Ancient Ethiopia Tour
ANCIENT ETHIOPIA TOUR
Indulge in the sheer magnificence of Ethiopia, where nature, history, religion, and culture intermingle to offer a truly unforgettable tour. Our journey commences in the bustling capital, where we shall immerse ourselves in the richness of Ethiopia's heritage by visiting the capital's most pre-eminent museums, the lively open-air market, and the marvellously crafted cathedrals that are a testament to the country's religious devotion.
No tour of Ethiopia is complete without exploring its natural beauty, and our journey will lead us to the splendid Simien Mountain National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its picturesque views of the mountains and abundant wildlife, including the Walia Ibex and the gelada baboons. We continue on this remarkable expedition as we visit the historical destinations of Gondar and Lalibela. The incredible architecture and the rich history embedded in these sites are worth experiencing in person.
There is a visit to Lake Langano, situated in Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley and located around 200 km south of Addis Ababa. This is an excellent opportunity to marvel at Ethiopia's unique landscape and the beauty of the Great Rift Valley. We shall also make our way to the Bale Mountains National Park. The park is perfect for nature enthusiasts and hikers alike, providing an excellent opportunity to witness the Ethiopian wolf, the giant mole rat, the mountain nyala, and the Bale monkey.
Join us on this magical journey through Ethiopia, where nature, history, religion, and culture come together to offer an unforgettable experience.
Day 1 - Arrive Addis Ababa
Upon your early morning arrival in Addis, our representative will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Then after breakfast, start your trip by driving to the National Museum of Ethiopia to discover the history of Ethiopia and our oldest human ancestor, Lucy. Set within Haile Selassie’s former palace and surrounded by the beautiful gardens and fountains of Addis Ababa University’s main campus is the enthralling Ethnological Museum. Even if you’re not normally a museum fan, this one is worth a bit of your time – it’s easily one of the ﬁnest museums in Africa. Before lunch, drive to Holy Trinity Cathedral Church which has a unique architectural style. Immediately after a relaxed lunch, drive up to the Entoto Mountains, the best location to observe the panoramic view of the capital. It is also a historical place where Menelik II resided and built his palace and is notable as the location of a number of celebrated churches, including Saint Raguel and Saint Mary (Maryam Church). The return drive will be via Piazza and en-route, visit St. George Church and Menelik II Square towards the largest open-air market, Merkato.
Overnight at Golden Tulip Hotel or similar
Day 2 - Gondar and the Simien Mountains.
Today, you will take a domestic ﬂight to Gondar and on arrival drive towards Sankaber, the gateway to the Simien Mountains. We pay the park’s entrance fee and meet with the obligatory staff. You will be dropped off at Buyit Ras and enjoy a 3-4 hours hike to Sankaber, passing close to the escarpment edge. Nearing Sankaber, you will have beautiful views on both sides of the escarpment ridge and you will likely see the endemic Gelada baboons.
Overnight at Simien Lodge or similar
Day 3 - Simien Mountains National Park
It is 24km from your lodge takes you to the Chennek campsite, passing through the Kurbet Metaya viewpoint (500m before the campsite). Once you pass Kurbet Metaya keep your eyes peeled for the Walia ibex. We continue another 2km to one of the highest peaks in the Simien Massif: Mount Bwahit at 4,200m. We explore along the foothills through a valley crossed by wild streams. The road descends from the plateau passing through spectacular scenery, and now is the time to keep a look out for the Walia ibex and even the elusive Ethiopian wolf.
Overnight at Simien Lodge or similar
Day 4 – Drive to Gondar
After lunch we will visit Gondar, the ﬁrst capital city during the reign of Fasilides. In Gonder, there are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years and the city seems more European than African in origin. In the afternoon, we visit Fasilades Palace, probably the most impressive of all the castles found in the area and the oldest one. We then continue to the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie (Light of the Trinity). The interior is decorated with beautiful frescos, cherubs and paintings. Debre Berhan Selassie is rumored to once have been the proposed ﬁnal resting-place of the Ark of the Covenant.
Overnight stay at Gondar Hills Resort or similar
Day 5 - Lalibela and the Rock-hewn churches
We take a ﬂight that departs at 10:00 and takes approximately 30 minutes to get to Lalibela. This small town in the Lasta Mountains is world-famous for its unique rock churches chiseled into the red, soft rock. The city is named after King Lalibela, who built numerous religious buildings here. The Rock-Hewn Ethiopian orthodox Christian churches of Lalibela, are one of the wonders of the world. It’s a collection of churches, some connected by fascinating internal channels, with hermit holes where people lived and died. The connecting walls are full of religious symbols. The city contains 11 monolithic churches that were built in the 12th century, some of which are beautifully painted inside. Visit the 1st and 2nd groups of the rock-hewn churches today.
Overnight stay at Mezena Lodge or similar
Day 6 - Yemrehanna Kristos Church
Today, you leave Lalibela and head for another ancient rock-hewn church known as Yimrhane Kristos. The drive to Yemrehanna will also give you the opportunity to view the rural countryside and villages of the Ethiopian highlands. Yemrehanna Kristos is one of Ethiopia’s best-preserved late-Aksumite buildings, where few people reward themselves with a visit and a reward it is. The church is different because it’s built rather than excavated. Seeing the stepped exterior facade, created from alternating wood and stone layers, you’ll understand why so many of Lalibela rock-hewn churches look like they do. Knowing that Yemrehanna Kristos may predate Lalibela’s churches by up to 80 years, you have before you, a virtual blueprint of greatness. In the afternoon, drive back to Lalibela for lunch where you will then proceed to visit the remaining groups of the church. Finally, you will visit the most famous of all the churches – Bet Giyorgis, constructed in honor of the patron saint of Ethiopia – Saint George.
Overnight stay at Mezena Lodge or similar
Day 7 - Langano
This morning, transfer to Lalibela Airport for your return ﬂight to Addis Ababa. On arrival you will then drive to Lake Langano, where we will spend the night. There is time to chill out and relax by the lake. Swimming and kayaking on the lake are some of the possible activities that you can partake in.
Overnight stay at Hara Langano Eco Lodge or similar
Day 8 - Bale Mountain National Park
After breakfast, we start driving to Dinsho, which is the gateway to the fabled Bale Mountains, which reach an altitude of around 4 500 meters (more than 14 000 feet). Here we spend two days exploring. For birders there are varied habitats for such sought-after species as Abyssinian Owl, Cape (Mackinder’s) Eagle-Owl (the most massive of three subspecies), African Wood Owl, Wattled Ibis, Chestnut-naped Francolin, Moorland Francolin, Wattled Crane, Red-billed Chough, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Catbird, African Emerald Cuckoo, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, and, with luck, Golden Eagle, as well as a long list of other birds. Interesting mammals here are mountain nyala, klipspringer, Menelik’s bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, and others. The days in this area are also a botanical treat, with vegetation ranging from Hagenia-dominated forest to giant Erica woods to high-altitude moorlands, sometimes with fabulous giant lobelias. In the adjacent Harenna Forest, it might be possible to spot some star birds like Ayers’s Hawk-Eagle or even a ﬂock of migrating European Bee-eaters.
Overnight stay at Bale mountains Lodge or similar
Day 9 - Sanetti Plateau and Harenna Forest
In the morning, you will have breakfast and then drive to the Sanetti Plateau (altitude of 4000 meters) with Afro-alpine Moorland and beautiful wild alpine scenery. Our tour continues to the south of the park where lies a 1200m (3700 ft) escarpment, below which is one of the largest and most extensive forests remaining in Ethiopia, the Harenna Forest. The slope of the southern escarpment falls rapidly from the tree line at 3200m to around 2000m within a distance of only 8 km, producing a rapid and spectacular change in landscape, habitat, and species composition. The Bale Mountain Lodge is located beside a clear mountain stream, within a natural forest clearing beneath the escarpment, and enjoys breathtaking views of the mountains and the surrounding forest. Here rare Bale Monkeys inhabit the trees and the birdlife is spectacular. Wild coffee is harvested to the south of the lodge and delicious Bale honey is obtained by the local people from hives placed high within the canopy. Here is also found 3% of Africa’s remaining bamboo forest. Harenna is truly a magical place in which to relax or to explore.
Overnight stay at Bale Mountains Lodge or similar
Day 10 - Return to Addis Ababa
Drive back to Addis Ababa via Lake Koka and Lake Ziway. There is a chance to go shopping in Addis Ababa. Then you will go to the Yod Abyssinia Traditional restaurant for a farewell dinner party. From the restaurant, you will go to the airport and the tour ends.
Get in touch with Our Local Tour to book the Ancient Ethiopia Tour
This is a private tour and can be arranged for any departure date. Contact us for further tour information, including flight options and pre and post tour accommodation.
From £4795 per person (based on two people sharing)
Please note: This tour can also be arranged designed just for you. Get in touch to find out more.
Included in the Ancient Ethiopia Tour
Not Included in the Ancient Ethiopia Tour
Government Travel Safety Advice
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice. Please refer to the COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry.
Visa and Passport Information
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ethiopia. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.
You will need a valid visa and a valid travel document to enter Ethiopia.
Visitors must obtain a visa from the official Ethiopian e-visa platform [https://www.evisa.gov.et] or from their nearest Ethiopian Embassy before travelling. You will need to show a valid visa before boarding your flight and upon entry. The penalty for overstaying your visa is USD10 per person per day. If you overstay you will have to pay your fine in full before you are able to leave Ethiopia. Visitors entering Ethiopia without a valid travel document and Ethiopian visa may be detained and/or fined.
Local Laws and Custom
Ethiopia is a religiously diverse and largely tolerant country. However, many believers are devout in their respective faiths and you should make sure to respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. Be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious sites of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Outside Addis Ababa, particularly in rural areas, women may wish to dress modestly to avoid the possibility of causing offence. Modest dress is a must when visiting religious sites.
Homosexual acts (applying to both sexes) are illegal, and carry penalties of between 1 and 15 years imprisonment. Be sensitive to local laws and customs and avoid public displays of affection.
It is illegal to take photos near military zones or of military personnel; near the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa and where signs clearly prohibit photography.
It is illegal to carry more than 3,000 Ethiopian Birr when entering or leaving Ethiopia. If you are travelling to Djibouti from Ethiopia you may carry up to 10,000 Birr. If you are found to be carrying cash in excess of these amounts, it will be seized and you may face a prison sentence.
You will need an export certificate to take antiques out of the country, otherwise the items are likely to be confiscated and you may face prosecution. Owning ivory is strictly prohibited. A number of British nationals found with ivory jewellery have had their items confiscated by authorities and fined between 5,000 and 25,000 birr.
Drug offences are treated seriously in Ethiopia. Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Khat is a legal drug in Ethiopia but it is an offence to take it out of the country. Bags are regularly searched at Addis Ababa Bole Airport and anyone found to be in possession of Khat is likely to face criminal prosecution.
Satellite phones and binoculars cannot be imported to Ethiopia without prior approval. Unapproved items may be confiscated by authorities.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines.
There are a number of hospitals in Addis Ababa but only private hospitals offer a reasonable standard of basic care for minor health problems. Dentistry options are especially lacking. Ambulance services are also limited. Outside the capital medical facilities remain extremely poor. You should carry a comprehensive medical pack when travelling out of Addis Ababa. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, evacuation by air ambulance and repatriation. You should contact your insurance / medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Malaria is common in areas of the country below 2,000 metres above sea level. Addis Ababa sits at 2,400 metres but a number of sites popular with tourists are below 2,000. Bilharzia is present in the vast majority of lakes in Ethiopia - you should check before swimming. Water-borne diseases are common. Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa.
What to bring on the Ancient Ethiopia Tour
Lightweight, casual, non-synthetic clothing (cotton and natural fibers are best) which appropriately cover the body, when in the company of the local communities. Please understand local customs and religious requirements relating to dress codes. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be respectful.
The ideal footwear would be walking shoes or boots and sandals.
Luggage while on your tour
Please allow yourself one main piece of luggage and a day-sack. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage, so don't overload yourself, a soft wheely bag may be easier to manage than a suit case.
We recommend a sunhat, suncream, a torch, insect repellent and a reusable waterbottle. A power adapter for phones, laptops, etc. Earplugs, particularly if you are a light sleeper!
Ethiopia’s currency is the birr. It’s divided into 100 cents in 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent coins as well as a one birr coin, and there are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 birr notes. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency, but this must be declared on arrival to the customs authorities on the appropriate blue-coloured form. Foreign currency may only be exchanged at authorized banks and hotels, and a receipt must be obtained. The currency declaration form must be retained as this will be required by customs on departure along with the currency exchange form. Visitors may change back any surplus Ethiopian Birr to cash at the airport before departure. If you change foreign currency into Birr, you should ensure that you keep your receipt, as without this you are unlikely to be able to change any left over money back at the end of your trip.
Ethiopia is largely a cash based society. Credit cards are accepted at only a very few outlets in Addis Ababa and it is not normally possible to get currency advances against a credit card. International bank and debit cards are accepted at major banks’ ATMs in the capital but there are very limited banking facilities in most other areas. Make sure you have an adequate supply of cash before travelling outside the capital.
Weather in Ethiopia
The best time to visit Ethiopia is between January and March when clear, sunny days bring regular average daily temperatures of 25°C (77°F). This is Ethiopia's busiest time to visit, with wildlife spotting at its peak and the festivals of Timkat and Leddet drawing huge crowds.
The rainy season (April to September) brings soaring temperatures and humid conditions. Due to rain, from May to August some roads in the Lower Omo Valley become impassable. August is the hottest (and wettest) month with temperatures reaching 45°C (113°F) regularly in the lowlands. In the highlands temperatures are much more moderate but sightseeing is hampered by downpours of rain. October to December is an excellent time to visit Ethiopia as the countryside is lush after all the rain, there are plenty of sunny days and historical sites and monuments are not overrun with tourists. Night time temperatures in highland areas often drop to between 5°C (41°F) and 10°C (50°F) during November and December so be sure to pack a warm clothing.
There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Awasa and other cities. In Addis Ababa, connection speeds are usually more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking e-mail. A typical internet cafe will have a dozen computers using one broadband (usually starts from 128kbps) connection. Ethiopia's international connection is unstable: On bad days, even a broadband connection will only deliver dial-up speed, because the whole country's traffic is running via an undersized backup satellite connection.
Outside of bigger towns, it is harder to find a working Internet connection and the charge per minute is often much higher than in bigger towns. Using the internet costs between 25-35 Ethiopian cents/per min in the bigger cities but outside the cities it usually costs more than 1 birr/per minute.
Ethiopia has 220 volt electricity, meaning unless your computer or appliance is dual voltage or designed for 220 volts, you will need a converter or transformer. The cycles (Hz) are 50 per second. The power sockets that are used are of type C / E / F / L. While adaptors are available in Ethiopia, buying one prior to leaving home is recommended to avoid the hassle of trying to find one when you arrive.