27 days

Ethiopian Odyssey

Ethiopian Odyssey

The clay lip discs of the Mursi Tribe

The Rift Valley's Nechisar National Park

Trek in the Simien Mountains

Addis Ababa's Art Deco architecture

Ethiopia's old capital Gondar

UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient city of Axum

Lake Tana's ancient monasteries and churches

UNESCO World Heritage-listed rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

Trip rating
  • This Ethiopian journey weaves a story of a once great and powerful kingdom, focussing on the regions of Bahar Dar, Gondar, Axum and Lalibela. While down south in the OMO Valley the bizarre rituals and decorations of the various tribes will leave you gob-smacked. Don’t explore Ethiopia for a relaxing getaway, venture here to be moved.

    Why we love it

    • Ethiopian tourism is in its infancy, but the people of Ethiopia will welcome you warmly.
    • The Simien Mountains will have you traversing an amazing national park that provides a habitat for some of Ethiopia’s endemic wildlife
    • The Omo Valley is unique in that besides it being the home of the richest national parks in the country.
    • This is a journey you’ll never forget. You don’t explore Ethiopia for a relaxing getaway; you venture here to be moved.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Addis Ababa

    • On arrival in Addis Ababa, you are met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure. Please note this is an arrival day, so you may arrive at any time. If you arrive early, an optional visit to the National Museum can be arranged.
    • Addis Ababa is a bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants. It is also a city of immense contrasts – the Addis Sheraton, with its ‘singing fountain’ is one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, yet you only need to travel a few streets away to find yourself among busy markets, dirt roads and the odd goat or two wandering the streets. The city is relatively new– established by the Emperor Menelik II in 1887, and at 2,400m has the distinction of being the third highest capital in the world. Although Ethiopia was the only African nation never to be colonised, parts of it, including Addis, were briefly occupied by the Italians in the twentieth century, and in many parts of the city their legacy lives on in the form of old art deco buildings and coffee shops, particularly in the area known as the Piazza. Addis can seem daunting at times, but even the briefest foray into the busy streets can reveal interesting new insights.
    Global Hotel or similar

    Day 2 - Addis Ababa

    • This morning, we visit the National Museum which consists of archeological collections from as early as Lucy (3.5 Million Years old) and other fossils of primates from earlier periods. This museum also includes archeological collections from the ancient civilization of Axum and other major sites in the northern Ethiopia.
    • Merkato is the biggest market in the east Africa and its bustling outdoor markets are very colorful reminders of more traditional way of life. Addis Ababa's cosy espresso bars and pastries are reminiscent of Rome and the Mediterranean world and the people, the bursts of music from the cafes and shops, the pungent aromas of spicy cooking, of coffee and frankincense, form a unique Ethiopian pastiche.
    Global Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 3 - Bahir Dar

    • This morning we fly to Bahar Dar, one of Ethiopia’s most attractive towns where we will walk through the market and maybe stop at the local juice bar, which will give you a nice feel for this town. Located 32 kilmeters south of Bahar Dar, the Blue Nile Falls measure over 400 metres wide and descends 48 metres. These falls are known locally as Tis Isat (Smoking Water) and are a spectacular sight when in full flood. The famous explorer James Bruce, when he first laid eyes on the Blue Nile Falls, described them as ‘a most magnificent sight, that ages, added to the greatest length of human life, would not deface or eradicate from my memory.’ The new hydro-electrical plants and dams have somewhat impacted on their magnificence, but the sight is still a memorable one.
    Tana Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 4 - Lake Tana

    • One of the fabled sources of the Nile, Lake Tana is one of Ethiopia’s greatest natural treasures. With a surface of around 3,600km, the lake is also famous for the series of ancient monasteries and churches located on twenty of the islands that are found within the waters. We have a full day visiting the many island monasteries that lie on Lake Tana. We'll travel by boat to visit some of the more remote monasteries and churches, most of which date back to the thirteenth century. The monasteries are fascinating and unlike any others outside Ethiopia, often decorated with bright frescoes. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all over the country. Local history says the Ark of the Covenant was kept on one of these islands when the city of Axum was under threat, and the remains of five emperors are to be found at Daga Istafanos.
    Tana Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 5-6 - Gondar

    • We head to Gondar to explore the old capital of Ethiopia. Upon arrival we head to Debre Berhan Selassie, perhaps Ethiopia's most beautiful church, followed by the Royal Enclosure. The town of Gondar is often described as ‘The Camelot of Ethiopia’, and when you approach the Royal Enclosure, situated in the middle of the town, it’s easy to understand why. A collection of superbly preserved castles built in the 17th century are still standing in an excellent state of preservation today. Different stories abound as to who built them – some say Portuguese craftsmen, others believe they were built by Ethiopian hands. Whatever the truth, the Royal Enclosure has to be one of the most of the most striking and unusual sights in all of Africa.
    Goha Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 7 - Simien Mountains

    • Heading north we travel to Debark, on the edge of the Simien Mountains National Park. This area is characterised by enormous chasms and gorges, and offers some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa.
    • Ethiopia is often described as ‘the roof of Africa’, and when the Simien Mountains first loom into sight, it’s easy to understand why. Characterised by massive gorges and dramatic pinnacles, the Simiens are perhaps Africa’s most beautiful range of mountains, and house the fourth highest peak on the continent, Ras Dashen (4,620m). The mountains are also home too much of Ethiopia’s wildlife and are great for bird watching. The Gelada baboon, a striking primate with a shaggy mane and a patch of bright red skin on its chest, is found here in good numbers. It is quite likely that you will encounter a troop of these impressive animals as you walk the mountain paths. Also found here are the rarer Walia Ibex, and the world’s most endangered member of the dog family, the elusive Simien Wolf. Your trek here takes in some of the most scenic parts of the Simien Mountains National Park, past striking chasms and gorges where lammergeiers fly past swooping for prey.
    • We’ll take a short trek to Sankaber, where we'll camp for the night.
    Camping
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 8 - Simien Mountains

    • We spend today trekking through these magnificent mountains, hoping to see some of the fascinating wildlife that lives here. You're almost guaranteed to see Gelada baboons, a species that is found nowhere else on earth, and if we're lucky we may see Walia Ibex.
    Camping
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9-10 - Axum

    • After a short hike this morning we travel back through fantastic scenery on our way to Axum. Here we have a day and a half sightseeing, including the Church of St Mary of Zion, which is believed to contain the Ark of the Covenant. A once great city that was under the control of the Queen of Sheba, Axum is home to many fascinating tombs and churches, and has an unusual collection of stelae dating back to the third and fourth centuries. Today it is a site of pilgrimage, and contains an amazing collection of ancient buildings, including palaces belonging to important Ethiopian kings and emperors. The huge granite stelae are the most famous monuments in Axum. Originally seven in number, the largest measured thirty-three metres high and weighed about 500 tons, but it fell centuries ago and lies in pieces next to the remaining stelae.
    Yeha Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 11-12 - Lalibela

    • We fly to Lalibela today, home to a spectacular collection of churches hewn out of the surrounding rock, so astounding that many believe they are the creations of angels. We'll visit the churches within the town and also head out into the surrounding countryside, to visit some of the churches that lie nearby, all made from the rock and dating back to around the twelfth century. There are many stories concerning the origin of these churches, but the most popular local legend is that angels built them in a single night. The churches have been dated back to the reign of King Lalibela sometime in the eleventh or twelfth centuries. Many of the churches are connected by underground tunnels and narrow walkways built into the rock, and they are still a site of pilgrimage today as they have been for centuries. In some of the churches hermits and monks live in tiny caverns in the walls, barely big enough for them to stretch out, staying here for years on end. The jewel of Lalibela’s churches is Beta Giorgis, a cross shaped church rising out of the earth, surrounded by the walls of the pit into which it was dug, which houses a wooden box said to have been carved by King Lalibela himself. While in Lalibela you may also be lucky enough to witness one of the religious festivals that often take place here.
    Mountain View Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 13-14 - Addis Ababa

    • An afternoon flight takes us back to Addis Ababa. We are then transferred to the hotel and get settled before enjoying an optional dinner at a well known local Ethiopian restaurant. Here we are able to put our new-found dancing moves to the test by joining in with the traditional dancers. A free day gives us time to do some more exploring of Addis Ababa, or to just relax and prepare for the second leg of our journey.
    • Addis Ababa is a bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants. It is also a city of immense contrasts – the Addis Sheraton, with its ‘singing fountain’ is one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, yet you only need to travel a few streets away to find yourself among busy markets, dirt roads and the odd goat or two wandering the streets.
    • The city is relatively new– established by the Emperor Menelik II in 1887, and at 2,400m has the distinction of being the third highest capital in the world. Although Ethiopia was the only African nation never to be colonised, parts of it, including Addis, were briefly occupied by the Italians in the twentieth century, and in many parts of the city their legacy lives on in the form of old art deco buildings and coffee shops, particularly in the area known as the Piazza.
    • Addis can seem daunting at times, but even the briefest foray into the busy streets can reveal interesting new insights.
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 15-16 - Bale Mountain National Park

    • This morning you will depart Addis Ababa for your next stop - the Bale Mountains. On the way you'll stop off at Dinsho, headquarters of the National Park for some game viewing before reaching the lodge in the afternoon.
    • Enjoy a full day game drive to the plateau of the Bale Mountains on Day 3, as well as the opportunity to get out and stretch your legs on a nature walk in the Harenna Forest.
    • More than any other park in Ethiopia, the Bale Mountains National Park is known for its wildlife. There are over 60 mammal species and 260 bird species within the park, including dozens of endemic species.
    Wabi Shebele Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 17 - Arba Minch

    • Today you will start by travelling to the south of Ethiopia, a region noted for its enormous variety of peoples and cultures. Many of these populations are nomadic or semi-nomadic and, far from the influence of the modern world, their ancient traditions have remained intact. Set in dramatic surroundings, Arba Minch is a small southern Ethiopian town lying at an altitude of 1,300m above sea level, on a cliff overlooking Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya. To the west, mountains form a backdrop rising to 4,000m. Although there's not much to do in town, it is the gateway to Nechisar National Park.
    • Stop along the way to visit the local villages, before arriving at your hotel in the early evening.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 18 - Nechisar National Park

    • With some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa, Nechisar National Park lies at the heart of the Rift Valley, covering Lakes Chamo and Abaya and the mountainous causeway between them known as the 'Bridge of God'.
    • The Nechisar Plain offers the best game viewing, with Burchellis zebra, gazelle and kudu. Lions are also found in the park but are rarely seen. Waterbuck are found near the lake shore, and there are many smaller species of buck found in the forest areas.
    • Today you will visit Nechisar, to view the wide variety of wildlife and take a boat trip on Lake Chamo, inhabited by hippo and crocodile.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 19-20 - Jinka

    • You will pass through the territories of several different tribes on your way to Jinka including the Dorze, who are famous for their beehive huts. Jinka is a small mountain town set apart from the country. It’s both remote and rustic, accentuated by the grass airstrip in the middle of town.
    • People come from across South Omo to visit the local markets, particularly Ari, Bana, Besheda and Besketo people. Probably the best known tribe in Ethiopia, the Mursi people are most famous for their practices of extending their lower lips with clay discs, and stick fighting. You will visit a Mursi village to learn more about this fascinating group.
    • When a Mursi woman reaches 20 years old, a slit is made beneath the lower lip and a clay plate inserted. Each year a larger plate is added, stretching the lower lip until it juts out so far that a 15cm plate can be worn and the woman can pull her lip right over her head. This is considered the height of attractiveness.
    • Mursi men do not escape entirely unscathed, as they take part in stick fights which in the past sometimes ended in the death of one of the participants. Decorated with white clay, they whack each other with 2 metre long poles. There are consolations; the winner is carried off by a group of eligible girls who then decide which one of them will marry him.
    Jinka Resort Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 21 - Turmi

    • Today you will visit a colourful local market and mingle with different tribes like the Karo, Hamer and Benna. There are many interesting handicrafts to be found too - don’t forget to bargain. Hopefully you will also be invited into a couple of homes. Dimeka is the principal town in Hamer country, with an impressive market on Saturdays, Hamer villagers make their way to it from miles around. Dimeka borders different tribal areas, and you're likely to encounter several different tribes mingling together in the market. A visit to one of the villages in the area is also rewarding; made entirely of mud, the small thatched huts are tidily arranged with very few outside influences to be seen, offering a glimpse into another way of life.
    • The highlight of the year in the Hamer calendar is the Bull Jumping Ceremony. This is the culmination of a three day initiation ceremony, where 15 bulls are lined up and the initiate has to jump onto each one, all the way down the line, before turning round and coming back the same way. The ceremony is usually held around December/January and August, right after the harvest season.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 22 - Murulle

    • Here the track stops. Travelling through open savannah and often encountering herds of buffalo, giraffe and gazelle, you will head towards Murulle. You'll visit the Karo tribe, masters of body decoration who use chalk to paint themselves. Murulle (also spelled Muelle and Murli) lies on the banks of the Omo River, and is a popular base for exploring what is essentially a rugged area.
    • There is a fair amount of wildlife in the area, and a good chance of seeing some form of antelope and possibly raptors overhead. The two main tribes who live in the area are the Karo and the Hamer, both of whom practice scarification and have elaborate hairstyles.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 23 - Konso

    • Today’s drive will offer spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding scenery including the terraced hills of Konso. Along the way, you may be lucky enough to see beisa oryx, dik-dik, and lesser kudu.
    • You'll visit Gersale Village Nursery and Konso village where the people are known for their colourful, traditional dress and the unusual engraved wooden statues or totems they use as grave markers. Today you will be able to pay a donation of $20USD to plant a tree at Gersale - this covers the planting of one tree including water and care for two years, and a commemorative donor name tag displayed in the nursery. Drought has put pressure on natural resources leading to deforestation, soil erosion and a loss of native wildlife.
    • All roads into South Omo pass through Konso, and this unprepossessing small town of 3000 inhabitants is a good base for exploring the hillside villages in the surrounding countryside. The Konso people themselves live in walled hilltop settlements with maze-like fences. There is a central communal building called a mora, the ground floor of which is used by the men and boys as a social area; women are excluded.
    • Carved wooden grave markers are a Konso tradition, with the deceased warrior's features enhanced by using teeth made from animal bones.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 24 - Yabello

    • Today you will take a very scenic drive to El Sod village. Here you will take a short hike to visit 'the house of salt', on the edge of a deep crater lake. You will also drive to Dublock to visit the 'singing wells'. The singing wells are named as such thanks to the chanting that occurs as people form human chains to pass buckets from hand to hand to when collecting water from wells in the area. This activity only ever takes place in the dry season, when herders will travel for several hours to ensure their livestock are watered.
    • Some 20km to the south, El Sod is the site of Chew Bet, or the 'house of salt', a saline crater lake that lies at the bottom of a 200m deep crater. The lake is almost black in colour and has a vaguely sinister air as a result; villagers collect the salt formed by evaporation on a rota system to ensure levels are kept sustainable.
    Yabello Motel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 25 - Lake Awasa

    • Awasa is one of the largest cities in southern Ethiopia but manages to retain an easy-going feel, making it a pleasant place to spend some time. There is a bustling central market as well as a separate fish market. Tabor Hill offers good views across the lake, which is the main draw; it has an imposing mountainous backdrop with the lakeshore itself fringed with lush vegetation where monkeys are frequently seen.
    • Hippos are found out in the lake itself - they emerge onto the shore to graze after dark. The lake has excellent birdlife, with many species of waders present, as well as heron, stork, and pygmy geese. Fish eagles are also found here, their haunting cry often heard at dusk.
    • On the way to Awasa you will stop at Wenago to visit the Tutu Fella stelae field - an unusual collection of carved stones. You'll then continue to Lake Awasa, which is surrounded by mountains and populated by countless species of birds. On arrival, you will walk along the shores of the lake to see birds and possibly hippos.
    Wabi Shebele Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 26 - Addis Ababa

    • You will visit the fish market of Awasa before heading back to Addis Ababa today. The rest of the day will be free for you to explore or perhaps indulge in a bit of last minute shopping. You may like to enjoy an optional final dinner at a well known local Ethiopian restaurant. Here you will able to put your new-found dancing moves to the test by joining in with the traditional dancers.
    Breakfast

    Day 27 - Addis Ababa

    • Our tour ends this morning in Addis Ababa. Flights out of Addis Ababa can be booked to depart at any time today. Additional post-tour accommodation is also available.
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • The services of Peregrine’s expert English-speaking local tour leader
    • Arrival transfer
    • 2 days in the Simien Mountains, 2 days in Lalibela, 2 days in Bale Mountains National Park, 1 day in Mago National Park and 1 day in Nech Sar National Park
    • Entrance fees at all National Parks

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Meals unless specified in the itinerary
    • Insurance
    • Laundry - but there will be opportunity to do some hand-washing in the camps where we stay for two or more nights.
    • Optional tours or activities during free time
    • Tips - this is something to consider, and it might be worthwhile speaking to your group about making a group contribution at the end of the trip
    • Departure transfer
  • Map Itinerary

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PFEO
Group size 6 - 15
Start City: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
End City: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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