Programme details:

This is a 10-day, 10-night programme, including 2 nights at the Mount View Hotel which is in a spectacular location in the mountains.

Day 1 – Sat - Welcome to Ethiopia, Fly to Lalibela

Welcome at Addis airport and we fly to Lalibela.

After checking in to your hotel, begin your tour of the first group of churches in town and then continue the tour late into the afternoon. The first group of six churches lie in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Denagel and Bet Medhane Alem. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest, is built like a Greek temple. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Yacob. Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant of all the Lalibela churches, lies somewhat isolated in the south-west part of the village on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached through a tunnel.

Overnight Roha Hotel.

Day 2 – Lalibela to Mekelle.

Drive to Yemrehana Kristos, visit the churches and continue driving along the rugged terrain on the north central massif to Mekelle.

Overnight Axum Hotel.

Day 3 – Mekelle to Hawzen

After breakfast start driving toward Gheralta and en route we will visit Medhane Alem Adi Kesho. The size and complex architecture makes the church impressive. The exterior is cut free from the rock behind with four columns in front and two large doors and it is covered in painting. Continue to Mikael Milhazengi, a church dedicated to Saint Mikael. The isolated round hill out of which the church is carved lies 2760m above sea level. There are a number of graves and old indigenous trees and bushes inside the churchyard. The most remarkable feature of the church is its beautifully decorated dome. Then we will drive to for the night.

Overnight: Gheralta Lodge.

Day 4 – Hawzen to Axum

After breakfast, drive to Axum. Proceed to a small village of Inda Teka Tesfay, meaning White Mountain, accompanies the road along the route to Sinkata. The rocky but scenic area is the home of one of the highly sacred places in the region. There are about two caves and three magnificent rock hewn churches in Tsada Imba. For centuries, they remained almost totally cut off from anything except the ecclesiastical world. Despite their nearness to the Mekelle - Adigrat highway, they have remained to this day in obscurity. Now, they are emerging from their white shell to show their beauty and charm to the world. A ten minutes’ drive across the plain fields will bring you to this antiquity. The church lies on the cliff side of the escarpment, 2740m above sea level. It is visible from the main road because of its white washed facade. Enroute visit Yeha, a 5th century BC Temple. This temple displays incredible skills in stonework and is in fact the oldest building still standing in Ethiopia.

Overnight: Sabean Hotel.

Day 5 – Axum

Spend the day in Axum, where early history of Ethiopia (Abyssinia) begins. Dating from the second century B.C., it reached its height of power between the fourth and seventh centuries A.D., when it controlled most of present-day Ethiopia and, at times, both sides of the Red Sea. Axum was once the center of a great empire, and the seat of learning for the ancient Ge’ez language and literature.

Take a city tour that includes the Stelae Park. These famed granite obelisks are relics of this time and have gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The tallest, the Great Stele, has fallen and broken into six massive pieces, but when standing was 33 meters (108 feet) tall and weighed about five hundred tons. The tallest obelisk still standing at Axum today is about 23 meters (75 feet) tall, still an impressive sight!

We continue the city tour, visiting St. Mary’s Church and the Sanctuary Chapel which is the repository of the Ark of the Covenant; the Coronation Yard; King Ezana’s Park; and the “Queen of Sheba” ruins, once a massive palace with finely mortared stonewalls, deep foundations, and its own impressive drainage system, believed to be the oldest building in Axum.

Overnight: Sabean Hotel.

Day 6 – Thu – Axum to Gonder

Drive along the route of Sherie and enjoy the gorge of the Tekeze River and again enjoy the panoramic view of the Simien mountains.

Overnight: Taye Belay Hotel.

Day 7 – Gonder to Simien Mountains to Gonder.

Today we take an excursion to the Simien Mountains. Early morning drive around 2.5 hours on a comfortable road to Debark where we get permission to enter Simien National Park at the park head office. We then drive 22km further to the Simien Lodge, within the national park. From here we walk about 2 or 3 hours, stopping often to admire the amazing views of the escarpment, take photos and see the friendly gelada baboons. We will also see a variety of plants and flowers. Late afternoon drive back to Gonder for your overnight.

Overnight: Taye Belay Hotel.

Day 8 – Sat – Gonder to Bahir Dar

Visit the town of Gonder. Gonder was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia and is notable for its medieval castle and churches. The city’s unique imperial compound contains a number of castles built between 1632 and 1855, by the various emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia. Other treasures of Gonder include the 18th century palace of Ras Beit, the Bath of Fasiladas, the ruined palace of Qusquam and the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, with its unique murals. In the afternoon we drive along the rolling plains of Fogera and Dembia before reaching Bahir Dar.

Overnight: Tana Motel.

Day 9 – Sun - Bahir Dar

In the morning you visit the Blue Nile falls, just 30 Km from Bahir Dar. Here the Blue Nile creates smoking water, an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges in to the gorge below at the Blue Nile falls. In the afternoon, there is a ½ day boat trip excursion on Lake Tana to visit some of the ancient monasteries that have been built around Lake Tana, or on the many islands. These include Dek Stephanos, with its priceless collection of icons as well as the remains of several medieval emperors Kibran Gabriel (closed to women), Zeghie Giorgis (open to women) and Ura Kidanemihret with its famous frescoes.

Overnight: Tana Hotel.

Day 10 – Fly Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Addis and on arrival if time permits before your International flight we start a city tour in Addis Ababa. The visit includes 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 artifacts, royal items and art. Then we visit the Ethnological Museum, which was the former palace of Haile Selassie. And then we take time in Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Cathedral contains the thrones and the tombs of the emperor and some of the royal family.

Day room use Bole Ambassador Hotel and transfer to the airport for an evening flight.

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