Day 1: Meet in Addis Ababa
Our small group tour starts with a relaxed afternoon city tour and a visit to the National Museum that exhibits many archaeological and historical findings. Its collection is considered one of the most important in sub-Saharan Africa. View the palaeontology exhibit, including two remarkable casts of Lucy. The real bones are preserved in the archives of the museum.
We also visit Addis Ababa University campus and the Ethnological Museum (Institute of Ethiopian Studies) in the same compound.
Day 2: Addis Ababa
In the early morning (7:30 am), we go to Medhane Alem Cathedral. We arrive near the end of the service when the people exit the church and walk in procession around the church chanting behind the priests. It’s a beautiful scene to photograph and touch your heart to see the devotion.
Afterwards, we head to Unity Park, located at the Grand Palace. The palace is 40 acres and contains myriads of historical buildings and
plants that date back to the time of emperor Menelik II, the founder of the Grand Palace. The Nobel Prize winner premier of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, converted the palace in to a park in 2019.
Onward to Trinity Church. It is a wonderful slice of authentic culture. Inside, there are some grand murals, the most notable being Afewerk Tekle’s depiction of the Holy Trinity, with Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (cow) and John (dove) peering through the clouds. There are also some brilliant stained-glass windows.
Continue to Shiromeda, bustling market where locals shop. It is set at the foot of the Entoto Hill. It’s an opportunity to see local people in daily life. This is a quick stop, time permitting.
We culminate the day at Mount Entoto, 3200 m above sea level, the highest peak on the Entoto Mountains. It overlooks the city of Addis Ababa. We visit the historical churches of St. Mary (with its rich museum), and St. Raguel church (aka Kidus Raguel), the oldest church in Addis Ababa, founded by Emperor Menelik II. It is
famous for its’ 140 year old hand-painted wall and ceiling of religious paintings. We also visit the Palace of Menelik II. Entoto Hill is a lovely place to wander about and see the lifestyle of a small hill village. Watch the women haul down eucalyptus bundles. Enjoy fantastic views of Addis Ababa and the sunset from the hilltop.
Lalibela: Timket Festival
Day 3-5: Lalibela
Our group of intrepid Ethiopia travelers enjoy a guided, in-depth exploration of the holy city of Lalibella. Including the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed church buildings (created by carving down into solid rock) the entire city could be described as a sculpture dedicated to the glory of God. The first day we witness one of the most colorful and highly celebrated festivals in Ethiopia, the Timket evening procession, called Ketera. On the 2nd day, early in the morning, (about 5:30 am), we drive to the ‘Taboat Maderia’ to join the celebration with the crowd waiting to be baptized by the holy water (starts about 7 am). This afternoon we’ll tour the famous eleven rock-hewn/monolithic churches. On the 3rd day we continue the visits to the cave churches.
Day 6: Gondar
We'll explore the splendid Gondar Royal castles, churches and other sites in and around Gondar town. Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of King Fasilledes.
Day 7: Semien National Park
En-route to Semien National Park, visit the former Felasha (Ethiopian Jewish) village at Wolqayt where you can still purchase pottery in the Felasha style. Enjoy a safari through Semien National Park with its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife viewing.
Day 8-9: Bahir Dar
A short drive, en-route visit the unique Awra-amba people in the Amhara regional state, their village and culture.
Bahir Dar is a pleasant city located on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia with 37 islands and 20 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural significance.
We board the boat docked on the lakeside of the hotel property, for a half-day boat trip on Lake Tana to the Zeghe Peninsula, known for its 14th century, round, grass-roofed churches with their magnificent wall murals. You will walk through dense forest with prolific bird life.
In the afternoon, we visit Blue Nile waterfalls passing through several small villages along the way. We can stop to visit the school in the main village, if it is open.
Day 10: Addis Ababa
Enjoy a leisure morning and return to Addis Ababa. Those departing today will transfer to airport.
CONTINUE TO OMO VALLEY
Day 11:Fly to Arba Minch
We start our Omo Valley adventure with a short flight to Arba Minch on the shores of Chamo Lake, one of the Rift Valley lakes.
On arrival, we will stop in the Guge Mountains to visit the Dorze and Chencha villages.
Day 12: Arba Minch-Konso-Turmi
Explore the Chencha villages, observing traditional lifestyles. Enjoy a boat trip on the clear blue waters of Lake Chamo to see crocodiles, hippos and aquatic birds.
Day 13: Turmi-Omo Rate-Dimeka-Turmi
We cross the Omo River in a primitive dug out canoe to visit the village of the Dasenech (formerly known as Geleb) people. In the afternoon, we visit the colorful main market day for Hamer tribe at Dimeka. The Hamer are good looking people, especially the women; they have very nice handmade crafts beside selling local agricultural products. For photography lovers it will be endless visual candy for the lens.
Day 14: Turmi - Murulle
Another beautiful drive, this time to Korcho village with stunning views over the Omo River to visit the Karo tribe, experts in body painting.
Day 15: Mago National Park-Mursi-Key Afar-Konso
Mago National Park. Our tour group will visit the Mursi, the most illustrious of Ethiopia's unique tribes. The women are known all over the world for their decorative lip plates. We end the day in Konso.
Day 16: Konso
We'll enjoy the colorfully dressed Konso people, the impressive terracing of the land as well as cultural traditions. We shall visit the Chief of Konso’s palace and should Chief Kala Gezahegan be in residence, we may be granted an audience. An excellent day to meet the people, take photographs and learn of a culture that has had very little outside influence.
Day 17: Elsod Crater Lake - Konso
An excursion to Elsod Crater Lake where the Borena people traditionally extract salt for their cattle. Also see the “singing well” practice of the young Borena men.
Day 18: Hawasa
A scenic drive to Hawasa, located on the edge of the lake surrounded by mountains. Enjoy some independent time. Pending confirmation—visit Hawasa Children’s Center vocational program. In the morning, rise early if you want to stroll about the local fish market in Awasa. A scene of colorful boats, massive storks, pelicans and other birds and, of course, a great people-watching place.
Day 19: Addis Ababa - Depart
Enjoy the magnificent landscape of the Rift Valley as we drive back to Addis Ababa, bringing our small group tour of Ethiopia to a close.
Optional Extension to Harar
Visit the unique medieval walled town of Harar and see the famed hyenas.