28 Days – North, East & South Historical Route, Harar, Omo Valley
28 Days – North, East & South Historical Route, Harar, Omo Valley
Early in the morning, depart north to Bahir Dar via Debre Markos. On the way visit the Portuguese bridge, said to have been the first bridge in Ethiopia. Afterwards, you will pass through the spectacular Blue Nile Gorge. The gorge extends nearly 400km and reaches depths up to 1500m. Overnight in Bahir Dar.
In the morning, take a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit a selection of the monasteries hidden on the islands and shores of this sacred lake. Visit the Zege Penninsula and the monasteries of Azuwa Maryam and Ura Kidane Mehret and the island monastery of Debre Maryam near the outlet of the Blue Nile River. In the afternoon, drive out to the Blue Nile Falls for a short hike in the area. Finish the day with the sunset over the lake. Overnight in Bahir Dar.
After breakfast, continue north to Gondar. The four-hour drive will take you through rural villages, offering wonderful insight into the Amhara culture. After briefly settling in your hotel, explore the sites of Gondar, including a visit to the Royal Enclosure, with six castles and several other buildings. Additionally, visit Fasilidas’s Pool, still used for Timket celebrations today, Ras Gimb Palace Museum and the Debre Birhan Selassie church, with the most famous ceiling in Ethiopia. Overnight in Gondar.
Today is an early morning departure to Sankober in the Simien Mountains. We will drop you near to Buyit Ras for a 3-4 hour hike to Sankober, which passes close to the escarpment edge. Nearing Sankober, you will have beautiful views on both sides of the escarpment ridge and where you will likely see the endemic Gelada baboons, also known as the ‘bleeding heart baboon’ due to the red patch of skin on its chest. Overnight in the Simien Mountains (Simien Lodge) or in Debark .
After breakfast, depart north for Axum, enjoying spectacular views of the Simien Mountains. After stopping for lunch in Adi Arkay, proceed driving through the dramatic Tekeze Valley, offering some of the best landscapes in the country. Proceed to Axum, home of the ancient Axumite Empire, the Queen of Sheba, and the Ark of the Covenant. Overnight in Axum.
Today will be a full day visiting the sites of Axum, including the famous obelisks (one that was recently erected after being returned from Italy) and the archeological museum, the Queen of Sheba’s Bath (which supplies water to Axum year-round), Ezana’s enscription, King Kaleb’s tomb, King Bazen’s tomb, and the Queen of Sheba’s Palace. You can also visit the St. Mary of Zion church, where the Ark of the Covenant is kept. Men only are allowed to enter the old church. Unfortunately, no one (except one specially chosen guardian monk) is allowed to enter the chapel where the Ark is kept. Overnight in Axum at Brana Hotel/Remhai Hotel/Africa Hotel.
After breakfast, drive to visit the ruins of Yeha, dating from the 8th to 5th centuries BC, and thought to be the capital of Ethiopian civilization before Axum. Afterwards, visit the Debre Damo monastery, where the men (sorry! No women allowed.) must climb up a 15-m rope to enter. Proceed through the state of Tigray, stopping en-route for a visit to the rock-hewn church of Medhane Alem Adi Kesho. Overnight in Hawsein at Gheralta Lodge/Tourist Hotel.
In the morning, visit either Abuna Yemata Guh or Maryam Korkor. Both churches involve an approximate one-hour hike but offer commanding views of the surrounding area. After lunch, continue your visit with the more easily-accessible churches of Abreha we Atsbeha and Chirkos. Afterwards, proceed driving to Mekele for overnight at Axum Hotel/Hilltop Hotel.
Early in the morning, embark on a full day of driving to Lalibela. Here you will pass through several small villages, with typical sandstone homes of the Tigray people. Proceed through this rural area for the stunning approach to the home of Ethiopia’s most prized destination – Lalibela. Overnight in Lalibela at Mountain View Hotel/Lal Hotel/Alief Paradise Hotel.
In the morning, start your tour of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, visiting the Northwestern Cluster of churches - Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, Bet Mikael & Bet Golgotha (entry not permitted for women). After lunch, continue with the Southeastern Cluster of churches – Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanual, and Bet Abba Libanos. 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 in Lalibela at Mountain View Hotel/Lal Hotel/Alief Paradise Hotel.
After breakfast, visit the nearby monastery of Na’akuto La’ab, set on the side of a cliff. After the visit, proceed driving to Kombolcha via Woldia. On the way you will stop for a rest in Hayk where you can enjoy the views of this stunning lake, visit the local monastery (open for men only) and enjoy the birdlife. Overnight in Kombolcha at Sunnyside Hotel/Tekle Hotel.
In the morning, continue driving to Bilen via Bati. (If this day is a Monday, you can visit the Monday camel market in Bati.) You will also pass through the Yangudi-Rassa National Park, home to the rare wild African ass. Overnight on the edge of the Awash National Park at Bilen Lodge.
After breakfast, continue east to Harar. The remainder of the day is for discovering the treasures hidden in the narrow alleyways of the walled city of Harar, with its colorful markets, countless mosques and shrines and unique Harari people and homes. Sites to visit include: the House of Rimbaud, Ras Tafari’s House, Ras Mekonnen’s Palace, the Harari National Cultural Center, and the tomb of Emir Nur, who built the famous Jugol, as the wall is known locally. At night you will visit the hyena man, who feeds the hyenas every night just outside the walls of the city. This tradition was started long ago to prevent these wild hyenas from hunting for food in the town. Guests are welcome, and encouraged, to feed the hyenas themselves. Overnight in Harar at Heritage Plaza Hotel/Ras Hotel/Rewda Guesthouse.
In the morning, drive out to Babile and the Valley of Marvels. The Valley of Marvels has wonderful landscapes, famous for its balancing rock formations. Additionally, the town of Babile has a very large market on Saturdays and a camel market on Mondays and Thursdays. Afterwards, return to Harar to visit any remaining sites in the city. Overnight in Harar at Heritage Plaza Hotel/Ras Hotel/Rewda Guesthouse.
After breakfast, depart from Harar to Awash National Park. In the afternoon you will take a game drive to visit the wonderful birdlife and wildlife, such as oryx, baboons, greater and lesser kudu, warthogs, gazelles, colubus monkeys. Additionally, you’d be very lucky to see leopards, lions, and other cats. The landscapes in the park are beautiful, looking over the Awash Gorge. Overnight in Awash National Park at Awash Falls Lodge/camping.
Early morning visit the park as it wakes up and wildlife is at its most active. After breakfast, depart from Awash, proceeding to Lake Langano. On the way you can stop in Sodere to take a shower in the therapeutic hot springs waters. Overnight at Lake Langano at Bishangari Lodge/Sabana Beach Resort/Wenney Ecolodge/Abule Bassumo Hotel.
After a morning swim in the lake, proceed driving to Dorze, set in the highlands above Arba Minch. The Dorze people are known for their tall beehive-like houses and their fine cotton weaving. You will visit the village and learn about the daily lives of these industrious people. If today is market day (in Dorze village on Monday and Thursday and in nearby Chencha on Tuesday and Saturday), that will be visited. Overnight in Dorze in traditional Dorze hut at Mekonnen Lodge (shared toilet facilities) or continue to Arba Minch for overnight at Paradise Lodge/Tourist Hotel/camping at Bekele Mola Hotel.
In the morning, visit the local market in Dorze (Monday and Thursday) or Chencha (Tuesday and Saturday). Afterwards, continue driving to Arba Minch. In the afternoon, take a boat trip on Lake Chamo to visit the “crocodile market”, and the local hippos. Overnight in Arba Minch at Paradise Lodge/Tourist Hotel/camping at Bekele Mola Hotel.
After breakfast, depart from Arba Minch to Turmi. On the way you will pass through the village of Weyto (market day Saturday), which is home to the Tsemai tribe. Continue through the Weyto Valley to Erbore, where you will have a brief visit to a local Erbore village (market day is Saturday). Finally, proceed to Turmi, home of the Hamer tribe. At night, you can see the traditional night dancing of the Hamer tribe, known as evangadi. Overnight in Turmi at Buska Lodge/Evangadi Lodge/camping at Keske Campsite.
In the morning, take a day trip to Omorate to visit the Dassenech tribe. Here you will cross the Omo River by local boat and enter a Dassenech village. Afterwards, return to Turmi (Monday is market day) for a visit to a local Hamer village. If there is Jumping of the Bulls traditional Hamer coming-of-age ceremony, that will be visited. Overnight in Turmi at Buska Lodge/Evangadi Lodge/camping at Keske Campsite.
Early morning depart from Turmi to the village of Kangatan. Here you will cross the Omo River and take a short walk through the local fields to visit a village of the Nyangatom tribe. After the visit, return across the river and proceed to the Karo village of Korcho, with a stunning location lookin over the Omo River. The Karo people, while the smallest tribe of the Omo Valley in number, are also known to be the most decorated. After the visit, return to Turmi for another opportunity to see Jumping of the Bulls. Overnight in Turmi at Buska Lodge/Evangadi Lodge/camping at Keske Campsite.
Depart for Jinka, via Dimeka and Key Afar. Tuesdays and Saturdays are market days in Dimeka, which is one of the most colorful markets in the area and is visited by many tribes, including Hamer, Benna and Karo. Afterwards, continue to Jinka. Overnight in Jinka at Eco Omo Lodge/Orit Hotel/Goh Hotel.
In the morning, drive through the Mago National Park to a local village of the Mursi tribe. The Mursi are known for their lower lip and earlobe plates. In the afternoon, after returning to Jinka, you can visit the South Omo Museum & Research Center to learn more about the local tribes. Alternatively, take a hike in the surrounding hills to visit a local Ari village. Overnight in Jinka at Eco Omo Lodge/Orit Hotel/Goh Hotel.
After breakfast, depart from Jinka to Konso, via Key Afar. Thursday is market day in Key Afar, where you will see the Benna and Tsemai tribes trading goods. This is another very popular market in the region. After the visit, proceed to Konso (market days are Mondays and Thursdays). Overnight in Konso at Kanta Lodge (tukul)/Kanta Lodge (standard room)/Strawberry Fields Ecolodge.
The Konso people are known for their wooden statues, known as wakas, which are erected in honor of dead heroes as well as their innovative agricultural terracing. Today you will have the opportunity to visit a local village and the cultural museum displaying many waka statues. Time permitting, you can also visit the “natural New York Village”, named after the tall sand formations resembling skyscrapers. After the visit, continue to Yabello. If there is time, visit the Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary for a chance to see zebras. Overnight in Yabello at Borena Lodge/Yabello Motel/Hawi Hotel.
Early in the morning, take an excursion south to visit El Sod, a village that is home to a crater lake with a large salt deposit called the House of Salt (chow bet). This is the land of the Borena people, a large nomadic ethnic group that extends deep into Kenya. After the visit, proceed driving to Yirgalem. Here you can enjoy an evening coffee ceremony while watching the hyenas in the surrounding forest. Overnight in Yirgalem at Aregash Lodge.
After breakfast, depart north to Addis Ababa. On the way, visit Abiatta-Shala National Park. Lake Shala is a very deep crater lake (over 260 meters deep!) and Lake Abiatta is a soda lake, which attracts thousands of flamingos.
End of Tour.
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