A gem for adventurous travellers, photographers and music buffs

23 November – 15 December/21 December 2015 (ex Addis Ababa)

This tour is scheduled to combine the Ethiopian Orthodox religious festival in Axum and a music festival in Arba Minch. Deeply steeped into their orthodox religion, it seems as if time has stood still for almost 2000 years in Ethiopia; priests and pilgrims clad in regalia from the Old Testament gather in Axum where they hold processions, dance, chant and celebrate the festival of ‘Hidar Zion’. The colourful celebration is a rare and impressive sight.

The tour offers a lot more: The breathtaking landscape of the Rift-Valley, the 12 rock-hewn churches at Lalibela and the medieval castles of Gondar. In addition, Lake Tanawith with its centuries old painted monasteries and chapels, Harar– the Islamic walled city in the East of Ethiopia, and the wildlife in the South of the country.

To top it off we partake on the three day music festival in Arba Minch where you can witness assorted traditional dances, instruments and music of the various tribes of Ethiopia. The delightful simplicity and folkloric traditions of the numerous proud tribes of Ethiopia make for unlimited photographic opportunities.

An option is offered to make a 5 day visit to the tribes of the South Omo Valley at the end of the main tour. Don’t miss out, it is a true adventure – the tour is not designed for 5 star travellers, but what it may lack in luxury it provides in wealth of magnificent experience.

Tour Description

This extensive tour of the oldest country on the African Continent offers a variety of experiences. The dates for the trip have been chosen to coincide with a spectacular Ethiopian Orthodox religious festival 'Hidar Zion " in Axum with processions, church services, traditional chanting and drumming and a Music festival in Arba Minch.

The trip starts in Addis Ababa and continues via BAHAR DAR and Lake TANA to visit ancient monasteries, to the Royal Enclosure of GONDAR, to the breathtaking landscape of the SIMIEN MOUNTAINS, where we stay one night in the highest hotel on the African Continent. In AXUM we visit the religious festival, we marvel about AXUM’s mysterious stelae, visit isolated monasteries in TIGRAY province and make our way to MEKELLE and south-west along the Rift Valley into the highlands to the most famous site, LALIBELA’ s rock hewn churches.

We visit markets, meet the locals, sample local food and the traditional food ‘ injera’ and return from LALIBELA to ADDIS ABABA by plane and continue by plane on the same day to DIRE DAWA, our launching point to travel to the walled Muslim city of HARAR in Eastern Ethiopia.

From HARAR we continue our drive across the Hararghe Mountains to AWASH National Park. We visit game parks, see Zebras, Gelada baboons, crocodiles and hippos in the southern lakes and a variety of endemic birds and flora along the lakes of the RIFT VALLEY on our way to ARBA MINCH. In Arba Minch we have the chance to visit a Music festival ‘Festival of the 1000 stars”, where the many different tribes of the southern part of Ethiopia treat us to an exquisite display of their traditional music and dance.

Includes domestic flights, travel in A/C midi bus, shared accommodation in 3* (or best available) hotels with en-suite, all breakfasts and 1 meal per day, mostly dinner. Single accommodation available with a surcharge.

Option to South Omo Valley: : From Arba Minch you have the option to drive to the South Omo Valley (for 5 – 6 days) to visit the tribes of the Hamer, Mursi, Konso, Ebore people and other ethnic communities who live a very different but fascinating lifestyle and all have their own customs and traditions (e.g. lip plates, jumping of the bulls, etc.)

Departure from home city on 22 November 2015

Day 1: Monday 23 November 2015
Arrival in Addis Ababa , welcome by our agent and guide, transfer to hotel. After settling into our hotel and a small rest, we spend 1/2 day exploring Addis Ababa beginning with a visit to the National Museum, one of the most important sub-Saharan museums in all of Africa. The museum is home to the fossilized humanoid Lucy, as well as an amazing collection of artefacts and royal items.

Day 2: Tuesday 24 November 2015
We continue our sightseeing in Addis, visit St. George Cathedral, the Holy Trinity Church, the Ethnological Museum and Mount Entoto.

Day 3: Wednesday 25 November 2015
We take an early flight across the highland plateau to the lakeside town of Bahir Dar/ Lake Tana. Check in to our hotel and then drive (after lunch) 32km south to visit the Blue Nile Falls. While walking to the Blue Nile Falls we cross the historic 'Portuguese Bridge'.

Day4: Thursday 26 November 2015
Today we are planning a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the monastery churches of UraKidane Mihiret and Azoa Miriam. Ura Kidane Mihiret is the best known of the monasteries and has an important collection of religious icons from the 16th to 18th century. We return by boat to Bahir Dar and after lunch drive around Lake Tana to the 17th century former capital of Ethiopia, Gondar.

Day 5: Friday 27 November 2015
Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian Empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of King Fasilidas. In Gondar are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. The city seems more European than African and also has Islamic influence. In the afternoon, we visit Fasilidas' Palace, probably the most impressive of all the castles found in the area and the oldest one. We continue on to Quskuam Church and the Church of DebreBerham Selassie (Light of the Trinity). The interior of Debre Berham Selassie is decorated with beautiful paintings. Debre Berham Selassie is alleged to once have been the proposed final resting-place of the Ark of the Covenant.

Day 6: Saturday 28 November 2015
We leave Gondar to travel to the Simien Mountains ( Simien National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site ). We visit the village of Felashas (Jewish minority), known for their ceramics on way to the Simien Massif. In the park, many of the mountain peaks exceed 4000m; the highest is Ras Dejen, at 4.543m above sea level. These mountains consist of volcanic masses that have been eroded over centuries. Today they have amethyst-coloured peaks, deep gullies, endemic flora, and the endemic gelada baboon. A picnic lunch will help us through the day til dinner in the Simien lodge, the highest accommodation in Africa.

Day 7: Sunday 29 November 2015
We leave our mountain lodge to travel north to Axum, enjoying wonderful views of the Simien Mountains, crossing the Tekeze River and heading for the ancient Axumite capital, stopping at interesting points en route for photographs of the scenery. It is a long drive, the road is not fantastic, but the views are spectacular!

Day 8: Monday 30 November 2015
Today we have all day to visit the huge single stone Stelae, testimony of the ancient and powerful Axumite Kingdom, the museum and the well guarded sanctuary chapel containing the Ark of the Covenant.

Day 9: Tuesday 1 December
We witness today the religious festival of Hidar Zion where pilgrims come from afar to pray, chant andto partake in the various processions. In the afternoon we proceed to Geralta via the historic Adwa, the location of a famous 1896 battle in Ethiopia's history of freedom and visit Ethiopia's most ancient temple at Yeha. Proceed to our overnight stop at Geralta Lodge, a restful oasis in the Tigray Province.

Day 10: Wednesday 2 December
Well deserved rest day in Geralta Lodge! Possibility to visit the local market, enjoy the peaceful surroundings of this restful place with very nice Italian food, local wine and excellent service. O/N Geralta Lodge B/D

Day 11: Thursday 3 December
It will be hard to leave Geralta Lodge. We proceed to Mekelle, en route visiting the ancient rock churches of Tigray including the oldest Muslim shrine of Negash which is related to the first Muslim migrant to Ethiopia from the family of Mohammed around 7thC. AD.

Day 12: Friday 4 December
Early morning start to drive south to Lalibela, the 10th century capital of Ethiopia, full of awesome architecture and en route view the Maychew Mountains, the highland lake Ashenge and stop at EshetAmba School, (SchoolsaGift) an Australian based project to improve and enlarge the school and its conditions so more children have access to education.

Day 13: Saturday 5 December
Lalibela is the site of twelve rock hewn churches (the Eighth Wonder of the World) which were built in the 12th century and are carved out of the pink granite rock. Lalibela has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each church (Bet) has a unique architectural style; all are superbly carved and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings. The entire city may be described as a sculpture dedicated to the glory of God. The day is dedicated to visiting the first group of churches and the stunning weekly market.

Day 14: Sunday 6 December
After breakfast we drive to one of the most remarkable churches called Yemirihane Kristos which was built in 11th C. into a natural cave. After lunch we visit the remaining cluster of 5 churches including the majestic Bet Giorgis church.
O/N Tukul Village B/D

Day 15: Monday 7 December
We depart Lalibela and fly to Addis Ababa, change plane to continue to Dire Dawa.

Day 16: Tuesday 8 December
After visiting the Kefira market in Dire Dawa, we continue to Harar, a 16th century walled city and World Heritage Site, the spiritual heart of Ethiopia's largest Islamic community with its 87 mosques. We explore the ancient and atmospheric city starting by driving around the walls by car to see the five gates, then on foot into the narrow lanes and visit the Rimbaud House, Harai, where Oromo and Amhara people trade in the markets; buy chat and at night we feed the wild hyenas !

Day 17: Wednesday 9 December
We leave Harar and drive through the Hararghe Mountains to Awash National Park. The journey is very scenic. We overnight in Awash National Park and plan to see some of the animals (Oryx, Great Kudu, Grant's gazelle and different birds) at dusk.

Day 18: Thursday 10 December
Our drive along the lakes of the Rift Valley, stop at Lake Ziway and continue to Lake Langano, our overnight lodge.
O/N Sabana Lodge B

Day 19: Friday 11 December
We enjoy a peaceful morning at Lake Langano before we head to the twin lakes Abiata and Shala on our way to Yergalem. O/N Aregash Lodge B/D

Day 20: Saturday 12 December
After breakfast we drive to Arba Minch and stop on the way at Awassa Fish market on the shores of Awassa Lake and visit the traditional house of Halalba people. O/N Arba Minch, Paradise Lodge B/D

Day 21: Sunday 13 December
This morning we plan a boat trip on Lake Chamo to view crocodiles and hippos. In the afternoon we enjoy the Music festival "Festival of the 1000 stars'. The music festival is a presentation of songs and traditional dances of the many and quite distinct tribes in this part of Ethiopia.

Day 22: Monday 14 December
After early morning breakfast you have 2 choices
- a trip to the Konso people known for their traditional villages, terraces and their last tribal king in Ethiopia or
- visit the village of Dorze high up in the hills, known for their varied use of the 'false' banana plant. The afternoon will again be dedicated to the Music festival. All good times need to come to an end!

Day 23: Tuesday 15 December
Today we return to Addis by plane, spend the afternoon in Addis for last minute shopping and enjoy farewell dinner.

Day 24: Wednesday 16 December
Depart Ethiopia.

Tour Costs

AU$7600 per person based on twin share. Land price only.
AU$600 single room supplement


  • Domestic flights within Ethiopia
  • All Airport transfers
  • Air conditioned mini/midibus. For the South Omo extension the vehicles are Toyota Landcruisers.
  • Accommodation in 3* (or best available) hotels with en-suite
  • Boat tours on Lake Tana and Lake Chamo
  • All entrance fees at churches, monasteries, castle, museums as shown on itinerary
  • National Park permits
  • All breakfasts plus one meal per day usually dinner.
  • Services of a European tour leader
  • Services of local guides - English speaking
  • All applicable local government taxes                           

Not included

  • alcoholic drinks
  • international flights
  • tips and other expenses of personal nature    
Extension to the tribes of the South Omo Valley

15 - 21 December 2015

Day 23: Tuesday 15 December
We will depart early in the morning from Arba Minch with the destination of Turmi. One of the highlight of the day will be to experience the weekly market of the Hamer, Benna and Karo people at Alduba. These tribes trade their home made butter, ocker, tobacco, different grains and decorative materials. We might have the chance to witness the Hamer ritual called ‘Bull jumping’. O/N Turmi lodge or Buska lodge

Day 24: Wednesday 16 December
Today after breakfast we drive to visit the Karo people and their villages. The Karo are famous for their body decoration and we see the Omoriver from a vantage point. O/N Buska lodge or Turmi lodge

Day 25: Thursday 17 December
Today’s destination is Jinka; on the way we stop at Key Afer and see another tribal market of the Benna, Tsemay and Arie people. O/N Jinka Resort

Day 26: Friday 18 December
We leave early in the morning to Mago National Park to visit Mursi people and their village and return to Jinka to continue the drive to Konso where we stay over night. O/N Konso - Kanta Lodge

Day 27: Saturday 19 December
Today early we visit Konso village and meet the King of the Konso people before returning to Arba Minch for our afternoon flight to Addis. O/N Nexus Hotel

Day 28: Sunday 20 December
We have free time in the morning until it is time for transfer and check in at airport for our international flight to your home destination.

Extension Tour Costs

Au$2500 per person twin share.