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Ethiopia – the cradle of humankind

Ethiopia

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Safari experiences that you will not find with any other travel company. We know Africa best and will get you to the right place & time to enjoy the greatest shows on Earth!

Churches hewn from rock, World Heritage Sites, castles, ancient tombs, art, archaeological artefacts and more ...

This historic tour traces the birth of the Axumite empire that ruled trade in northeast Africa for over seven centuries (100BC-700AD) and the first adoption of Christianity as a religion in the fourth century. Axum, also spelled Aksum, also hosted two Muslim faith migration episodes throughout its history, as well as being home to the Beta Israel community.

A cultural extravaganza

Overview

Length: 8 days / 7 nights
Group Size: 2 - 6
Location: Axum, Gondar, Lalibela, Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile
Departure Dates: To suit you

Highlights:

  • Explore the historical sites of Axum - the ancient capital and resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, Gondar - known for its castles, churches, and bathing pools and Lalibela - home to 11 magnificent rock-hewn churches, often called the "Eighth Wonder of the World."

  • Enjoy a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit Zege Peninsula monasteries.

  • Addis Ababa City Tour.

  • Experience Ethiopian cuisine and traditional entertainment at a farewell dinner.

from US$ 2475 per person sharing (8 days)

Prices and dates

If flying into Addis with national carrier Ethiopian Airlines 2024

Number of travellers

Cost per person sharing

1

US$ 4,920

2

US$ 3,395

4

US$ 2,700

5

US$ 2,475

If NOT flying into Addis with national carrier Ethiopian Airlines 2024

Number of travellers

Cost per person sharing

1

US$ 5,390

2

US$ 3,865

4

US$ 3,170

6

US$ 2,950

Single Supplement for both options above: $395

Price Includes:
Meet and greet in Addis and all transfers to and from Addis airport. All accommodation on a twin room sharing basis, all meals out of Addis and only breakfast in Addis, domestic flights (cost based on an international flight into Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines; see costs for flight supplement). All ground transportation via minibus with driver. All entrance fees and access to churches, museums, and castle complexes mentioned in the itinerary. Boat hire in Bahir Dar. Mule ride to Asheton Maryam. Professional English-speaking guide. Portage and all local guides fees, bottled mineral water (1lt pp per day other than the non-alcoholic beverage served during each meal), government taxes and levies. 24/7 office support

Price Excludes:
International flights, lunch and dinners in Addis, any alcoholic drinks, visas, Covid tests, items of a personal nature, telephone calls, laundry, travel and medical Insurance, tips, excess baggage charges, and any activities not specified in the itinerary.

It was a period that witnessed Queen Shebas’ travels (Makeda) to the old and wise King Solomon, father of her first son Menilik I, Ethiopia's first regent. Menilik, according to legend, brought the original Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Axum after Jerusalem was sacked in 586/587BC and Solomon's temple destroyed. Inevitably, Axum has been blessed from time immemorial by both wealth and confluence of cultures, resulting in an impressive collection of ruins, monuments, tombs and archaeological artefacts and the birth of a resourceful and strong nation – Ethiopia. Axum’s most popular attractions include the magnificent obelisks, the tombs of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel, the legendary palace and baths of Queen Sheba and the Ezana Stone (Ethiopia’s Rosetta equivalent).

Further south, we visit Gondar, home of the World Heritage Site known as King Fasilides Complex – The Camelot of Africa. Here, a massive and imposing collection of castles is testimony to what once was the seat and capital of Ethiopia for almost 200 years. It was a period of amazing creativity, wealth and prosperity that fueled arts such as painting, music, dance, poetry, architecture and many other disciplines. Nearby stands the unassuming Debre Berhan Selassie (Trinity and Mountain of Light) Church, famed for its exquisite ornate interior – Ethiopia’s very own Sistine Chapel – built by an emperor and preserved by an archangel.

High in the heavens, carved from Lasta Mountain, you will visit Lalibela’s four awe-inspiring and magnificent rock-hewn church complexes. Portuguese priest Francisco Alvares, when shown Lalibela in 1521, doubted his compatriots would believe what he had seen. Massive and carved below ground level, ringed by trenches, moats, and courtyards, and connected by a maze of tunnels and tight alleyways – each church is unique in shape and size.

Before returning to Addis, we visit Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana, 1,800 meters above sea level, and one of the long-hidden sources of the Blue Nile. Here, we will enjoy the Tiss Isat Falls as the Blue Nile departs towards Khartoum. Lake Tana also hosts remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian Church in isolated island monasteries.

All accommodation throughout this tour is 3-4 star, providing en suite facilities and hot water.

This tour visits several distinct topographical regions. The central plateau and highlands of (Addis, Gondar and Lalibela) have moderate climates with minimal seasonal temperature variations (6° C – 26° C). Temperature variations in Axum can be greater (15 C – 30 C). Heavy rainfall occurs in most of the country during June, July, and August. The High Plateau experiences a second, milder, rainy season between December and February. However, average annual precipitation on the central plateau remains a paltry 122 cm (48 in).

This Africa Geographic journey of discovery will quench your thirst for a cultural extravaganza through a country that will overwhelm your senses and steal your heart.

Itinerary

WELCOME to Ethiopia!

On arrival, you will be met by an Africa Geographic representative and transferred to your hotel.

Overnight in Addis Ababa

After breakfast, you will be transferred back to Bole Airport for your flight to Axum.

This simple frontier town is of great importance as it is the ancient capital of Ethiopia. According to local legend, Axum was home to Queen Sheba and is the current resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. As we explore Axum and its ancient relics, adventure and imagination guide us through this mysterious and historic place.

On arrival, you will get your first glimpse of the history of this area with a city tour that includes the Archeological Museum of Axum and the St. Mary of Zion Cathedral. The original church was built by Emperor Fasilides, founder of Gondar, in 1665. It’s thought that this church is built on the original foundations of a temple built by King Ezana or King Kaleb in the 4th or 6th centuries, making this the oldest Christian site in Africa. Keep your eye out for the Chapel of the Tablet, which is said to be the home of the Ark of the Covenant. The modern St. Mary of Zion Cathedral dates from the 1960s when it was built by order of Emperor Haile Selassie. The architectural style seems out of place within the ancient city, but the contrast between the buildings on the site is fascinating. We also explore the on-site museum under the church, which houses many of Ethiopia’s priceless relics. Photography is prohibited.

In the afternoon, we will visit the famous Stelae Fields (fourth century AD and UNESCO World Heritage Site), the palace ruins and tomb of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel (5th and 6th century AD) and the residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba (9th century BC). Northern Stelae Park contains over 120 stelae - some are upright, some have been buried and others have been removed. The Rome Stela, the tallest at 25m high, was shipped to Italy in 1937 under orders from Mussolini, but has since been returned and re-erected.

Overnight in Axum

Today you will rise early for the short flight over the amazing rust colored canyons and high peaks to Lalibela.

The small town of Lalibela is situated high in the Lasta Mountains perched at 8,500 feet in elevation.

Lalibela is arguably one of the most important religious and historical sites in all of Africa and the entire Christian world. Ethiopia was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity as a state religion, and the Ethiopian Orthodox religion is deeply rooted in Judaism and practiced throughout the country.

There are more than 200 churches in the Lasta Region of Lalibela, some hidden in enormous caves - but it is exceptional to find 11 churches of such magnitude and master craftsmanship in one enclave. These brilliant feats of engineering and architecture are often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The churches are said to have been constructed during King Lalibela's reign in the 12th and 13th centuries when Lalibela (then known as Roha) was the capital of the Zagwe Dynasty. Many theories exist about how they were built and by whom (including angels and the Knights Templars). Legend has it that King Lalibela was exiled in Jerusalem and returned to Ethiopia to build a New Jerusalem.

After you check in to your hotel, we will visit the first group of churches that represent the earthly Jerusalem. This group includes Bete Medhanialem (Saviour Church), Bete Miriam, Bete Denagel, Bete Meskal, Debra Sina, and Bete Golgotha. Standing 38-feet tall with seventy-two pillars, Medhane Alem is not only the largest in Lalibela, but it is the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world. The oldest of the churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Bet Maryam is the only Lalibela monolith with a porch. The remains of exquisite early frescoes can be seen on the ceiling and upper walls, and there are many elaborately carved details on the piers, capitals, and arches. Bet Golgotha houses remarkable reliefs of figures and early Christian art that are rarely seen in other parts of Ethiopia.

Overnight in Lalibela

This morning rise early and enjoy an excursion out of town to Asheten Mariam or Nakutola’ab. We visit Asheton Mariam, atop a mountain overlooking Lalibela, by muleback. The mountain views are impressive and panoramic and it’s easy to understand why the priests at this church believe they are the “closest to God.”

In the afternoon, visit the second group of churches representing the heavenly Jerusalem. In this group are the Bete Gabriel-Raphael, Bete Merquorios, Bete Emmanuel, and Bete Abba Libanos. Finally, visit the most interesting cross-shaped church of Bete Giorgis (St. George), which is said to be the symbolisation of Noah’s Ark. The cruciform-shaped Bete Giorgis is the most perfect and beautiful church here; its interior is dominated by depictions of St. George killing the dragon.

Overnight in Lalibela

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport and fly to Gondar.

With the castles of the Royal Enclosure, ornate churches and resplendent bathing pools, it’s easy to imagine Gondar in all of its glory as the capital of Ethiopia in the mid-1600s. King Fasilides named Gondar as the capital in 1636 and by his death in 1667 Gondar’s population had reached 65,000 - its wealth and beauty were well known throughout the land.

The morning is spent exploring the Royal Enclosure and its buildings, the nearby bath of King Fasilides (where modern-day Timkat ceremonies are performed). The enclosure is surrounded by a 300-foot wall; the fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest and most impressive structure is the two-story palace of Emperor Fasilides, built of solid basalt stones. Other royal buildings to visit include the library of Emperor Yohannes I, the House of Song where royal ceremonies took place, the elegant reception and banquet hall of Emperor Bakaffa, and the palace of the king’s wife.

Finally, we climb the hill to visit the Debre Birhan Selassie Church, an imposing structure with its harmony of brightly coloured ceilings completely covered with intricately painted and endearing angel faces.

Overnight in Gondar

After breakfast, you will depart for a three-hour drive to Bahir Dar- the beautiful lake-side city.

You will pass rural villages, cross mountain passes with stunning vistas, and get your first glimpse of the impressive city of Bahir Dar.

In the afternoon, you head out on Lake Tana to the Zege Peninsula and its famous monasteries. While on board, keep an eye out for a variety of bird species and the traditional tankwas (reed boats) crossing the lake.

After a short hike through local villages and coffee farms, you will reach the monastery of Ura Kidane Meret, which is home to an important collection of crosses and crowns dating back to the 16th century. The painted maqdas, colorful and well-preserved, tell the stories of Ethiopian saints.

The second monastery that you will visit is Azwa Maryam, a small and pleasant site with gardens and a humorous young priest. Then sail back to Bahir Dar for overnight.

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport and fly back to Addis Ababa. On arrival you will be taken for lunch at the hotel and thereafter on a short tour of Addis Ababa.

Founded in 1886 by Emperor Menelik II, Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia and the seat of the African Union (AU). Addis Ababa is the third highest capital in the world and one of the largest cities in Africa with a population well over 5 million. Located 2,500m above sea level at the foothills of the highest peak of the Entoto Mountains (3,200m above sea level), it enjoys an excellent climate all year round - with an average temperature of 16°C. 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 Merkato.

In the evening, you will be invited to a farewell dinner party at one of the best traditional restaurants in Addis where you will have a chance to taste a variety of Ethiopian meals, and watch the folkloric dancers and music diversity of Ethiopia, as your trip to Abyssinia comes to an end.

Overnight in Addis

After breakfast you will be transferred to Bole International Airport for departing flights.

End of services

*Please note: This tour may precede or follow any other Ethiopian tours offered by us.

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