Ethiopia is the ultimate land of extremes from the Simiens Mountains and its Gelada monkeys, to the volcanoes of the Danakil Depression and the tribes of the Omo Valley, the hyenas of Harar and the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela. It’s truly a unique country making it the perfect destination for the intrepid traveller. It’s not, however, for the faint hearted as you’ll encounter some testing environments and a busy schedule but if you are up for the challenge it will be a epic adventure you will never forget.
Looking for something a little less extreme? Why not try our Ethiopia Experience, click here to learn more.
Day 1: Arrive in Addis and transfer to your hotel for a rest, followed by lunch. Afternoon visit to the National History Museum where you will see primative human remains believed to be 3.2 million years old and Red Terror Museum, a memorial to the matyrs of the Derg regime.
Day 2: Morning transfer to Addis Airport for flight to Dire Dawa. Transfer to the eastern walled city of Harar, followed by a walking tour and evening visit to see the Hyena man for hyena feeding.
Day 3: Morning transfer back to Dire Dawa airport before flying to Mekele. Rest of the day at your leisure.
Day 4: Early morning transfer to outpost military town of Hamed Ela before visiting Dallol and the salt mines. Travel back to Mekele.
Day 5: Travel to Erta Ale to see the continuously active volcano which is in the Afar Depression near the border of Eritrea. Hike to the volcano’s crater, then have dinner before camping down for the evening.
Day 6: Sunrise hike back to the nearby outpost. Enjoy breakfast before transferring back to Mekele for lunch. Rest of the afternoon and evening at your leisure.
Day 7: Morning transfer to Hawzen for lunch. Optional afternoon hike up to one of the many hidden mountain Rock Hewn Churches.
Day 8: Day at your leisure with optional hikes either side of lunch or a long hike with a picnic lunch.
Day 9: Transfer to Axum, the home of the Ark of the Covenant, optional Church & Stelae Tour.
Day 10: Morning transfer to Debark for lunch. Transfer to the Simien Mountains to hike along the ridge and spend the afternoon with the Gelada monkeys.
Day 11: Optional morning trek, lunch at your hotel. Afternoon transfer to Gondar, evening at your leisure.
Day 12: Morning transfer to the airport before flying to Lalibela. Afternoon tour of the Unesco Rock Hewn Churches dating as far back as the 12th century.
Day 13: Morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Arba Minch. Transfer to Dorze Tribe village, sample local food and drink, learn about the tribal traditions and see a typical Dorze home.
Day 14: Morning transfer into the Omo Valley. Stopping for a look round a Konzo village before having lunch in Keyafer. After lunch you will visit the Turmi Market before heading to your hotel.
Day 15: Early morning visit to a nearby Hamer village where you will have local tea in one of the village huts and learn about their way of life. Transfer back to Arba Minch, stopping for lunch along the way.
Day 16: Optional morning Crocodile and Hippo Tour. Afternoon transfer to Arba Minch for your return flight to Addis Abba. Dinner in town before returning to the airport for your evening flight.
The price for this experience includes:
Transfers Airport pick-up and drop-off, all in-country transfers
Accommodation 13 nights B&B accommodation, 2 nights Half Board
Activities Hyena feeding, village visits, national park entry fees, visits to the National History Museum, the Red Terror Museum, Entry into Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches, all walking tours.
Excludes both international and domestic flights
When you think of Ethiopia, you’ll no doubt be inundated with mental images of extreme famine and poverty set against an infertile and unforgiving desert landscape ravaged by war. Put the preconceptions aside, however, and you’ll discover a colourful nation that stands apart from every other country on the African continent.
The only African country to have resisted colonisation, Ethiopia is also one of the oldest in the world with scientists declaring it to have been the beginning of mankind thanks to the discovery of the 3.5 million year old fossils from ‘Lucy’, the first human being on record. Bordering Kenya, Somalia and Sudan, Ethiopia rests on a plateau at 2,500 metres above sea level and boasts staggering landscapes rich in natural beauty with gushing waterfalls and winding rivers set amongst fertile highlands and the flat-topped peaks of the vast Simien Mountains. This wild paradise is fused together with ancient civilisations and historical treasures like the awe-inspiring rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the fascinating lost tribes of the Omo Valley to create a remarkable country that astounds and overwhelms visitors in equal measure.
If it’s a luxury getaway you’re after then look elsewhere. Not for the feint-hearted, exploring Ethiopia can be challenging and will almost certainly push you to the edge of your comfort zone. But come prepared with an open heart and mind and you’ll be rewarded with some of the most extraordinary experiences of your lifetime and will come to know the true essence of adventure.
Oh and the outstanding coffee, of course. Don’t forget the coffee.
Set in the east of Ethiopia nearing the border with Somaliland, the ancient city of Harar is a capsule of colour and culture, so different from the rest of the country and indeed from anything you’ll have seen before.
Inside the crumbling city walls lies a warren of twisting alleyways bursting with colour, exotic smells and the sounds of daily life. Packed with mosques, markets and colourfully robed locals, Harar reminds us of what Morocco must have been like centuries ago. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006, the city is also Islam’s fourth holiest city with its 82 mosques and 102 shrines.
Harar isn’t a place you’ll forget in a hurry and that’s without mention of the hyena encounters that take place outside the walled city when dusk falls and the ancient hyena men call their wild friends to feed.
The hottest place in the world with an yearly average day / night temperature 35 degrees, Danakil isn’t for the faint hearted. At over 100 metres below sea level, the depression is at the meeting point of three tectonic plates which have created other world land filled with active volcanoes, such as Erta Ale, and evidence of the earth’s core literally oozing up to the earth’s surface at Dallol. Yet as hard as it is to believe, this barren land is home to the Afar people who have adapted to life in Danakil and trek daily with their caravan of camels to collect salt from the plains. A remote place that is truly like no other.
Often heralded as the ’Roof of Africa’, Northern Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains are home to the continent’s largest and most beautiful highland ranges with many of its peaks reaching over 4,000 metres above sea level. With vast plateaus that stretch endlessly into the horizon and hundreds of uniquely shaped rock formations, it’s not difficult to see why the Simien’s have been described as the ‘chessboard of the Gods’. The towering spires, jagged peaks, precipitous cliffs and huge gorges that thunder with cascading water have all been shaped over time, formed from ancient volcanic erruptions and carved by decades of natural erosion.
But the impressive landscape and cool climate haven’t merely afforded some of the best hiking and trekking experiences throughout Africa, they’ve also provided the perfect conditions for the survival of a number of endangered species including the endemic walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf and of course the fascinating gelada baboons that roam the highland ridges. It’s thanks to these rare species that the area was established as a national park in 1969 then later became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sitesite in 1978.
If all this stunning landscape and wildlife doesn’t leave you breathless then the altitude might just do the trick!
The Rock-Hewn Churches
No matter how much you’ve heard about Lalibela or how many pictures you’ve ogled at, nothing quite prepares you for overwhelming experience of seeing Lalibela’s extraordinary rock-hewn churches for the first time. Indeed, witnessing these cave churches in the flesh makes it easy to understand why they have been described as the ‘8th wonder of the world’.
Carved by devout Christians in the 13th century on the order of King Lalibela, the rusty-red volcanic rock was painstakingly chiseled from top to bottom to form a total of eleven subterranean churches in a variety of styles. Four of them were completely freed from the rock and now stand as isolated structures including the iconic church of St. George, whose forms takes the shape of the cross and demonstrates the exceptionally refined standard of carving.
Not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lalibela has been heralded as the ‘new Jerusalem’, its underground churches are by a series of maze-like tunnels and dark twisted passageways separated by the aptly named ‘River Jordan’. In fact, the whole place breathes devotion with white-robed priests clutching precious icons or poring over religious texts, and worshippers kissing the ancient rock walls and praying silently in the cool courtyards.
No matter how much you try, capturing the true marvel of these chiseled creations on camera is nigh on impossible. We recommend absorbing the enchanting atmosphere and losing yourself in this pocket of living heritage.
Southern Ethiopia & The Omo Valley
The main draw of Southern Ethiopia is the culturally diverse and fascinating Omo Valley, which is located in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Here, the landscape ranges from endless arid savannah plains punctuated with acacia bushes to the verdant forests and fertile banks of the Omo River that are filled with birds and monkeys hiding in the dense vegetation.
The life-giving Omo River snakes through the Omo and Mago National Parks for nearly 800km all the way down the the Kenyan border and shelters some of Africa’s most remote and remarkable ethnic tribes. Each of the two dozen tribes that called the Omo Valley home is as culturally diverse and unique as the next. From the walled stone villages of the Konso and the body-painting Karo tribe, to the tall beehive-shaped homes of the Dorze and the lip-stretching clay plates of the Mursi people, you’re unlikely to have seen or see anything quite like it.
But these tribes that have little or no acknowledgement of the 20th century (let alone the 21st) are starting to be influenced by a wave modernisation from the outside world. Hydroelectric dams, palm oil plantations, Chinese road construction and new laws aimed to ‘civilise’ these tribes threaten the very existence of these remarkable people. Even tourism, which offers the most stabilising influence from the western world needs to be practiced in a sensitive, respectful and sustainable manner in order to preserve the ancient traditions and unique cultures from this untouched corner of Africa.
Most people who visit Ethiopia won’t venture further south than Addis Ababa so this really is a remarkable opportunity to take a journey through time to the very edge of your comfort zone where you’ll witness a world that is so utterly captivating and unique that the memories you create along the way will stay with you for a lifetime.
WHEN TO GO
Like much of the rest of Africa, Ethiopia experiences wet and dry seasons which in turn impacts the period of travel. In the Omo Valley, the rains commence from around May and continue for a couple of months making the gravel roads completely impassable and the area inaccessible in the South and the hiking in the north is difficult and at times dangerous.
September the rains stop, although don’t be surprised with the occasional shower and the north is lush green with some spectacular wildflowers and the rest of the country is mild which means less dust in the South which make October to December the prime months to travel as the conditions are perfect for exploring, however as this is peak season for the countries budding tourism industry their will be more crowds.
January and February are the driest months with the South becoming particularly dusty and as the year progresses the temperature rises with March and April being particularly hot.
TO BOOK – from £2495pp
To book please register interest above and we’ll get in touch with the tour operator to liaise with you directly. If you’d like to make the whole experience a bit more social then please do let us know when you register and we can put you in touch with others from our community who are also keen on this trip.