Tribes of the Omo Valley and Spectacular Festivals

Overview

Ethiopia is a world unto itself, from its Orthodox Christian heritage, revealed in the famed 12th century rock-hewn churches of the highlands, to its array of animistic tribes in the Great Rift Valley. Our in-depth adventure takes in the full sweep of this storied land, from fascinating Axum, once home to the Queen of Sheba, to the amazing tribal heritage in the Omo Valley, where we’ll meet groups like the Mursi, with their clay lip plates. Each trip is timed for a festival—January trips attend Timkat, the exuberant Epiphany celebration, and the September trip witnesses Meskel, with its carpets of meskel daisies.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-6
Addis Ababa / Axum / Lalibela / Gondar / Lake Tana

In Ethiopia’s rugged mountain highlands, Christianity has been part of the culture since the 4th century. We visit the holy city of Axum, where according to Ethiopian legend, the original Ark of the Covenant resides within the Church of St. Mary of Zion. We also explore Lalibela’s World Heritage churches, carved into volcanic rock in the 12th century, and Gondar’s medieval castles.

Days 7-12
Tribes of the Omo River Valley

For the semi-nomadic peoples of the Omo River, body adornments such as scarification, face painting, and lip plates hold rich cultural symbolism. We visit many villages, including those of the Karo, with their elaborate hairstyles, and the Bume, known for their huge necklaces.

Days 13-15
Addis Ababa / Timkat or Meskel Festival

Our private charter flight (avoiding a two-day drive!) whisks us to Addis, and we witness Timkat’s lively processions of Orthodox priests and parishioners in dazzling traditional dress (January), or the dancing and celebratory bonfires of Meskel (September). Depart on Day 15.

Highlights

Highlights

The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the medieval city of Gondar
Tribal villages of the Karo, known for their body painting, and Bume and Mursi tribes
Spectacular festival on each trip: Timkat (January) or Meskel (September)
See traditional dances of the Karo
Small group size—maximum 8—for greater flexibility and cultural encounters

Details

Length: 15 days
Cost From: $7695  
Arrive: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Depart: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lodging: 3 nights at the 5-star Sheraton in Addis, 11 nights best-available hotels and lodges
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner
Activity: Walking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Rugged road travel by 4WD vehicle, easy walks, cultural explorations