Tour Code: AETT-005
This short 5-days Northern Ethiopia tour itinerary is a visit of historical circuit of Ethiopia Bahir Dar, Gonder, Lalibela and Addis Ababa.
Transportation: Domestic Flights, walk and Boat Ride.
Day 1: FLY ADDIS ABABA – BAHIR DAR – LAKE TANA MONASTERY CHURCHES
In the morning, we take a short flight to Bahir Dar (50 mins). After we check-in to our hotel/lodge, we go for a city tour. Bahir Dar is situated on the shore of Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country with 37 islands, most of which contain monasteries from the 14th – 19th century. Bahir Dar has a Mediterranean-type weather. Its palm-lined streets make Bahir Dar one of the most attractive cities in Africa. The city is the capital of the regional government for the Amhara people.
In the afternoon, we take a boat across Lake Tana to the Zeghie peninsula. On the peninsula, we do a short walk and visit two monasteries from the 14th century, Azwa Mariam and Ura Kidane Mehret. The architectural style of both monasteries is a typical example of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with its round shape, mud walls, and conical straw roofs. In Zeghie, we also find diverse bird species and Columbus Baboons in the forest. After the walk, we will be invited to a local family for a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
(B, L, D)
Overnight: Hotel in Bahir Dar.
DAY 2: DRIVE BAHIR DAR – AWRA AMBA – THE CASTLE OF GONDAR
After having breakfast, We will drive to visit Awra Amba people, an Ethiopian intentional community of about 463 people, located 73 km east of Bahir Dar in the Fogera woreda of Debub Gondar Zone. It was founded in 1980 with the goal of solving socio-economic problems through helping one another in an environment of egalitarianism in marked contrast to the traditional norms of Amhara society. The name means “Top of the Hill” in Amharic.
Founded by Zumra Nuru, who currently serves as co-chairman of the community, with 19 other people who shared his vision, as of 2016 Awra Amba has some 450 members, and is lauded as a model to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality in a country where women are generally subservient to men.
Discovering the Awra Amba community, our trip continues to Gondar (185 km) via a magnificent landscape of the Amhara region. The farmlands of the Amhara people are visible on the roadside. We will have a quick stop at Awra Amba community, an egalitarian society. Unlike other parts of the country, in Awra Amba community women have equal rights as men, and there is no distinction in divisions of labor between men and women.
We then continue driving to Gondar. Gondar used to be the seat of many Emperors who ruled Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th century. The town is the gateway to the Simien Mountains and lies at an altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level.
After Lunch, we will visit the famous castles of the town, where former rulers built numerous palaces for themselves and their families. Afterwards, we will go to the bath of King Fasilidas, where Timkat Fest is annually hosted. Timkat is one of the famous festivals in Ethiopia and held annually to celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ. We finish the day with a visit to the church of Debre Berhan Selassie, which is famous for its beautiful ceiling paintings. The motif of the angelic face became a symbol of Ethiopian art.
(B, L, D)
Overnight: Hotel in Gondar.
Day 3: FLY TO LALIBELA – DAY TOUR UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE CHURCHES OF LALIBELA
After arrival and Hotel check-in, we will visit the first group of the world famous churches of Lalibela. In this group of churches, there is Bete Medhane Alem, which means “House of Savior of the World.” Bete Medhane Alem is the largest monolithic church in the world. Its architectural style resembles a Greek temple. The church is home to the original Lalibela Cross known as “Afro Ayigeba.” In the corner of Bete Medhane Alem church, there are three empty tombs symbolically representing Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of the Old Testament.
(B, L, D)
Overnight: Hotel in Lalibela.
DAY 4: HALF DAY ASHETON MARYAM MONASTERY CHURCH TREKKING – LALIBELA CHURCHES VISIT
A popular goal for the half day-trip, the Asheton Maryam Monastery is one of the highest in Ethiopia, set at an elevation of almost 3700m to the southeast of Lalibela. Carved into a cliff face, it was most probably founded by Kind Lalibela, who also built the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE CHURCHES OF LALIBELA. The small and unadorned church harbours a few impressive crosses, illuminated manuscripts and other treasures, though arguably the most remarkable aspect of a visit to Asheton Maryam is its magnificent setting and the stunning views as you ascend.
In the afternoon, we will discover the second group of monolithic rock churches. Among them is the church Bet Giyorgis, probably the most famous, finest and well-designed of all churches of Lalibela. Bete Giyorgis is connected to the other churches by a tunnel and carved out of the rock in the form of a cross.
In the evening, a special highlight awaits us. We will be guests of an Ethiopian family and cook our dinner together. We learn not only new delicious recipes, but also gain an insight into the everyday life of Ethiopians.
(B, L, D)
Overnight: Hotel in Lalibela.
DAY 5: FLY TO ADDIS ABABA – ADDIS ABABA DAY TOUR
This morning, we will take an early flight to Addis Ababa and after Hotel check-in, we will start Addis Ababa its surroundings tour.
In 1881 Emperor Menelik II made his permanent camp there, after remains of an old town (believed to have been the capital of 16th century monarch Lebna Dengel) were discovered, which Menelik thought was a divine and auspicious sign.
Addis Ababa at between 2300 – 2500 meters is the third highest capital in the world and Entoto is a few hundred meters higher – as we drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in altitude and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees which line the road.
From the top, there is a panoramic view of the capital and surrounding countryside. Entoto is an important watershed, to the north water flows to the Blue Nile, to the south to the Awash River. Your guide will point out the important landmarks of the city.
Entoto was soon abandoned as a site for the capital – it was cold, difficult to provision and there was a shortage of wood. Empress Taytu was said to have led the move down to the plain of Finfine, and to have named the new capital Addis Ababa, or New Flower. However, two important structures remain within the old imperial compound, the churches of Mariam and the Archangel Raguel. It was in the church of Mariam that Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, and in the small museum in the compound there are various clothes, court and household implements and weapons dating from the period. The church of Raguel is unusual in that it is octagonal, rather than round. There is a first story balustrade around which Menelik liked to stroll.
Leaving the churches we descend to Addis Ababa, stopping off at the National Archaeological Museum. Here visitors can see exhibits ranging from the 3.5 million year old bones of Lucy, through the Axumite and Gondarene periods to the monarchs Tewodros and Menelik.
We will take a break here for lunch – there are a number of possibilities, we could take lunch in the Lucy Restaurant, in the grounds of the National Museum, at Blue Tops across from the National Museum, or visitors may prefer to sample Ethiopian food at the atmospheric Addis Ababa restaurant, once the home of Empress Zauditu.
After lunch we resume our tour with a visit to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, where we can see clothing from different regions, along with artifacts, household utensils and in a separate section, paintings reflecting the history and culture of the country.
This building was once the Genete Palace of Emperor Haile Selassie, and visitors can see his bedroom and bathroom.
There is an interesting display in Giorghis Church, and after seeing that we will visit Menelik’s mausoleum, where Etege Taitu and Queen Zauditu are also buried.
We then move to the Mercato, the largest market area in Africa, where virtually every possible commodity is on sale, from livestock to computers. For the visitor good at bargaining, there is a huge selection of Ethiopian arts and crafts.
We now return to our hotel.
At the evening, we will go out for a dinner in a traditional Ethiopian restaurant “Yod Abissinia”, and watch a live musician and dancers from Ethiopia’s different regions.
(B, L, D)
Overnight: Hotel in Addis Ababa.
END OF TOUR.