Ethiopia

Tourism is growing in Ethiopia along with the country’s booming economy.  Visitors find this country unspoiled, wildly beautiful and full of treasures.  Twice the size of Texas, Ethiopia’s many attractions are world renowned.  Itineraries can be designed with a focus on history, culture, religion, festivals, or nature.

The historical route in the north offers relics of the past in this deeply spiritual country which has been a holy place for all the world’s major religions.  Ethiopia has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than in any other African country, including the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the obelisks of Axum.  Archaeological findings indicate this area as the cradle of humankind and the 3.2 million year old skeleton of Lucy can be seen at the National Museum in Addis Ababa.

The Great Rift Valley splits the country creating chains of lakes, the Danakil Depression which is one of the hottest places on earth, and majestic mountains ranges.  Ethiopia has more than 80 ethnic groups each with their own languages and culture.  The Omo Valley in the south is an epicenter of ethnic, tribal and cultural diversity that had survived without interference of the modern world until recent years when a hydroelectric dam was approved for the Lower Omo River. 

Ethiopia’s accommodations, with a few exceptions, cannot be considered luxurious.  Authentic, clean and comfortable lodgings are easy to arrange in most places.  Increased tourism is improving the quality and choices of accommodations and our partners on the ground keep us in the know.  We will recommend accommodation choices for your custom-tailored itinerary based on the most up-to-date information.

Ethiopia Sudan South Sudan Somalia Kenya Uganda Democratic Republic of the Congo Bale MountainsNational Park Nech SarNational Park AwashNational Park Yangudi RassaNational Park Mile SerdoWildlife Reserve Simien MountainsNational Park GambelaNational Park Omo National Park Mago National Park Lake Tana Red Sea Gulf of Aden Lake Abaya Lake Turkana Blue Nile River ● Axum ● Lalibela ● Bahir Dar ● Harar Awasa ● Arba Minch Jinka Addis Ababa ● Gondar ● Hawzien ● Adigrat ● Wukro ● Mekelle Tigray Great Rift Valley Danakil Desert Danakil Depression
Ethiopia Highlights

Itineraries

We can design Ethiopia itineraries with a focus on history, culture, religion, festivals, and wildlife viewing.  We look forward to working closely with you to determine what will be best for you. 

Joy Trip

Itinerary

Sunday, July 15

You will be met on arrival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the airport and transferred to your hotel. 

1 Night at the Harmony Hotel on a bed & breakfast basis

The capital city and the seat of the African Union (AU), Addis Ababa is one of the largest cities in Africa with a population of five million. It is the third highest capital in the world sitting at 8,200 feet.  Highlights include the Merkato, one of the largest open-air markets in Africa and the National Museum where the 3.2 million year old “Lucy” hominid skeleton now resides. 

Monday, July 16

Today you will fly to Mekele.  Later this afternoon you will visit the HHOJ Center for a welcome and coffee ceremony. 

2 Nights at the Planet Hotel on a bed & breakfast basis

Tuesday, July 17

You will spend the day at the InMaat Foundation Mekelle Center.

Wednesday, July 18

Today you will be transferred by road to the heart of the Tigray region, making a few stops along the way.  Your home for the next two nights is Gheralta Lodge in a beautiful rural setting.  

2 Nights at Gheralta Lodge on a full board basis

Thursday, July 19

You’ll have a chance to do some warm-up hiking for Kilimanjaro while enjoying the beauty of this area.

Friday, July 20

You will be transferred to Mekele airport to check in for the flight back to Addis Ababa.  You will be met on arrival and proceed on a tour of the city including the Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa and the National Museum where you will see the famous hominid fossil remain of “Lucy.”

1 Night at the Harmony Hotel on a bed & breakfast basis

Saturday, July 21

This morning you be transferred to the airport to check in for your international flight to Kilimanjaro to meet the other Joy Climbers.

Estimated Price:

$1,685 per person sharing accommodation

$   350 Single Supplement

- This price is based on a group size of 4 travelers.

- You will receive a discount on your intra-Ethiopia flights if you fly on Ethiopian Airlines for your international flights. 

Price Includes:

- Accommodations on a twin room sharing basis

- Meals as indicated in the itinerary

- All entrance fees as per the itinerary

- All airport transfers and ground transfers using 12 seat mini bus

- All Intra-Ethiopia flights

- Services of professional English-speaking guide throughout the trip

- All government taxes and levies

Price Excludes:

- Gratuities and all items of a personal nature

- International air

- Passport & Visa fees

- Travel insurance (Duffle & Compass will arrange for you)

- Alcoholic drinks

- Gratuities          

Enchanting Ethopia

Itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa
You will be met on arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.  The capital city and the seat of the African Union (AU), Addis Ababa is one of the largest cities in Africa with a population of five million. It is the third highest capital in the world sitting at 8,200 feet.  Highlights include the Merkato, one of the largest open-air markets in Africa and the National Museum where the 3.2 million year old “Lucy” hominid skeleton now resides. 
2 Nights in Addis Ababa

Day 2  
Take a privately guided city tour of Addis Ababa including visits to Trinity Cathedral, and the National Museum where there are many archaeological and historical findings including the famous complete hominid fossil remain of ‘Lucy.’  After lunch at the Lucy Restaurant at the Museum you can drive through the Merkato open-air market.  Later you can visit a workshop to learn more about traditional weaving and designs for cultural cloth.      

Day 3: Bahir Dar
Fly to Bahir Dar, a beautiful city on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. This afternoon you can hike to the viewpoint for the Blue Nile Falls enjoying some great bird watching along the way. Later you can tour the tree lined avenues and the market.  
2 Nights in Bahir Dar

Day 4
Board your private boat on Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake, studded with many islands where you will visit two different monasteries.   A short hike through local villages and coffee farms brings you to the monastery of Ura Kidane Mehret, home to collections of crosses and crowns dating back to the 16th century. The magnificent wall murals tell stories of the many Ethiopian saints. The second monastery is, Azwa Maryam, a small and pleasant site with gardens and a humorous young priest.

This afternoon you will visit the unique Awra Amba community founded in 1972 by Zumra Nuru on the principles of gender and social equality, the importance of hard work and the absence of organized religion.  Children have access to primary education and community health services are available to all. 

Day 5: Gondar
Depart with your guide in a private vehicle to travel to Gondar which sits in the foothills of the Simien Mountains.  This was the 17th century royal city of Ethiopia.  Stop to tour some of the castles and palaces from those imperial days including the Fasil Ghebbi, a fortress-enclosure, and the Baths of King Fasiledes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by a 300-foot-long wall. The oldest and most impressive structure is the palace of Emperor Fasilidas, constructed of solid basalt stones. And the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie is an impressive and an imposing structure with its harmony of brightly colored ceilings completely covered with intricately painted angels.

Have lunch at the Four Sisters restaurant and stay to learn how the Ethiopian traditional wine called Tej is prepared. This sweet wine, similar to mead, is made from fermented honey and a special kind of hops called gesho. It is traditionally served from a vase-like vessel called a berele. 
1 Night in Gondar

Day 6: Lalibela
Rise early for the short flight over the stunning peaks and canyons to Lalibela, one of the most important religious and historical sites in all of Africa.  It was created as the ‘new Jerusalem’ by King Lalibela who was exiled in Jerusalem and then returned to Ethiopia in the 12th century.  The site features 11 rock-hewn churches which are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and most are still in use today.  These brilliant feats of engineering and architecture are often referred to as the "eighth wonder of the world". 
2 Nights in Lalibela

Day 7
Today you will see the second group of the Lalibela churches representing the heavenly Jerusalem. In this group are the Bete Gabriel & Raphael, Bete Merquorios, Bete Emmanuel which is architecturally the finest, and Bete Abba Libanos.  Finally, visit the most interesting cross-shaped church of Bete Giorgis (St. George), which is said to be the symbolization of Noah’s ark. The cruciform-shaped Bete Giorgis is the finest of all; its interior is dominated by depictions of Saint George killing the dragon.

We can arrange a visit to a local household to experience the unique cuisine and learn about Ethiopian cooking traditions. Ethiopian food is a spicy mix of vegetable and lentil stews and slow-simmered meats. Straddling the Rift Valley of East Africa, Ethiopia has been called the "Land of Bread and Honey."

Day 8:  Axum
Fly to Axum, the earliest capital of Ethiopia. Begin your exploration of this historic place, full of ancient relics and mystery with the Archaeological Museum and the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion. See the famous stele field from the 4th century A.D., featuring more than 120 granite monoliths decorated with symbolic engravings.  Nearby are the palace ruins of the legendary Queen of Sheba which date to the 9th century B.C.  The story of the Queen of Sheba appears in religious tenets sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.  She traveled to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon who was reputed to be a wise man.  He taught her about his god and Ethiopians believe that is how Christianity was introduced to their county.  She returns home and gives birth to a son who she raises herself.  The son returns to meet his father and takes the Ark of the Covenant to Axum where legend has it that it rests here in a guarded chapel on the oldest Christian site in Africa. 
1 Night in Axum

Day 9: Hawzen
Depart with your guide in a private vehicle this morning on a scenic drive to Hawzen, stopping at Yeha to see the 8th century B.C. Sabaean temple, thought to be one of Ethiopia’s oldest standing structures. After lunch in Adigrat, visit one of the best preserved rock hewn churches in the Tigray region, which also exhibits some beautiful wall paintings. 
2 Nights Gheralta Lodge

Day 10
There are rock hewn churches to discover, hiking for all levels of interest, or just relaxing at the lodge. 

Day 11: Mekele
Depart by road to Mekele with a few stops along the way including the semi-monolithic church of Abrha and Atsbeha, said to be hewn in the 4th century in the time of the twin emperors of Axum, and decorated with mural paintings that describe biblical scenes.  You can also visit the church of Wukro Cherkos, located close to the half-Islamic, half-Christian town of Wukro.  Built of sandstone the most striking feature is the decorated 15th century pillar depicting pictures of saints and angels.
2 Nights in Mekele

Day 12
Mekele is the fast growing capital of the Tigray region with a large university and a lively café scene. We can arrange visits to NGOs operating in the area or you can visit the market and the former palace of Emperor Yohannes IV which is now a museum. 

Day 13
Fly back Addis Ababa this morning.  Your private guide and vehicle will take you to visit the Ethnological Museum on the main campus of the Addis Ababa University. The collections will give you a historic overview of the cultures and traditions of the people of Ethiopia.   After lunch you will check in at a local hotel day room. Tonight you will have dinner at one of the best traditional restaurants of Addis where you will sample a variety of local dishes and be entertained by folkloric dancers. Transfer to the airport in time to check in for your evening departure.

Private Departures:
Contact us to custom-tailor this itinerary for you. 

Extensions:
For those flying Turkish Air, an extension for four days is highly recommended in Istanbul on your return. 

Travel Information

When to go to Ethiopia
Ethiopia can be visited at any time of year, although it is best from October to March during the dry season. Many plan their travel to coincide with the Ethiopian festivals of Christmas (Gena) and Timkat (Feast of the Epiphany) in January, and New Year (Enkutatash) and Meskel (finding the true cross) in September. The rainy season is from June through September. Temperatures vary widely from the mountains to the desert.

Passport & Visa for Ethiopia
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of your return from Ethiopia.  A visa is required for U.S. citizens to visit Ethiopia.  There is an online e-visa application to obtain your visa in advance.  Apply and pay for your visa online and you will receive an email confirmation which you can then present on arrival in Addis Ababa.  You may also obtain your entry visa on arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.  A one-month, single entry visa costs $50.

For further information: The Embassy of the Republic of Ethiopia in Washington, D.C. & U.S. State Department

Medical Information for Ethiopia
Before traveling to Africa, please consult with your physician. An International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever is required for travelers arriving in Ethiopia from countries where yellow fever is present. The certificate must be obtained no less than ten days prior to your arrival into Ethiopia.  It is recommended that all travelers be fully vaccinated against polio.  A malaria prophylaxis is needed for travel in any lowland areas.

For further information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Ethiopia