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. Then we’ll join our 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. We begin our sightseeing atop Mt. Entoto for a sweeping view and introduction to the city. At the National Museum, we’ll discover an expansive collection including medieval artifacts, memorabilia of former rulers like Emperor Haile Selassie, and an exhibit of Ethiopian art from the traditional to the contemporary. But the Museum, of course, is best known as the home of Lucy; for security reasons, we’ll see a replica of this famous 3 million year-old hominid fossil, discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, and learn about its far-reaching impact on our understanding of human origins. Our sightseeing continues at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, home to impressive stained-glass windows and two magnificent Imperial thrones carved of white ebony, ivory and marble. This evening’s dinner features the fine internationally-inspired cuisine and wine of the Kuriftu Diplomat Restaurant.  Meals D

  • Day 2 – From Addis Ababa to Harar c

    With our Trip Leader Samrawit, we’ll fly from the capital to Dire Dawa where we’ll continue overland to Awaday – distinguished as the center of Ethiopia’s Khat trade. Native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, this leafy plant is ingested for its stimulant effects. Every morning, this boom town is enlivened by the frenzied pace as an estimated 50,000 pounds of Khat is sold on a daily basis. In many respects, it’s a medieval industry where everything is done by hand from the sorting of the leaves and the careful weighing-out with brass weights and metal scales to the giant ledgers where each transaction is carefully recorded by hand.
     
    Our journey then continues to Harar, revered as the fourth Holiest city of Islam - after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. On arrival, we’ll find lively streets, labyrinthine alleys and a remarkable architectural assemblage. Along with more than 180 mosques and shrines, three of which date to the 10th century, you’ll see exceptional homes that reflect a myriad of influences from coastal Arabia to the wooden balconied houses of 19th-century Indian merchants.
     
    In one of these handsome merchant homes, we’ll tour the Arthur Rimbaud Center. Set in the house where the mercurial French poet was said to have lived for 5 years, this unique museum traces his life through a number of illustrated panels. In addition, there’s a marvelous photography exhibit of Harar at the turn-of-the-century, including several that were taken by Rimbaud when he lived here in the late 1800’s. Mingling with city residents in the local market brings us back to the present day, and offers an authentic experience of contemporary life in this ancient city.
     
    This evening, we’ll meet one of Harar’s celebrated Hyena Men. In a tradition that is passed from father to son, Abbas Yusuf and his peers have learned to feed these wild animals directly from their mouth. The hyenas live in caves outside of town, but descend upon the city streets every night in search of food. Though considered to be dangerous throughout the rest of Africa, the residents of Harar are not afraid. As Mr. Yusuf recently told a reporter from Reuters, ‘Hyenas have never attacked the people of Harar since my father started feeding them, unless you harm the babies.’ Indeed, the Hyena Men of Harar view their nightly work as a service to the community and look forward to passing on the task to their own children. Our accommodations in Harar are at the Ras Hotel.   Meals B+L+D

  • Day 3 – Sightseeing in Harar

    The unique houses of Harar are one of the city’s most distinctive features, and we’ll continue our sightseeing today by spending time with a resident family in their traditional home. Entered through a beautifully carved door, we’ll find a welcoming residence of exceptional interior design centered on a living room that is elaborately adorned with dozens of household items – most notably the colorful baskets for which Harar is famed.
     
    At the Harari City Museum, set in a balconied mansion where Emperor Haile Selassie spent much of his childhood, we’ll find a diverse historical collection including antique Islamic manuscripts, Harari coins minted more than 200 years ago, traditional clothing, and old musical instruments. We’ll also visit the unusual tomb of Emir Nur, the ruler who built the ancient walls of the city.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 4 – Back to Addis Ababa

    Departing Harar this morning, we’ll travel back to Dire Dawa for our return flight to Addis Ababa – and another night at the Radisson Blu Hotel. This evening’s dinner is accompanied by a lively performance featuring the dance and music of some of the country’s many ethnic groups. After a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, we’ll be escorted back to our hotel. Meals B+L+D

  • Day 5 – Ancient Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela c

    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 three main groups, divided by a river, and this afternoon we’ll join Sam for expertly guided exploration of the first group. After dinner, retire to your comfortable accommodations at the Zagwe Hotel, the region’s newest hotel.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 6 - Exploring Lalibela

    After breakfast, we’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 lunch, our guided exploration of Lalibela’s other rock-hewn churches continues with Sam’s fascinating narration and cultural insights.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 7 – Fly to Arba Minch

    After breakfast, we’ll head to the airport for our included flight back to Addis Ababa where we connect with the onward flight into southern Ethiopia. On arrival in Arba Minch, we’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 8 – Lake Chamo + 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, we’ll embark on a guided boat expedition across the waters of Lake Chamo to search for these amazing wildlife inhabitants!

    After lunch, we 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 expert insight from our guide, we’ll observe and even experience various facets of daily life – from the crops the villagers plant and the foods they eat to the colorful cotton textiles they weave.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 9 - Highlands of the Konso Tribe c + Onward to Turmi

    After breakfast, we’ll check out and travel 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. Here we’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, we 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. Unique burial rites in the surrounding forests and anthropomorphic wooden statues are other cultural traditions that we will come to understand and appreciate. From the Konso highlands, we continue to Turmi and check in to the Buska Lodge for a 2-night stay.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 10 – Tribes of the Omo River’s Eastern Shores c

    Today’s guided exploration introduces us to two of the tribal groups that live along the eastern banks of the Omo River. In the morning, we spend time with the Karo, a small tribe with an estimated population of less than 2,000 people. Raising small cattle and practicing flood retreat cultivation of maize, beans and sorghum, the Karo are an agro-pastoralist society known 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. We’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, Samrawit will introduce us to the life and culture of the Hamer Tribe; living in distinctive huts made of wood, straw and mud, the Hamer 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. Hamer 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 our visit will coincide with the event. Regardless, our time here promises a deep look into some of Ethiopia’s vanishing tribal ways. At the end of the day, we return to the Buska Lodge for dinner and another night.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 11 – Omorate + Onward to Jinka

    Departing from our lodge after breakfast, we’ll travel overland to Omorate, a riverside town deep in the lower Omo Valley. From here we 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 People of the Delta, 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 we spend time with the various Dassanech clans, we’ll gain deep insight into their daily lives and some of their unique cultural traditions related to fertility and marriage. 
     
    From here, we return to Turmi for lunch and then continue to Jinka for an overnight at the Eco-Omo Safari Lodge.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 12 – The Ways of the Mursi + Back to Addis Ababa

    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 remote sector of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, home to the Mursi, a tribal group known for adorning themselves with paint, beads and ornaments of horn and feather.

    Heading out from our lodge in Jinka, we’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 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.
     
    We’ll have lunch back in Jinka and then continue to the airport for our return flight to the capital. We’ll enjoy a Farewell Dinner together and spend another night at the Radisson Blu Hotel.  Meals B+L+D

  • Day 13 – 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, 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

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.

  • Ras Hotel - Harar, Ethiopia

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

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

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 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?

Legend

  • EVT

    Tour includes a special event.

Arrive Addis Ababa - Per Person Double

Dates   Standard Accommodations
Departure Return   Regular Deal
2/13/2019
Sold Out
2/25/2019 $6099 $5799
2018 Itinerary
3/14/2019
Guaranteed
3/26/2019 $6099 $5799
2018 Itinerary
4/26/2019
Guaranteed
5/8/2019
EVT
$6299 $5999
Easter - 2018 Itinerary
7/1/2019 7/13/2019 $6299 $5999
 
9/15/2019 9/27/2019
EVT
$6499 $6199
Meskel Festival
10/7/2019 10/19/2019 $6299 $5999
 
1/1/2020 1/13/2020
EVT
$6699 $6399
Christmas
1/19/2020 1/31/2020
EVT
$6699 $6399
Timket
2/3/2020 2/15/2020 $6399 $6099
 
3/2/2020 3/14/2020 $6399 $6099
 
4/14/2020 4/26/2020
EVT
$6699 $6399
Easter
7/6/2020 7/18/2020 $6399 $6099
 
9/14/2020 9/26/2020
EVT
$6499 $6199
Meskel Festival
10/5/2020 10/17/2020 $6399 $6099
 

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.
  • Travel is one of life's most rewarding experiences, perhaps even more so when it's shared with those you love! Combine our limited-time pay-in-full discount with our Family & Friends offers and save even more:
    • Save $50 more per person when 3 guests go
    • Save $100 more per person with 4 people
    • Save $150 more per person with 5 people
    • Save $200 more per person with 6 or more people!
    For Groups of 8 or more please call 800.221.2216

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
1/1/2019 5/12/2019 $7099 $6799
 

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.

Private Tour Add-Ons

  • Selous Game Reserve

    4 Day FreeStyle Safari

    Our 4-day FreeStyle Safari includes your choice of safari camp or lodge, 8 meals, and a complete program of safari excursions and game drives

  • Zanzibar

    3 Day FreeStyle Travel

  • Victoria Falls

    3 Day FreeStyle Travel

    Our 3-day FreeStyle Travel package includes your choice of hotel, daily breakfast, guided sightseeing and roundtrip airport transfers

Trip Reviews

Average Traveler Rating:  Review This Trip »

(16 Traveler Reviews)

  • Gabrielle from NE gives this tour 

    From our drivers, to cultural experiences in all 5 northern cities, to our brilliant guide - this was an outstanding trip.


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    Date Traveled: 1/4/2019

  • Carol from CA gives this tour 

    The museums, the churches visited, the various tribes of the Omo valley, seeing the daily life of the people on the streets, in the small towns along the roads that the tour vehicle passed through.


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    Date Traveled: 4/5/2018

  • Jane & Felix from TX gives this tour 

    Our superb guide and congenial fellow travelers made the exploration of this beautiful mountainous country unforgettable. The food, the people, the markets and those rock churches will always be valued memories. Where else could you feed a hyena or witness bull jumping?


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    Date Traveled: 4/2/2018

  • Susan from NY gives this tour 

    Delightful opportunity to experience Ethiopia first hand. Experiencing Easter along with Tribal customs was informative and emotional. Tour guide, Sam, was outstanding. Great to travel with Bob.


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    Date Traveled: 4/2/2018

  • Bert & Diane from NV gives this tour 

    Ethiopia is a place of many firsts and a world away from anything we knew … In the Islamic city of Harar, we engaged in the adrenaline-pumping act of wild hyena feeding, a nightly tradition started generations ago in the city’s dark and narrow alleyways. While in Lalibela, we observed in candlelit silence, the midnight Easter service at the Bet Maryam, a UNESCO designated rock-hewn church, with hundreds of Orthodox Christian pilgrims shrouded in white. In new Land Cruisers, we dodged potholes, cattle, sheep and goats as we made our way to the untamed tribal villages of the Konso, Hamer, Dorze and the Dassanech in the Omo Valley. With great anticipation, we observed a traditional Bull Jumping held for a young Hamer who passed boyhood to adulthood by jumping over the backs of bulls. Showing their devotion to the young Hamer, we watched the tribal women demand whippers to repeatedly whip them with birch sticks. Raw and bleeding, the women danced around the restless bulls. The accommodations ranged from the deluxe to the simple, many without connecting Wi-Fi or television, but the silence forced us to contemplate the day’s uniqueness and the promise of tomorrow’s wonder. Our excellent guide, Samrawit Fekade, was tireless and informative, caring and thoughtful. She is an expert who highlights the best of her country. And as we fondly remember Ethiopia where the authentic moments were part of our every day, we thank our friend Bob Drumm, A+R’s President, for hosting this incredible journey … as travel is always better with friends!


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    Date Traveled: 4/1/2018


Ethiopia is truly a gem of Africa with culture and traditions dating back over three millennia.  It is a unique country of Christian faith, a rich and varied history, vibrant celebrations and endless festivals.

Ethiopia History

Ethiopia's past can be traced back to the “Lucy” skeleton, making Ethiopia the cradle of human race.  Despite never having been fully colonized, Ethiopia has changed hands for centuries. Each new kingdom constructed its own capital, leaving behind a staggering number of ancient cities and monuments. The 2nd century Aksumite kingdom, for example, was centered on Axum and ruled for eight centuries and its stone obelisks still stand. The churches of Lalibela were chiseled by hand out of solid rock in the 12th century during the reign of Ethiopia’s mysterious Zagwe dynasty. Gondar, with its well preserved palaces, churches and gardens, was founded in the mid-17th century but was the imperial capital for just 100 years.

After the opening of the Suez Canal, the Italians tried to colonize Ethiopia in the late 19th century. Emperor Menelik united the country and achieved a historic defeat of a European army by an African one. Ethiopia’s reputation as a fiercely independent nation was sealed and Menelik modernized the country with electricity, roads, a great railway and secular leadership.  Italy again invaded Ethiopia in 1936 but with the backing of Britain Ethiopia was liberated from occupation. Motivated by political corruption, the devastating famine of the 1970s and continuing battles with neighbors, a military group known as the Derg emerged. Seizing power, they deposed the Emperor Haile Selassie and declared a socialist state. In 1991 the Derg was in turn defeated by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a united group from across the country that transformed Ethiopia into a relatively modern democracy – safe, peaceful, tolerant, progressive and proudly independent.

Ethiopia Geography

Ethiopia has an elevated central plateau varying in height between 6,500 and 15,000 feet. Many of Ethiopia’s attractions are at high elevations, including Lalibela at over 8,500 feet. The most famous river is the Blue Nile that flows north from its source in Lake Tana on its way to Egypt and the Mediterranean. About three-quarters of the Ethiopian population earns a living as subsistence farmers of livestock, oil seeds, pulses, flowers, vegetables and coffee.

Addis Ababa, the “New Flower” in Amharic, is the fascinating capital of Ethiopia and acclaimed for its culture and cuisine. Among the most important sites include the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the National Museum, the Ethnological Museum, St. George Museum and church and the Merkato market.

Gondar, located north of Lake Tana at the foot of the Simien Mountains, was the capital of Ethiopia under Emperor Fasilides. The city today holds the remains of several royal castles, including the impressive two-storied Fasilides Palace in the Royal Enclosure (Fasil Ghebbi), for which Gondar has been called the “Camelot of Africa.”

Simien Mountains. The Simien massif is a broad plateau featuring an enormous single crag and penetrated by a half-mile-deep gorge popular for hiking adventures. The Simien Mountains National Park is home to wildlife including the Walya ibex, Ethiopian Wolf and Gelada baboon and other species not often encountered outside of the country such as bush buck, Augur buzzard, and Verreaux's eagle.

Axum, the ancient city of Queen Sheba, is famous for its churches, obelisks and monolithic stele. The Axum Tsion Mariam Church is believed to harbor the Biblical Ark of the Covenant, in which lie the Tablets of Law upon which the Ten Commandments are inscribed.

Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Axum. One of Ethiopia’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Lalibela's rock-hewn churches top the must-see list for many visitors and never disappoint. The churches are thought to have been carved from “living rock” during the 12th and 13th centuries and are still in use today.

Harar shows a different face of Ethiopia. It is a walled Islamic city with over 100 mosques, famous qat market, ornately decorated traditional houses and a vibrant mix of local people (Afars and Somalis). For centuries, the city has been a crossroads of trade routes with the rest of Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In recognition of its cultural heritage, the old walled city of Harar was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Debre Libanos is home to the 13th-century ruins of the Debre Libanos monastery which is still revered as an important holy site. On the plateau above the nearby great Jemma River Gorge is an intricately constructed bridge left from the Portuguese period that is still in use today. 

Arba Minch in Amharic means “Forty Springs” and this picturesque town is located at the base of the Great Rift Valley. Known for its abundant local springs that support a lush forest, the nearby Nechisar National Park between Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo is known for its rich bird life and other wild animals.

Omo River Valley, home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups, not only the Ari and Konso, but also the Tsemai, the Derashi, the Mursi, the Bana, and the Hamer.  These indigenous African tribes are some of the most unique people in the world today with their traditional cultures almost intact. What is most striking about them is the kaleidoscope of colors they wear on their bodies in the form of colorful beadworks, animal feathers and even body art.   Elaborate hairstyles along with body painting is a form of personal adornment and is a part of many of these people’s cultural practices for wedding ceremonies and in their daily life.

Ethiopia Climate

The climate varies from cool in the highlands to one of the hottest spots on earth at the Dallol Depression. In the temperate zone (elevations between 4,900 feet and 8,500 feet, where most of the population lives) high temperatures range from 61 to 86°F. Temperature variations in the lowlands (below 4,900 feet) are much greater, with either tropical or arid conditions and high temperatures that can range from 81 to over 122°F.

Ethiopia has two seasons, the wet season and the dry season. Rainfall occurs in most of the country from June to September, with the central plateau experiencing a second but milder rainy season between December and February.  September through January are widely regarded as Ethiopia’s peak tourist season, although the remaining dry season of February to May is also a good time to visit certain parts of Ethiopia. The region as a whole is still characterized by pleasant weather, though light rain can fall during February to April.

Ethiopia Food

Ethiopia, like many African countries, offers a wide range of foods that come in all sorts of colors, smells and tastes. It is no secret that Ethiopian food is drawing food lovers keen on experiencing a new kind of food. Some specialties to try:

Injera – a flatbread made from teff (a unique Ethiopian grain) baked into large crepe-like  pancakes with the taste of sourdough bread.  It is the most famous Ethiopian food because it's not only a source of protein but also a serving platform. Vegetables and Meat dishes are eaten by grabbing some food with injera, rolling it up and eating it up.

Kitfo – a typical Ethiopian dish made from the leanest minced meat which is pan sautéed (not cooked) in butter and served with minced spinach/kale called gomen. This dish is a tradition of the Gurage people from southern Ethiopia.  Barbecue can be added but it is recommended to have it served separately.

Berbere – a very spicy accompaniment for Ethiopian food. It is a dark red blend of sun-dried chilies, ginger, garlic, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, coriander and other spices and is quite delicious.

Wot – a very spicy stew made from red onions cooked in berbere which can also be mixed with either kibbeh or butter. Wot can be had as a vegetable dish or blended with meat to turn into a meat stew, and is a wonderful accompaniment to injera. In the highlands they use lamb (bege) while in the arid and semi-arid lowlands and in major towns they use beef (bere) and goat meat (feyel). Most foreign visitors however love the chicken wot.

Doro wot –a chicken-based stew in an intense shade of red due to the berbere spices. The stew can be made from beef or chicken and is served with a whole hard-boiled egg.

Kolo – made with ultra-crunchy roasted barley grains and sometimes peppered with chickpeas. Dusted in a light salty seasoning, this snack packs plenty of fiber and protein into a tasty package.

Tej – a locally made honey-wine that comes with a thick sweetness and an orange lightness to it that is commonly used to end a meal.

Coffee – is indigenous to Ethiopia and it also grows wild in the forests of the southwestern highlands. Ethiopia is recognized as the birthplace of coffee, and the brewing of coffee is the most important social occasion.  It is taken as a sign of respect and friendship to invite someone to a coffee ceremony.

Ethiopia Travel Facts

Ethiopia is 8 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time. The Ethiopian currency is the Birr (ETB), and you should exchange cash in Addis Ababa for the remainder of your travel as credit cards are not generally accepted.  Purchases of crafts, souvenirs, bottled water and other beverages as well as for gratuities/tips and photo permits are paid for in cash in either local currency or using small-denomination US bills. 

Electric current is 220V at 50 Hz AC and outlets use two round-pin (European style) plugs. Telephones, fax machines and internet access are available in Addis Ababa, but elsewhere cell phone/internet access is limited, mostly to upscale hotels and lodges.

Bright colored and white clothing are common in Ethiopia, but camouflage clothing (or military-inspired clothing generally) is not recommended. The best colors are khakis, whites and pale pastel blues. You should bring sun hat/headscarf, golf shirts and T-shirts, long sleeved shirts, shorts/capris/longer skirts, long slacks/trousers, lightweight jersey or fleece, facial cloth, and a light rain jacket for rainy periods. 

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Our Exclusive Festival Departures  

Christmas in Lalibela
Our Jan 4, 2019 departure
Celebrated in January according to the Gregorian calendar… Join traditionally clad pilgrims as they herald Christmas in Lalibela’s ancient churches. It’s an inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime experience!
 
Orthodox Easter
Our Apr 6, 2018 + Apr 26, 2019 departures
Join in one of Ethiopia’s most important and lively spiritual celebrations! After 56 days of Lent, Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians celebrate the Paschal Vigil with sacred music and dance followed on Easter Sunday with feasting and tella – a local brew made from honey.
 
Meskel
Our Sep 16, 2019 departure
The Meskel celebration in Ethiopia culminates in large bonfires topped with a cross and decorated with meskel flowers. Revellers sing and dance around the fire. It is believed that the direction of the smoke will predict the happenings of the next year.
 
Timkat – The Epiphany
Our Jan 18, 2019 departure
Experience ancient traditions as Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians remember Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. There will be joyous water-filled reenactments and parades featuring the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant.

Lalibela: Ethiopia’s
New Jerusalem
 

Ethiopia is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Converted by Philip the Evangelist in the 4th century A.D., today two-thirds of the country’s population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a branch of... Read More >>

An Ethiopian Bar Mitzvah: The Hamar Bull Jumping Ceremony  

Coming-of-age is no mean feat for the young men of the Hamar tribe in Southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. To be considered an adult or "Maza," which literally means, "an accomplished one," young men must run... Read More >>

Celebrate Timkat: Ethiopia’s Epiphany  

Timkat is Ethiopia’s celebration of the Christian holiday of Epiphany, tempered with the country’s unique millennia-old traditions... Read More >>