15 Days North & South Ethiopia by surface and air
Early in the morning, depart on early flight for Bahir Dar (07:00). After arrival, take a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit a selection of the monasteries hidden on the islands and shores of this sacred lake. Visit the Zege Penninsula and the monasteries of Azuwa Maryam and Ura Kidane Mehret and the island monastery of Debre Maryam near the outlet of the Blue Nile River. In the afternoon, drive out to the Blue Nile Falls for a short hike in the area. Finish the day with the sunset over the lake. Overnight in Bahir Dar (hotel).
After breakfast, continue north to Gondar. The four-hour drive will take you through rural villages, offering wonderful insight into the Amhara culture. After briefly settling in your hotel, explore the sites of Gondar, including a visit to the Royal Enclosure, with six castles and several other buildings. Additionally, visit Fasilidas’s Pool, still used for Timket celebrations today, Ras Gimb Palace Museum and the Debre Birhan Selassie church, with the most famous ceiling in Ethiopia. Overnight in Gondar (hotel).
Early morning flight to Axum (07:45). Upon arrival to Axum, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel. Today will be a full day visiting the sites of Axum, including the famous obelisks (one that was recently erected after being returned from Italy) and the archeological museum, the Queen of Sheba’s Bath (which supplies water to Axum year-round), Ezana’s enscription, King Kaleb’s tomb, King Bazen’s tomb, and the Queen of Sheba’s Palace. You can also visit the St. Mary of Zion church, where the Ark of the Covenant is kept. Men only are allowed to enter the old church. Unfortunately, no one (except one specially chosen guardian monk) is allowed to enter the chapel where the Ark is kept. Overnight in Axum (hotel).
Depart on an early morning flight to Lalibela (08:00), the most famous of all of the Ethiopian historical sites. After lunch, start your tour of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, visiting the Northwestern Cluster of churches - Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, Bet Mikael & Bet Golgotha (entry not permitted for women). Overnight in Lalibela (hotel).
In the morning, take a trip to visit the church of Yimrehanne Kristos. The most popular of the churches outside of Lalibela, this church is built with layers of wood and granite, set in the entrance to a large cavern. After the visit, return to Lalibela for lunch and, in the afternoon, visit the Southeastern Cluster of churches – Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanual, and Bet Abba Libanos. Finally, you will visit the most famous of all the churches – Bet Giyorgis, constructed in honor of the patron saint of Ethiopia – Saint George. Overnight in Lalibela (hotel).
In the morning, proceed to the airport for the return flight back to Addis Ababa (09:00). After arrival, depart south from Addis Ababa to Awassa. On the way, you will stop at Lake Ziway to visit the vibrant birdlife. Overnight in Awassa (hotel).
In the morning after breakfast, visit the fish market on the shores of Lake Awassa and then proceed driving to Dorze, set in the highlands above Arba Minch. The Dorze people are known for their tall beehive-like houses and their fine cotton weaving. You will visit the village and learn about the daily lives of these industrious people. If today is market day (in Dorze village on Monday and Thursday and in nearby Chencha on Tuesday and Saturday), that will be visited. Overnight in Dorze in traditional Dorze hut (shared toilet facilities) or continue to Arba Minch for overnight (camping, hotel or lodge).
In the morning, visit the local market in Dorze (Monday and Thursday) or Chencha (Tuesday and Saturday). Afterwards, continue driving to Arba Minch. In the afternoon, take a boat trip on Lake Chamo to visit the “crocodile market” and the local hippos. Overnight in Arba Minch (camping, hotel or lodge).
After breakfast, depart from Arba Minch to Turmi. On the way you will pass through the village of Weyto (market day Saturday), which is home to the Tsemai tribe. Continue through the Weyto Valley to Erbore, where you will have a brief visit to a local Erbore village (market day is Saturday). Finally, proceed to Turmi, home of the Hamer tribe. At night, you can see the traditional night dancing of the Hamer tribe, known as evangadi. Overnight in Turmi (camping, hotel or lodge).
In the morning, take a day trip to Omorate to visit the Dassenech tribe. Here you will cross the Omo River by local boat and enter a Dassenech village. Afterwards, return to Turmi (Monday is market day) for a visit to a local Hamer village. If there is Jumping of the Bulls traditional Hamer coming-of-age ceremony, that will be visited. Overnight in Turmi (camping, basic hotel or lodge).
Depart for Jinka, via Dimeka and Key Afar. Tuesdays and Saturdays are market days in Dimeka, which is one of the most colorful markets in the area and is visited by many tribes, including Hamer, Benna and Karo. Afterwards, continue to Jinka. Overnight in Jinka (camping, hotel or lodge).
In the morning, drive through the Mago National Park to a local village of the Mursi tribe. The Mursi are known for their lower lip and earlobe plates. In the afternoon, after returning to Jinka, you can visit the South Omo Museum & Research Center to learn more about the local tribes. Alternatively, take a hike in the surrounding hills to visit a local Ari village. Overnight in Jinka (camping, hotel or lodge).
After breakfast, depart from Jinka to Konso, via Key Afar. Thursday is market day in Key Afar, where you will see the Benna and Tsemai tribes trading goods. This is another very popular market in the region. After the visit, proceed to Konso (market days are Mondays and Thursdays). The Konso people are known for their wooden statues, known as wakas, which are erected in honor of dead heroes as well as their innovative agricultural terracing. Today you will have the opportunity to visit a local village and the cultural museum displaying many waka statues. Time permitting, you can also visit the “natural New York Village”, named after the tall sand formations resembling skyscrapers. Overnight in Konso (camping, hotel or lodge).
After breakfast, depart from Konso to Lake Langano. On the way you will visit the Senkele Wildlife Sanctuary, which was established to protect the endemic Swayne’s Hartebeest. Continue to Lake Langano for overnight (camping or lodge).
After a morning swim in the lake, depart north to Addis Ababa. On the way, you may visit the Abiatta-Shala National Park. Lake Shala, with its deep blue waters is the deepest lake in Ethiopia at 236m. Lake Abiatta is a soda lake at which thousands of flamingos can be seen at various times of the year.
End of Tour.
*** This itinerary is flexible, and will likely change in order to coordinate visits with market days in the south, which is a great opportunity to mingle with the people, many of whom travel long distances on foot to attend.