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Ethiopia: A Journey Through Landscape & Time

12 - 26 February 2016
15 Days / 12 Nights from £3395
Unravel the mysteries of Ethiopia on this comprehensive historical and cultural tour. Travel through awe-inspiring landscapes, visiting the tall cliff-churches of Tigray and the world-renowned sites of Axum, Lalibela and Gondar. Explore atmospheric monuments including a temple dedicated to a moon god, the reputed home of the Ark of the Covenant, stark monoliths towering high above tombs of long-dead kings, and revered rock-cut churches packed with religious treasures. Spend time cruising on tranquil Lake Tana and see the importance of its island monasteries in local people’s everyday lives, and visit the awe-inspiring Blue Nile Falls. Lastly, chart Ethiopia’s artistic development, from medieval frescoed churches to the art of animal skin painting and the arrival of modern art galleries in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
  • Three nights in Lalibela visiting medieval rock-hewn churches
  • Exclusive cruise on Lake Tana visiting fascinating island monasteries withbrightly coloured murals
  • Private demonstrations of ancient manuscript-making and painting
  • Explore Ethiopia’s modern art scene with visits to training schools and galleries
  • A 15-day tour allowing visitors to explore at a more relaxed pace

Day 1 – To Addis Ababa: Fly from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa with Ethiopian Airlines. (N)

Day 2 – Addis Ababa: Arrive in the third highest capital in the world. Afternoon tour of Addis, including the Ethnological Museum and Mount Entoto. Stay 1 night at the Radisson Blu or similar. (L, D)

Day 3 – To Hawzien: In the morning, fly to Mekelle and drive to Hawzien visiting the rock-hewn churches of Wukro Cherkos, Abreha wa Atsbeha and Dugem Selassie. Stop en route at the mosque at Negash, the earliest Muslim settlement in Africa. Stay overnight at Gheralta Lodge or similar. (B, L, D)

Day 4 – To Axum: Morning visit to the Medhane Alem Adi Kesho, one of the bestpreserved rock-hewn churches in the Tigray region, which also exhibits some beautiful wall paintings. Continue to Yeha to see the eighth-century BC Sabaean temple. Proceed to Axum and stay 2 nights at the Yeha Hotel. The northern stelae fields, which mark the tombs of the former kings of Axum, are situated adjacent to the hotel. (B, L, D)

Day 5 – Axum: Full-day tour of Axum. Discover history and myth at the Queen of Sheba’s Palace and Bath before visiting the St Mary of Zion churches, reputedly home to the Ark of the Covenant. Continue to King Ezana’s Stone, written in three ancient languages, en route to the tombs of King Kelab and Gebre Meskel, two of Axum’s most important rulers who succeeded in bringing southern Arabia under their rule. After lunch, visit the Axum stelae field and museum. A short walk offers excellent views of the surrounding countryside, before a private visit to a local artist who specialises in religious paintings. (B, L, D)

Day 6 – To Lalibela: Morning flight to Lalibela, famed for its 11 Unesco-protected rock hewn churches. Built by King Lalibela in the 12th century, the town was to be the ‘new Jerusalem’ after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. On arrival, transfer to the town for a private demonstration by a local priest in the ancient tradition of parchment writing used for early manuscripts and paintings. In the afternoon, visit the northwest cluster of churches, including the Church of St George, referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. Stay 3 nights at the Mountain View Hotel or similar. (B, L, D)

Day 7 – Lalibela: Morning visit to the southeast cluster of churches, which includes a former royal palace, chapel, prison and bakery. Optional afternoon visit to a local family for a cooking demonstration, including baking injera, the national dish of Ethiopia. (B, L, D)

Day 8 – Lalibela: Full-day tour to the Bibilla Circuit of churches north of Lalibela. This off-the-beaten-track cluster is rarely visited, but offers a rewarding contrast in style to the Lalibela churches. Highlights include the semi-monolithic Bibilla Cherkos with its beautiful 800-year-old goatskin books and the Yemrehanna Kristos cave monastery, with an alternating wood and granite face giving it the appearance of a layered chocolate cream cake. (B, L, D)

Day 9 – To Gondar: Fly to Gondar and transfer to the Goha Hotel or similar for 2 nights. Afternoon sightseeing tour of the castles of Emperor Fasiladas and the palace of Queen Mentuab. (B, L, D)

Day 10 – Gondar: Morning visit to Debre Berhan Selassie church, with ecclesiastical 17thto 19th-century paintings by Haile Meskel and, more recently, Egwala Tyson, depicting religious scenes ranging from the life of Christ to Mohammed being led by the devil. The ceiling is painted with 80 cherubic faces and is probably the most photographed piece of art in Ethiopia. Optional afternoon visit to the Kosoye Viewpoint, which offers a stunning panorama of the Simien mountains and the chance to see the endemic gelada monkeys. (B, L, D)

Day 11 – To Bahir Dar: After breakfast, drive to Gorgora, a quaint town on the northern shores of Lake Tana. Visit the Derbre Sina Mariam church, a fine example of a circular thatched church decorated with religious murals, before embarking on a private boat across the lake to Bahir Dar where abundant birdlife is attracted to the islands. En route, visit the island monastery of Narga Selassie and Azwa Mariam on the Zege peninsula. Spend 2 nights at the Kuriftu Resort & Spa or similar. (B, L, D)

Day 12 – Bahir Dar: Morning visit to the picturesque Blue Nile Falls with the opportunity for quaint river walks. Afternoon at leisure at the hotel or optional visit to the Bezawit Palace viewpoint and the market in Bahir Dar. (B, L, D)

Day 13 – To Addis Ababa: Morning flight to Addis Ababa. Arrive and drive south to Bishoftu, a resort town known for its five crater lakes. Visit the African Arts and Training Museum run by the legendary Ethiopian artist Lemma Guya who is renowned for his pioneering animal skin paintings. Return to Addis Ababa and stay overnight at the Radisson Blu Hotel or similar. (B, L, D)

Day 14 – To London: Morning at leisure. Afternoon city tour of Addis Ababa including St George’s Cathedral, notable for its unique octagonal design and stained glass works by Afewerk Tekle. Visit the baroque-style Trinity Cathedral, built to commemorate Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation, and which also contains the coffin of the revered emperor, Haile Selassie I. Finish at the Modern Art Museum, dedicated to the painter-poet Gebre Kristos, whose style of abstract expressionism pioneered contemporary art in Ethiopia. Enjoy a farewell dinner and traditional entertainment before a late evening transfer to the airport. Fly from Addis Ababa to London Heathrow with Ethiopian Airlines. (B, L, D)

Day 15 – London: Early morning arrival. (N)

Meal basis: As per itinerary – B: Breakfast, L: Lunch, D: Dinner, N: No meals.

Ethiopia is mountainous and altitude may be a problem for some visitors. Some rocky drives and steep walks are necessary to reach many of the churches and monasteries.

Accommodation: Ethiopia is a developing country. Hotels, while sometimes not reaching western standards, are clean and comfortable and the country’s cultural wonders more than make up for occasional deficiencies.

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The Yeha Hotel is a government-owned hotel, built in a modern style in the centre of town, within walking distance of most of the ancient sites. It has one of the best elevated sites in Axum, overlooking the church and stelae park. more
The Goha Hotel is situated on a hill with a panoramic view of the town and its monuments, and with great sunsets from the terrace. Occasionally visitors will see the giant Lammergeyer, with its 3 metre wing span, soaring on the air more
Located near to Hawzien, in the northern region of Ethiopia, Gheralta Lodge offers bungalow style accommodation and a small restaurant. With its unique chain of mountains, the Gheralta area is the home of the rock churches famous more
Mountain View Hotel is situated at an altitude of 2,680 metres at the edge of the Lasta Mountain chain. It has wonderful panoramic views of the mountain range and is an excellent place from which to view the sunset. The hotel rooms more
Situated on the shores of Lake Tana, the Kuriftu Luxury Resort comprises 28 stone bungalows set out in gardens by the lake. Each room is decorated in a traditional Ethiopian style with en suite facilities, a four-poster bed, lounge more
Radisson Blu Hotel is located in the upmarket Kazanchis business district, just minutes away from major attractions such as the Holy Trinity Cathedral and St George's Cathedral. The 204 ultra-modern, chic rooms and 16 suites have more