Lost Worlds of Ethiopia

Tribes of the Omo Valley and Spectacular Festivals


Ethiopia holds a fascinating mix of cultures, from its Orthodox Christian heritage in the highlands to the animistic tribes in the Great Rift Valley. In the mountain highlands, we explore Axum—Ethiopia’s holy city—and World Heritage-listed Lalibela, with its 12th century subterranean churches. A different side of Ethiopia thrives in the far south, where we visit the tribal cultures of the remote Omo Valley. Each trip is timed for a festival—January trips attend Timkat, the exuberant Epiphany celebration; in September, we’ll witness Meskel, with its flickering bonfires and carpets of yellow daisies.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-7
Addis Ababa / Lake Tana / Simien Mountains / Gondar / Axum / Lalibela

In the highlands, we boat to an island-monastery on Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, then overnight in the Simien Mountains, home to fascinating wildlife including the gelada baboon. We’ll also visit the royal city of Gondar and Axum’s Church of St. Mary of Zion, a revered Christian pilgrimage site. In Lalibela, a World Heritage Site, we explore extraordinary 12th century churches hand-carved out of the pink volcanic bedrock—and still in good condition a thousand years later.

Days 8-12
Tribes of the Omo River Valley

We drive down to the Rift Valley’s Omo region, home to an array of semi-nomadic tribes, from the Bume and Karo to the Bena and Hamar. Their body adornments, such as scarification, face painting, and lip plates, hold rich cultural symbolism. While we’re here, we usually visit a small Karo village to watch a traditional dance. Our activities are subject to local conditions.

Days 13-16
Addis Ababa / Timkat or Meskel Festival

Our private charter flight (avoiding a two-day drive!) whisks us to Addis, where we experience Timkat, with its processions of Orthodox priests and parishioners in traditional dress (January), or the dancing and celebratory bonfires of Meskel (September). Both festivals offer superb cultural encounters. Depart on Day 16 via Addis Ababa.



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


Length: 16 days
Cost From: $9295  
Arrive: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Depart: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lodging: 3 nights at the 5-star Sheraton in Addis, 12 nights very rustic hotels and lodges
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

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

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