Ethiopia: The Island of Africa

  • Explore diverse Ethiopia, from urban Addis Ababa to the lofty Simien Mountains
  • Meet tribal people in the entrancingly remote, aridly beautiful Lower Omo Valley
  • Feast your eyes on Lalibela, 13 monolithic churches carved into living rock
Trip Type: Scheduled Departure & Sample Itinerary
Trip Length: 16 Days
Activity type(s): Cultural Tour
Trip Extensions: Call 888-570-7108 for custom extension options

This trip takes us wide and far in a madly interesting, scenically booming country that “confounds every expectation,” as Philip Briggs wrote. “It is the most welcoming, enjoyable, and uplifting country I have ever visited.” We explore its immense and unique history, spanning religions as diverse as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and drink in its stunning and varied landscapes.

Starting in Addis, we delve into churches and museums, enjoying illuminative evening talks with local scholar, translator, and friend Worku Sharew. Next it’s north to Bahir Dar and massive Lake Tana (the source of the Blue Nile, which explains Ethiopia’s strong links with the ancient world of the Mediterranean) and on to Gondar, gateway for our excursion into the lofty, beautiful, and little-known Simien Mountains. Then we fly to Lalibela, a mountain stronghold and pilgrimage site of 13 monolithic churches carved out of living rock, and dally in Axum, a major center of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Winging our way far south, we land in the utterly dissimilar world of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, an as-yet-undeveloped region that hosts us in modest lodges and a well-staffed private mobile camp. For four and a half days we visit this entrancingly remote area and its handsome tribal peoples—the Hamar, Ari, Bena, and Mursi, among others—getting to know their ways and their vast, dry, and alluring land.

Ethiopia tour map

Itinerary at a Glance

  • Day 1: arrive in Addis Ababa
  • Day 2: sightseeing in Addis
  • Day 3: fly north to Bahir Dar, boat to Lake Tana monasteries
  • Day 4: drive to Gondar
  • Day 5: excursion to Simien Mountains National Park
  • Day 6: fly to Lalibela
  • Day 7: Lalibela
  • Day 8: fly to Axum
  • Day 9: fly back to Addis
  • Day 10: fly to Arba Minch
  • Day 11: drive to Turmi in Lower Omo Valley
  • Day 12: excursion to Murelle
  • Day 13 : drive to Jinka, Lower Omo Valley mobile camp
  • Day 14: excursions to Mago National Park and Key Afer market, Lower Omo Valley mobile camp
  • Day 15: visit artisanal village, fly to Addis
  • Day 16: Addis touring, depart for home.