Small Group Discoveries

+ Discover the ancient walled city of Harar and meet one of the Hyena Men who have learned to feed these wild animals mouth-to-mouth.
+ Experience the range of Ethiopia’s ethnic traditions, spending five days with the diverse tribes of the Omo Valley including Mursi, Dassanech, Karo and Hamer villages.
+ Descend into the tunnels and trenches excavated centuries ago to explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.
+ Travel into the Konso Highlands to see tribal settlements defended by walls and ingenious maze-like alleys. 
+ Discover 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites c
  • Day 1 – Welcome to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    Upon arrival at the airport, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the Radisson Blu Hotel, ideally located in the city center near the United Nations Conference Center. After time to refresh, join your experienced native-born Trip Leader Samrawit (Sam) for a tour of the city. Situated at an altitude of 8,200 feet above sea level in the Entoto Mountains, the Ethiopian capital is a city with a pleasant year round climate distinguished by its wide avenues and lovely jacaranda trees. Begin your sightseeing atop Mt. Entoto for a sweeping view and introduction to the city. At the National Museum, you’ll learn about Lucy, the world-famous hominid fossil that was discovered in southern Ethiopia in 1974. Continue your sightseeing at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where you’ll admire murals by celebrated Ethiopian artists including Afewerk Tekle, impressive stained-glass windows, and two magnificent Imperial thrones carved of white ebony, ivory and marble. This evening’s welcome dinner features the fine internationally-inspired cuisine and wine of the Kuriftu Diplomat Restaurant.   Meals D
  • Day 2 – Ancient rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

    After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight into the mountains of northern Ethiopia, where the 11 cave churches of Lalibela bear witness to the extraordinary vision of a 12th-century king.  Seeking to create a New Jerusalem after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, King Lalibela excavated these monolithic churches below ground level. Hewn from enormous blocks of solid granite, these churches are connected to one another by an extensive system of trenches and ceremonial passages, some with openings to ancient hermit caves and catacombs. These churches were then further embellished with stone-carved entry ways, windows, columns and other decorative elements including mural paintings. With its five aisles, Biete Medhani Alem is believed to be the largest cave church in the world. Biete Ghiorgis has a remarkable cruciform floor plan distinct from the other rock-hewn churches. Together, these ancient churches have been important sites of worship and pilgrimage for nearly 9 centuries, though some may have served as royal residences soon after their construction. The 11 churches are divided into two main groups, divided by a river, and this afternoon you’ll join Sam for expertly guided exploration of the first group. After dinner, retire to your comfortable accommodations at the Zagwe Hotel.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 3 – Exploring Lalibela

    After breakfast, you’ll enjoy a guided visit to Yemrehanna Kristos, an Axumite church that predates the nearby cave churches by nearly a century. Named for a 12th century ruler of the once-mighty Axumite Kingdom, this ancient church is built inside a natural cavern in the mountain ridges below Mount Abuna Yosef, one of the country’s tallest peaks. Its construction is quite unusual, built with alternating layers of recessed timber beams and projecting plastered stone. The windows are embellished with carved cruciform lattices and the entire interior is decorated with geometric carvings and paintings.
    After exploring this ancient marvel, experience a slice of modern-day life in the highlands as you join local residents at the bustling market in Lalibela. Your Trip Leader Sam is there to answer questions and offer insight into the traditions and customs you will observe. After lunch, you’ll continue your guided exploration with the second group of Lalibela’s medieval rock-hewn churches.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 4 – Fly to Arba Minch

    After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight back to Addis Ababa where you’ll connect with the onward flight into southern Ethiopia. Upon arrival in Arba Minch, you’ll be escorted to the Paradise Lodge, where thatched bungalows and private verandahs offer wonderful views over the forests and lakes of the region.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 5 – Lake Chamo and Chencha

    Surrounded by lush vegetation and wetlands that give way to picturesque rolling hills, Lake Chamo is home to hippos, a remarkable variety of birds and enormous crocodiles that grow to more than 18 feet in length – among the largest ever recorded. This morning after breakfast, you’ll embark on a guided boat expedition across the waters of Lake Chamo to search for these amazing wildlife inhabitants!
    After lunch, you’ll travel into the Guge Hills north of Arba Minch to Chencha, a highland village of the Dorze. This tribal group is especially known for their unique bee-hive shaped homes which they build from local materials including hard wood poles, woven bamboo, ensete leaves (false banana) and other natural materials gathered from the mountains. Towering as high as 20 feet (two stories), these dwellings usually feature just one door with no windows and are built to stand for up to 80 years. Inside you’ll usually find a fireplace, seating area and bedrooms. Smaller structures can include a guesthouse, workshop, kitchen and even a cattle shed. With Samrawit’s insight to guide you, you’ll observe and even experience various facets of their daily life – from the crops they plant and the foods they eat to the colorful cotton textiles they weave. Before heading back to Arba Minch, you’ll have a chance to sample a traditional Dorze staple, a type of flat bread made from ensete and honey.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 6 – Into the Omo Valley

    After breakfast, you’ll check out from the Paradise Lodge for the overland journey to Key Afer. Drawing villagers from across the region, many of them laden with goods to barter and sell and with livestock in tow, weekly markets offer the chance to experience Ethiopia’s diverse tribal traditions in a lively and colorful setting. Your visit to the southern town of Key Afer is timed to coincide with its weekly market, where you’ll mingle with Bena, Ari and Tsemay villagers for a remarkable look inside the life and culture of these tribal groups. Your Trip Leader Sam will be at your side to deepen your understanding of their local ways. Continue to Jinka in the southern Omo Valley and check in to the Eco-Omo Safari Lodge.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 7 – Ways of the Mursi + Onward to Turmi

    Situated on the eastern banks of the Omo River and bisected by the Mago River, a tributary of the Omo, Mago National Park is a vast area of grasslands and forests inhabited by buffalo, giraffe, elephant, lion and zebra. This remote sector of Africa’s Great Rift Valley is also home to the Mursi, a tribal group well known for adorning themselves with paint, beads and body ornaments made of horn and feather.
    Heading out from your lodge in Jinka, you’ll travel deep into the National Park to spend time with Mursi villagers. The women of the tribe adorn their faces and bodies with white paint and from the age of 15 or 16 also wear pottery or wood discs in their lower lips. Through the years, larger and larger plates are inserted causing the lip to stretch. By tribal custom, the larger the lip plate, the more the women is worth before marriage. Although this practice is an integral part of their cultural heritage and tradition, the plates are worn for only short periods of time as they are heavy and uncomfortable. The men of the Mursi tribe also use white paint on their bodies and faces, and are widely known for their fierce ceremonial dueling with a donga, a long wooden pole. From Mago National Park, you’ll return to Jinka for lunch. Continue overland to Turmi and check in to the Buska Lodge for a 3-night stay deep in the Omo Valley.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 8 – Tribes of the Omo River’s eastern shores

    Today’s guided exploration with Samrawit introduces you to two of the tribal groups that live along the eastern banks of the Omo River. In the morning, you’ll spend time with the Karo, a small tribe with an estimated population of less than 3,000 people. Raising small cattle and practicing flood retreat cultivation of maize, beans and sorghum, the Karo are an agro-pastoralist society widely regarded for their highly-detailed body painting. White chalk paint is the basic material with some use of colored paints derived from natural occurring pigments in local minerals, iron ore and charcoal. Red clay mixed with butter is sometimes used to color the hair. You’ll also see the men of the Karo with scars they have given themselves to represent an enemy or dangerous animal killed.
    In the afternoon, Sam will introduce you to the life and culture of the Hamer Tribe who live in distinctive huts made of wood, straw and mud and who subsist with cattle herding and agriculture. The women of the tribe are known for their colorful dress and elaborate jewelry made from beads and cowrie shells. The men are celebrated for their traditional bull jumping, a rite of passage that is part of an event that can last three days. The man must jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls several times without falling. If the task is completed, the young man joins the ranks of the Maza, other men who have successfully completed the bull-jumping. Because this is a coming-of-age rite, there’s no assurance that the time of your visit will coincide with the event. Regardless, your time here promises a deep look into some of Ethiopia’s vanishing tribal ways. At the end of the day, you’ll return to the Buska Lodge dinner and another night.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 9 – Omorate + the Omo River’s western bank

    Head out from your lodge after breakfast and travel overland to Omorate, a riverside town deep in the lower Omo Valley. From here you’ll cross the river to immerse in the lives and customs of the people who have lived for millennia here along the Omo’s western shores.
    Also known as the Galeb, the Dassanech are cattle herders, farmers and fishermen. Unlike southern Ethiopia’s other tribes, the Dassanech are not defined by ethnicity and members come from the many different ethnic groups that inhabit the region. There are eight clans that comprise the Dassanech tribe, each having its own name; these include the Elele, Koro and Inkoria. Each clan is defined by its territory, with the Inkabelo being the wealthiest of the eight clans. As you spend time with Samrawit and the various Dassanech clans, you’ll gain deep insight into their daily lives and some of their unique cultural traditions related to fertility and marriage.  You’ll also visit another settlement of the Hamer Tribe before returning across the Omo River and continuing to your lodge in Turmi.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 10 – Highlands of the Konso Tribe + Back to Arba Minch

    This morning’s stop in the town of Turmi is timed to coincide with the weekly market, when members of the Hamer Tribe come together from their scattered villages to shop and barter. It’s a wonderful opportunity to go deeper inside the vanishing tribal ways of the Omo Valley.
    Continue northward into the scenic highlands to spend time with the Konso people who live in unusual walled towns and settlements strategically built on hilltop plains and summits. With Samrawit guiding your exploration, you’ll learn about living cultural traditions that stretch back more than 400 years. Konso villages are partitioned into separate communities with each community having a main hut. The entire enclave can be entered only through a limited number of gates and a series of maze-like alleys provide added security. Surrounding these settlements, you will see extensive dry stone terraces that bear witness to the generations of Konso who have struggled to grow their crops of sorghum and grains in an inhospitable region of hard, dry rocky soil. These terraces protect valuable soil from erosion, collect water and create the terraced fields that have allowed the Konso to live here for centuries. Distinctive burial rites in the surrounding forests and anthropomorphic wooden statues are other cultural traditions that you will come to understand and appreciate.
    From the Konso highlands, you’ll continue northward back to Arba Minch where you’ll spend another night at the Paradise Lodge.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 11 – From Arba Minch to Addis Ababa

    After breakfast, we’ll take you to the airport for your included flight back to the capital. Upon arrival, you’ll be escorted once again to the Radisson Blu Hotel where you’ll have the afternoon to refresh and relax. This evening’s congenial farewell dinner at Yod Abyssinia features a variety of traditional Ethiopian dishes. Lively performances of song and dance showcase Ethiopia’s diverse ethnic groups and provide a wonderful conclusion to your exploration of the country and its people. After a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, you’ll be escorted back to your hotel.  Meals B+L+D
  • Day 12 – A final day in Addis Ababa

    This morning is yours to enjoy as you wish. If you have last-minute gifts or souvenirs to purchase, the open-air Merkato market offers a great place to shop. In the afternoon, you’ll check out from your hotel and visit the Ethnological Museum. Set in Haile Selassie’s former palace and surrounded by the lovely gardens and fountains of Addis Ababa University, the museum’s vast and well-curated collection of artifacts and handicrafts promises a fascinating overview of Ethiopia’s diverse groups and their distinctive cultural traditions. After sightseeing, we’ll take you to the airport… Bid farewell to your Trip Leader Samrawit and board your homeward flight.  Meals B+L

Similar Trips

Check In!

  • Radisson BLU Hotel - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    The Radisson Blu Hotel, Addis Ababa is located in the city center within walking distance of the United Nations Conference Center (UNCC). The Addis Ababa hotel offers easy access to the city’s major businesses and organizations and is just a 15-minute drive from Bole International Airport. Tour popular nearby attractions like the National Museum and Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Radisson Blu Hotel, Addis Ababa includes 204 rooms and suites with premium amenities like a separate shower and bathtub and a mini-bar. Guests can order daily specials from an a la carte menu at our onsite restaurant Verres en Vers, or drink refreshing cocktails at the hotel’s Signature Bar. Enjoy international specialties at the Super Breakfast Buffet. Pamper yourself at the Rainforest Day Spa after a full day of work or sight-seeing.

  • Zagwe Hotel - Lalibela, Ethiopia

    This new hotel features a rooftop terrace with amazing views of the valley and rock-hewn churches. Modern guestrooms are simply furnished with WiFi and satellite TV.

  • Paradise Lodge - Arba Minch, Ethiopia

    Paradise Lodge was opened in 2008 as a means to transform the hospitality industry in Africa by providing guests with unparalleled service and an authentic experience while preserving the natural environment and strengthening the local culture.

    With contributions from 56 southern nations of Ethiopia and thousands of delighted guests, the Paradise Lodge has been serving this mission even as they expand their services and provide new experiences to their customers.

  • Eco-Omo Safari Lodge - Jinka, Ethiopia

    The lodge is ecofriendly, based on a low impact concept, constructed using as much as possible natural materials and at the same time creating a good harmony with nature. The rooms are high quality tents placed on wooden platforms, which in turn are covered with a second roof made of grass. Their mottos are reducing, reuse and recycle.

    The Omo valley has been preserved till now thanks to its geographical position. Here are found 18 diverse tribes untouched by modern civilization. The nature, often endemic to this part of Ethiopia, offers magnificent attraction for bird watching and trekking activities.

  • Buska Lodge - Turmi, Ethiopia

    Situated in the heart of Southern Ethiopia in the Omo Valley, Buska Lodge is an unpretentious eco-lodge offering travelers the best accommodation and meal service in this region

    Buska Lodge overlooks the plains of Buska Mountain and has been constructed to blend beautifully in to the natural surroundings.

    Buska Lodge offers the rare opportunity to learn about and experience the culture and traditions of the local Hammer community offering a rare glimpse into the cultures of the Omo Valley. The Hammer are famous for their Evangadi dance and Bull jumping ceremony where a young man who wants to marry jumps over a line of bulls in order to show that he is worth to the bride's family. The Hammer share traditions and rituals with surrounding people like the Tsemai, Ari, Karo, and Bena.

  • Ras Hotel - Harar, Ethiopia

    The best available accommodations with great food, our city-center hotel is ideally situated to explore this ancient walled city.

Our Small Group Journey Value

+ Escorted by our experienced English-fluent Ethiopian Trip Leader, Samrawit
+ Comprehensive expertly-guided sightseeing with never more than 16 guests
+ All 33 meals: 11 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 11 dinners
+ 11 nights in our carefully selected hotels and lodges
+ All on-tour transportation including airport transfers and all internal flights
+ Luggage handling, all hotel taxes, and all fees for your internal flights

There are no upcoming departures for this tour, but our Custom Travel Team can arrange a private departure just for you at an affordable price and on the dates you want.  With your own private car, driver and guide and custom tailored hotels, meals, and sightseeing we can create the journey of a lifetime exactly to your specifications.

Contact our Custom Travel Team:    800-221-2216  or  Email Us


Our Private Journey Value

+ Escorted by our experienced English-fluent Ethiopian Trip Leader, Samrawit
+ Comprehensive expertly-guided sightseeing with never more than 16 guests
+ All 35 meals: 12 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 12 dinners
+ 12 nights in our carefully selected hotels and lodges
+ All on-tour transportation including airport transfers and all internal flights
+ Luggage handling, all hotel taxes, and all fees for your internal flights

Trip Pricing

  • Traveling as a single?

Arrive Addis Ababa - Per Person Double

Dates   Standard Accommodations
Departure Return   Regular Deal
1/1/2020 12/31/2020 $7999 $7699
1/1/2021 4/30/2021 $7999 $7699

Select all Deals that apply for best available price.

  • Save $600 per couple + $300 solo on all of our Small Group, Small Ship and Private Journeys when you pay-in-full at time of booking.

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Trip Reviews

Average Traveler Rating:  Review This Trip »

(1 Traveler Reviews)

  • Haywood from CA gives this tour 

    We really enjoyed learning about the people and the history and culture of Ethiopia


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    Value for the Money 

    Date Traveled: 1/18/2019