Ethiopia is truly a world unto itself, from its Orthodox Christian heritage, revealed in stunning rock-hewn churches, to its kaleidoscopic array of 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, uncovering its mystique at such intriguing places as Axum, Ethiopia’s holy city and a World Heritage Site, and encountering thriving indigenous tribal cultures including the Mursi, famous for their striking clay lip plates. Each of our trips is timed for a unique festival—January departures attend Timkat, the exuberant Epiphany celebration; in September you’ll witness Meskel, with its flickering bonfires and carpets of meskel daisies.
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., Sammamish, WA
Addis / Axum / Lalibela / Gondar / Lake Tana
From bustling Addis, fly to Axum in the highlands, Ethiopia’s most sacred city, where according to Ethiopian legend, the original Ark of the Covenant resides within a special chapel in the Church of St. Mary of Zion. Lalibela’s astounding 12th century rock 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 that’s filled with religious paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and other treasures.
Rift Valley / Jinka
Heading south into vast Rift Valley savannas, we introduce you to Ethiopia’s fantastic tribal country at the villages of the Dorze tribe, known for their cotton weavings and beehive huts, and we visit Lakes Chamo and Abaya and the lively market town
Tribes of the Omo River Valley
A fascinating mix of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes reside in the savannas of the Omo River Valley. Our visits include the Karo, who use pulverized red and yellow chalk-like minerals to create elaborate face and body decorations for ceremonial dances. We also hike to a village of the Bume, famed for their singing and storytelling skills, and meet the Mursi, whose men are renowned warriors who practice scarification and shave their heads in geometric patterns.
Addis / Timkat or Meskel Festival
Our private charter flight whisks us back to Addis, avoiding a long drive. In Addis, we explore the fascinating museums and open-air markets, then witness Timkat’s lively processions of Orthodox priests in vividly hued gowns and throngs of parishioners in dazzling traditional dress (January departures), or the dancing, feasting, and massive bonfires of Meskel (September departure). Depart on Day 15.