Day 1: Depart U.S. for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Day 2: Arrive Addis Ababa We arrive in the Ethiopian capital (“Addis”) and transfer to our hotel. As guests’ arrival times may vary, we have no scheduled activities or meals planned for today.
Day 3: Addis Ababa This morning we meet our fellow travelers at a briefing about the journey ahead then set out to explore this exciting, diverse capital. Tour highlights include the National Museum, where we see casts of the 3.5-million-year-old fossilized hominid Lucy, one of man’s earliest ancestors. We also visit Holy Trinity Cathedral, a national landmark and resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie, his wife, and other notables. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel. B,L,D
Day 4: Addis Ababa/Bahir Dar Early this morning, we transfer to the airport for the flight to Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana, origin of the Blue Nile. Upon arrival, we visit the Weyto people to watch them craft the small papyrus vessels used on the lake for centuries. We travel the lake ourselves this afternoon en route to the Zege Peninsula, known for its round grass-roofed churches with magnificent murals. We see the Azoa Maria and Ura Kidane churches, both typical examples of ancient Ethiopian orthodox architecture, then visit the 14th-century Ura Kidane Mehret, a monastery deep in the forest, known for its fine frescoes, manuscripts, and golden ecclesiastical objects. Along the way, we may see some of the monkeys and birdlife that call the forest home. B,L,D
Day 5: Bahir Dar After a visit to the city’s handcraft market, we depart for the Blue Nile Falls, one of Ethiopia’s most popular sights. We hike up to the falls, where we’re rewarded with beautiful views of the fabled cataract that measures more than 1,300 feet wide and 150 feet high. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax or explore as we wish. B,D
Day 6: Bahir Dar/Gondar We travel north by coach today to Gondar, the former royal capital known especially for its evocative castle complex. Upon arrival, we have lunch then explore the 17th-century enclosure of castles, palaces, and stables of Fasil Ghebbi, now a UNESCO site. We also tour the Debre Berhan Selassie Church, fancifully decorated in murals whose angels’ faces have become motifs of Ethiopian art and design. B,L,D
Day 7: Gondar/Simien Mountains National Park A stunning landscape of saw-toothed peaks and canyon-like gorges, sharp precipices and rugged escarpments awaits as we arrive midday at our lodge in this exotic park. We spend the afternoon exploring the park; later, we join in a discussion on the social behaviors of the gelada baboon found here, the last survivors of an ancient species. B,L,D
Day 8: Simien Mountains National Park We spend a full day on safari in this incredible natural setting, a UNESCO site and home to rare and endemic wildlife. As we explore, we may encounter the Walia ibex and Simien fox, as well as the friendly gelada baboons. We drive up to Sankaber (altitude 10,564 ft), where we’re rewarded with views of the breathtaking landscape of gorges, valleys, and the country’s highest waterfall. B,L,D
Day 9: Simien Mountains/Axum This morning we depart by coach for Axum (approx. 7 hours), stopping en route for lunch and arriving late afternoon. We dine tonight at our hotel in this historic capital. B,L,D
Day 10: Axum A major trading power from about 400 BCE to the 10th century, the Kingdom of Axum brought Christianity to Ethiopia. Today’s Axum, the kingdom’s former capital and Ethiopia’s holiest city, boasts a host of UNESCO archaeological sites, many of which we see on our full-day tour. We explore Stelae Park, site of giant stelae and obelisks which proclaimed the kingdom’s might, including the Obelisk of Axum, the largest single piece of stone erected anywhere on earth. We also see several royal tombs, and visit St. Mary of Zion Church, purported site of the Ark of the Covenant. B,L,D
Day 11: Axum/Lalibela We fly today to Lalibela, renowned for its 11 monolithic rock churches dating from the 7th to 13th centuries, and as a revered center of Ethiopian Christianity. We see these UNESCO sites for ourselves as we visit the churches, some carved into the rock and others freestanding. Highlights include Bet Medhane Alem, which resembles a Greek temple; Bet Emanuel, with its elaborate exterior; and elegant Bet Giyorgis. B,L,D
Day 12: Lalibela Today we encounter more of Lalibela’s Christian heritage, beginning at the Asheton Maryam monastery carved into the rock face 13,000 feet above Lalibela and offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Later we travel about 1½ hours outside the city to the remarkable cave church of Yemrehanna Kristos, set in a cavern and decorated with elaborate carvings and murals. B,L,D
Day 13: Lalibela/Addis Ababa We return to Addis Ababa by air today, arriving at our hotel midday. The remainder of the day is at leisure before we gather to celebrate our Ethiopia adventure at tonight’s farewell dinner. B,D
Day 14: Addis Ababa/Depart for U.S. We depart for the airport and our return flights to the U.S. B
Day 15: Arrive U.S. We arrive in the U.S. and connect with our flights home.
Please note: This trip involves full days of sightseeing and significant amounts of walking on uneven terrain. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to the fullest. In addition, the relatively high elevations (6,000 ft. to 8,500 ft. at most venues – with the Simien Lodge at 10,800 ft.) could pose problems for guests with certain health conditions. You should consult your personal physician if you have concerns.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included