iExplore Ethiopia Experience

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  • Group Tour
  • Starting Price: $3,889
  • Length: 10 days
  • Operator: iExplore Exclusive
  • 1-800-267-33479am - 5:30pm Eastern
    Destinations: Africa, Ethiopia
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Tour Description

Much of the fascination with Ethiopia lies in its myriad of historical sites, the obelisks and stele of Axum, the churches and coptic monasteries in the Tigre, Lake Tana isles and Lalibela, the African Jerusalem with its monolithic churches. There are also nine national parks, two of which include the mountain groups of the Simien and the Bale, and the others in the Rift Valley towards Kenya. The unforeseeable wild landscape is surely a main attraction, where many of the animal species are protected, and some endemic to the area. The proximity of Ethiopia to the Equator and the variety of its habitats make it one of the richest countries in Africa for wild bird life.

History and nature are not the only attractions of this surprising country. It is a unique experience to come into contact with its people, so deeply rooted in their traditional culture, to participate in religious rites in one of the many Coptic churches, to meet native populations like the Hamer, the Mursi, the Caro and the many others whose lifestyle is hard to imagine today, so far is it from our modern life.

Itinerary

Day 1: ADDIS ABABA

Upon arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel.

Day 2: ADDIS ABABA - LALIBELA

After breakfast, we transfer to the airport for the flight to Lalibela (domestic flight not included). The afternoon is spent exploring the churches that make this city famous.

Day 3: LALIBELA

This morning we visit Yimrehanna Kristos later returning to Lalibela for lunch. Afterwards, we take some time to further explore the Monolithic Stone Churches.

Day 4: LALIBELA - MEKELE

Today, we transfer to Mekele by road visiting the villages of Agew and Tigray en-route.

Days 5 & 6: MEKELE

Chalk full of history, we spend the following days exploring Mekele and its churches in the surrounding area.

Day 7: MEKELE to AXUM

After breakfast, we depart for Axum visiting the rock hewn church of Medhane Alem Adi Kesho and Yeha, the first capital of the Auxmite empire, on the way.

Day 8: AXUM

Set off on a city tour and explore the ancient city of the Queen of Sheba with some time at leisure in the afternoon.

Day 9: AXUM - SIMIEN NP

Departing quite early, we make our way to Simien National Park – the ‘roof of Africa’ – where peaks can reach over 4000 m.

Day 10: SIMIEN NP - GONDAR

This morning, we make our way to Chennek for a guided nature walk in pure Ethiopian wilderness. Later, we transfer to Gondar – the ‘Camelot of Ethiopia’ - with ancient royal castles dotting the landscape.

Day 11: GONDAR

After breakfast, embark on a city tour of Gondar exploring the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, the Emperors Baths and Kuskuam Complex.

Day 12: GONDAR - BAHIR DAR

A short trip takes us to the shores of Lake Tana where we explore stunning monasteries on the lake and in the surrounding villages.

Day 13: BAHIR DAR

With its panoramic views, we visit the Blue Nile Falls after breakfast. In the afternoon we tour the town of Bahir Dar and finish in time to watch the sunset over the Nile.

Day 14: AHIR DAR - ADDIS ABABA

This morning we catch our domestic flight to Addis Ababa (not included). Upon arrival, embark on a tour of the capital. Later, we enjoy a last meal together before transferring to the airport before departing.

Call for an in-depth tour dossier.

Departures

2012 Departure Dates
February 16- 28, 2012
March 24- April 5, 2012
April 28- May 10, 2012
September 15- 27, 2012
October 20- November 1, 2012
November 3-15, 2012
November 17- 29, 2012
December 15-27, 2012
 

Pricing Information

$3889 per person (USD)

Duration: 14 days
Group Size: 3 to 14 passengers
Transport: Minibuses, 4x4 vehicles and airplane
Accommodations: Hotels
Meals: 13 breakfasts, 13 lunches & 14 dinners

Inclusions: Accommodations as per itinerary, domestic flight, meals as indicated, airport transfers, park fees, game drives, transportation on tour, professional guide.
Exclusions: International airfare, optional activities, beverages, gratuities, visas, insurance and items of a personal nature.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

The Omo Valley and the Rift Valley Lakes

Adventure to the territories of the south, along difficult tracks, sometimes barely visible trails in the savannah, to encounter populations who have lived in complete isolation for centuries, and whose lifestyle is still truly and deeply African: the Caros, the Galebs, the Hamer, the Bumes, the Tsemay, the Eri Bore, the Desenech, and the Mursis, who are known for the lip plates worn by their women. The Nech Sar Park, between Lakes Chiamo and Abaya is where one can often see zebras and antelopes roaming freely, and Mago Park where, if you are lucky, you can hear elephants trumpeting at night. Explore the lakes of the Rift Valley towards Addis Ababa, populated by a myriads of birds, the hot springs of Wondo Genet, and Lake Langano, where swimming in the volcanic water, pink at sunset, is a sublime pleasure.

The Awash Valley, Harar, Dire Dawa and The Bale Mountain

This region is located in the Southeast, towards the territory of the proud Afar tribes. Meet the members along the road with their camel caravans and in the lovely, colorful marketplaces. The Awash National Park, where the Awash River runs through a spectacular gorge is one of the rivers of Ethiopia which never flows into the sea. 400 species of birds have been detected, as well as several varieties of endemic mammals. Harar, ancient Islamic center founded in the 12 century A.D. with its 88 mosques, was for a long time the most important market town of the Horn of Africa. Arthur Rimbaud lived here from 1880 until his death, in the home of a rich Indian trader. Today, Harar, city of spices, is famous for the beauty of it's Aderé women and is one of the largest markets of Chiat (leaves of the brush that give a stimulating effect when chewed). The huge pastures and the wheat fields towards the Bale Mountains are incredibly green in September and October. The Bale National Park contain the second highest mountain of Ethiopia: alpine landscapes and the 4000-meter-high Senati highlands, where giant lobelias grow among dark blue lakes.

Birdwatching

Ethiopia boasts more than 800 species of birds, some endemic, mostly found in the southern part of Ethiopia in the Jima river valley, rift valley lakes, hot springs of Wondogenet, Bale mountain area, Awash National Park, Yabello, the Nech sar park and in the north, the Debre Birhan, the Nile gorge Debre Libanos area and the lake Tana areas. Bird watching itineraries can be mixed with historical routes or Omo valley tour programs.

Ethiopian endemic birds: Blue-Wing Goose (Cyanochen cyanoptera), Harwood's Francolin (Francolinus harwoodi), Ankober Serin (Carduelis ankoberensis), Red-billed Pytilia (Pytilia lineata), Spot-breasted Lapwing (Vanellus melanocephalus), Yellow-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus flavifrons), Prince Ruspoli's Turaco (Tauraco ruspolii), Nech sar Nightjar (Caprimulgus solala), Degodi Lark (Mirafra degodiensis), Sidamo Lark (Heteromirafra sidamoensis), White-tailed Swallow (Hirundo megaensis), Abyssinian Longclaw (Macronyx flavicollis), Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) and Stresemann's Bush-crow (Zavattariornis stresemanni)

Trekking

Siemens Mountains, located in north of Gondar along the road to Axum, offer unique and wonderful sights: high peaks and deep gorges, valleys and rivers, and golden barley fields as far as the eye can see. The highest mountain (4439 meters) is Ras Dejen, with a lot of the peaks above 4000 meters. Only a few roads on the Simien Mountains are passable by car, but the entire area is crossed by tracks used by locals to travel from village to village or to lead their animals to pasture. It is the ideal place for trekking: you can walk days on end along easy paths, occasionally passing through villages amid breath-taking views, frequently encountering colonies of 'gelada 'baboons and, at nightfall, among the steep gorges, sighting Waliyas and, not so frequently, the Simien fox.

The Bale Mountains are located in the southeastern region of the country over a massif of the same name. The mountain reaches a peak of 4377 m above sea level, the highest in Ethiopia. This is one of the greenest areas of Ethiopia with an abundant supply of water, vast pasturelands and forests of incomparable beauty alternate with moors of heather and juniper. The many protected species of mammals in the park include the Nyala, Kudu, Menelik's Bushbuck, and the rare fox of the Simien mountains. Sof Omar cave, one of African's largest is typically characterized by flat topography and deep gorges cut by the river web which forms the cave. The beauties of the caves are the untouched and wild aspects of the huge main passages, the shape of the galleries and the white color of the limestone basalt forming the walls.

We can customize an itinerary to include any of the above options. Please call for further details.

Tour Notes

When to come

This can depend on where you are going. In most of the country, the main rainy season runs from June to the end of September, with short rain falls in March. In the Omo and Mago parks in Southern Ethiopia, the seasons are different with the main rains from March to June, and shorter rainfalls in November.

Climate and Clothing

Because of the elevation, temperatures rarely exceed 25 C in most of the country, although in some of the lower areas (Awash, Omo and Mago parks) it can get considerably hotter. Pack light clothes for the daytime, a jacket or sweater for the evenings, and a good pair of walking shoes even if you are not going trekking as pathways around the historic sites are usually uneven and stony. Trekkers in the Simien and Bale Mountains will need warm clothes, waterproofs and 3-4 season sleeping bags. On a cultural note - Ethiopians are generally modest dressers, and visitors should be sensitive about going underdressed (shorts, tank tops and bare backed) in places of worship. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques and for getting around sites like Lalibela with many churches airline socks are very useful.

Health and Medical

The possession of a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is no longer mandatory but visitors coming from countries where Yellow Fever has been reported may be asked. Immunization for Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio is also recommended.

Malaria: in many sites malaria is not a problem because of the elevation - this is true of Axum, Gondar and Lalibela but it may occur in Bahir Dar at the end of the rainy season and after unseasonable rains. Lowland areas along the Awash River, the Omo Valley, Rift Valley and Gambella are also subject to malaria outbreaks. Chloroquine resistant strains have been identified in most areas so you should consult your doctor about the prescription. Alternatively, you can keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay with repellent creams and sprays. (Climatic changes and phenomena such as el-Nino have meant the appearance of malaria at unpredictable times and it's spread to areas previously malaria-free.)

Visitors should take a simple first aid pack, which would include different size bandaids, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream and/or tablets for insect bites, sun protection cream (while temperatures are moderate the sun is strong) and anti-diarrhea tablets such as Immodium for emergencies (they will not cure the problem but will control the symptoms).

Food

The Ethiopian national dish is called injera, a flat, circular pancake of fermented dough made from a grain seed called tef, on top of which is served different kinds of cooked meats, vegetables and pulses. The sauces are generally spiced with berbere, a blend of herbs and spices (including hot peppers) that gives Ethiopian food its characteristic taste. Vegetarians should try "fasting food" (for devout Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast days make up more than half the year), a colorful spread of salads, vegetables and pulses, devoid of all meat and animal products.

One eats national dishes with the right hand (water for washing is usually brought to the table before the food is served), tearing off pieces of injera to pick up the "toppings."

Addis Ababa now boasts of a wide variety of restaurants, and at hotels in tourist sites European-style food such as pasta is always available. If you are traveling to remote areas, such as the Omo Valley and parts of southern Ethiopia, it is advisable to stock up with tinned and packet food in Addis Ababa.

Drink

Gassy and still mineral water, along with soft drinks, are now available throughout the country. There are several brands of locally produced beer. Ethiopia produces its own wine and spirits, while imported spirits are also widely available. There are homemade alcoholic drinks: tela (homemade beer or ale), tej (wine made from honey) and kati kala (distilled liquor from various grains).

Travel by air, road and rail

Ethiopian Airlines operates a safe, extensive (43 airports and an additional 21 landing strips) and generally efficient and reliable domestic air service, but cancellations and delays can occur. Ethiopian Airlines and currently one private company offer charter services. Traveling by road allows visitors to experience Ethiopia's wonderful scenery, but road conditions are generally poor, and the mountainous topography in the north will cut speed. For example, the hour flight to Lalibela takes nearly two days by road. Railway enthusiasts who wish to travel by train from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa or on to Djibouti should be prepared for cancellations and delays and rundown carriages.

Ethiopia has embarked on a massive road renovation and construction program, and many areas are now accessible by good asphalt roads. Given the size of the country, however, it will take quite some time to upgrade the road network on a countrywide basis.

Miscellaneous

Visas - Any foreigners except those who hold the Kenyan, Tanzanian and Djibouti passport needs a visa!!! You can get your visa from the Ethiopian embassy or consulates in your country but for the following listed countries, a visa can be obtain on arrival at the airport  with two passport photos: Addis Ababa: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea Republic, Kuwait, Luxemburg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, and US. This is only available at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

Souvenirs

Many antiques cannot be exported and may be confiscated if found in airport searches. The National Museum in Addis Ababa can issue a clearance certificate.

Photography

Outside Addis Ababa, generally only 100 ASA film is available. As a matter of courtesy, permission should be sought before photographing individuals and in many parts of the country, particularly among the ethnic groups living by the Omo River as people will demand a fee. In some sites (Blue Nile Falls for example) there is a charge for video photography.

Language

Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, and English is widely spoken.

Calendar

Ethiopia has a calendar of 13 months as it follows the Julian calendar which is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of five or six days at the end of the year. The time difference is +3 hours from Greenwich.

Religious Celebrations

The Ethiopian New Year is celebrated on September 11th, the Finding of the True Cross (Meskel) on September 26 and 27th, The Tisyon Mariam on November 29th, the Ethiopian Christmas (Gena) on January 6 and 7th, the Epiphany (Timket) on January 18 and 19, The Ura- Kidanemhiret church festival on February 24, the Kulbi Gabriel on December 26 and July 26 and Easter are the most important festivities of Ethiopia.