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Day 1: Arrive in Addis Ababa
You are met on arrival in Addis Ababa and transferred to our hotel. The name of the city in Amharic means 'new flower'. Founded in 1886 by Menelik II, it is located at 2,500 m (8,202 ft) above sea level in one of the highest parts of the Entoto Mountain chain (3,000 m/9,842 ft above sea level).
Day 2: Addis Ababa Sites
We spend the day exploring Addis Ababa; in the morning we visit the National Museum, one of the most important sub-Saharan museums in all of Africa. The museum is home to the fossilized humanoid Lucy as well as an amazing collection of artifacts, royal items and art. We then proceed to the Ethnological Museum, which was the former palace of Haile Selassie.
Day 3: Fly to Bahir Dar and the Blue Nile
We take a short flight this morning north to Bahir Dar.
Day 4: To Gondar, Timket Festival (January Departures Only)
This morning we drive to Gondar, arriving at our hotel by lunchtime. Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian Empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of Fasilidas. In Gondar, there are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. The city seems more European than African.
Day 5: Timket and Gondar Sightseeing, to Simien Mountains
This morning there is an option to go to the overnight resting place of the tabots. Tabots are holy replicas of the Ark of the Covenant - the sacred chests described in the Book of Exodus as carrying the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. The tabots are blessed with water by the priests and then singing and dancing accompany the tabots back to their churches.
Day 6: Simien Mountains
We have a full day to enjoy the Simien Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The road passes over mountainous areas of wild beauty. In the park, many of the mountain peaks exceed 4,000m (13,123 ft); the highest is Ras Dejen, at 4,543 m (14,905 ft) above sea level. These mountains consist of volcanic masses that have been eroded away by centuries of rain. Today they have amethyst-colored peaks and deep gullies which have been further deepened by rivers. The crevices play host to the walia ibex.
Day 7: To Axum
We will have a full day driving to Axum. The drive is very long but the scenery is just incredible.
Day 8: Axum, City Sights
The beautiful city of Axum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The legends narrated in the Kebre Nagast (Book of Kings) recount how the city of Axum, as early as the 10th century B.C., was already the city in which the Queen of Sheba resided. It is recounted that the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to Axum and it remains there to this day, preserved in a sanctuary.
Day 9: Fly to Lalibela and the Northern Churches
A short flight takes us from Axum to Lalibela. The city contains 11 monolithic churches that were built in the 12th century and are carved out of pink granite rock; they have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each church has a unique architectural style; all are superbly carved and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings. The entire city may be described as a sculpture dedicated to the glory of God. This afternoon we visit Nakuta Lab, followed by a coffee ceremony.
Day 10: Lalibela
Today we spend time exploring the best churches in the northern, as well as eastern areas of Lalibela. Tonight, we will enjoy our group dinner with spectacular views of the area.
Day 11: Fly to Addis Ababa
We fly back to Addis Ababa this morning. After lunch, we enjoy a free afternoon; you may want to visit one of the many museums or the interesting mercato.
Day 12: Lake Langano
To begin the southern part of our adventure, we head off in 4x4 vehicles to Lake Langano, which is about 143 miles (230 km) from Addis. Enroute we visit the lakes of Debre Ziet and Zeway. We arrive at our lodge in the early afternoon. We can then enjoy some free time to relax and enjoy this wonderful part of the country.
Day 13: To Arba Minch
We set out early today and pass by the Rift Valley lakes before arriving into Arba Minch. This town is the largest in southern Ethiopia; it is situated between the Rift Valley, Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo. Enroute we will visit the Alaba village and we will drive through Welayta and Gamogoffa area.
Day 14: Lake Chamo
This morning we head to the nearby Arba Guge Mountains to visit the Dorze people and see how they live in these fascinating beehive huts. They are also famous for their elaborate scarfs, woven products, as well as for their special dancing.
Day 15: Arba Minch, to Jinka
Our drive today will offer some of the most beautiful scenery Ethiopia has to offer; soft rolling hills with dark red soil and plentiful crops and forests. The road continues into the savannah, running alongside the mountains of Men, then following the Karkerte Mountains, providing splendid panoramic views until reaching the soft terraced hills of Konso. We will enjoy a visit in the Konso village to meet the locals who are excellent farmers. The Konso people consists of a pagan society who erect totem poles on the tombs of their dead. We arrive in Jinka in the evening in time to enjoy dinner.
Day 16: Mursi Tribal Encounter
This morning we will enjoy a very unique Mursi tribal encounter outside of their village. The Mursi women have the custom of expanding their lower lips using disks that gradually get larger and larger. These are people who farm the land and breed livestock; they live in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world. After our visit, we return back to Jinka where we will explore a small but very interesting local anthropological-ethnological museum run by a German foundation, dedicated for the different tribes of the Omo Valley.
Day 17: Turmi
Today we will have a long drive which will take us from Jinka to Turmi, passing through the Woyto Valley as we go. Turmi is home of the Hamer Tribe. This afternoon we will visit the Hamer village with an opportunity to take photos and learn about their society. The Hamers are one of the most beautiful and dignified people of the Omo Basin. The women color their hair with red earth and butter and wear elegant leather skirts festooned with tiny pearls.
Day 18: Murele, Omo Bend and Karo People
We head off on our day of "off-roading", as there is no real track! We travel through the savannah in a typically African landscape arriving at Murele, located on the River Omo surrounded by huge trees. This is the land of the Karo tribe. Here it is possible to meet them and visit their village along the river. In the afternoon we drive back through the savannah, along tracks that are barely visible, passing through a vast meadowland with shrubs and umbel lifers ("umbrella" acacia trees).
Day 19: Arba Minch via Konso, Arbore Tribe
Today we start our return journey northward, towards the lakes of the Rift Valley. The Rift Valley is a deep fissure that extends for over 3728 miles (6,000 km) from the Middle East to Mozambique, testimony to the violent and massive shifting of the Earth's tectonic plates. The rift contains a marvelous series of lakes, which are teeming with fish and provide a habitat for hundreds of species of birds. Enroute we visit an Arbore village and, time permitting, stop at some small markets. We travel along the side of Lake Chamo and arrive at Arba Minch late afternoon to early evening.
Day 20: Shenkele Game Reserve, Awassa
This morning we return to the road that leads back up the Rift Valley. We cross fertile land planted with bananas, cereals and tobacco, inhabited first by the Oromo people and then by the Sidamo. All kinds of fruit are sold along the roadside. After lunch we visit the gorgeous landscape of Shenkele Game Reserve, which is protecting the last pocket of the original Ethiopian savannah. We have a great viewing opportunity to see large herds of the endemic and beautiful antilope, called Swayne's hartebeest, one of the rarest animals in of all Africa, with a population less than 700. Shenkelle is virtually the only place of the world where you can see this elegant antilope. We make our way to the regional capital, Awassa. It is located at 1685 m (6119 ft) and sits at the edge of the smallest lake in the Ethiopian Rift Valley.
Day 21: Fish Market and Lake Awassa
Today we set off to explore the famous fish market of Asa Gebeya, located on an inlet to Lake Awassa. Every morning, fisherman arrive by their wooden rowboats loaded with their daily catch of tilapia. The setting is spectacular, with the mountains, the lake and rich vegetation of dense scrub and woodland. We then make our way to Amorra Gedel Park which is home to many birds, guereza and grivet monkeys.
Day 22: Addis Ababa
After a leisurely breakfast, we return to Addis Ababa. The remainder of the day is free for any last minute shopping or resting before meeting with the group for our farewell dinner in our traditional restaurants, complete with traditional dance.
Day 23: Depart Addis Ababa
We say farewell to this remarkably varied country with a transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
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