Ethiopia is like no other place in Africa, from its Orthodox Christian heritage, revealed in stunning rock-hewn churches, to its animistic tribes that coexist in a harsh land all but forgotten by the rest of the world. We’ve created an in-depth adventure that takes in the full sweep of this storied land, discovering intriguing places such as Axum, Ethiopia’s ancient holy city, and encountering thriving indigenous tribal cultures of the Omo River Valley like the Mursi, with their clay lip plates. Our grand finale? Our January departures witness Timkat (Epiphany), a joyous festival with dances, baptisms, and huge outdoor processions of priests and pilgrims; our September trip witnesses Meskel (The Finding of the True Cross), with its dancing, bonfires, and floats covered with golden meskel flowers.
The highlight of the trip by far was being in Lalibala over Christmas—thousands of pilgrims in a magnificent setting, singing, ululating, oozing spirituality. A photography paradise.
— Barbara B.
Addis / Axum / Lalibela / Gondar / Lake Tana
Explore Addis, with its archaeological museum and open-air markets, then fly to Axum in the highlands, where the original Ark of the Covenant is said to reside. Lalibela’s astounding rock-hewn churches and Gondar’s towering medieval castles offer a further glimpse into the history of Ethiopia, and we also bring you to an island-monastery on Lake Tana.
Rift Valley / Jinka
Heading south into Rift Valley savannas, we introduce you to Ethiopia’s fantastic tribal country with visits to Lakes Chamo and Abaya, the villages of the Dorze tribe, known for their weavings, and the bustling market town of Jinka.
Omo River Valley
Our program here is flexible, but we typically visit the Karo, who excel in body painting, and watch one of their traditional dances. We also meet the Mursi, whose men practice scarification, and hike to a Bume village.
Addis / Timkat or Meskel Festival
Our private charter flight back to Addis avoids two days of driving. In Addis, you’ll witness Timkat’s lively processions of Orthodox priests in vividly hued gowns and throngs of parishioners in traditional dress, or the dancing, feasting, and massive bonfires of Meskel. Depart on Day 15.