Tribes of the Omo Valley and Spectacular Festivals

Overview

Ethiopia is a world unto itself, from its Orthodox Christian heritage, revealed in the stunning rock-hewn churches of the mountain 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, uncovering its mystique at intriguing places such as Axum, Ethiopia’s holy city (and legendary birthplace of the Queen of Sheba) and Lalibela, with its remarkable 12th century subterranean churches carved out of solid rock and complete with bas-reliefs. A different side of Ethiopia is revealed to us in the far south, where we discover the indigenous tribal cultures of the remote Omo Valley, from the Mursi to the Karo tribes. Each trip is timed for a festival—January trips attend Timkat, the exuberant Epiphany celebration; in September you’ll witness Meskel, with its flickering bonfires and carpets of meskel daisies.

Itinerary at a Glance

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

In Ethiopia’s mountain highlands, Christianity has been part of the culture since the 4th century. We explore the ancient city of Axum where, according to Ethiopian legend, the original Ark of the Covenant resides in the ornate Church of St. Mary of Zion. We’ll see Lalibela’s astonishing World Heritage churches, and Gondar, the royal capital, with its castles and battlements. At Lake Tana, we boat to a richly painted island monastery that dates to the Middle Ages.

Days 7-12
Tribes of the Omo River Valley

In the bushy savanna of the Omo River Valley live a fascinating mix of nomadic and 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. Among the villages we visit are 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 processions of Orthodox priests and parishioners in 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 more intimate cultural encounters
Private charter flight from Omo to Addis (avoiding a two-day drive!)

Details

Length: 15 days
Cost From: $7895  
Arrive: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Depart: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lodging: 3 nights at the 5-star Sheraton in Addis, 11 nights hotels and lodges
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

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