Tour code: IETT-014
Program: Cultural and Historical Tour
Day 01: Sightseeing of Addis Ababa
Arrival at Bole International Airport. Reception by IETT guide and driver, transfer to hotel for check-in. City tour of Addis Ababa including the panoramic view point Entoto Mountain, Merkato, said to be Africa’s largest market of its kind, and the National Museum (home of Lucy, hominid skeleton dating back 3.2 million years) and the ethnographic museums. Overnight in Addis Ababa.
Day 02: Addis Ababa Debre Libanos
After breakfast, departure north to Bahir Dar via Debre Markos. On the way visit the Debre Libanos Monastery and the Portuguese Bridge, which was the first bridge in Ethiopia. After lunch in Debre Markos, you will pass through the scenic Blue Nile Gorge. Overnight in Bahir Dar
Day 03: Lake Tana monasteries and Blue Nile Fall
In the morning embark on a boat trip on Lake Tana to explore some of the monasteries hidden on the shores and islands of Lake Tana. In the afternoon, depart out of town to the Blue Nile Falls for an easy hike in the area. End the day with a sunset over Lake Tana from the top of Bezawit Hill, next to the former palace of Haile Selassie. Overnight in Bahir Dar
Day 04: Sightseeing of the former capital, Gondar
After breakfast, drive north to Gondar. The drive will take you through rural villages, offering wonderful insight into the Amhara culture and the traditional agricultural methods still in use today. After arrival in Gondar and brief check-in to hotel, the afternoon will be spent exploring the sites of Gondar, including a visit to the Royal Enclosure, with six castles and several other buildings. Additionally, visit Fasilidas’s Pool, still used for Timket celebrations today and the Debre Birhan Selassie church, with the most famous ceiling in Ethiopia. Overnight hotel in Gondar
Day 05: Gondar-Simien mountains national park
Early in the morning, depart for the stunning Simien Mountains National Park. The jagged mountains and deep valleys lend spectacular views to these mountains, home to many of the endemic animal species of Ethiopia including the gelada baboon (guaranteed to be seen) as well as the rare Walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf. The afternoon will be available for hikes in the area surrounding the lodge. Overnight in Debark
Day 06: Simien mountains-Axum
After breakfast, continue to Axum, enjoying the final views of the Simien Mountains. After stopping for lunch in Adarky, proceed driving through the Tekeze Valley to Axum, home of the ancient Axumite Empire, the Queen of Sheba, and the Ark of the Covenant. Overnight in Axum
Day 07: Axum
today is a full day visiting the sites in Axum. Sites to visit include the famous obelisks (one that was just erected after being returned from Italy), the Queen of Sheba’s Bath (which supplies water to Axum year-round), King Bazen’s tomb, and the Queen of Sheba’s Palace. You will also visit the St. Mary of Zion church, where the Ark of the Covenant is kept, according to local Ethiopian tradition. Men only are allowed to enter the old church. Unfortunately, no one (except one specially chosen guardian monk) is allowed to enter the chapel where the Ark is kept. Overnight in Axum
Day 08: Axum-Yeha-Debre Damo-Gheralta
After breakfast, drive to visit the ruins of Yeha, dating from the 8th to 5th centuries BC, and thought to be the capital of Ethiopian civilization before Axum. Afterwards, visit the Debre Damo monastery, where the men (sorry! No women allowed.) must climb up a 15-m rope to enter. Overnight in Hawsein at Gheralta Lodge.
Day 09: Gheralta - Tigray rock-hewn churches-Mekelle
Continue through the state of Tigray to explore some of the less-visited rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia. Some of the most popular churches are Abuna Yemata Guh, and those in the Gheralta cluster. Continue to Mekele for overnight in Mekele
Day 10: Mekelle-Lalibela
drive from Mekele to Lalibela, passing through the dramatic landscapes of the Ethiopian Highlands. The highlight of the day will be the ascent from Woldia to the stunning ascent to Mount Abuna Yosef. Overnight in Lalibela
Day 11: Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
Full day visiting the 11 rock-hewn churches of the remarkable king Lalibela. In the morning, visit the Northwestern Cluster of churches - Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, Bet Mikael & Bet Golgotha (entry not permitted for women). After lunch, continue with the Southeastern Cluster of churches – Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanual, and Bet Abba Libanos. Finally, visit the most famous of all the churches – Bet Giyorgis, a huge monolith in the shape of a cross, and constructed in honor of St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia. Overnight in Lalibela (tourist standard hotel).
Day 12: Asheten Mariam-Yimrehane Kirstos Day
In the morning, take a hike up the mountain overlooking the town of Lalibela to the Asheton Maryam monastery. Hiking may be done on foot, or with mule, if desired. After lunch, take an afternoon trip to visit the church of Yimrehanne Kristos. The most popular of the churches outside of Lalibela, this church is built in the late-Axumite style, with layers of wood and granite, set in the entrance to a large cavern. Overnight in Lalibela
Day 13: Lalibela-Kombelcha
Depart from Lalibela to Kombolcha via Woldia, stopping for a visit in the town of Hayk, to visit the lake and the local monastery. Overnight in Kombolcha
Day 14: Kombelcha-Addis Ababa-departure
Return driving to Addis via Debre Birhan. On the way you pass the Mezezo Escarpment, with a good chance to see the endemic gelada baboons. Also, if this day is a Monday, there will be a short detour in the morning to stop in Bati for one of the largest markets in the country, including the interesting camel market. In the evening, farewell party with cultural dinner and traditional special buffet and local drinks to experience Ethiopia’s cultural meals and drinks. After farewell party, transfer to airport for international departure. End of tour.