Ethiopia has a rich cultural heritage and incredible diversity both in its people and landscapes. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest organised Christian bodies in the world and its heart is in the country’s mountainous north.
Generally, the best time to visit Ethiopia is between November and February when clear, sunny days bring regular average temperatures of 25°C
Your expedition begins in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Addis is the fourth largest city in Africa, a melting pot of cultures and a bizarre combination of past and present. Italian Fascist buildings sit alongside luxurious high rise hotels, priests in medieval robes mix with African bureaucrats and wandering minstrels singing songs that are centuries old. On arrival at Addis airport, you will meet your pilot. Should your arrival time permit, there is plenty to do during the day with options of enjoying a city tour including the National Museum. This is home to a 3.5 million year old skeleton of ‘Lucy’ and the oldest hominid ever found. Traditional coffee houses and art galleries can also be visited and the Ristorante Castelli, serving excellent Italian cuisine, is an excellent option for dinner.
Today we depart by helicopter through astonishing landscapes following the Blue Nile Gorge to Lalibela, famous for its medieval civilisation. In the company of an expert guide, take a tour of a 12th century church crafted into a cliff edge. We will overnight in Mazena, a lodge on the outskirts of town.
The rural town of Lalibela was intended be the ‘new Jerusalem’ following the capture of the Holy lands by Muslims. It is an ancient world with medieval rock- hewn churches, hidden crypts and dimly lit passageways carved from solid granite a millennia ago. Today, it is not only the physical structures that remain frozen in time, but a place of pilgrimage for many of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians.
This morning we fly east over the picturesque waters of Lake Tana to our destination, the ancient walled city of Gondor. Leaving the helicopter, we drive into this fascinating city which is home to the remains of the enclosed palaces of the Solomonic kings. After lunch we will visit the Royal Bath of Fasilides before making our way back to the helicopter for a short flight up to Lima Limo Lodge in the Simien mountains.
The high altitude Simien mountains are home to the Gelada baboon, elusive Ethiopian Wolf and the endemic Walia Ibex. This morning we will meet our local guide and vehicle on the boundary of the National Park and drive along the length of the park through incredibly steep terraced farmland, exposed grasslands where wild horses roam and alpine areas of giant heather and lobelias. We will stop for a picnic lunch and meet up with the helicopter which will fly us back along the escarpment to overnight at Lima Limo lodge.
After breakfast, we will depart from Lima Limo and fly along the knife edge of mountains past some stunning rock pinnacles before dropping to a lower altitude across some incredibly beautiful country to Gheralta. Amongst the most beautiful scenery in the country, the people of this region have adapted their lives to living in semi-desert conditions. This region in the past has been ravaged by famine and war with its neighbours, the Eritreans. The Tigrayan people are solely reliant on the rains which come during only a couple of months of the year, failed rains pose an unfathomable threat to their existence. We will stay at Korkor lodge which is set in a beautiful location facing the mountains. Settle into your rooms and fly up onto the mountain for a sundowner and visit one of the rock-hewn churches.
Today we will explore the Tigray region. The amazing rock-hewn churches are perched on top of steep hills, or carved into paths which scale up the edge of the hills. We will climb up to some of the most interesting and extraordinary examples of these churches and learn about the Religious ceremonies and practices from a local guide.
This morning we head to the Danakil Depression, a place of acid lakes, volcanoes and giant salt pans. En route we will hopefully have sightings of the Afar nomadic people who carry salt on camel caravans. We will stop to swim in the crystal clear blue pools to cool off before returning to Korkor for a late lunch.
In the afternoon, we will have the opportunity to join a local Tigrayan family where you will experience how they farm the tiny, nutritious grain called ‘Teff’. When they harvest this grain, they separate out the chaff with a team of oxen or ponies on a circular pad. Once ground, they make a fermented type of flat bread which is the basis of all their daily meals.
Today we leave for Addis Ababa – the final journey of our adventure follows the western wall of the Great Rift Valley, flying over the stunningly beautiful indigo waters of the Tegeze dam.
Everything was beyond words! My soul is inspired everyday and my heart grows bigger and bigger. We feel blessed.
Marta Miguel, August 2019
Reasons to visit
You will find Ethiopia’s famous rock churches, some of which sit 40 feet beneath the ground. This is Ethiopia’s holiest city and a centre of pilgrimage for many Orthodox Christians
The Simien and Bale Mountains
Are a sight to behold and home to much of Ethiopia’s wildlife, including the endangered Walia ibex, the Gelada Baboons and the elusive Ethiopian wolf.
The Danakil Depression
One of the lowest, hottest and driest places on earth. Looking like something from another planet, its bubbling lava lakes, vast salt pans and hydrothermal fields in vibrant shades of green, red and yellow are unlike anywhere else on earth.
Alone it is home to more than 40 different tribes each with their own unique dress, customs and beliefs.