Tour Highlight- Ethiopia is a land where religions play such an important part in many people’s lifestyles, so the numerous annual festivals and ceremonies provide many highpoints to the Ethiopian Calendar. The most colorful festivals are Genna andTimket.
“Genna” – Ethiopian Christmas, 7 January
Genna is also called Ledet. Ledet simply means ‘Birth’ and ‘Genna on the other
hand, according to elders, comes from the word Gennana (eminent) to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from his sins. During the Christmas celebration; priests, deacons and all the worshipers sing the Christmas music of the church and lift their voices in hymn and chant just as it has been for over a thousand years when Ethiopia accepted Christianity. This ancient rite continues with the procession of the Tabot (The Ark of the Covenant) carried on top of a priest head, making its way three times around the church amidst ululation and chiming church bells, dazzling umbrellas and colorful attire of the priests as well as a throng of Christians who follow the procession with lighted candles.
“Timket”‐Feast of the Epiphany, 19 January
Timkat is the biggest celebration of the year in Ethiopia, which marks Epiphany (January 19) on the European Calendar. Timkat is a three‐day celebration,
beginning on the Eve of Timkat with dramatic and colorful processions. The
Great Timkat Day itself, which commemorates Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, is followed on the third day by the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, one of Ethiopia’s most popular saints. The night before, priests take the Tabot (which symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant) containing the Ten Commandments from each Church. Concealed by an ornamental cloth, it is taken to a tent, close to a consecrated pool or stream, accompanied by much ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense. In Addis Ababa many tents are pitched at Jan Meda, to the northeast of the city centre. At 2:00am there is a Mass, and crowds attend, with picnics lit by oil lamps. At dawn the priest extinguishes a candle burning on a pole set in a nearby river using a ceremonial cross. Some of the congregation leaps into the river. The Tabots are then taken back to the Churches in procession, accompanied by horsemen, while the festivities continue.
Day 1: City tour of Addis Ababa
On arrival in Addis Ababa our representatives will meet you at Bole International Airport and transfer you to a reserved hotel. An overview of the tour schedule will be given. The rest of the day visiting the historical sites in Addis Ababa, including the National Archaeological Museum, where we will view the 3.2 million year old remains of “Lucy”, whose skeletal remains discovered in the arid Afar region in 1974. You will also visit the Ethnological Museum at ddis Ababa University, Holy Trinity Cathedrals and Mount Entoto which rises up to an altitude of 3,200 meters and offers the panoramic view of the metropolis. This evening we gather for an orientation in the hotel. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 2: Flight to Bahir Dar
Today, we fly to Bahir Dar. In the morning, we visit the Blue Nile Fall locally known as Tis Isat or ‘Smoke of Fire’, and in the afternoon Lake Tana and the island monasteries. It will be a boat trip to the most accessible and representative of the monasteries, still serving their original function, Ura Kidane Mehret, and Azwa Maryam. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 3: Drive to Gondor
In the morning, drive to Gondar 180 kms from Bahir Dar and view a typically an Ethiopian African landscape ‐ wide grazing land, hilly mountains with numerous farmlands. In the afternoon, visiting the town of Gondor includes the Castles of Gondar‐ a World Heritage Site, the royal Fasiledes Bath and the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie with its unique murals. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 4: Flight to Lalibela.
In the morning, visiting Lalibela ‐ a World Heritage Site, which is often described as the 8th wonders of the world and the second Jerusalem created by King Lalibela in the 12th century. It will be absolutely one of the highlights of your trip to Ethiopia. In the afternoon, you visit the first group of six churches which lie in the rock cradles one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mika’el, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel and Bet Medhane Alem. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest one, is built like a Greek Temple and its stone floor is so polished by the countless numbers of visitors that it reflects shafts of light from apertures in the walls high above. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 5: The Ethiopian Christmas Festival in Lalibela
Whole day attending the Ethiopian Christmas Festival celebration in Lalibela. The procession starts early morning around dawn and touring and attending this festival will be absolutely one of the greatest things you have ever done. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 6: An Excursion to Asheten Mariam
In the morning, you will have a mule ride to the 13th century rock hewn monastery of Asheten Mariam. The church is situated on the top of a mountain at an altitude of 3,150 meters. You will view this 13th century monastery, which was built on a ridge with excellent views over the surrounding countryside. Inside the monastery you will find the 13th century hand and processional crosses of King Na’akutola’ab who ruled Ethiopia for 40 years just after king Lalibela. This will take about 4 hours for the round trip. After lunch in Lalibela, you carry on visiting the other groups of the Rock churches of Lalibel. 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. The group of four, south of the Jordan River, comprise of Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercurios, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel‐ Rufa’el. Bet Emanuel’s elaborate exterior is much praised by art historians. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 7: Flight to Axum
In the morning, have a visit to the archaeological sites in the ancient city of Axum. The ancient city of Axum ‐ a World Heritage Site, is found close to Ethiopia’s northern border. It marks the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Axum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The archaeological and historical attractions in Axum include: The archaeological museum, the magnificent monolithic steles or obelisks, the tombs of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskal, and the legendary Bath of the Queen of Sheba, and the ruins of ancient palace of Queen 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. The churches and monasteries of Axum are richly endowed with icons, and some of the historical crowns of ancient emperors. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 8: Flight back to Addis Ababa
In the morning, attending a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony at a convenient cultural place in Addis Ababa. In the afternoon, shopping and viewing the craft centers at the heart of the city. At leisure the rest of the day. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 9: Drive to Arba Minch
In the morning, we drive to Arba Minch meaning ‘Forty Springs’ in Amharic via Hosahena, about 460km south of Addis Ababa. As we drive along, you view the Tiya grave stones – a World Heritage Site as well as the scenic farmlands of the Gurage people with views of the lush green hills and valleys. We arrive late in the afternoon at Arba Minch and at leisure the rest of the day, viewing the scenic Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya with the panoramic view of Nechsar National Park. Overnight at your hotel or lodge.
Day 10: Arba Minch – Chencha
In the morning, we drive for visiting the Dorze tribe and their villages. They are famed for their bee hive shaped houses and their weaving skills. Weaving is a primary profession for many Dorze. Around their huts, they have their own little garden with vegetables, spices, tobacco and enset (false‐banana or musa ensete). After lunch, we will have a boat trip on Lake Chamo. You visit the “Crocodile Market”, which are the world’s most spectacular concentrations of Giant Crocodiles near Lake Chamo. The hippos, the water birds and the fishing of Nile Perch and many other species by locals on their traditional boat are truly ideal for visiting. Overnight at your hotel or lodge.
Day 11: Drive to Turmi
In the morning, we drive from Arba Minch to Turmi. As we drive, you will visit en route the Cultural Landscape of the Konso people– a World Heritage Site. A hard working society, the Konso erect eerie wooden totems replete with phallic symbols over the graves of the dead and have numerous cults based around the breeding and veneration of serpents. The cornerstone of Konso culture, however, is a highly specialized and successful agricultural economy that, through terracing buttressed with stone, enable these people to extract a productive living from the none‐too‐fertile hills and valleys that surround them. Further south, you will also visit the Arbore people and their village. An excellent day to visit the people and take photographs with them and learn of a culture that has had very little outside influence. After a picnic lunch, we arrive at Turmi, a small town, which will be the base to visit the Hamer village. Hamers have remarkable hairstyles made from ochre, water, and binding resin. They rub the mixture into their hair then twist the strands repeatedly to create coppery‐colored locks. This is a sign of wealth and welfare. Hamers are considered to be masters of body decoration.
Overnight at your lodge.
Day 12: Turmi – Karo – Jinka
In the morning we drive from Turmi to Karo and visit the fascinating Karo tribe and their villages. They are known for their elaborate body adoration. After a picnic lunch, we drive to Jinka via Demeka. We continue touring the tribal life with a visit to the Benna people. At Key Afer, you visit the Thursday tribal market, too. Overnight at your Lodge.
Day 13: Jinka – Mursi – Jinka
Whole day visiting the Mursi village and the attractive culture of the Mursi tribe, driving deep into the Lower Omo Valley ‐ a World Heritage Site. They are renowned for the strange custom followed by their women who, on reaching maturity, have their lower lips slit and circular clay discs inserted. After a picnic lunch, we proceed to Mago National Park (famous for its abundant wildlife and avis fauna) for some game and drive back to Jinka. Overnight at your Lodge.
Day 14: Jinka – Konso
In the morning, we start to drive from Jinka with a visit to the Tsemay people en route. We have lunch at Konso and continue to the region of Oromo Borena and visit their villages. The drive this day will let you to experience the life of the Oromo Borena People who is well known in cattle rearing. You also view the Oromo Borena People villages and their ‘singing well’ from which they cater water to their own thousands of cattle by singing. Overnight at your Logde/ hotel.
Day 15: drive to Langano
In the morning, we start the long drive from konso via Wolaita to Lake Langano. The soft brown waters of Langano with the blue backdrop of the Arsi Mountains (4000m) and the surrounding 150 species of birds can be very fascinating for viewing. Overnight at your lodge.
Day 16: Langano – Addis Ababa
In the morning, we drive to Addis Ababa via the small town of Debre Zeit and viewing the surrounding breathtaking creator lakes. After lunch at Debre Zeit, drive on back to Addis Ababa. After making a quick check into the reserved hotel, drive to Jan Meda to attend the Eve of Timkat Festival. Timkat is Ethiopian Language for Epiphany. Although the holiday commemorating Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan is observed by Christians all over the world, Timkat has special significance in Ethiopia. It is the most important and colorful event of the year. When the Eve Celebration finishes, we return back to Hotel. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 17: The Ethiopian Timkat Festival
Whole day attending the colorful Ethiopian festival of the Orthodox Christians ‘Timket’ at Jan Meda in Addis Ababa. After the Festival (on your own), the afternoon is free until we have a farewell dinner at a traditional restaurant, followed by folkloric music and dances. Then it will be time for transfer to the airport to connect with the recommended flight home.