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"Go there (Ethiopia) now and see the most interesting and diverse country in Africa - the country that time forgot."
Trevor Jenner : Ethiopia, Travellers' Handbook
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Extra-ordinary Ethiopia

Here is a tour for those who like to explore
off the beaten track.
  See our Tours schedule page and newsletters for latest news  

A truly unusual tour designed for experienced travellers

Visit ancient Harar and stay in a traditional Cultural Guesthouse. Feed the hyenas! Explore and experience the unearthly landscapes of the Danakil Desert. Tour the rarely-visited Gheralta region with hidden away, rock-hewn churches and ancient carvings and paintings. Immerse yourself in one of the great religious festivals of the world,

the Timkat celebrations in Lalibela.

An extraordinary tour for determined explorers

£2895

plus flights and visa  

Everything else included - the best accommodation and food available amid amazing scenery, all tourist costs, guide fees and tips, regular coffee stops, 

all land transport.

Please note: The Timkat celebrations take place out in the streets of Lalibela rather than in the churches themselves. The cost of this tour therefore does not include the entrance ticket to the Lalibela churches themselves (at present a scary $100 per person) as guests are likely to have already visited on previous occasions. Individual guests may of course fund their own church entrance if they so wish, although the itinerary of this wonderful tour is already full of amazing church visiting experiences.

Here are the dates for our next group tour in 2025. 

We'd love you to join us.

Departure on an evening flight
 Wednesday, 8th January 
Return on a daytime flight
 Tuesday 21st January 
We would strongly encourage you to join one of our very friendly, small-group accompanied tours.
But if you'd prefer to travel alone, or as a couple, or as a group of friends, we can run this tour for you at any time of the year. You just need to get in touch and let's discuss your requirements.
Use the form at the bottom of this page.

The itinerary

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🇪🇹 Day 0:  

Evening flight

Heathrow to Addis Ababa

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Addis Ababa

🇪🇹 Day 1: This is a day of recovery in the capital city in preparation for what follows, with plentiful opportunities for restorative coffees and relaxation. There will also be time and energy for doing some city visits, perhaps the relatively new Medhane Alem church, or Trinity Cathedral where Haile Selassie and notable others are buried, perhaps one of the good museums or one of the impressive art galleries in the Bole area. Or perhaps we might prefer to take ourselves up into the Entoto hills to see Emperor Menelik's church and its well-curated church museum.   

The ancient city of Harar

🇪🇹 Day 2:  A mid-morning flight from Bole airport takes us out to the east of the country, to the attractive French-influenced city of Dire Dawa. We shall return here in a couple of days' time but for now we continue our journey eastwards in our private vehicle to our main destination, the Muslim city of Harar with its characterful architecture and narrow colour-washed streets and lanes. We first check into our memorable Cultural Guesthouse, adorned with colourful plates, rugs and baskets. After lunch we have some time to start our explorations of this fascinating city but, as the late-afternoon light begins to fade, we find ourselves out on the edge of town where groups of hyenas regularly arrive to be fed by hand, illuminated only by our car headlights. You can 'try your hand' at this if you really want to! 

🇪🇹 Day 3:  This is our main day of exploration. A simple breakfast of freshly-cooked pancakes and honey sets us up for our investigations - a couple of fascinating museums, a coffee-roasters where you can purchase a bag of high quality beans, an ancient undercover market full of exotic character, possibly a man feeding the yellow-billed kites by hand for your amusement, etc. We shall take as many pauses and refreshment breaks as necessary before eating a good dinner. 

🇪🇹 Day 4:  Our private vehicle joins us again today for our return journey via Dire Dawa. An open-air railway museum takes us back almost a hundred years with its original rolling-stock and station signs dating back to before Haile Selassie's time. The town has lots of tree-shaded cafés and another very characterful market area. A late-afternoon flight eventually delivers us back to Addis for the night.

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" This was a fantastic tour, the most exciting and impressive yet - hugely enjoyable."
The Afar salt flats
and the Danakil Desert

🇪🇹 Day 5: We take a morning flight from Addis to Mekele and check in to a comfortable base for two nights. This is the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia and the gateway for our upcoming adventures. We shall visit Yohannes IV’s castle complex and its well-appointed museum in this very attractive and pleasant city and take in the eye-catching local landmark, the TPLF monument. We'll take some time off in the afternoon before a good dinner, preparing ourselves for a very early departure by road the next morning.

🇪🇹 Day 6: Our early morning drive takes us to the place where the Afar workers mine the salt that is sent all over the country. They break the salt from the ground, cutting it into rectangular pieces, and load it onto camels. Then we drive on to Dallol and visit amazing landscapes in the Danakil Desert formed by volcanic activity. Dallol, at 116 metres below sea level, is one of the lowest and hottest places on earth with colourful landscapes and bubbling chemical springs (see our August 2021 newsletter). A day of memorable, extraordinary sights ends back in Mekele once again. 

The rock-hewn
churches of Tigray

🇪🇹 Day 7:  We use expert local guides for these three days, first driving from Mekele to our base in Wukro to visit one of the most important churches in this area, the church of Wukro Chirkos. After a lunch break in Wukro town, we visit an excellent, new archaeological museum before going to visit a yet more magnificent church, Abreha we Atsbeha, before spending the night in a small but very comfortable hotel in the centre of town..

🇪🇹 Day 8:  After breakfast we transfer to the peaceful village of Hawzen and a very welcoming and well-appointed hotel. We have another two church visits here, the church of Giorgis Maikado in the morning and then a beautiful hour's walk along a picturesque valley to the church of Maryam Papasetti in the afternoon. We return to our hotel for dinner and sleep.

🇪🇹 Day 9:  We are off to Axum today, driving through wonderful, dramatic countryside and calling in at Debre Damo, perhaps the most famous ‘challenge’ in Ethiopia. The monastery church here sits high on the vertical amba rock with only a rope to get up there. Women aren’t allowed to climb up and men are unlikely to want to (although the option is there!). But it has to be seen and we shall certainly find some local youth willing to demonstrate the vertiginous climb. We take a lunch break before moving towards Yeha village to visit the impressively restored Yeha temple. Our night is spent in Axum in preparation for our flight to Lalibela the next morning.

Please note - this is the only one of our tours that is carefully timed to catch a particular and hugely impressive festival occasion. This tour can of course be done at any other time of year but with a different focus for the final stay in Lalibela.
See below for the alternative itinerary for these last three days.

Lalibela Timkat festival itinerary - New Year group tour only

🇪🇹 Day 10:  The festival of Timkat provides the undoubted climax of Lalibela’s annual calendar and it will soon be bustling and busy. But today, after our late morning flight and checking into our quiet and comfortable hotel, we indulge in some pleasant, local experiences - a school visit and an invitation to a welcoming house for coffee-making and perhaps injera preparation.

🇪🇹 Day 11:  After a relaxed start to the day and a good and fortifying lunch, we have a very special experience to offer, the lofty monastery of Asheton Mariam which dominates the skyline over the town. We shall perhaps do the ascent by tuk-tuk (known as a 'bajaj' in Ethiopia) although the final short section has to be done on foot to get to the lofty rock-hewn monastery. Unparalleled views can be enjoyed in perfect peace before the return journey. This can be done using local transport once again or, for those with energy to spare, half the descent can be done on foot through beautiful wooded countryside before being picked up for the final part.

🇪🇹 Day 12: This is the start of Timkat, the most notable festival in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar and one of the great religious spectacles of the world. We shall spend some relaxing time during the morning and early afternoon, perhaps doing some serious shopping for beautiful hand-crafted souvenirs before the afternoon celebrations get underway. We shall then witness extraordinary processions with hundreds of priests singing and dancing under colourful umbrellas as they move the ‘tabots’ (the holy arks) down the hill to the special site where an all-night vigil will be held before returning them to each church next day. Our evening meal will be taken at what we suggest may be the most extraordinary restaurant that you may ever have experienced.

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" We had a wonderful group, all with curiosity of mind and, most important of all, a sense of humour."

Lalibela standard itinerary -
(non-Timkat) 

🇪🇹 Day 10a:  After our late morning flight from Axum, and having checked into our quiet and comfortable hotel, we shall offer you a choice. For those who would wish to visit (or perhaps re-visit) the wondrous rock-hewn churches in the centre of the town, we shall supply you with an excellent and knowledgeable guide. But for those who would like a more relaxed and cultural alternative, we'll take you on a visit to a friendly local primary school, followed by an invitation to a welcoming house for coffee-making and injera preparation.

🇪🇹 Day 11a:  After a relaxed start to the day and a good and fortifying lunch, we have a very special experience to offer, the lofty monastery of Asheton Mariam which dominates the skyline over the town. We shall perhaps do the ascent by tuk-tuk (known as a 'bajaj' in Ethiopia) although the final short section has to be done on foot to get to the lofty rock-hewn monastery. Unparalleled views can be enjoyed in perfect peace before the return journey. This can be done using local transport once again or, for those with energy to spare, half the descent can be done on foot through beautiful wooded countryside before being picked up for the final part.

🇪🇹 Day 12a: The jewel in the crown of all Ethiopian rock-hewn churches is situated some forty kilometres outside of the town, hidden away, high in a spacious rocky cave. It is called Yemrihane Kristos and dates back to the 4thC. The church has a unique architectural style with Axumite features in their purest form, the greatest building of its kind. You'll be back in Lalibela itself for a good lunch and some downtime/souvenir shopping before going to have dinner in what we suggest may be the most amazing restaurant that you have ever experienced, with ultimate mountain views.

The return journey

🇪🇹 Day 13: After a relaxed start to our last day in Lalibela, we must soon take our domestic flight back to Addis Ababa to make ready for a late evening flight home. We shall certainly find time however for more souvenirs if wished, and a brief visit to enjoy the beautiful gardens and have a drink in the Sheraton Hotel, before taking a final farewell dinner in one of Addis's good restaurants.

🇪🇹 Day 14: Late-night flight back to the UK or wherever you started out.

Notes
  • We can never be sure of flight costs in advance, but given the time of year which includes both Ethiopian Christmas and Timkat, as well as the most recent increases in international flight prices, the cost of the two international flights and the five domestic flights might well come out at something near £1500. 

  • The cost of the tourist visa is £65 at present.

  • For other general information, see Our tours > All the tours information.

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