Ethiopia, at the horn of Africa, is one of the most enigmatic countries in the world and an incredible tourism destination with unique wildlife species, history and culture dating back to the 10thC BC and some of the worlds most beautiful people.
Ethiopia, land of the origins, lions, kings and Haile Selassie is one of the most enigmatic countries in the world. Sitting at the horn of Africa between Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea and the two Sudans, it is one of the largest countries in Africa, the second most populous after Nigeria and potentially the oldest civilization after Egypt. It is also an incredible tourism destination with history, culture and religion dating back to the 10th century BC.
To tour Ethiopia is like to walk far back in time to when everything was medieval, amazing and mind boggling; An ancient civilization of unparalleled beauty, history, culture, religion and larger than life historical characters encountering whom fills you with so much pride – Ethiopians say Ethiopia belongs to all, an abode for all mankind and so it should be.
The history of Ethiopia begins in the far northern town of Axun, home of the magnificent St. Mary’s Cathedral headquarters and the said location of the biblical Arch of the Covenant. It is also an Axum where the mystical ancient Stella’s, massive blocks of sculpted granite stone that were used as tomb stones by pagans can be found. Here too is the alleged palace of the Queen of Sheba as well as her massive bath pool.
History then descends to Lalibella, the presumed second Jerusalem where a series of ancient rock-hewn churches, and which are still being used, are a marvel to behold. That the Ethiopia churches are not just historical relics but also the foundations of all Ethiopians’ culture, customs, traditions and daily life makes them exponentially important. It is through them that we learn about and interact with the life of the regular Ethiopian person to whom religion is a way of life deeply intertwined with their history. Everything from births, daily life, marriage and other societal fabric is anchored around the church. While the churches are certainly beautiful, they have an even greater importance as they tell the true and authentic story of a people, their culture and beliefs from ancient times to date. Lalibella also attains unique importance during the Ethiopian Genna, Christmas because it is the birthplace of King, St. Lalibela, who was born on the same day. Starting two weeks ahead of genna, people from all over Ethiopia travel undertake a pilgrimage to Lalibela to attend the ceremony, receive spiritual blessings and exchange gifts with family and friends.
Further down, it is in Gondar where the last reigning kings settled and the final battle with the Italians climaxed. The magnificent ancient castles have an incredible history and you will be amazed to hear what your guide has to say about them. There are also relics of the famed lion cages, evidence of Ethiopian kings historic practice of rearing lions as immortalized by Haile Selassie. Gondar is also the center of the annual Ethiopian Epiphany, a very special Christian celebration held on 18th to 20th January to commemorate Jesus’ baptism. It is especially beautiful in Gondar where big celebrations are held and pilgrims swim in the massive King Fasilides’ pool in a ceremony reminiscent of Jesus Christ’s baptism by St. John on the River Jordan.
Addis Ababa the capital (means the new flower), is a modern and well developed cosmopolitan city of 10m inhabitants with nice boulevards, a world class airport as well as a tram. On a City Tour of Addis, do not miss to visit the Ethiopia National Museum and learn about Ethiopia’s history, reigns of the kings up to Haile Selassie as well as their many wars with Italy and how the British protected them. Visit, too, the Holy Trinity Cathedral built in the 30s where the remains of Haile Selassie and his wife were re-entombed following the liberation. You will also have an opportunity to visit a local foods market and crafts markets where you mix and mingle with local people; learn about Ethiopia’s unique food stuffs including njera as well as haggle for their beautiful souvenirs and uniquely designed and hand-made outfits (dress). Night life in Addis is amazing and well worth sampling but it absolutely cannot be complete without visiting the Ethiopian Cultural Ambassadors restaurant where the food is amazing and the traditional music and dance troupe’s performances are completely entrancing and unforgettable.
Ethiopia is also home to several National wildlife Parks with unique species like the blood-heart baboon and others. The southern fringes of the country especially the Omo are renowned as some of the most authentic cultural tourism destinations in the world with encounters with peoples, cultures and customs that seem to have frozen in time for hundreds of year.
Travel around Ethiopia is most efficient by air because the country is relatively large. Avoiding the long drives by road is more efficient as it ensures you spend your time where it matters most; on the real tour and because the distances are quite vast, it can actually save you money especially if you are travelling as a small party. Almost all the key tourism sites are within easy reach of a good airport and decent hotels of 3* to 3.5*. Ethiopian Airlines conducts a well coordinated and fairly priced domestic flights schedule. From each of the towns, one can drive the shorter distances to the parks and other attractions. Using local guides in each location allows you to take advantage of their deep local knowledge. To join Safari-DMC on a special and unforgettable tour of Ethiopia and discover an Africa you could never imagine existed, please fill and submit the Inquiry Form and we will get back to you.
Axum, considered Ethiopia’s holiest city, lies in the far north of the country near the border with Eritrea. Definitely once the center of a great empire and ancient civilization, Axum packs over 2500yrs of history in her little space. It is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Africa and from whence the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon and thereby started Ethiopia’s long relationship with Judaism and Christianity as well as the Solomonic Dynasty which ruled the country until the 1980s. Today, the city attracts thousands of tourists who come to marvel at the remnants and monuments left behind by her ancient civilizations and culture.
The awe inspiring 3rd and 4th century Steles found in several parks around the town, ancient granite stone sculptures that were allegedly used as pagan tomb stones, are mind boggling for their sheer size; the biggest of them, the Great Stelae, which is believed to have fallen and broken during raising, is 33m tall and weighs 520 tonnes!. The incredible quality of artistry, and on solid granite, potentially the hardest and most brittle natural stone on earth, is a wonder!. Other landmarks in Axum include the ruins of the original St Mary of Zion Cathedral believed built by Emperor Ezana in the 4thC, replaced with the old cathedral built by Emperor Fasilides in 1665 and later the new cathedral, built by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1955. The adjacent Chapel of the Tablet is said to houses the original biblical Ark of the Covenant brought here by Menelik I. Together, the ruins, the two cathedrals and the Chapel are considered the holiest site in Ethiopia and a place of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Other attractions include the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s palace (probably buried beneath the 4thC Ta’akha Maryam and 6thC Dungur Dalaces), her massive bath pool, King Bazen’s Tomb (considered one of the oldest structures), the Ezana Stone (documents the Emperor’s conversion to Christianity in 350AD), the Archaeological Museum, Ethnographical Museum and several architecturally interesting monasteries.
Celebrated as home of the original Ark of the Covenants, it is the foremost historical site in Ethiopia. It is home to the St. Mary’s Church headquarters of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as well as the sanctuary Chapel which is the repository of the ‘Ark of the Covenant’, the Royal Museum, the coronation yard, Stelae Park, the Tomb of Kaleb and his son Gebre Meskel, Ezana’s Inscriptions, Queen of Sheba’s Bath, Queen of Sheba’s Palace ruins and Axum Archaelogical Museum.
Lalibela is a northern Ethiopian town most famous for her monolithic rock hewn churches dating back to the late 12th-C and early 13th-C AD and still being used today. Ethiopia was one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity, converting her synagogues to churches through a treaty in the middle of the 4th-C AD. Built during the reign of Ethiopian King Saint Lalibela; he attempted to build a new Jerusalem as his capital after the Israeli Jerusalem was captured by Muslims in 1187, they are a marvel to behold and an absolute engineering and architectural feat accomplished. The churches are divided into three sections with a Northern Group comprising Biete Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the World), Biete Maryam (House of Miriam/House of Mary), Biete Golgotha Mikael (House of Golgotha Mikael), Biete Meskel (House of the Cross), Biete Denaghel (House of Virgins); the Western Group comprising Biete Giyorgis (Church of Saint George) and the Eastern Group comprising Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel), Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (House of St. Mark), Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abbot Libanos), Biete Gabriel-Rufael (House of the angels Gabriel and Raphael) and Biete Lehem (House of Holy Bread); and a little further the monastery of Ashetan Maryam and the Yimrehane Kristos Church. Lalibella remained the capital of Ethiopia until the 13th-C but to date remains one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities and a center of pilgrimage. The churches are a part of everyday life in Lalibella and are still used.
Gondar is considered the Royal Capital of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Fasilides in 1636, it is famous for its many ancient churches and castles built by Emperor Fasilides and his descendants. Proceed to the fascinating Debre Birhan Selassie (The Enlightening of Trinity) with her wonderful murals as well as the Qusquam Church and the Emperor Fasilides Bath Pool which every year on 19th January (or 20th during a leap year) is scene of the beautiful Ethiopian Epiphany (Timkat) celebrations when Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate/commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ by St. John on the River Jordan.
SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Simien Mountains National Park encompasses the northwestern side of the Simien mountains range in Ethiopia, 870km north of Addis Ababa and 110 km northeast of the City of Gondar overlooking the Tekeze River valley in Amhara State. It lies astride the five districts of Debark, Adi Arkay, Beyeda, Janamora and Tselmt in the centre of a triangle between Gondar, Lalibela and Aksum from each of which it is easily reachable. The unique massif ranges in altitude from 1,900 to the Ras Dashen peak, at 4,533m the highest in Ethiopia); other notables include Mt Biuat (4,437m) and the 4453m Mt Kidis Yared. They are also remarkable as one of the few spots in interior Africa where snow regularly falls. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, her 412km² of stunning undulating plateau, precipitous cliffs, deep valleys and steep canyon-like gorges are home to some rare and endemic species such as the Ethiopian Wolf (the most rare canide in the world, only about 400 remain in the world, and Africa’s most threatened carnivore),the Gelada (also called the bleeding heart Baboon), the Caracal (a unique wild cat) and the rare Walia Ibex of which only 500 members remain in the world, over 180 species of birds including 5 endemic to Ethiopia and a further 12 endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea. Incredible species include the Red-billed chough as well as many raptors and vultures ; the endangered Lammergeier,Pallid Harrier, and Augur Buzzard; Wahlberg’s, Verreaux, African Hawk Eagle, Rufous-Breasted Sparrow-hawk, Fox Kestrel, Cape Eagle Owl, the Martial Eagle, Abyssinian Owl and Black stork (recorded on passage) as well as The enormous Bearded Vulture, one of the largest and most spectacular birds with a wingspan of over 2.5m often seen soaring along the high cliffs and rocky outcrops at speeds up to 130km/hr and at staggering heights; a magnificent sight to behold. The park is also popular for her high level of diversity with over 1,200 species of plants of which three, Festuca gilbertiana, Rosularia simensis and Dianthus longiglumi are found only in the Simien.
ADDIS ABABA (The New Flower) City Tour
Begin with a drive up Mount Entoto for a panoramic view of Addis. Proceed to the Ethiopia National Museum where you will have a chance to spot the oldest hominids of ‘Lucy’ fossil. Afterwards, tour the Holy Trinity Cathedral built during WWII where the remains of Haile Selassie and his wife are laid. You will then proceed to the Ethnographic Museum which is housed in the former Emperor Haile Selassie’s palace. You wrap up your tour with a visit to Merkato, the biggest open air market in East Africa where you can shop for unique Ethiopian crafts, curios and garments.
LAKE TANA Boat Ride
Take a boat cruise on Lake Tana to visit the Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery and Church. Founded in the 14th-C by St. Betre Mariyam, the monastery with its beautiful murals each depicting a specific biblical story cum teaching is one of the Convent of Mercy complex and arguably the most beautiful and famous of the Zege peninsula monasteries.
Afterwards drive to Tis Issat village to marvel at the Blue Nile Falls. Although water has reduced due to the ongoing construction of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, it is still a sight to behold.
THE BLUE NILE FALLS
The Blue Nile Falls is a magnificent waterfall on the Blue Nile River which originates in Lake Tana in northern Ethiopia and is the larger of the two tributaries that form the mighty River Nile. Situated 30kms south of the City of Bahir Dar and the lake itself, the breathtaking falls, also known as the Tis Abay (the great smoke, in Amharic) comprises four major streams that plunge 45m over canyon cliff in one of the most breathtaking displays in Ethiopia. Although the falls can substantially shrink in the dry season, it can also reach a staggering 400m wide in the rainy season! The upstream regulation of Lake Tana and on-going construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance hydro-power Dam has affected the volume and reduced the extremes, but it is still a marvel to be behold and quite totally amazing especially during the rainy season. Downstream of the falls sits the oldest stone bridge in Ethiopia, dating back to 1626 in the reign of Emperor Susenyos. The falls’ canyon is also significant for ecologically separating the Lake Tana from the rest of the Nile which has contributed to the evolution of the lake’s endemic fauna.
you will take an excursion to the Yimrehane Kirstos Church, an exquisite masterpiece of Axumite wood and stone construction located in a mountain ridge at the peak of Abuna Yosep. Renewed for its interior decoration, the walls are sub-divided vertically with recessions and projections.
In the afternoon you visit Bete Gabriel, Bete Marqorios, Bete Emmanuel, and Bete Aba Libanos
Being rather large, Ethiopia is still an emerging tourism destination. Within the country outside of Addis Ababa, there are no 5* hotels, only local ones. The ones we featured in our tours are a mix of 3* to 4* standard or tourist class local establishments. But they cater for international travelers and tourists and completely suffice. And we ensure we select the best available at each location subject to our clients budget. Do please contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our tour consultants will revert back to you with appropriate suggestions
ETHIOPIAN PILGRIMAGE TOUR
8 days/7 nights Air Safari (north)
Day 1: ARRIVAL, ADDIS ABABA
On arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport,
Met by a Safari-DMC representative and transferred to your hotel for overnight.
Overnight in Addis Ababa – Kaleb Hotel/Similar
Day 2: ADDIS/BAHIR DAR (the Lake Side Town)
After breakfast, transfer back to the airport for flight to Bahir Dar, Lake Tana,
On arrival at the local airport, met and transferred to your hotel for overnight.
Take a boat on Lake Tana to visit Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery and Church.
In the afternoon, drive to Tis Issat village to marvel at the Blue Nile Falls.
Later, drive back to Bahir Dar for overnight – dinner on own account.
Overnight in Bahir Dar – Summerland Hotel or similar
Day 3: BAHIR DAR/GONDAR, the Camelot of Africa)
After breakfast, drive to Gondar arriving at your hotel there just before lunch.
In the afternoon, enjoy a town tour then return for dinner and overnight.
Overnight in Gondar- Florida Hotel or similar
Day 4: SIMIEN MOUNTAINS
Today drive to Buyit Ras (122kms) area of the Semien Mountains.
Overnight in Gondar – Florida Hotel or similar
Day 5: GONDAR/AXUM
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Axum (30mins).
On arrival at Axum Airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Afternoon, enjoy tour of Axum visiting her amazing landmarks and sites.
Overnight in Axum – Sabean Hotel or similar
Day 6: AXUM/LALIBELA, the Eighth Wonder of the World
After breakfast, transferred to the airport for your flight to Lalibela.
Overnight in Lalibella – Lal Hotel or similar
Day 7: LALIBELLA – excursion to Yimrehane Kristos
This morning, you will take an excursion to the Yimrehane Kirstos Church.
Afternoon visit Bete Gabriel, Marqorios, Emmanuel, and Aba Libanos churches.
Overnight in Lalibella – Lal Hotel or similar
Day 8: LALIBELA/ADDIS, DEPART
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight back to Addis Ababa.
Upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel for dayrooms.
Afternoon spent at leisure, lunch on own account.
Evening, a folkloric dinner; Ethiopian dishes and traditional music.
Later you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight.
END of Safari DMC’s services – kila la kheri/safiri salama!
Most persons require a Visa to enter Ethiopia, please always reconfirm with your Travel Agent and Air Carrier before departing.
Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport is the principal gateway to Ethiopia. It is frequented by many international air carriers including KLM, Qatar, Emirates, Air France, South African Airways, Kenya Airways as the award winning national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which has a worldwide routes network and makes access to Ethiopia easy and efficient.
Ethiopia exercises strict anti-terrorism measures which can slow down processes but it is a necessary procedure and has borne good results.