Ultimate Ethiopia Tour

Join us on an 18 day exploration of Ethiopia. From the ancient history of the north to the tribal villages of the south. This is the Ultimate Ethiopia Tour.


Embark on an extraordinary 18-day adventure through the enchanting landscapes and rich cultural tapestry of Ethiopia. This comprehensive tour offers a captivating journey through Ethiopia, from the lush highlands to the tribal south, unveiling hidden treasures at every turn.

Our tour commences in the vibrant capital, Addis Ababa, where we immerse ourselves in the dynamic energy of this bustling metropolis. Continuing our odyssey, we traverse the Simien Mountains National Park, a dramatic landscape characterized by jagged cliffs, deep valleys, and rare wildlife. The journey takes a scenic turn as we descend to the legendary Blue Nile Falls, fondly known as the "Smoking Water."

Discover the historic marvels of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its remarkable rock-hewn churches. Witnessing these ancient wonders carved into the mountains is a humbling experience that transports us back in time. Leaving the north behind, we venture south to the bewitching Omo Valley, home to diverse ethnic tribes living in harmony with nature. Explore their vibrant traditions, intricate body art, and colourful ceremonies—a glimpse into a world seldom seen by outsiders.

Finally, we return to Addis Ababa, our minds and hearts overflowing with memories of Ethiopia's awe-inspiring beauty and cultural richness. This 18-day journey has truly been an odyssey through time and tradition, an experience that transforms and rejuvenates. Ethiopia, a land of hidden gems and ancient wonders, awaits those with an insatiable thirst for adventure.

Day 1 – Welcome to Ethiopia
Upon your early morning arrival in Addis, our representative will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Then after breakfast, we will visit the National Museum of Ethiopia. Setwithin 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. Before lunch, we will drive to the Holy Trinity Cathedral Church which has a unique architectural style. Following a relaxed lunch, drive up to the Entoto Mountains, the best place to observe the panoramic views of the capital. It is notable as the location of a number of celebrated churches, including Saint Raguel and Saint Mary (Maryam Church).
Overnight stay at Swiss Inn Nexus Hotel or similar

Day 2 - Gondar
After breakfast, you will be transferred to Bole airport and take a flight to Gondar. On arrival you will check in to our hotel before visiting Gondar, the first capital city during the reign of Fasilides. In Gondar, there are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. The city seems more European than African origin. In the afternoon, we will visit Fasiladas' Palace, probably the most impressive of all the castles found in the area and the oldest one. We 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 of the Ethiopian Empire, which began in 1632.
Overnight stay at Goha Hotel or similar

Day 3 - Simien Mountains
This morning we will begin the drive to the Simien Mountain National Park. Debark is a small market town at an altitude of 2700 meters close to the boundary of the Simien Mountains National Park. Corrugated–iron–roofed buildings surround the colorful and busy market area. Before entering the park, you must register at the park headquarters just outside town. Here, an armed scout (one of the park regulations), joins you. Then we drive to Sankaber for a great view. En route, we pass through the foothills of the Simien Mountains, with carefully tended fields, open pasture with grazing horses, stands of trees and distant rocky peaks. At the high point of the road, there are superb views across the strangely eroded foothills and you may also be lucky enough to spot your first Lammergeiers and Gelada Baboons of the trip.
Overnight at Simien Lodge or similar

Day 4 - Simien Mountains National Park
Depart the Lodge with a picnic lunch for Chenek where it’s possible to spot another endemic mammal- the Walia Ibex. The landscape in this area is remarkably picturesque with panoramic vistas overlooking the deep gorges of the escarpment. We will also be able to spot troops of Gelada baboons. If lucky, we may be able to spot the endemic Ethiopian Wolf. Late afternoon, drive back to Gondar and overnight.
Overnight stay at Goha Hotel or similar

Day 5 - Drive to Bahir Dar
Today drive to the beautiful city of Bahir Dar and check in to our hotel. Take a rest before the tour proceeds to the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tissisat (smoking waterfall): 100 m (328 ft) wide, the water plunges for 45m, giving rise to steam clouds and rainbows. Early in the afternoon drive back to Bahir Dar and finish the day with a lovely sunset over Lake Tana.
Overnight Stay at Jacaranda Hotel or Similar

Day 6 - Bahir Dar and Lake Tana
Take a boat trip on Lake Tana. On Lake Tana, there are 37 islands and 32 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural interest. We will visit the monastery church of Ura Kidane Mihret, which is the best known of the monasteries and has an important collection of religious icons from the 16th to 18th centuries A.D. In the afternoon, we explore the beautiful city of Bahir Dar including the Fish Market, which is a one-table fish market in the mud-hut deacon’s village behind St George’s Church. The catch is brought in by Tankwa in the morning and pelicans come to feed on the scraps in the afternoon. Then proceed to visit the Palace of Haile Selassie.
Overnight Stay at Jacaranda Hotel or similar

Day 7 - Lalibela
It is a long but beautiful road that will take you to possibly the highlight of your trip, Lalibela. You will have a chance to stretch your legs and see some of the small villages we pass on the way. Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage, is a mystical wonderland of rock-hewn churches, carved meticulously from solid stone, a testament to human ingenuity and devotion.
Overnight stay at Maribela Hotel or similar

Day 8 - The Rock-hewn churches
Lalibela is a small town in the Lasta mountains which is world-famous for its unique rock churches. It is named after King Lalibela, who built numerous religious buildings here. In Lalibela, visitors are transported into a spiritual realm as they explore the impressive cluster of 11 monolithic churches. Marvel at the intricate architecture, intricate carvings, and underground passageways that connect these holy sites, all crafted with unwavering faith and remarkable craftsmanship.
Overnight stay at Maribela Hotel or similar

Day 9 - Yemrehanna Kristos Church
Today, you leave Lalibela and have a drive to Yemrehanna Kristos 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. Nestled in the Ethiopian highlands near Lalibela, Yemrehanna Kristos Church is a hidden gem of medieval architecture. This ancient marvel boasts beautifully preserved frescoes, intricately carved wooden ceilings, and the unique blend of Aksumite and Zagwe architectural styles. In the afternoon, we drive back to Lalibela for lunch. 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 Maribela Hotel or similar

Day 10 – Trek to Asheton Maryam Monastery
After breakfast early in the morning, you will start a trek to Asheten Mariam. This is a 13th C. rock-hewn monastery found about 8km from Lalibela lying at an altitude of almost 4,000m. It is carved out of a cleft in the cliff face and is still in active use, with a priest living there full time to welcome worshippers and visitors. There are many sacred items found at Asheton Maryam, including crosses and a Bible illustrated with colourful, intricate drawings, presented by the priest for visitors to see. As the hike can be challenging at times it is possible to do a part of the journey by mule, if preferred. Late in the afternoon, you will go back to Lalibela and spend the night at the Hotel.
Overnight stay at Maribela Hotel or similar

Day 11 – Return to Addis Ababa and onto Hawassa
Our flight departs Lalibela around midday and arrives in the mid-afternoon in Addis Ababa. We will then continue to the south of the country to Hawassa. This is the capital of the southern region and lies on the shores of Lake Hawassa. The lake offers ideal conditions for bird watching and is home to one of the biggest population of hippos in the country.
Overnight stay at Haile Resort or similar

Day 12 - Hawassa
We start the morning at the daily fresh fish market on the shores of Lake Hawassa. This market will be a truly local experience as you observe people enjoying different varieties of fish including the Ethiopian version of “Sushi”. You will also be able to spot several aquatic birds. In the afternoon, we travel to Wondo Genet, a recreational centre built for the royal family members of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Here you will take a bath in a natural thermal before we find a place to relax and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
Overnight stay at Haile Resort or similar

Day 13 - Arba Minch
Our Ultimate Ethiopia tour continues as we drive to Arba Minch. On the way, make a stop in the villages of the Dorze, about a one hour drive from Arba Minch up a mountainous road. It is known for cotton weaving and bamboo-woven huts. Dorze people are a small Omotic-speaking ethnic group and you will find them very warm and welcoming. We then continue to Arba Minch, the capital of the ancient Gamu-Gofa province.
Overnight stay at Haile Resort or similar

Day 14 - Lake Chamo and NechiSar National Park
In the morning you may get the chance to view the crocodiles, hippos and a variety of waterfowl during a boat tour of nearby Lake Chamo. We then continue the tour to the region of Konso. In the afternoon you will visit a typical Konso village. The Konso people are well known for their distinctive religious and cultural traditions including their unique funerary rituals involving elaborate music and dance. Konso culture is also famous for its carved wood statues called wagas, which memorialize important people in the community.
Overnight stay at Eco Omo Lodge or similar

Day 15 - Mago Park and the Mursi Tribe
Today we drive to Mago National Park to visit the Mursi people in their village. The Mursi are well known for the large clay discs their women wear inserted in their lower split lip. The Mursi women start cutting their lips between the age of 12 and 16 and thereafter, they put small wooden plugs into the hole and change it every night with the bigger one to stretch the lips till it can hold a 6 inch (15cm) round clay disc. The Mursi men wear very little, although a cotton wrap is becoming more common now. After our visit, we will drive to Turmi and spend the night.
Overnight stay at Buska Lodge or similar

Day 16 - Omorate
Enjoy breakfast before we set off and cross the Omo River to visit the Dassanech tribe. This is the most southerly of the tribes who live in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. The Dassanech are made up of eight roughly co-residential territorial groups/clans which conduct many rituals together. Each clan has its own identity and customs, its own responsibilities towards the rest of the tribe, and is linked to a particular territory. The largest clan is the Galbur, or Water and Crocodile clan. The Dassanech believe its members have the power over both water and crocodiles. In the afternoon, the tour continues to visit the Hammer people. The Hamer are a renowned tribe of the Omo Valley, particularly for their women’s striking hairstyles and they are known as having the friendliest nature among the people in Ethiopia.
Overnight stay at Buska Lodge or similar

Day 17 – Return to Arba Minch
The Ultimate Ethiopia tour now heads back to Arba Minch via Key Afar and Konso. Thursday is market day in Key Afar, and if we are there then, you will see the Benna and Tsemai tribes trading goods. We will spend time in Key Afar before continuing the drive to Arba Minch.
Overnight stay at Haile Resort or similar

Day 18 - Addis and departure
The tour returns to Addis Ababa this afternoon. Based on your interests and international departure times, we can arrange a quick shopping session in the capital. The tour ends with a drop off at Bole International Airport for your flight.

Get in touch with Our Local Tour to book the Ultimate Ethiopia Tour

Departure Dates 

18th February 2024 to 6th March 2024
10th November 2024 to 27th November 2024

£4995 per person (based on two people sharing)
Single Supplement

Included in the Ultimate Ethiopia Tour

  • 17 nights accommodation as described throughout the tour on B&B basis
  • Internal flights as mentioned if flying internationally with Ethiopian Airlines. If not, then there is a USD$194 surcharge
  • Professional English Speaking Wildlife and birding guide
  • Transportation in a fully air-conditioned vehicle for the duration of your tour, vehicle type will depend on the group size and all our vehicles are comprehensively insured and in excellent condition. Minibus (4-7 peeople) and Coaster Bus (8-12 people)
  • Local Guide and Scout fees
  • Entrance fees - All entrance and excursion fees detailed in your itinerary are included in the tour price. Boat trip at Lake Tana and Chamo

Not Included in the Ultimate Ethiopia Tour

  • International travel to the start and end point - contact us for information and flight options. There is a USD$194 surcharge per person if not travelling on Ethiopian Airlines internationally.
  • Any airport taxes
  • Travel Insurance
  • Any visa requirements
  • Alcoholic Drinks and Drinks not mentioned
  • Any Photography and Video fees;
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips for drivers and guides

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
Passport validity
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 Ultimate 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.

Internet Availability
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.

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