Ethiopia general information and map
Capital: Addis Ababa
Getting there: Flights from London Heathrow are approximately 7 hours. We recommend Ethiopian Airlines, as domestic flights are inexpensive if you have booked your international flights with them.
Time: GMT plus three hours
Weather: There is no winter or summer as Ethiopia is close to the Equator. Because the altitude is an average of 2000 m above sea level, the heat is not oppressive, evenings cool, and there are few mosquitoes. There are two rainy seasons, a short one in April, and a long one from mid-June to mid-September.
Why Ethiopia: Ethiopia is a country of diverse and striking beauty, with a fascinating and turbulent history moulded by the influences of Christianity. Wild and Exotic recommends that a trip to Ethiopia includes awe-inspiring cultural tours discovering beautiful buildings, and understanding a way of life of the friendly Ethiopians, together with the more physical treks, to inhale the breathtaking landscape and witness the rural community. Sometimes the two are combined, with a hike, and even a climb, to see ancient mountain-top churches.
Gondar lies at the edge of the Simien mountains and is home to some fascinating architecture, including the Royal Enclosur and the beautiful church of Debre Birhan Selassie. A short flight away, Lalibela is home to 11 world famous monolithic rock hewn churches that date from the 12th century and endure as an extraordinary feat of engineering and is the single most impressive site in Ethiopia. Queen Sheba used the ancient city of Axum in the far north of Ethiopia as her capital in the 10th century BC, and the city of Axum is famous for its obelisks as well as for being the final resting place of the Arc of the Covenant. Wild and Exotic highly recommends a trek through the beautiful and rugged scenery of Tigray province, staying at simple but spectacularly located lodges run by the local community. There is one church here, Abuna Yemata Goh, which has a particularly steep climb, a section of which must be climbed bare foot using natural hand holes. The drop off is stomach churning: a challenging visit that is not for the faint hearted. We also advise you to travel south to the Bale Mountains National Park where it is well worth the drive for the wildlife rich experience: home to rare endemic species such as Nyala antelope, and Menelik’s bushbuck and the endangered Ethiopia wolf. Addis Ababa is an impressive African capital with the buzz of a strong expat presence, and a cosmopolitan feel.
Visas: A valid passport is required for visits to Ethiopia. Visas can be purchased for US$50 on arrival in Addis Ababa. If applying for a tourist visa on arrival, visitors will require two passport photographs and at least US$ 50 in cash. Application takes approximately 30 minutes. Alternatively, ivsas can be obtained prior to departure by contacting the Ethiopian Embassy in London www.ethiopia.embassyhomepage.com.
Wild and Exotic Ethiopia sample itinerary
Ethiopia is a country of diverse and striking beauty, with a fascinating and turbulent history moulded by the influences of Christianity. On Wild and Exotic’s best of Ethiopia itinerary guests will gain a real insight into this fascinating country, starting the source of the Blue Nile at Lake Tana before continuing to the northern cities of Gondar, Lalibela and Axum. Gondar lies at the edge of the Simien mountains and is home to some fascinating architecture, including the Quesquam enclosure, the beautiful church of Debre Birhan Sellassie and the Qusqam Monastery. A short flight away, Lalibela is home to 11 world famous monolithic rock hewn churches that date from the 12th century and endure as the single most impressive site in Ethiopia. Queen Sheba used the ancient city of Axum in the far north of Ethiopia as her capital in the 10th century BC, and the city is Axum is famous for its obelisks as well as for being the final resting place of the Arc of the Covenant.
The itinerary also includes a trek through the beautiful and rugged scenery of Tigray province, staying at simple but spectacularly located lodges run by the local community. The grand finale of this carefully researched itinerary is a long but rewarding drive south for the wildlife rich experience that is Bale Mountains National park, home to rare endemic species such as Nyala antelope, Semien fox, and Menelik’s bushbuck and the endangered Ethiopia wolf. On the way back from Bale Mountains you will stay at a beautiful private lodge on the shores of Lake Langano before continuing to Addis Ababa the following morning.
Day 1: On arrival into Addis Ababa early in the morning you will be met and transferred to a nearby café for breakfast and a freshen up, returning to the airport in time to check-in to your one hour flight to Bahir Dar. On arrival at Bahir Dar you will be met by a local guide and taken on a boat trip to visit the monasteries of Ura Kidane Mehret on the Zege Peninsular of Lake Tana. On the trip you are likely to see pelicans and papyrus canoes of the kind found on the Nile and Lake Titicaca in South America. Sellers of trinkets line the path of the short island walk , and monkeys will be frolicking in the trees. On the return leg the boat passes the point at which the Blue Nile flows out of the lake, an area frequented by herons, king fishers and ibis and sometimes hippos. Overnight Kuriftu Lodge.
Day 2: In Bahir Dar there is an interesting market, where all kinds of agricultural produce can be seen in the morning. Today you will drive to Gondar which takes between two to three hours. We recommend that you go via the Blue Nile Falls at Tis Abay (approx an hour from Bahir). The falls used to be impressive but now due to hydro electric projects it can be disappointing in the drier months, although the flow can be spectacular in September and October. The approach to Gondar will take you past some new developments such as the Dashen brewery, and the University dodging the donkeys, horses and carts, goats, and ‘tuk-tuk’ which fill the roads. Reaching the older part of town, you will be taken up past the Piazza where you will recognise an art deco feel – a legacy of the Italian occupation in the 1930s. You will arrive in Gondar in time for dinner. You might like to visit a night club and witness (and even participate in) the local Amhara shoulder dance – a unique jig that is an adaption of their expressive hand shake. Overnight Gohar Hotel in Gondar, which enjoys impressive views of the city.
Day 3: Your guide will meet you after breakfast for a private and personal tour of the sites in this remarkable city. Gondar is dominated by old palaces from the Imperial time dating back to the 16th century. Each reigning Emperor throughout the the Gondarine dynasty built their own palace and dwellings within the walls of the Royal Enclosure, which reflect their different personalities. The original palace was the Fasilidas’ Castle, but each one reflects the nature of the reigning Emporer: for example, the Emporer Johannes was famous in the 17th Century for creating strict laws against cruelty to chickens or donkeys; another suffered from syphilis and thought the construction of an elaborate sauna in 18th century would ease his complaint. There are also cages where lions were kept and admired as a symbol of the lion of Judah, representing Jesus, up until 1975. Imperial developments of Gondar lead to the establishment of many churches. The most famous is Debre Berhan Selassie (Selassie meaning Trinity), which has colourful murals all around its walls and angels painted across the ceiling. The Ceremonial Baths were built in similar style by the first and perhaps greatest of the Gondarine Emperors, Fasilidas, in his desire to bathe in sacred water. The 50 metre long swimming pool is still used, and if your visit coincides with the annual ceremony on January 18th, you will witness the colourful and dramatic spectacle of the blessing of the water. Thousands of people follow the Priest from the town centre to participate in the ceremony, and watch the Priest launch the blessed candle out into the middle of the pool. On his word, the crowds of all ages are free to strip off, dive in and race towards the candle – as the first one to reach it will be blessed for the year! Overnight Gohar Hotel in Gondar.
Day 4: You will be up early for your transfer to Gondar airport in time to check-in to your 30 minute flight to holy city of Lalibela. On arrival, you will be met by your local guide and taken to visit the world famous rock hewn churches. There are eleven monolithic rock-cut churches, which are a significant feat of engineering. There are various theories of their construction with a colourful mix of fact and legend, but it is generally believed that they were built by King Lalibela in the 12th century – some think with the aid of the Knights Templar, and the most religious believe that he chiselled away single-handedly, with the nocturnal help of the angels! Having been to Jerusalem, King Lalibela decided to build the churches at Lalibela to create Ethiopia’s own Jerusalem, which is a pilgrimage for much of the country each Christmas. The enormity of these constructions, and the endless questions of engineering are enthrallingly baffling. Lunch can be taken at the fabulous local restaurant Ben Abeba. The modern futuristic building enjoys the breathtaking views, and the food is so good that the restaurant has recently been voted the best restaurant in Ethiopia in Tripadvisor. Overnight Tukul village.
Day 5: You will be transferred to Lalibela airport in time to check-in to your 40 minute flight to Axum. On arrival you will be met by your local guide and taken to visit the Axum sites. Axum is recognised as Ethiopia’s most holy place as it is the final resting place of the Arc of Covenant, which is housed in a closed modern chapel to which no one is permitted entry. There are many archaeological sites in Axum, but the archaeological park at the centre of town with the Stella is the best known, with the huge Stellae erected in the 4th century. In addition to the standing giant obelisks (which were built to commemorate the death of a king), there is a fallen one, which gives the visitor an idea of the enormous size of these megaliths. It is said that the fall of this obelisk led to the end of the pagan beliefs in Axum and the uptake of Christianity. One of the obelisks was cut down and stolen by the Italians, however it has since been returned and re-erected in its original place. There is a hollow tomb in the archaeological park that has been excavated that is particularly intriguing as it does not have any sign of how it has been opened or closed – on tapping the stone you realise it is most definitely hollow. You might also like to see the Queen of Sheba’s swimming pool which is estimated to be around a thousand years old. After your lunch you will be driven to Rahya, approximately two hours from Axum, from where you will start your 90 minute trek to Erar Community Guest house. Overnight at the guest house where you will be fed home cooked local produce made by women from the local community.
Day 6: Today you will trek a comfortable five hours, enjoying the most spectacular views of the Tigray region You will trek through increasingly dramatic and spectacular scenery. Your paths will pass through cultivated land, small holdings, small villages, white churches, and in and out of steep sandy gullies festooned with a variety of impressive cactus plants over-looked by towering cliffs and jagged escarpments. It will be a most invigorating walk, through inspiring countryside, and you will be welcomed at Shibreti lodge, another community guest house, which stands 2500m above sea level. Overnight Shibreti.
Day 7: After a hearty breakfast, enjoying local honey and home-baked bread, you will set off for your short 90 minute walk to your collection point, to meet your driver who will transfer you to Gheralta Lodge (approximately 90 minutes) in time for lunch. In the afternoon you can discuss with your guide what you would like to do. There are several easily accessible churches, and there are also three more challenging routes which take about four hours along steep terrain, as the churches are built at the top of high mountains in the endeavour to be closer to God. There is one church, Abuna Yemata Goh, which has a particularly steep climb, a section of which must be climbed bare foot using natural hand holes. The church is really a beautifully decorated cave reached by creeping along a narrow ledge with a sheer drop of several hundred feet below. The drop off is stomach churning! A challenging visit but not for the faint hearted. Overnight at the very comfortable Gheralta Lodge.
Day 8: This morning you can chose whether to relax at the lodge or visit more local churches before leaving around midday for your transfer to Mekele airport for the mid afternoon flight to Addis Ababa. We recommend that you drive via the oldest church in Ethiopia which is dramatically built into the side of a rock. The drive takes between two and three hours. Overnight in the Capital Hotel in Addis Ababa
Day 9: Today you will either be transferred to Addis Ababa Bole airport for your return flight, or you will continue your trip to the south where the experience is more nature and wildlife orientated. The journey to Bale Mountain Lodge takes 9 hours by car, and can include a break for lunch and a swim at Sabena Lodge beside Lake Langano. After you have left the dusty plains behind wildlife such as antelope, bush buck and wart hog begin to appear and there is a very good chance of spotting the rare Ethiopian wolf when crossing the high plateau of rare Afro Alpine terrain at some 4000 metres above sea level. The lodge, which lies at 2800 metres, overlooks a tinkling mountain stream and is beautifully located amongst exuberant rain forest with superb views. The rooms lie either side of a track that winds through foliage that is home to a rich and colourful array of birdlife. Overnight Bale Mountain Lodge.
Day 10: Today you will enjoy an abundance of incredible bird and wild life in this stunning scenery. You will walk with a knowledgeable guide to see the endemic mountain nyala, Meneliks bush buck, baboons, wart hogs and it is an area favoured by rare Ethiopian wolves. You might also be lucky enough to see leopard or black mained lion, both of which have been seen and photographed close by. If you would like to fish for rainbow trout in beautiful mountainous rivers, this can be arranged by Wild and Exotic beforehand. Overnight Bale Mountain Lodge.
Day 11: This morning you will be transferred to Bisingari Lodge beside Lake Langano, the journey takes approximately 5 hours. Bisingari lies at the end of a long sand track beside the lake with secluded bandas located on the edge of acacia forest. This area is a paradise for bird watching as there is both forest and marsh habitat to attract a wide range of species. Guest can also enjoy a swim or simply chill out in the sublime surroundings. Overnight Bisingari Lodge
Day 12: After lunch (or earlier depending on flight schedules) you will be transferred back to Addis Ababa in time for your flight home, or alternatively a stay at the Capital Hotel and flight home the following morning.
Notes: The quoted price will be inclusive of all activities described. Rates at hotel are usually bed and breakfast only and alcohol is not included. Services are in private with an English speaking guide throughout. The price does not include items of a personal nature, gratuities, and visa fees.
Please note that it is the responsibility of the client to ensure they obtain the correct visa either on arrival in Addis Ababa or prior to travel. A valid visa is required for this holiday, and information regarding visa applications to Ethiopia can be obtained by visiting the following website www.ethiopia.embassyhomepage.com
Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which is available on this website under the general info tab.
Bale Mountain Lodge Lovely. Great place, great birds, excellent guide. Gonder – our guide was amazing. Hotel good. Excellent time. Tukul Hotel great fun and excellent. The Christian Festival was fantastic! Very lucky to be there for Mary’s Birthday!! Capitol Hotel good for purpose and well located, and The Mandolin was really good. Loved the people and the country.
It was beyond all expectations and so safe! Quite beautiful and we very much hope it stays like that so we could go again. Thank you so much.