Based on the expeditionary nature of our trips, there may be ongoing enhancements to this itinerary.
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
Depart USAOctober 7
Board your independent flight to Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa, EthiopiaOctober 8
Arrive in the capital city of Addis Ababa late in the evening and transfer to the Sheraton Addis Ababa for overnight.
Addis AbabaOctober 9
After a morning at leisure, begin your exploration of this fascinating county with a city tour of Addis Ababa. Founded in 1886 by Emperor Menelik II and located 8,000 feet above sea level at the foot of the Entoto Mountains, Addis Ababa is considered the diplomatic capital of Africa, being the seat of the African Union (AU) and playing host to over 100 foreign embassies. Drive to the summit of Mt. Entoto for fantastic views, visit octagonal St. George’s Cathedral, and browse the colorful wares at Shero Meda market.
Addis Ababa / AxumOctober 10
After breakfast, board our flight to Axum, a small, dusty town that once formed the capital of the great Aksumite Kingdom. Visit the area’s main historical sites, including the Archaeological Museum; the Zion Cathedral, where the original Ark of the Covenant is said to be housed; the Stelae Park, where magnificent 3rd- and 4th-century monoliths tower 100 feet into the sky; and finally, the ruined palace reputed to have been home to the Queen of Sheba. Dinner and overnight at the Sabean Hotel.
Axum / LalibelaOctober 11
Return to the airport for our flight to Lalibela, capital of the Zagwe Dynasty in the 12th and 13th centuries. Arguably Ethiopia’s greatest attraction, Lalibela’s famous rock-hewn churches have drawn religious pilgrims since the 16th century and still amaze modern travelers. The majority of the rock-hewn churches are situated within the town; after lunch, begin your exploration of the first church complex. The area is a sacred site for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and you are likely to encounter brightly clad priests conducting ancient ceremonies or pilgrims visiting hermit monks in their subterranean haunts. Check in to the Mezana Lodge for dinner and overnight.
This morning, visit the cave church of Yemrehanna Kristos, located a short distance outside of Lalibela. Considered one of the most beautiful of all Lalibela’s churches, Yemrehanna is unique in that it is built, rather than excavated, within a cave. This afternoon, complete your exploration of Lalibela with a visit to the second complex of rock-hewn churches in town, culminating with a visit to the famous church of St. George.
Lalibela / Gondar / Simien Mountains National ParkOctober 13
After breakfast, board our flight to Gondar, then depart overland for Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for both its scenic beauty and the endangered wildlife that it supports. The region includes many summits above 12,000 feet and culminates in the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dashen, which at 15,280 feet is the fourth highest mountain in Africa. Check in to the Simien Lodge, your hotel for two nights.
Simien Mountains National ParkOctober 14
Spend a full day appreciating breathtaking scenery, while keeping an eye out for troops of endemic gelada, or lion-mane, baboons, terrestrial primates that live in groups numbering up to 500 individuals. These baboons feed en masse in the high-altitude meadows during the day and roost along the edge of the escarpment at night. Other notable wildlife includes the endemic walia ibex, a large mountain goat unique to the Simien region, as well as the dapper augur buzzard and spectacular, eagle-sized thick-billed ravens.
Simien Mountains National Park / GondarOctober 15
After breakfast return to Gondar, the 17th-century capital of Ethiopia. Our route traverses pastoral highlands, passing through traditional villages inhabited by the Amhara people. This afternoon, visit the Royal Enclosure, home to the castles of Emperors Fasiladas, Iyasu, Dawit, and Mentewab, and come to understand why this town has been called “the Camelot of Africa.” Then explore the decorated church of Debre Berhan Sellasie, and the Bath of King Fasiladas, who established Gondar in 1636. Dinner and overnight at the Goha Hotel.
Gondar / Bahir DarOctober 16
This morning depart Gondar and travel by road to Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana, the source of one of Africa’s greatest rivers. Check in to the Kuriftu Resort in time for lunch, then embark on a boating excursion on Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest body of water. Included will be a visit to the Ura Kidane Mehret monastery on the Zeghie peninsula and the nearby church of Narga Selassie. Birdwatching on the lake is also superb.
Bahir Dar / Blue Nile FallsOctober 17
Today after breakfast, drive to the Blue Nile Falls—known locally as Tissiat—which means “Smoking Water.” The Falls are 328 feet wide and the water plunges some 150 feet, giving rise to picturesque clouds and rainbows. Nesting behind the curtain of water are slender-billed chestnut wings. Other birds in the area include fire finches, ground-scraper thrushes, robin- chats, yellow-fronted tinkerbirds, and bare-faced go-away birds. Return to Bahir Dar in the afternoon for a visit to the lively market.
Bahir Dar / Addis Ababa / Bale Mountains National ParkOctober 18
Board our morning flight to Addis Ababa and connect with our flight to Bale Mountains National Park. Stop at the park headquarters at Dinsho to search the moss-festooned juniper forest for endemic birds and mammals, such as groups of clamorous wattled ibis, the strange Abyssinian catbird, Menelik’s bushbuck, and the handsome mountain nyala. Check in to the Bale Mountain Lodge, your base for two nights.
Bale Mountains National Park / Addis AbabaOctober 19
Spend a full day exploring this wonderful Afro-alpine moorland in a landscape dominated by Mount Dimtu, Ethiopia’s second highest peak. The vegetation is extraordinary, almost as if from a botanical science fiction movie, and unlike anything elsewhere. The most striking of these plants, which flourish in the rarified atmosphere 13,000 feet above sea level, is the “everlasting” flower, the Helichrysum. It is seemingly everywhere, forming large cushions up to seven feet across and thirty inches in height. This is also the domain of the endemic red Ethiopian wolf, whose chief food source is the giant mole rat. Other animals in this region include the endemic mountain nyala, Menelik’s bushbuck, bohor reedbuck, and olive baboon.
Bale Mountains National Park / Addis AbabaOctober 20
After a final morning of exploration in the park, return by air to Addis Ababa. Check in to the Sheraton Addis Ababa with the rest of the day at leisure.
Addis Ababa / USAOctober 21 — October 22
After breakfast, visit one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, known as the Merkato. Tonight, enjoy a special farewell dance performance during a traditional Ethiopian dinner. Transfer to the airport for your late evening flight, arriving in the USA the next day.