Spend 10 days touring the Historic Route in Ethiopia and pair it with the Timket Celebration in Gondar at the Royal Enclosure and Fassilades Bath. Witness this solemn and yet joyous celebration in January while your private guide explains the rituals and gives you insight into the sacred traditions and culture of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Explore other main sites including the Simien Mountains, Blue Nile Falls near Bahir Dar, and tour the ruins of Axum, once the seat of the Queen of Sheba's reign. View the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, explore the city of Addis Ababa, and get a good introductory glimpse into the culture of Ethiopia.
Celebrate Timket Festival in Gondar at the Royal Enclosure with the locals
Hike in the Simien Mountains, keeping your eyes open for gelada baboons
Tour the ruins of Axum and learn about the rich history of the Queen of Sheba's reign
Explore rock-hewn churches of Lalibela & witness an active worship ceremony
This morning transfer back to the airport for your flight to Bahir Dar. Transfer to your hotel here, the Avanti Blue Nile. Bahir Dar is situated on the southern side of Lake Tana and near the Blue Nile River. Settle in to freshen up before an afternoon boat cruise to some of the islands on Lake Tana, home to some of the oldest churches and monasteries in the world. Visit the 14th-century monastery Ura Kidane Mihret, most famously known for its painted maqdas and collection of crosses and crowns. This afternoon drive to the village of Tis Isat and see the Blue Nile Falls, a scenic waterfall created by a dam along the river a short drive outside of town.
Spend the morning exploring the city of Gondar, a town founded in 1636 by the Emperor Fassilades. Once the Royal Capital of Ethiopia, Gondar is set in a landscape of immense beauty and is dotted with historic buildings, cathedrals, and churches. Visit the fascinating Debre Birhan Selassie Church, whose walls and ceilings are intricately decorated with Biblical lore and medieval history. This afternoon you and your guide attend the Timket Festival evening ceremony, or Ketera, which marks the beginning of the Timket Festival. During Ketera, priests carry out the Tabots to display to the crowd. The Tabots are intricate replicas of tablets described in the BIble as being given to Moses. Witness this solemn and sacred event as people meditate and prepare for the next day's festival and baptisms.
This morning you return to the Taboat Maderia to watch the morning ceremonies and baptisms that take place at Fassilades Bath. The water, which represents the water of the Jordan River as described in the Bible, is blessed by the priest and then a patriarch dips a golden cross in and uses the water to extinguish a burning candle on the alter. The water is then sprinkled on the entire assembly in commemoration of Christ’s baptism. Following the baptisms, the Tabots start their way back to their respective churches, while feasting, singing, and dancing continues all the way along the churches’ routes. Join in the dancing with your guide and witness this joyous event.
Drive to Sanqaber in the Simien Mountains today for a full day of hiking and exploring the breathtaking scenery, some of the most wild in all of Ethiopia. Known as the 'rooftop of Africa', the Simien Mountains are one of the largest mountain ranges in all of Africa. Enjoy your afternoon to soak up the scenery and have a picnic lunch before you head back to Gondar.
Transfer to the airport for the flight on to Axum, Ethiopia's most ancient city and once capital of the great Aksumite Empire. Take a city tour here today visiting the city's stelae park and St. Mary's Church. This sanctuary chapel is the claimed home of the original Ark of the Covenant (though it cannot be viewed by visitors) and it contains the ancient coronation yard whereby emperors were crowned. The Axum Museum, the Queen of Sheba's palace ruins, and King Kaleb's tomb are all also found here. Explore the church before returning to your hotel this evening.
This morning you drive to the airport for a short flight on to Lalibela, the crown jewel of Ethiopia often referred to as 'Africa's Petra'. Here you find the most well-known and preserved churches in the country and the site for many religious ceremonies throughout the year. Visit the magnificent rock-hewn churches which were built by hand between 800 and 1200 AD and are still active worship places.
Today take a full-day excursion to Genete Mariam, one of the most interesting churches in the Lalibela area near the source of the Tekaze River. The large monolith was carved into a rocky hilltop and is supported by pillars. This site was first excavated during the reign of Yakuno Amlak in the early 13th century and contains some of the earliest discovered wall paintings in Ethiopia. Located about 30 km southeast of Lalibela, the trip out to the site and back takes a total of about 4 hours today.
This morning transfer back to the Lalibela Airport for your flight on to Addis Ababa. Settle in to your hotel and set out with your guide to visit the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum, designed as a testament to the victims of a recent dark period in Ethiopia's history under the Derg Regime. The museum displays a number of graphic exhibits, including skeletal remains, photos, and models of how victims were tortured and is not recommended for young children. From here, continue on to the Muya Abyssinia craft and see how the weavings and other handicrafts are used to create home furnishings, decor, and accessories.
Day 10: Jan 26 | Addis Ababa Day Tour | Return Home
Spend today sightseeing with a guide around Addis Ababa. Start your tour with a drive up north to Mount Entoto. Next visit the Ethnographic museum which contains a large collection of Ethiopian handicrafts and historic artifacts. Visit also the National Museum of Ethiopia, which houses the famous fossil of 'Lucy'. Enjoy lunch at a nearby cafe before visiting the Trinity Cathedral this evening. This is the largest and most revered of all modern churches. Finish up your tour with a drive through the largest open-air market in all of Africa. Rest up in your hotel room one last time before your transfer back to the airport for your flight home this evening.
Beyond expectations! Then again we weren't sure what to expect. Lovely stay at the lodge, met other like-minded travelers (many had their trips planned by Adventure Life) and the owner was a gracious hostess. It felt like you were one happy family, visiting with a favorite aunt.