October 15, 2016: Arrive Addis Ababa

You will be met upon arrival at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport after clearing customs & immigration and collecting your luggage. We will transfer to the Radisson Blu Hotel for a restful night. Depending on individual arrival times, we may meet for a welcome cocktail as a group.

Radisson Blu

Overnight at The Radisson Blu Addis. Breakfast.

October 16: Arba Minch: Gateway to the Lower Omo Valley

Enjoy breakfast this morning as a group before we transfer to the airport for our flight to Arba Minch, the gateway to the Lower Omo Valley. On arrival in Arba Minch we will be met by our guides and Land Cruisers and begin our journey into the Valley. Our final destination is Turmi, but we will visit several tribes along the way – the Konso, Tsemai and Bena. Our private deluxe mobile camp awaits, complete with chef, staff and shower/toilet tents. All meals, wine and beer.

Deluxe Mobile Camping

Overnight in our private Deluxe Mobile Camp. All meals, wine and beer.

October 17 & 18: Omorate and Murelle

After breakfast and coffee, we head out to explore more of the Omo Valley and the Omorate area where we meet the Geleb/Dassenech people who live on the banks of Omo River. The Gelebs trace their origins from Sudan and Turkana tribes from the south. They are the second most populous tribe of the South Omo tribes and practice the unique method of river flood agriculture annually. Throughout our visits, we will learn about the lives of women in these tribes and what it means to be a woman in the Lower Omo Valley. We recommend bringing some inexpensive, simple beaded jewelry from home that we can trade with the local women. At the end of our excursion we return to our private camp to reflect on our day over a delicious dinner and drinks. On our second day in the Lower Omo Valley, we venture to Murelle where we meet the regal Karo people. The Karo are known for their splendid body decoration and use of ceremonial white chalk paint on their faces and bodies. The women practice scarification for beauty and the mens’ scars represent killing an enemy or dangerous animal. We continue deeper into the Valley to visit the Nyangatom people, 17 kms from the Murelle area. To adorn their long and lean bodies, the Nyangatom women wear numerous stacked necklaces and a long goatskin skirts that are richly decorated. We will interact and learn about the practices of the Nyangatom ladies before returning to our camp for dinner and overnight.

Deluxe Mobile Camp

Overnight in our private Deluxe Mobile Camp. All meals, wine and beer.

October 19: Return to Addis

After an early breakfast and coffee, we return by road to Arba Minch for our flight to Addis Ababa. On arrival we will transfer to the Radisson Blu Hotel to rest and relax. Time may allow for a spa treatment (on your own account) in the beautiful day spa at the Radisson. The spa is owned and operated by one of Ethiopia’s foremost women entrepreneurs and a massage might be the perfect thing to relax from the Lower Omo Valley roads! Dinner is independent tonight and you may find room service (on own account) is the best choice after a long day of traveling.

Radisson Blu Addis.

Overnight at The Radisson Blu Addis. Breakfast, lunch.

October 20 & 21: Gheralta, Tigray

We rise early for breakfast and to begin the next fascinating leg of our adventure. Heading to the far north of Ethiopia, the terrain changes dramatically and the history comes to life. We fly to Mekelle and drive on 4x4 roads to Hawzien, visiting the areas semi rock-hewn churches en route. First we explore the famous church of Wukro Cherkos (4th C), then continue to Abraha Atsbeh, a church that dates to 4th C and was built by the Axumite king Abrah. Its interior is elaborately painted illustrating Biblical tales and Ethiopian religious lore. We arrive in Hawzien at the quaint and comfortable Gheralta Lodge for dinner and overnight. On our second day in Gheralta Today we have two options for touring depending on the level of activity you are interested in. Active Option: This day you will visit Mariam Korkor church found on the top of a mountain and to reach there you will be trekking for one hour one way. This beautiful rock hewn church dates back to 4th C with painted interior. There are graves of saints and significant priests in the barrier chambers curved on the interior wall. Continue your visit to Abune Yemata Guh rock church with elaborate paintings of the nine saints on the ceiling. Sightseeing Option: This day you will drive to the nearby Sinkata and the small village of Inda Teka Tesfay. A 10 minute drive across the fields brings us to a beautiful and historic church on the cliff-side of the Escarpment (2740 meters above sea level). We next visit Medhane Alem (Holy Savior of the World) and Adikesho, a rock-hewn church (20-min walk), near a steep rock wall in which one can see potholes that the local people believe to be the footprints of Saint George and his horse. Finally we visit Mikael Milhazengi, a church dedicated to Saint Mikael. The church is carved out of an isolated round hill that lies 2760 meters above sea level. The church is famous for its beautifully decorated dome. After a full and exciting day exploring the area, we return to the comfortable Gheralta Lodge for dinner and overnight.

Gheralta Lodge

Overnights at Gheralta Lodge. All meals.

October 22: Drive Hawzien to Axum

Today we experience the true, remote countryside of Northern Ethiopia as we journey through Tigray to Axum by road. En route we visit Yeha, a 5th century temple that is the oldest known standing building in Ethiopia. After we arrive in Axum and have lunch, we head out to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site including the obelisks in the Stele Park – the tallest obelisk was 108 feet tall when standing and the tallest one still standing is 75 feet, still a sight to behold! A visit to the St. Mary’s Church and the Sanctuary Temple (the purported home of the Ark of the Covenant) and Queen Sheba’s ruins follows. We will learn about the magic and mystery of this ancient capital and hear the lore that has helped form modern-day Ethiopia. Overnight at the simple, but adequate Sabean Hotel in the town of Axum.

Sabean Hotel

Overnight Sabean Hotel. All meals.

October 23 & 24: Lalibela

After an early breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Lalibela. This special town is the jewel in the crown of Ethiopia, with its famous churches and the setting of many major religious ceremonies. The subterranean churches are ringed by trenches and courtyards and are arguably Ethiopian's top most attraction. They are connected to each other by a tangled maze of tunnels and passages. Among the churches we will visit, Bete Amanuel a 36-foot-high monolith is considered by art historians to be the finest and most precisely worked church in Lalibela, possibly because it was the private church of the royal family; Bete Markorios, a cave church originally used for secular purposes and is thought to be around 1,400 years old, and Bete Giorgis, the most majestic and best preserved of all Lalibela's churches. This evening we attend a coffee ceremony and traditional cooking class – try your hand at making injera! On our second day in Lalibela, we visit Asheton Maryam monastery sitting on a mountain high above Lalibela town. Return to Lalibela for time to explore, shop or relax before a special dinner with an amazing view! Overnight at Tukul Village Hotel.

Tukul Village Hotel

Overnight atTukul Village Hotel. Breakfast, dinner both days.

October 25: Gondar, the medieval town

Fly to Gondar, a town founded in 1636 by the great Emperor Fassiladas. Set in a landscape of incomparable beauty, it was the Royal Capital of Ethiopia. Visit the castles and churches built by Emperor Fassiladas and his descendants. Later, we’ll visit the fascinating Debre Birhan Selassie Church - its walls and ceilings decorated with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history. This is one of the few churches remaining that shows the traditional painting style, all others were destroyed by the Dervishes who raided Ethiopia from Sudan. We will also visit a local women’s craft co-op and learn about traditional craft-making methods and how the center empowers disadvantaged women to become self-sustaining. Overnight Taye Belay Hotel.

Taye Belay Hotel

Overnight Taye Belay Hotel. All meals.

October 26 & 27: Bahir Dar, Lake Tana

Today our drive is short and scenic; we depart the highlands and make our way to the tropical town of Bahir Dar. After breakfast we depart for the lakeside town – a clean, bustling and welcoming town filled with lakeside resorts, day spas and beautiful vistas. This area isn’t only about to is boat cruises, spa treatments and boutique resorts, it is also an important historical hub for Ethiopia. The island monasteries on Lake Tana were rumored to house the Ark of the Covenant while it was in “hiding” during years of unrest in Ethiopia. Additionally, these island monasteries are well-preserved sanctuaries for Ethiopia’s religious culture and art. Before we reach our hotel for the night, we will visit Awra Amba village, founded by Zumra Nuru, who currently serves as the co-chairman of the community along with 19 other people who share his vision. With over 400 members, the community is lauded as a model to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality in a country where women are generally subservient to men. The community members are diligent, disciplined and self-confident. Women and men have equal rights and there is no distinction in divisions of labor between men and women, nor does the community practice defined religion. Great pride is seen in keeping their houses and surroundings clean and theft is looked upon as highly offensive. We will learn more about this community and interact with the residents before continuing to Bahir Dar for a relaxing dinner and drinks by the lake. On our second day at Lake Tana, we’ll explore all of Bahir Dar’s gems! Our private boat will journey across this massive lake (keep your eye out for the traditional reed boats still in use on these waters) and take us to the island monastery of Ura Kidane Meheret, and with luck we will witness religious ceremonies taking place in this unique circular temple – the vibrant paintings of cherubs smiling down on us. After a relaxing cruise across the lake, we return to our resort. This afternoon, enjoy a spa treatment inside the Kuriftu Resort & Spa’s cave-like treatment rooms – the epitome of relaxation after long days touring Ethiopia. We end our day with a special surprise…we are shifting gears tomorrow and hitting the “Big City,” so we should be sure to enjoy the peaceful lake setting and reflect on our adventures in the highlands.

Kuriftu Resort & Spa

Overnights at the Kuriftu Resort & Spa. All meals; breakfast, lunch.

October 28 & 29: Addis Ababa and depart

Enjoy our last morning on Lake Tana. Be sure to take a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee on the lakeshore before our early flight to Addis Ababa. On arrival in Addis we are met and transferred to our hotel. This afternoon, as time allows, we visit two examples of successful women’s entrepreneurship in Ethiopia. First we visit the Muya Art Gallery, followed by Orbit Ethiopia. Please try to understand that we are entering big-city Africa and we have traded donkey-cart for donkey-cart and city bus. Traffic in Addis is hectic and going a short distance takes a long time, but, it all pays off. These last days in Addis are ideal for shopping for special mementos and gifts from our travels, learning about women in contemporary Ethiopia and inspiring them to continue in their endeavors – they love meeting international travelers and are keen to learn about our way of life and interests. Our interactions help shape their products and goals. After touring and shopping, we will return to our hotel to freshen up before a very special dinner. On our last day in Addis, we’ll sleep in a bit, and then enjoy breakfast before visiting the highlights if this fascinating city. We begin our city tour with the National Museum that houses the 3.4 million years old fossils of ‘Lucy’ (perhaps our earliest ancestor) among other interesting archeological findings (note that sometimes Lucy is on tour and isn’t available for viewing, but there is a great replica accessible at all times). From there, we head to the Trinity Cathedral, the largest and most revered of all the churches in Addis, it was built in 1941 and is used daily. We will walk its circumference and duck quietly inside its walls. To wrap up, we'll drive through the largest open-air market in Africa (closed on Sundays). This evening we transfer to Bole International Airport for our departure home. What an adventure!

Radisson Blu Addis

Overnight October 28 at the Radisson Blu Addis. Breakfast, dinner; Breakfast, lunch.
Rates - October 15-29, 2016
Dates Per Person Double Single Supplement
5 Travelers $7295 $734
6 Travelers $6950 $734
7 Travelers $6795 $734
8 Travelers $6395 $734
Internal flights on Ethiopian Airlines additional cost, estimated at $440
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