Programme details:

This is a 13-day, 12-night programme, including 2 nights at the Mount View Hotel and 1 night at the Simien Lodge, both of which are in spectacular situations.

Day 1 – Sat - Welcome to Ethiopia

Arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, meet & assist and transfer to the hotel in Addis. Take a City Tour of Addis Ababa, if you wish.

Overnight at the Hilton Hotel or equivalent. The Sheraton Hotel can be arranged at additional cost.

Day 2 – Sun – Addis to Kombolcha

Drive through the rolling plains of the Shewan plateau and along the route visit the Oromo village.

Travel up the western edge of escarpment of the Ethiopian Rift Valley (Debressina) and on to visit the market at Kombolcha.

Overnight at the Tekle Hotel.

Day 3 – Mon – Kombolcha to Lalibela

Enjoy the panoramic view of the North Central Massif landscape up to Woldia, admire the Gorge of the Tweeze River before reaching Genete Mariam. Visit the rock hewn church at Genete Mariam before going onto Lalibela.

Overnight at the Mount View Hotel.

Day 4 – Tues – Lalibela

Visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. King Lalibela is credited with the foundation of the 11 rock hewn churches in the 12th century - one of the World’s most incredible man-made sites and a lasting monument of man’s faith in God. These remarkable edifices were carved out of the solid rock, in a region where the rugged landscape still protects the churches from mass tourism.

Overnight at the Mount View Hotel.

Day 5 – Wed – 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 at the Axum Hotel.

Day 6 – Thu – Mekelle to Gheralta

Drive to Hausien and on the way visit Wukro Cherkos, Abreha Atsbeha and Dugum Selassiθ. The church of Wukro Cherkos (St. Cyriasus or Quiricus) is situated at the north-eastern end of the half-Christian, half-Muslim town of Wukro, 47 kms North of Mekelle. The church is carved out of sandstone and is almost a monolith – with all of its sides (except the eastern side) isolated from the cliff. Wukro Cherkos shows considerable kinship with Abreha Atsbeha and Mikael Imba churches. They all have a cruciform plan and share Axumite architectural qualities. The churchyard has several species of trees and a number of tombs.

Abreha Atsbeha church is a rock-hewn church. Its interior is painstakingly decorated. It has 13 huge pillars supporting the ceiling and is rectangular in shape, resembling Wukro Cherkos and Michael Imba. The ceiling of the church is incised with patterns carved with uncommon care and precision. Abreha Atsbeha church is also decorated with 17th century murals and paintings depicting biblical scenes and Saints. It also has several valuable treasures; the most important being the prayer cross which, according to church officials, belonged to Frumentius the first Bishop of Ethiopia, whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Salama - Father of Peace. The church is dedicated to the famous twin Axumite kings who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia in the 4th Century. The bodies of Abreha and Atsbeha are believed to rest in the church. The kings are also known by their other names, Ezana and Saizana.

Overnight at the Gheralta Lodge

Day 7 – Fri – Gheralta to Axum

Enjoy the landscape on the way to Debre Damo. Visit the monks and church of Abune Aregawi on the top of the Debre Damo plateau (women are not allowed to visit the plateau, to respect the monk’s vows). You will climb the “Chains of Heaven” using a rope pulley to reach the top of the plateau. You will then drive to Yeha and visit the first temple of Ethiopia, then onto Axum.

Overnight at the Yeha Hotel

Day 8 – Sat – Axum

A full day excursion in Axum. Axum, Ethiopia’s most ancient city and capital of one of the most glories empires of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the historic route. The Axumite Empire flourished 3,000 years ago. Its riches can still be pictured as you gaze on the magnificent stelae or obelisks, the graves of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskal and the legendary bath of the Queen of Sheba.

The 16th century cathedral of St. Mary of Zion was probably built on an earlier 4th century church and is the holiest church in Ethiopia. In its sanctuary is said to rest the original Ark of the Covenant, which made its way here via King Solomon, King Menelik and the Queen of Sheba. The churches and monasteries of Axum house are richly endowed with icons and some of the historical crowns of ancient emperors.

Overnight at the Yeha Hotel.

Day 9 – Sun – Axum to Simien lodge

Drive along with the route of Sherie and enjoy the gorge of the Tekeze River and again enjoy the panoramic view of the Simien Mountains before arriving at Simien Lodge.

Spend the rest of the day walking around the lodge and admire the views and the Gelada Baboon, which can only be found in this area.

Overnight at the spectacular Simien Lodge.

Day 10 – Mon - Simien lodge to Gonder

After a morning drive to Gonder, you have the afternoon to explore the town 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 to 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 Qusqam, and the church of Debre Birhan Selassiθ with its unique murals).

Overnight at the Goha Hotel.

Day 11 – Tue - Gonder to Bahir Dar

Drive along the rolling plains of Fogera and Dembia before arriving at Bahir Dar. Bahir Dar is a small town set on the south-eastern shore of Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake, where local fishermen still use papyrus boats.

It is just 30 kms from the spectacular Tississat falls. Here the Blue Nile creates smoking water, an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges in to the gorge below. We visit the breathtaking Blue Nile falls before continuing on to Bahir Dar.

Overnight at the Abay Minch Lodge Hotel.

Day 12 – Wed - Bahir Dar

Today, there is a full-day boat trip excursion on Lake Tana and 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 at the Abay Minch Lodge Hotel

Day 13 – Thu - Addis Ababa

A midday flight will take you back to Addis Ababa. You then have a free afternoon and room at the Hilton Hotel before your flight back to London.

Transfer to the airport for evening departure.

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