country where you will meet the exotic tribal people in the lower Omo valley.

Key information:

  • Private tours
  • No minimum group size
  • Maximum group size: 20 persons
  • Starting point and ending point: Addis Ababa
  • All entry fees are included in your package.

Highlights

  • Exciting game drive
  • Visit rock churches of Lalibela
  • Visit Ethiopian medieval capital Gonder
  • Visit the crocodiles and the hippo pods on Lake Chamo
  • Tour to the lower Omo and Simien mountains in Toyota land cruisers
  • Boat trip on Lake Tana to the island monasteries
  • 16 nights mid-range accommodation included
  • Airport transfers included in minibusses
  • Free breakfasts and dinners

Styles


17 activity days
The maximum participants in the group is 20
Airport transfer included: Bole International Airport
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Accommodation

There will be various mid-range accommodations for the duration of the program, on double bed sharing basis. Accommodations include the Magnolia Hotel in Addis Ababa, the Blue Nile Resort Hotel in Bahirdar, the Mayleko Lodge in Gonder, the Simien Lodge at the Simien Mountains, the Lalibela Lodge in Lalibela, the Sabean Hotel in Axum, the Gheralta Lodge in Tigray, the Sabana Lodge in Langano, the Paradise Lodge in Arbaminch, and the Buska Lodge in Turmi.

Magnolia Hotel is a newly opened five-star hotel in Addis Ababa which strives to provide the best possible accommodations, including dining and meeting services, wellness center, and many more unique facilities, during your stay. They have 86 elegant rooms of the highest standard and three conference halls where they provide food and beverage outlets and more for any occasion.

The Blue Nile Resort Hotel is conveniently located eight kilometers from Bahir Dar Airport. The hotel has a total of 135 rooms, all with modern amenities; more specifically, the hotel has 100 classic rooms, 16 superior rooms, 14 duplex rooms, and five junior suites. All rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi access, air-conditioning unit, bathroom, mini bar, safe box, desk, and 32-inch flat screen television with 25 paid and free-to-air channels. The comfort of their modern rooms will more than satisfy you with refreshing views of Lake Tana.

The Mayleko Lodge is a luxury lodge in Gondar, Ethiopia, surrounded with breathtaking beauty and nature. The lodge has 20 bungalows that have evocatively designed and styled to echo the area's rich history.

The Simien Lodge is located at the beginning of the escarpment, about 22 kilometers from Debarak which is the frontier town near to the Simien Mountain National Park.

The Lalibela Lodge has a wide selection of rooms, from single, double, and family-size rooms. The rooms all come with their own private bathroom and wonderful view over the mountains. The lodge offers free parking, free Wi-Fi access, 24-hour reception and room service, laundry facilities, and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

The Sabean Hotel is a sanctuary with wing suite, twin suite, and double suite rooms, each presenting a welcoming blend of contemporary texture and subtle Ethiopian motifs. Sabean’s meeting facilities and amenities make it easy to conduct business. Every detail has been carefully considered to make meetings virtually effortless. The convention facilities can accommodate groups up to 150 people and the venues include full air conditioning and latest sound systems.

The Gheralta Lodge is located in the heart of the historical route, two hours from Alula Aba Nega Airport (MQX), half a day’s drive from Axum, and a day from Lalibela. In a ten-hectare rocky area, with four large secular ficus trees and a breathtaking view of the Gheralta Mountains’ landscape, an Italian family has constructed a five-bungalow lodge, a restaurant with leisure area, and a service zone.

The Sabana Lodge has an unusual landscape that offers both a serene beachfront as well as a vast cliff-top with a breathtaking view over the lake. At Sabana, you can start your day with the whistling of birds, admiring the sunrise over the lake’s horizon right from the room of your cliff-top bungalow.

The Paradise Lodge was opened in 2008 as a means to transform the hospitality industry in Africa by providing guests with unparalleled service and an authentic experience while preserving the natural environment and strengthening the local culture. All huts are built with a serene outdoor veranda with either a breathtaking view of the lakes or that are set in the lush gardens of the lodge grounds.

The Buska Lodge is an unpretentious eco-lodge offering travelers the best accommodation and meal service in this region. Buska Lodge overlooks the plains of Buska Mountain and has been constructed to blend beautifully in to the natural surroundings. Buska Lodge offers the rare opportunity to learn about and experience the culture and traditions of the local Hammer community offering a rare glimpse into the cultures of the Omo Valley.

Program

Day 1 - Arrival at and tour of the city of Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa is the third largest city in Africa with an estimated population of five million and the third highest capital in the world. Addis Ababa is a colorful and vibrant city regarded by many as the African diplomatic capital. The city tour of Addis Ababa includes, among others, museums (the national and the ethnographic), markets (Merkato, the largest open-air market), and churches (St. George Cathedral, also housing a museum of various religious icons). Wander around Merkato, one of the largest outdoor markets on the continent.

Day 2 - Fly to Bahirdar and Lake Tana islands

There will be a one-hour flight to Bahirdar town, as pleasant as you will find for relaxing and viewing the lake, and the weather is probably the best in Ethiopia. You will have a boat trip on Lake Tana to the island monasteries where you can experience a great calmness. You will visit Azwa, Ura or Mehal Zege, Kibran Gabriel, and Entos Eyesus.

You will get an impression of just how far back Christianity goes in this region. Among others, Ura-Kidane Mihret is the largest and most impressive monastery on the peninsula, situated near one of the prettiest and most secluded inlets in the area. A boat trip to Zege, the main tourist attraction in the region, and to the monasteries merit a good half day. Mango Park at Lake Tana the best place to view pelicans and enjoy sitting by the shores.

Day 3 - Drive to Gonder to visit the royal castles

There will be a three-hour drive to visit Ethiopian medieval capital Gonder that contained large royal enclosure containing castles, palaces, houses, and outbuildings; among them, Fasiladas's palace is the oldest and perhaps most impressive. You will visit the various ruined buildings including the remains of a bathing pool, a chancellery, and a library of Fasiladas's son.

There are also peaceful, shady, and beautiful spots just to relax and watch the world go by. Fasiladas's bath is used for the religious ceremony of Timkat (epiphany). Next, continue to Debre Birhan Selassie, one of the country's famous churches hosting beautiful 17th-century paintings.

Day 4 - Drive to Simien Mountains

Drive to the first camp (Sankaber) via Debark (the small town) situated at an altitude of 3,250 meters on an impressive viewpoint between the northern escarpment and the southern Wazla. Before you arrive at the camping site, you have about two hours' walk. On the western escarpments, you will encounter troops of the endemic gelada baboons, found only in Ethiopia. They are often referred to as the bleeding heart baboon or the lion monkey. Their coat is shaggy resembling a lion while their chest has a marked red heart or patch.

Day 5 - Simien Mountains

Drive toward the Simien Mountains, where just before arriving, you will encounter the Kurbet Metaya viewpoint at 4,070 meters. This viewpoint is actually a gap in the precipitous cliff, which reveals impressive views of the steep mountain faces to the west and the lowlands areas to the left. The tightly clustered houses (tukuls) that form the village of Dihwara, tucked below a cliff, are also visible from this viewpoint.

Chenek campsite is spectacularly located in a beautiful valley at the foot of the Bwahit Peak. Strategically placed benches allow for the opportunity to take in the expansive views back toward Imet Gogo, especially beautiful in both the dawn and dusk light then back to Gonder to catch the next day flight.

Days 6 and 7 - Visit rock churches of Lalibela

Visit Lalibela where you will get an impression of landing in a kingdom at least seven centuries behind your own. Alvares, the early 16th-century Portuguese writer, described them as "edifices, the like of which and so many cannot be found anywhere else in the world." In Lalibela, you will marvel and be immensely impressed by the remarkable monolithic, semi monolithic, and cave churches built at least seven centuries ago.

After check in, you will visit the northern clusters known as the earthly Jerusalem: Bete Medhani Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil, and Bete Golgotha / Michael. Excursion visits to Yemrehanna Krestos ancient church found at 42 kilometers from Lalibela town. You will feel the atmosphere deep within yourself as its name implies “let Christ guide us the way.” After you go back to the town, you can visit the remaining churches if you missed yesterday, the churches that are also known as the heavenly Jerusalem: Bete Gebriel and Rufael, Bete Mercurious, Bete Amanuel and Bete Aba Libanos, and at last, Bete Giorgis.

Day 8 - Fly to Axum and visit royal castles

Less than an hour flight to visit the ancient civilization that once existed on earth 2,000 years ago. The Aksumite kingdom numbered among the greatest civilizations of the ancient world. Aksum's astonishing Stelae are striking for their huge size. You will visit tombs of kings dating from the third century, the St. Mary of Zion Church which is said to contain the famous Ark of the Covenant, and the Park of Stelae.

Days 9 and 10 - Drive to Gheralta and visit Tigray churches

You will have an expedition of the most holy ancient sites of Tigray churches that are mostly carved into cliff faces or from rocky outcrops. There are over 120 ancient rock churches scattered throughout the region. Tigray’s rock churches date from between the sixth and 14th centuries (some possibly date back to the fourth century when Christianity arrived in Ethiopia).

Legend has it that the phenomenal architecture construction of the churches was beyond the power of man, and that angels sent by God assisted in bringing about this wonders. You will stay the first night at Gheralta and then at Mekele to catch the morning flight back to Addis Ababa.

Day 11 - Fly back to Addis then drive to Langano

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for an afternoon flight back to Addis Ababa. You will marvel at the brown waters of Lake Langano. It is a great place for those who enjoy swimming and sunbathing. The chained mountains of Arsi give a beautiful background to the irregular basin of Lake Langano. The lake has a perimeter of 82 kilometers and a depth of up to 30 meters. The water is light brown because of its mineral content. The multicolored sands make the sloping beach a perfect spot on which to bask in the blazing sun.

Day 12 - Drive to Arbaminch

The Dorze people who live in the beehive woven houses give an interesting insight into their lives and traditions. At Dorze village, in a compound there may be several huts of varying sizes, one for the parents and small children, another for the first married, one as a cookhouse.

Visit a particular village hut and a central building for socializing - the idea of an entrepreneurial Dorze Rastafarian. It is a pleasant environment which feels very genuine and might be fun to stay if one was young and into strong drinks and quaint, native experiences.

Day 13 - Drive to Jinka

In the morning, take a boat trip on Lake Chamo to visit the crocodiles and the hippo pods. Drive to Jinka to visit the Mursi tribes. On your way, there is a little town and market called Dimeka. At this place, you will meet the Hamers, Karos, Oromos, and few others. In the afternoon, you can visit Ari village and the South Omo Museum and Research Center to learn more about the local tribes.

Day 14 - Visit Mursi village then drive Turmi

In the morning, drive to Mago National Park to visit the Mursi tribes, people known for their lower lip and earlobe plates. A small tribe numbering 5,000 to 8,000, Mursi are people based on the Omo River having a remarkable characteristic of the lip plate tradition. A young woman’s lower lip and ears are pierced and enlarged by inserting even bigger clay discs that eventually may be more than 12 centimeters in diameter. The bigger the disc, the better a chance of securing a wealthy husband for herself.

In the afternoon, drive to Turmi, the main town of the Hamer people. En route, visit the colorful markets depending on the day. At Hamer, if you are luck, there might be jumping of the bulls, a traditional Hamer passage rite that will be visited.

Day 15 - Visit Karo village.

Visit the Karo village where people reside in conical huts. Karos have an important ceremony (pilla) or jumping of the group of oxen to mark the passage of adolescence to adulthood. Karos are distinguished by their symbolic and ornamental expressions of body paintings and face decorations. Then, after concluding your Karo trip, you will drive back to Turmi.

Day 16 - Drive to Arbaminch

Head back to Arbaminh; en route, visit Konso, a town located about 595 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa. Its cultural landscape is registered the ninth world heritage site of Ethiopia. Konso is inhabited by people who speak one of the eastern Cushitic languages of Ethiopia.

Konso’s altitude lies between 1,800 to 2,000 meters whereas the climatic condition is warm with mean annual temperature varying 16-degree Celsius in winter and 30-degree Celsius in summer. The mean annual rain fall falls on 954 millimeters.

Agriculture is the basis of Konso’s economic activity. The people of Konso are admired for their amazing stone terracing and soil conservation tradition. Terraces, landscape, traditional walled villages, and other social values and traditional leadership, waka, and such are cultural materials contributed to the importance of the Konso area as an important cultural landscape meriting a place on world heritage list. The people of Konso are well known for various kinds of handcrafts. The basic ones are smithery, weaving, pottery, and tanning.

Day 17 - Fly back to Addis

Relax in the morning at the lodge. From the balcony, enjoy viewing a beautiful scenery of Lake Abaya and Chamo and the forest which surrounds the lakes. Then transfer to the airport for afternoon flight back to Addis Ababa. In Addis Ababa, a farewell dinner awaits you at a cultural restaurant where you can enjoy delicious Ethiopian cuisine accompanied by traditional music. Then you will be transferred to the airport for your late-night departure flight back home.

Included excursions

This safari tour includes visiting the country’s best known monuments, including the ancient Stelae of Aksum, the fifth-century churches of Tigray, the 13th-century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the 16th-century beautiful castles of Gondar, and towards the southern part of the country, the trip features some of the exotic tribal people in the lower Omo valley.

Location

This safari follows a route around the historical north and southern parts of Ethiopia. You will visit Addis Ababa, Bahirdar, Gonder, Simien Mountains, Lalibela, Axum, Tigray, Langano, Arbaminch, Turmi, and Jinka.

Food

Breakfasts and dinners will be provided.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • Entrance fees
  • Boat fees
  • Service of guides
  • All applicable taxes
  • 16 nights accommodation
  • Breakfasts and dinners
  • Airport transfers
  • Ground transportation fuel

What's not included

  • Flights, both internal and international

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD). Transfer from and to the airport is included. Highway Tours will pick you up from the airport.

Airport: Bole International Airport Airport transfer included: Bole International Airport No additional charges. You can request this in the next step.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 25% of the total price.
  • The deposit is fully refundable if the booking is cancelled up to 30 days before the arrival date.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid on arrival.
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