Ethiopian orthodox church at dawn, Addis Ababa

Ethiopia in Depth

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13 days
from
$4,495
incl. taxes
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Suitable for:
Age 16+
Activity level:
Leisurely / Moderate
Activity Rating - Leisurely/Moderate
Trip code: 
AYF
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailor Made Adventures
Activity:
Culture
Group size:
4–16
Min age:
16

Dive deep into Ethiopia's incredible culture and history.

In the northeast of Ethiopia is the little visited region of Tigrai. Over the centuries a series of churches of differing sizes and architectural styles were carved into cliff-faces and rocky-outcrops, many still in use today. Whilst following Ethiopia’s classic northern circuit through Lake Tana’s monasteries, Gondar’s castles, the Simien Mountains and Lalibela’s monolithic churches, we get off the beaten path and explore this beautiful region in the heart of Ethiopian history.

Highlights

  • Rock hewn churches of Tigrai and Lalibela
  • Castles of Gondar
  • Spectacular scenery in the Simien Mountains
  • Stelae of Axum
  • Monasteries on Lake Tana

Key information

  • 10 nights comfortable hotels, 2 nights basic hotel, most with en suite facilities
  • Travel by mini or coaster bus
  • Two internal flights
  • Off the beaten path in the Tigrai region
  • Countries visited: Ethiopia

What's included

  • All breakfasts
  • All accommodation (see below)
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
1 800 267 3347
Call for tailor made trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

Tourism can be a real help to local communities, providing income, positive cultural exchanges and a financial incentive to protect their natural environment. Ours is a 'total approach' to responsible tourism, covering everything from the way we plan and operate our trips to the practices of Exodus as a company. 

As much as possible, we try to use accommodations that are locally owned or at least employs local staff and uses local produce. Our small group size allows us to support smaller hotels and restaurants that do not usually benefit from mass tourism, bringing a positive impact to the overall employment levels and economy in the region.

There is plenty of culture to discover in Ethiopia and we include several cultural and historical sites on this itinerary such as the National Museum, Menelik’s Mausoleum and Holy Trinity Church- Ethiopia’s main cathedral. Our visit greatly contributes to the preservation of these important places.

In Gondor, we will stop by Kindu Trust, a local organisation who works with disadvantaged children, their families and communities by sponsoring children for education and also run numerous income generating projects. In their small store, they sell baskets, banana art and beads made from recycled magazines. Clients can purchase souvenirs made by the beneficiaries of the Trust, providing them a source of income. If time permits, the group may also have the chance to stop by a plowshare project in Gondar where local women get training and produce textile materials, pottery products and baskets for local markets.

In March 2019, Exodus Travels launched the Exodus Travels Foundation where we support initiatives all around the world. But it cannot exist without travellers who care. Get involved or learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus here

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Addis Ababa; city tour.

    Early morning arrival in Addis. Please note that if you are being picked up at the airport (either on the group transfer or private transfer) you will have to exit the terminal to find our representative with the Exodus board. You may see people with signs inside the terminal but they are generally people with special permission such as the UN, Government or hotels with desks inside the terminal. After a leisurely morning to relax we will spend the afternoon on a site-seeing tour of Addis Ababa. We will visit the National Museum which houses some of the country’s historic treasures. The collection of fossils and bones of early hominids discovered in Ethiopia include the 3.5 million year old remains of ‘Lucy’, the oldest hominid every found. We will also visit the Holy Trinity Church, Ethiopia’s main cathedral and home to the remains of the last emperor, Haile Selassie. Finally we will visit Menelik’s Mausoleum.
    Magnolia Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    Fly to Bahar Dar; free afternoon with option of Blue Nile Falls visit.

    Today we will take a spectacular flight to Bahar Dar. From the air we can gaze across the extraordinary nature of the Ethiopian Plateau, repeatedly cut by immensely deep gorges. Bahar Dar is a small but fast growing town on the southern shore of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. It has long attracted religious men and the area contains numerous churches and monasteries, many of them on the thirty or so islands of Lake Tana. The afternoon is free to enjoy the fantastic bird-watching around the lake or head into Bahar Dar itself and explore its local market. There is also the option of doing a half day excursion to the Blue Nile Falls (usually in the morning).
    Tana Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Discover Lake Tana's famous monestaries.

    We have a full day boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the monasteries of Narga Selassie & URA Kidane Mehret. We’ll travel by boat to visit some of the more remote monasteries and churches, most of which date back to the thirteenth century. The monasteries are fascinating and unlike any others outside Ethiopia, often decorated with bright mural painting. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all over the country. Local history says the Ark of the Covenant was kept on one of these islands when the city of Axum was under threat, and the remains of five emperors are to be found at Daga Istafanos.
    Tana Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Drive to Gondar; visit the castles, Fasilides' bathhouse and the church's ceiling.

    This morning we drive north to Gondar, the former capital of Ethiopia. Arriving in Gondar we will stop by the Kindu Trust, a local organisation which works with disadvantaged children, their families and communities.

    After lunch we will explore Gondar and visit the castles, which were built in the 17th and 18th century by several generations of Ethiopian kings. Nearby is Debre Birhan Selassie church with its sensational angelic ceiling, and the bathhouse of Fasilides where thousands of Ethiopians celebrate Timkat festival every January. Our hotel is up on a cliff top with wonderful views looking over the town.
    Goha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Drive to Simien Mountains; afternoon hike along the plateau.

    After breakfast we drive to Debark on the edge of the Simien Mountains. The road has considerably improved and the drive should take about 2hrs. In the late morning we drive up into the mountains for some spectacular views of this unique ecosystem. The highland plateau is capped by a dramatic skyline of jagged volcanic plugs and split by deep gorges and gullies. On a good day, the views are sensational and the striking towers and formations have been described as the 'chess pieces of the Gods'. We take an optional 2hr walk, mostly flat or downhill, and hope to see the endemic Gelada baboons and Klipspringers before returning to Debark. The maximum altitude we reach is 3250m.
    Simien Park Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Continue to Axum.

    Continue on a full day's drive to the fabled city of Axum via the lowlands of the Simien Mountains and Tekeze River gorge. Though this is a long journey, the spectacular views make time slide away. Arrive in the late afternoon.
    Yared Zema Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Full day visiting the ancient capital of the Axumite Kingdom.

    Axum is the seat of the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Axum, which was once one of the most powerful in the ancient world. Located at the centre of the trading routes between the Mediterranean and India, and the great port of Adulis on the Red Sea, it was economically, politically and technically advanced and at times had control over both sides of the Red Sea.

    Axum is also the origin of Christianity in Ethiopia and believed to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. The old church of St Mary of Zion was the first church to be built in Sub-Saharan Africa around 330AD. Its ruins can be seen in the precinct of the church compound.

    We visit the famous monolithic stelae of Axum, the tallest one still standing reaches over 21 metres and the greatest one of them all, once 34 metres high now lies toppled on the ground. It is still, however, the largest monolith ever erected by man. The subterranean tombs, stone inscriptions of ancient Axumite kings and the small archaeological museum are also living witness of the ancient Axumite history. We will also visit the ruined palace of the Queen of Sheba who is said to have given birth to Menelik the First, fathered by King Solomon, the founder of Ethiopia's ruling family until the late Emperor Haile Selassie.
    Yared Zema Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Visit Yeha Temple and through eatern Tigrai to Wukro.

    We leave for Wukro visiting some of the rock hewn churches of Eastern Tigrai on the way. We first pass through the Battle field of Adwa, where the Ethiopians defeated the Italian colonial army in 1896, and then stop to visit the 500 B.C. pre-Christian Temple of Yeha. We will have lunch at Adigrat and proceed on to Wukro. En route we visit the beautiful rock-hewn church of Medhane-Alem Adi Kesho in Tsaeda Imba. Overnight stay at Wukro.
    Fiseha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Visit Wukro's rock-hewn churches and on to Mekele.

    This morning we start by driving about 20Kms North West of Wukro to visit the famous rock-hewn church of Abreha Wo Atsebeha and Wukro Cherkos, on the northern outskirts of the town, before proceeding on to Mekele in time to explore this fast growing city.
    Planet Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Drive through mountains and gorges on the way to Lalibela.

    Today is a long day’s driving but the scenery, once again, is spectacular as we pass through mountains and river gorges, seeing for ourselves why Ethiopia’s landscape is completely different to anywhere else. We eventually reach Lalibela, possibly Ethiopia’s most famous site.
    Roha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Explore Lalibela amazing churches.

    We spend the day exploring Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches. Whilst they may feel busy compared to the ones we’ve visited in Tigrai they are still spectacular and well worth visiting. The churches are mostly cut from solid rock, and therefore have the appearance of being underground. The most famous church is Bete Giorgis (St George, patron saint of Ethiopia), carved in the form of a Greek cross. It is exceptionally well preserved and visually almost flawless.

    The churches are quite dark inside, with little artificial light, and in some cases limited natural light. In each one there is a resident priest, who is usually happy to put on richly embroidered vestments and pose for a photo with his crosses, ancient bibles and sunglasses (due to constant camera flashes!). Although the churches are remote, they are not short of worshippers: most Ethiopians, certainly of the older generation, are devout Orthodox Christians, and the services in the churches on religious festivals are of marathon length: sixteen hours is not unusual!
    Roha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Mule trek up to Ashatan Maryam.

    In the morning we enjoy an optional (no extra cost) adventurous mule journey to visit Ashetan Maryam (St Mary), built on a ridge with excellent views over the surrounding countryside. The trip takes approximately 6 hours (round trip) and will start early to avoid the heat. We will ride the mules up the mountain for approximately an hour, before hiking the rest of the way up the mountain to the church. After visiting the church we will walk back down to the village on slippery mountain paths. This is a tough walk and is optional. If you choose not to do the walk there is plenty to do in Lalibela: There is the opportunity to walk into the town and visit some of the many shops or relax in a Tej bar to sample the local fermented honey drink or a local café to socialise.

    The rest of the day is spent absorbing the atmosphere of this extraordinary town with its Tukul or round houses. Made as two storey buildings, they are unusual in Africa.
    Roha Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Fly to Addis Ababa. End.

    An afternoon flight takes us back to Addis Ababa. We are then transferred to the hotel for day rooms and get settled before enjoying an optional final dinner at a well-known local Ethiopian restaurant. Transfer back to the airport in the late evening for our international flight back home. Please note that due to flight schedules, some departures may include an extra night at the end of the trip for flight inclusive clients and a day-time return-flight.

    The extension to the Islamic city of Harar starts today with an overnight in Addis Ababa.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Post-trip Extensions

Harar

Standing on the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley, Harar's location gives wonderful views of the surrounding country, with the vast Danakil desert to the north, the fertile Harar Mountains to the west, and the cattle‐rich Ogaden Plains to the south. Here we discover a uniquely different Ethiopia in this sacred Muslim city of mosques, minarets and markets. It is a centre of Muslim learning, a city which once struck its own local currency and a place that still has its own unique language; long regarded by the outside world as a city of mystery and romance.

Please ask for prices.

 

Extension Day 1 - Overnight in Addis Ababa.

Main tour ends in Addis Ababa. Free time to relax.

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Extension Day 2 - Fly from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa and transfer to Harar.

Founded in the early 12th century, the great walls surrounding Harar were built in the 1600s to keep out powerful neighbouring hostile groups. Harar remained an important centre of Muslim learning and trade throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Once an important centre of Islamic scholarship, the city was for many years closed to Christians and early explorers were forced to enter in disguise and at their own peril. We start our exploration with a guided tour of Harar to see the mosques and interesting old architecture of the town, including the old city wall and the house of the French poet Rimbaud. Harar is home to one of the stranger sights that you're likely to see in your journey through Ethiopia. Every night, a local man goes to the outskirts of the city and calls the hyenas from the surrounding area. This practice apparently dates from the 1950s, but was based on an older tradition was first started to discourage the hyenas from stealing local livestock. As the hyenas approach, the hyena man holds out pieces of meat to them, either in his hands or sometimes between his teeth, which the hyenas then take from him. This is a practice that is handed down from generation to generation and only one person fills the role at any one time. This evening you may wish to go and witness this bizarre ritual. Please note that these hyena are wild so you should keep a safe distance.

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Extension Day 3 – Harar.

A full day in Harar to explore the city to see the mosques and interesting old architecture of the town, including the old city wall and the house of the French poet Rimbaud, Harari Museums, Shrines & Tombs, New & Old Markets and traditional Adare houses. Our guide will be with you and ask him to take you where you want to see or visit.

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Extension Day 4 - Return to Addis.

Transfer back to Dire Dawa for the flight to Addis Ababa, you will have access to a day‐use room in Addis Ababa before returning to the airport for your flight home.

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Please note that if you are flying with Ethiopian Airlines you will probably have to spend an extra night in Addis Ababa and catch a day‐flight (on Extension Day 5) due the flight schedules.

 

This extension can also be done pre‐tour.

Essential Info

Visas

Ethiopia

All nationalities require a visa for Ethiopia which can be obtained before departure (at a cost of GBP26) or on arrival (at a cost of USD50 - be prepared to queue for a while). Please note that the Ethiopian government may change their visa on arrival policy at very short notice so make sure to check the latest advice. A certificate of Yellow Fever vaccination maybe required in order to obtain your visa, for instance if you're travelling from a country at risk of Yellow Fever transmission - please check with the embassy for the latest advice.

Vaccinations

Ethiopia

Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A.

Other vaccines to consider: Hepatitis B; Meningococcal Meningitis; Rabies; Typhoid; Yellow Fever.

Yellow fever vaccination certificate required for travellers over 9 months of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts Hotel meals are generally good although they can lack variety. Local dishes tend to be very good if you like hot, spicy food although milder versions can be requested. Local food is traditionally eaten with the hands. The sour bread known as injera is used as a scoop from the casserole dishes known as wat. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. It is normally drunk black with sugar. The coffee ritual is something to be experienced at least once on your trip. It is possible to get coffee with milk which the Ethiopians call Machiato. Please note that you should not drink the tap water in Ethiopia. We also suggest that clients bring snack food as this can be difficult to obtain outside of Addis Ababa. Vegetarians can be catered for but they will have a limited choice. The Ethiopian diet is meat based except for fasting days. Fasting food is completely vegan as fasters should not consume any animal by-product. Clients who have specialist dietary requirements must contact us to discuss if they can be accommodated. Ethiopia is a poor country and they are not familiar with gluten or lactose free diets.

Weather

It is likely to be sunny most of the time on all departures. Most of Ethiopia is at a high altitude, so although the sun is powerful, the temperature is usually very pleasant. There is, however, the risk of sunburn at high altitude, so it is essential that you ensure you are adequately protected. Nights are generally cool to cold, depending on the altitude. Daytime temperatures seldom rise above 25ºC except at lower altitudes.

Addis Ababa

Is this trip for you?

This is a busy trip and requires a certain level of fitness and agility, especially due to the heat and altitude. There are several walks that are easy to moderate in difficulty. The harder walk in the Simien Mountains is optional. When visiting the rock hewn churches in Tigrai and Lalibela passengers have to walk on uneven ground and climb on rock faces that can be slippery. Clients who suffer from vertigo should be aware that the Simien Mountains is famous for its dramatic sheer cliffs, however you do not have to walk close to the edge. The maximum altitude that we walk at on this trip is 3250m (although our drive on Day 10 will take us to 3500m). Clients with heart or respiratory problems should consult their doctor.

The optional mule ride to visit Ashetan Maryam follows the same rocky trail used for walking. This is a steep and exposed trail where the consequences of a slip of the mule could be severe. Walking the trail would take at least 2 hours. You will need to dismount the mule for a few sections of the route where the terrain is particularly steep or rocky. This route is not suitable for those nervous about or unfamiliar with steep mountain routes or riding animals such as mules. There is a heightened level of risk on this activity due to both the terrain and the level of local safety standards.

Roads are not as well maintained as in Europe and combined with the distances covered on this itinerary, we have some days with long drives. The longest drive by some margin is between Mekele and Lalibela which can take approximately 12 hours including stops for tea/coffee, lunch and photos. However, the views on en route are spectacular and should make for a memorable journey.

What tourism exists is quite well organised and in places you may be surprised at the standard of services and personnel. However, you should never forget that you are travelling in one of the world's poorest countries. Water and electricity can be erratic and hotels usually have set times when hot water is available. Please leave behind your western comforts and bring with you a sense of adventure, humour and flexibility for the experience of a lifetime!

Festival Departures

Certain departures are scheduled to coincide with Ethiopia's festivals such as Meskal, Mariam Tsion and Ethiopian Christmas (these are highlighted on the Dates & Prices page on the website). Witnessing these festivals is a great experience but please note that some time may be spent in crowded areas. The below itinerary is not altered for these dates.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
1 800 267 3347
Call for tailor made trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

You will spend 10 nights in comfortable hotels and 2 nights in basic hotels, most with en-suite facilities. Additionally there will be access to a day room in Addis Ababa on the final day. Accommodation is basic in comparison to European standards. Ethiopia is a developing country and there may occasionally be no hot water, or indeed, no water at all! Most rooms are furnished simply. 

Single accommodation (available on request).

Call for general departures:
1 800 267 3347
Call for tailor made trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed October 2019

    Sudden plan to Ethiopia

    I didn't know much about Ethiopia. We suddenly make plan to visit Ethiopia and in this trip we come to about its culture and history. This trip is quite nice, sometime such sudden plans give you lot of happiness and fun.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Simien Mountains hiking
  • Reviewed March 2019
    BARON-VAHL AMOS

    Out of breath

    Poor food, worse wine, fantastic scenery, friendly people, a plethora of birds, some unique endemic species of flora and fauna, some very dodgy hotel service and the worst Exodus arrivals procedure ever because the local Exodus guide is not allowed into the arrivals area!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Getting up close to Geladas without any sort of animosity/aggression being shown on their part was the best wildlife encounter. The iconic rock-hewn churches in Tigre provence came a close second and the cattle/camel market ranked with the walk through the everyday market with its vibrant colours and sometimes noisome smells and people watching both us and them reciprocating almost equally. The various churches and associated museums with priceless artifacts were everywhere. The unique history of the country and its relationship in the modern world made this trip superb. If there had not been the animal market visit it would have been better to have flown to Mekele instead of taking the road trip which became boring after a couple of hours and most people caught up on their sleeping.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was not there to pick us up at the airport on our arrival he only turned up about an hour after we had landed and this caused problems. I called the local office to find out where the guide was when I exited the arrivals area of the airport at just after 07:00. The office people told me the guide was on the way and was just minutes away, other people at the airport said there were two meeting points at the bottom of the stairs and at the end of the ramp. I waited at the bottom of the stairs until after 07:10 then went to see if the guide was at the other meeting point which was a couple of hundred feet away. At the other designated meeting point another person called the Magnolia hotel for me and the hotel staff said I should join their bus which was waiting for two Italians and come with them to the hotel. The bus waited until 08:40 and then departed for the hotel and after a ten minute check-in I was shown to my room. On returning to the hotel foyer to change money I found the rest of the Exodus group had arrived and they were being checked-in. I asked about the meet and greet meeting which I duly attended at which most of the information provide was changed throughout the course of the trip, some data given was happily changed later, where the hotels being used were important for location if not for facilities so said the guide. The information provided by the guide was that only the first hotel had been changed from what was in the original notes that turned out not to be true. The guide was capable but the English was a mite difficult to understand at times the odd turn of phrase needed to be interpreted and mostly he was understood. The restaurants we were taken to outside of the hotels all seemed to be of the same pattern with the same menus and on only two occasions did I see the guide put his hand in his pocket to pay for his own food or drink at lunch or dinner. The guides ability to steer us through potential hazards was not in any way detrimental to the trip. The offer of taking the road instead of the mule ride was not made until the departure day of the excursion and only mentioned in passing the previous night, the alternative was not mentioned in the trip notes. Getting out of the bus, the guide helped in chopping up a tree trunk that had fallen across the road on the very long journey to Mekele, which was only relieved by the camel market visit. The guide helped me with the purchase of stamps for my postcards none of which have arrived yet even though the first set was posted over two weeks ago this might be because the quantity might have not been sufficient for each card as each time the amount to be used for each card varied depending on the vendor of the stamps. Overall I have nothing bad to say about the guide he did his best and the driver was also very helpful to me personally by finding a drinkable wine and posting my cards at the post office.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are likely to struggle at altitude it might be worth while getting some altitude sickness pills before going as some of the walking was at 3000 ft, I wheezed continuously. Buying give aways such as pens for the local children, some adults also wanted them, it is better to buy locally this puts money into the local economy and it is cheaper than buying at home and transporting to Ethiopia. A bic pen costs about 30 pence each here in the UK but for <£10 you can buy 50 locally. Ask what the Exodus supported charity would like to receive and perhaps purchase items locally. Shoes are a big item cost wise in Ethiopia taking a few old pairs for give aways to individuals might be useful, though embarrassing also. There are numerous stalls that sell plastic shoes beside the roadside ask the local charity if they would like a donation towards the purchase of shoes for the kids they sponsor at their school and or help towards the buying of materials for the school itself. Money is the practical item most appreciated at the charity since it takes a lot of determination and usable skills to become a volunteer on site. If you are not a pasta or pizza person normally then your diet is going to be assaulted by this food carbohydrate for most meals but better this and macaroni than the local fare, the indjera. The local wrap, Indjera, is made from the teff grain which seems to be endemic to Ethiopia its fermented for up to three days before being treated as floor and made into the slightly sour sponge-like and rubbery textured wrap called Indjera, an acquired taste which I hope I never acquire try it at least once! The fish is usually good and the meat overdone, western style dishes might be on the menu but they will not be a patch on the food you expect to get from the name. I'm not fond of larger but it was better than the local wine! Since the holiday does not include food other than breakfast a trip to the local supermarket is advisable perhaps a requirement if you have a delicate stomach and would prefer snacks to vast amounts of pasta or iffy local cuisine. The coffee and the frankincense are good purchases as are the basket work and cotton shawls, if you're looking for that t-shirt that says been there and done that, good luck, I tried but failed. Watch out for slippery floors in the hotels and the ironing scam where the price is exorbitant and the result questionable. In the major towns some of the wide boys will try to attach themselves to you with implausible stories about how they are looking after themselves their families and going to school all at the same time that people their age are at work or trying it on with the tourists! There are genuine cases of hardship but they are clearly visible and they are not the well dressed/heeled wide boys, the shoes and the condition of the clothes are the usual clear indicators of the scam artists. Do not be surprised by the casual cruelty meted out to the domestic beasts of burden and livestock in general, thrown rocks, lashes with sticks and fists or kicks are not unusual.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I mostly enjoyed the trip, my slip getting out of the shower and wrenched shoulder muscles as a result did not detract from the experience. Take your full first aid kit with you and remember the painkillers/diarrhoea/constipation prophylactics. Good shoes are a must even in the cities the wear and tear on your footwear will be high as the pavements are very uneven. help is always at hand but this might be unwelcome at times especially when going up the 60 degree climb the unbalanced grip on your elbow can be unhelpful. if you are able to use walking / hiking sticks then take them with you but only if you are adept at using them, as a new toy the would be a hindrance not an aid, they will be a boon along the rocky paths and uneven surfaces.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Baron-Vahl for his feedback. Whilst we are pleased that he enjoyed a number of aspects of the trip we are very sorry that he found the arrival set-up to not be as expected. It is true that no tour leaders from any organisation are allowed to enter the terminal hall, however, they will meet members of the group at either of the two meeting spots outside the terminal; we have confirmed that the tour leader was there and picked up all other members of the group who arrived on the group flight so we are sincerely sorry that Baron-Vahl and the leader missed each other. We have passed the feedback on to the local team in the hopes they can make the meeting spot more obvious in the future.

    John Penge - Product Manager for Ethiopia

  • Reviewed January 2019
    Wing Chan

    Amazing experience but challenging conditions

    This was a busy and varied trip through northern Ethiopia. I had a great time and met lots of friendly, interesting and kind people. We bonded as a group and with our guide, which made it really special. The Simien Mountains are stunning and we got to see them from the national park, during the long drives and on the mule trek and climb up to a church in Lalibela. Our guide let us stop frequently on the long drives to take pictures, which broke up the journey and made it interesting. The unique paintings in the monastery churches in Lake Tana were breathtaking when we first saw them and the rock hewn churches in Lalibela were a true wonder. When we were there, the Ethiopians celebrated their Christmas and we experienced the pilgrimage that thousands of people make to Lalibela for the Christmas Day service. On Christmas Eve, we went up to the church in the Simiens by mule and on foot, which was dangerous and crowded coming down, but which was an amazing and unforgettable experience. We managed because of paid helpers who were mostly young lads trying to earn money for their education and I did not begrudge this at all. Also, the Ethiopians were kind, understanding and allowed us to pass safely, amazed that foreigners were there at all. In the evening, at 10 pm, some of us went to the rock hewn church of St Mary and joined thousands of pilgrims who were spending the night there, some holding candle wicks and watching the night time service. It was really atmospheric. Thankfully, we went back to the hotel to sleep. Others got up at 7 am to make it to the Christmas Day service itself and were seen in the crowd on Ethiopian tv! The accommodation was varied, some ok and some below standard. The wifi is unreliable and weak, even if the hotels say that it is available. The functionality of the plumbing, general cleanliness and availability of hot water is varied amongst all the hotels where we stayed and were the main problems. The availability of clean and functional toilets outside the hotels during the day was sparse. Be prepared to tolerate all of this when you go on this trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The mule trek and hike to the church in the Simien Mountains and the hike down was one of the highlights. The other was Christmas Eve and being amongst the pilgrims at night time as they slept/waited for Christmas Day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was fantastic. He is very knowledgeable, friendly and was pleased to answer any questions that we had. He made sure that we got to see everything, negotiating with locals and sorting out any problems with accommodation. He went out of his way to ensure that we got the most out of our trip.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to put up with poor toilets (generally everywhere), plumbing that does not work (no hot water in some hotels and toilets that do not flush well), lack of cleanliness, loose electrical wires and lack of functionality of mundane items (tv, hair dryer - if there is one) in some of the accommodation (in Lalibela, the seals on the shower cubicle had gaps in them and so the room was flooded each time we had a shower, but there was hot water). There is unreliable wifi, which is frustrating when the hotels say that it is available. In Lake Tana and Gondar, the hotel staff opened our windows during the day time, which let the insects and mosquitoes in and the mosquito nets in the windows had holes in them. Good walking boots are essential for most days. The steps to/ground around the churches are all uneven and sometimes steep, even in Lalibela. Some of the trip is exceptionally dusty, which is why the showering issue becomes important. There are early starts and long days in order to travel to see everything described. This is is a rewarding holiday but definitely not 'relaxing'. Read the trip notes. They are fairly accurate.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Our driver, Tegen, was also great. He was very skilled at driving us through the most challenging of 'roads', manoeuvring us through chaotic traffic jams and making the van do things that we did not think were possible. We were completely safe with him. 11/12 of us became ill at some point of the trip, all of us suffering from upset stomach and not feeling well. It lasted a day or two and did not spoil the trip.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Anonymous user

    Ethiopia in Depth

    Overall it was an excellent trip for those who enjoy exploring history, current culture, scenery and wild life and who are happy to spend at times many hours riding in mini buses sometimes over dirt roads. Welcome from local people was genuine, some begging, some bartering but never felt under pressure to buy or give money. Mountain scenery was amazing, historic churches and pre christian sites were fabulous and with relative few visitors competing for space, views and photos. Local food was interesting and European particularly Italian options were available for those less adventurous. Tour description of climbs to some of the Rock churches and mountain walks under-estimated the toughness but were worth the challenge for those who were fit enough. Hotels generally pretty good except in Harar and there were more cash machines available than tour description suggested. We saw no sign of political unrest although aware of difficulties due to government cutting off wi-fi as several points in the holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    No one highlight. Walking in the Simien mountains, seeing the monasteries at Lake Tana, seeing the Stellae at Axum, seeing the castles at Gondar. Attending the camel market on route to Lalibela. Seeing the Lalibela rock churches.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both leaders were good, in particular the overall leader who was very experienced and supported the group throughout the trip. Young leader in Harar was patient and new local area intimately. Given more opportunities he could eventually become an overall tour leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are happy to take each day at a time you will have a wonderful trip. Debatable if best to travel between Axum and Lalibela by flight or by 12 hour mini bus ride?

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    18 in the group was really too large just in terms of the logistics but the group were all committed to punctuality and mixing so it was manageable. Ideally groups could be reduced to a max of 14 even if this meant increasing cost of the holiday.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    GRAHAM CLARKE

    ETHIOPIA IN DEPTH

    Kipling wrote of Burma to the effect that it was like no other country you have seen. Had he visited Ethiopia, and there is no evidence that he did, he might well have come to a similar conclusion; I did. Overall we had a very comprehensive insight into the country; taking in the fabulous and varied scenery, the religious settlements, the wildlife, food, markets and the way people live.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was a WOW factor to most days even the 12 hour drive between Mekele and Lalibela which was punctuated with stops for photos and a visit to a camel market. We passed through some fabulous scenery at 11,500 feet. The trip on Lake Tana to visit monasteries, the walk amongst baboons in the Simiens. The rock churches of Lalibela were just amazing particularly when you consider when they were done and how. The mule trek up to Ashatan Maryam. We were a happy group: everyone got on with everyone else.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gabre was excellent. A font of knowledge. He was communicative, patient, very much a people's person. Not forgetting our bus driver. I don't remember his name, but in addition to his excellent and safe driving skills ( he took the bus to places I would think twice about in a 4x4 ) he was similarly cheerful and communicative.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Get your visa either before you set off: the queues were long an slow. Do your homework. Read up as much as you can before you go on the various rock churches and other places of interest, you may find it difficult to absorb so much new information. I did and was glad I did. Take home some coffee.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It was a great and memorable trip.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Suzanne Thorne

    Ethiopia in depth

    This was the most amazing holiday. Our guide Gabre was excellent. Scenery was beautiful. We had a very good driver who negotiated some terrible roads with great care. Hotels were good considering it is such a poor country,pot luck sometimes . People were so friendly, which made the holiday for us. It is cool in the evening, jacket needed.Good strong trainers or walking shoes for very uneven surfaces around churches. Ethiopian airways were excellent. Ethiopian food is an acquired taste. !! One of our most memorable holidays.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The camel market ,the churches, the galada baboons and many more.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you have all jabs. Protect yourself against food Bourne illnesses. Take good shoes a WALKING stick. Jacket for the evening.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was a memorable holiday in every way. Ethiopia has everything, I wish the country well in the future.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    hanna woskoboinik

    Ethiopia

    the trip was well organize and the tour leader was very good. I understand that u contract a local tour operator and I wished u would have checked the hotel before. I understand it is not a luxury trip and this is my 4 trip with Exodus but i must say theta i was very disappointed with the some of the accommodation. Lake Tana is beautiful but the hotel is the worst I ever stay and I travel the world. the hotel had mold wholes in the walls could not wait to get out of the place. you should check the hotels before u accept a tour operator. even in Ethiopia there are better hotels. some of the hotel did not have hot water like in Gondar and when i complain the Luke warm water was for them hot water after a day of travelling one wants a shower not a cold one. I wish u would have given the option to fly to lailibela as it was a waist of a day in horrible conditions. i will have to think hard if i will take another trip with Exodus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    the churches

    What did you think of your group leader?

    excellent

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Hanna for her feedback, however we regret that she was disappointed with the accommodation in Ethiopia. We do mention in the trip notes that Ethiopia is a developing country and that there may occasionally be no hot water. While we endeavour to manage expectations that the accommodation may be basic in places on this tour, at the beginning of each season we use client and staff feedback to review each property with our local manager; if any concerns are raised by clients throughout the year these will be addressed and dealt with accordingly. We have discussed Hanna’s concerns with our local manager and will keep an eye on feedback.

    John Penge – Product Manager for Ethiopia

     

  • Reviewed February 2016

    Ethiopian Odyssey

    This was a fascinating journey through northern Ethiopia. We saw churches and monasteries galore, each one interesting for its paintings or architecture, often hewn out of the living rock. The road journeys were long but the scenery and the sheer engineering feats involved made it worthwhile. Accommodation throughout was much better than I'd anticipated; we had en suite facilities in all hotels and hot water was usually available.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It is difficult to pick out one - the Stelae of Axum; the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela; the climb up to the monastery on the way to Wukram just before sunset; the camels, cattle, sheep and goats heading to the cattle market on our way to Lalibela; our final meal in Lalibela at Ben Abeba as the sun went down.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Genre was wonderful throughout. He was the fount of all knowledge on the history of the country and its religion and politics while also helping Jane and I to identify birds and flowers en route. He always seemed to anticipate when breaks were needed and remained unflappably and good tempered at all times. I must also mention our tremendous driver, Ananya, who seemed to know every inch of our route intimately and was totally indefatigable..

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In February, the temperatures were between 25 and 29 degrees all day and warm clothing was not needed. Ladies should bring scarves for the churches. In restaurants, portions were more than ample and it might be an idea for those with less than enormous appetites to share dishes. It proved to be very easy to get our visas at the airport in Addis. Queues were short and photos were not required. In all, much easier than going to the embassy in London.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    My only hitch at the very end of the holiday was getting a bottle of duty free gin out of the country! Though we had already gone through two full security checks, when I took my gin (bought at the airport duty free) through the final one, I was told I could not take it in my cabin baggage. I had to send it to the hold In my rucksack while I put other things for the flight into another bag.
  • Reviewed February 2016
    Sally Wade

    Ethiopia in Depth

    A thoroughly enjoyable holiday with many memorable moments

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    walking at 10,000ft in the Simien mountains over a carpet of thyme. the rock churches in Lalibela the mule trek

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gabre was a very attentive and informative leader

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    go with an open mind

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I don't think so
  • Reviewed February 2016
    Amanda Sutton

    Ethiopia in Depth

    Fascinating trip learning about a culture I didn't know much about. The West has a distinct impression of Ethiopia and is was great to challenge those ideas.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I really enjoyed the rock hewn churches in the north and Lalibella. We were lucky to be there at Christmas and could watch all the pilgrims.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leade (Gabre) was very good. He had a lot of passion and his country and its potential and was also able to answer any questions we had. Our group was quite mixed in terms of interest and physical capabilities and Gabre ensured everyone was included and could participate at their level.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to cover up in churches, fasting days and travel days in the bus.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We had a great driver who looked after the minivan very well. However bigger transport would give everyone a bit more room on long travel days and assist with the unsaved roads, which are of course an avoidable.

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