Ethiopia.. Historic Route and Hidar Tsion Festival
November 25 to December 08, 2017
Ethiopia is culturally one of the richest countries in Africa and home to some remarkable architectural gems. A journey on the Historic Route provides a glimpse of life from the past that is still relevant. It is a country where religion plays a prominent role and the celebration of holy days is a way of life. The Virgin Mary is one of the most venerated of all religious figures in Ethiopia. The Feast of Hidar Tsion is associated with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Axum and the belief that the Ark itself is a symbol of her womb. This festival is attended by tens of thousands of people from all over Ethiopia, making it one of the most joyous annual pilgrimages in Axum, the "sacred city of the Ethiopians." You will be an observer at this remarkable event marked by processions of chanting priests and parishioners dressed in colorful robes with the ubiquitous umbrellas. Immerse yourself visiting 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites: Axum, Gondar, and Lalibela.
This trip has an extension to OMO Valley
Per person sharing in double occupancy (air and land from Newark/Dulles): $6,495.00
Single Supplement: $850.00
Led by Professor Norman Jones, History and religious studies (Utah State University, UT)
Credit for not using our included airfare $850.00
Price based on a group size minimum of 4 and maximum of 12 participants
Your tour does not include:
- Airline taxes and security charges (Currently estimated at $480.00).
- Visa for Ethiopia (Currently $70.00 obtainable on arrival at Addis airport – Subject to change).
- Air from/to your home city to Dulles or Newark.
- Difference in inter-Ethiopian airfare in case of not using Ethiopian airlines from USA into/out of Addis.
- Meals not mentioned.
- Items of personal nature: beverages, laundry, phone calls, email, souvenirs, camera fees at sites, etc.
- Dayroom or hotel overnights if necessary due to airline schedule changes.
- Travel insurance (highly recommended).
Your tour includes:
- Roundtrip International air from Newark, NJ or Dulles, VA to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines.
- All internal flights within Ethiopia.
- All transfers and tours with A/C bus and vehicles.
- Accommodation on full board basis (B: breakfast, L: lunch and D: dinner) in best available hotels/lodges out of Addis.
- All entrance fees to parks, sites, churches and museums as per the program as well as boat trip on Lake Tana..
- Professional English speaking guide throughout.
- Local guides and helpers in churches and monasteries
- Nonalcoholic drinks with meals.
- Bottled water on the bus on touring days.
- Gratuities to guide, drivers, hotels’ staff and porters.
- 15% government tax.
III Challenging – Parts of the trip are physically challenging, involve hiking on rough terrain or in sand or at high altitudes. There may be very long drives on rough roads (really rough especially in Eritrea); weather conditions with high heat or humidity, presence of insects. You may have simple picnic lunches, primitive bathroom facilities along the road and remoteness from modern towns or cities plus service in Eritrea are very often slow.
**Delightful: Comfortable yet on the Spartan side, usually small but with private facilities. Some of those hotels lack western style amenities but usually rooms have en-suite bathroom and most A/C functions well (2 or 3 stars)
*** Superior: In large cities 5 stars' hotels and in some smaller town, lodges and hotels with limited amenities, average service and comfort level acceptable to western standard. (3 or 4 stars)
Special notes on Travel to Ethiopia
This is a poor country and the tourism infrastructure is still lacking in many areas. This trip requires participants to be in good health. We designed the itinerary to be as comfortable as possible. Elevations could constitute problems for people with breathing difficulties (some areas are at 7000 ft.) and rough, dusty roads could also affect travelers. Finally, you should be aware that some of the accommodations are considered Spartan and simple (though clean and suitable for our kind of adventure), they are the best available in some of the visited towns, Some of the drives are very long on gravel and dirt roads, so patience, a team spirit, a sense of adventure and flexibility are all needed traits to enjoy this tour. Also at festival times, hotels can occasionally oversell and force us to make last minute changes and also Ethiopian Airways sometimes makes schedule changes or cancels service on some flights or oversells the routes we use and we thus need to alter the program accordingly if and when it happens and we expect participants to be accepting and patient.
View Tour Itinerary
Sat-Sun, Nov 25-26
US to Ethiopia
Depart your hometown arriving the next day in Addis Ababa. You will be met and transferred to the Celeste Hotel to freshen up. Begin your tour of the city with a stop at the National Archeological Museum to see some interesting collections including Lucy. You will also visit Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa and drive to the viewpoint in the Entoto Mountains. If time allows, you will visit the Orthodox Trinity Cathedral then head to Tomoca, a local shop, to have a taste of the Ethiopian coffee. (B,L,D)
Mon, Nov 27
Addis Ababa to Mekele
Early morning transfer to the airport for your direct flight to Mekele, capital city of Tigray province. Upon arrival meet and transferred to one of the breakfast places in town to have some Ethiopian traditional breakfast such as foul or other meals. After breakfast, drive to Wukro and visit the new museum before lunch. Afternoon you will visit Abrha Atsbeha rock hewn churches, the oldest rock hewn church in the country. Continue your drive to Adigrat passing through the small town of Negash, the oldest Muslim settlement in Ethiopia which dates back to the 7th C. Late afternoon drive to Hawzen enjoying the beautiful countryside and Gheralta; Mountains on your left. Dinner and overnight Gheralta lodge or similar. (B,L,D)
Tue, Nov 28
Drive to Gheralta Mountains
Morning drive to the foot of the Gheralta Mountains and trek (1.5hrs each way) to the rock-hewn church of Debre Tsion which is located on the top of one of the Gheralta ‚Pillars‘. Return to your lodge for lunch and short break before you drive to the small village of Negash, the first Muslim settlement in Ethiopia where followers of Mohammed were given shelter by the Ethiopian king. Return to your lodge for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Wed, Nov 29
Drive to Axum
Very scenic drive to Axum through the interesting rock formations at Adigrat and Bizet, the famous and oldest standing monastery in Ethiopia Debre Damo Monastery (please note that women are not allowed and you will only see it from the view point/road), the 5th century B.C. temple at Yeha and the breathtaking Adwa Mountains where the Ethiopians defeated the Italians in 1896. Drive to Axum for dinner and overnight at the Yared Zema Hotel. Evening attend the Eve of Hidar Tsion festival in the church of St. Mary Zion. (B,L,D)
Thu, Nov 30
Axum, Hidar Tsion Festival
In the early morning attend the annual celebration of St. Mary. Witness the priests chanting and beating the drums as the faithful and pilgrims from places as far as Addis Ababa gather to celebrate the festivities. Afterwards, drive to the remains of a palace and the tombs of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel from the 6th century. Stop to see the Ezana stone inscriptions written on a big granite rock in the Geez, Sabean and Greek languages. You will also see the bath of the Queen of Sheba before you return to your hotel for your dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Fri, Dec 01
Simien Mountains National Park
Drive to the Simien Mountains National Park passing through the beautiful scenery at the Tekeze Valley and view of the Simien Mountain cliffs from the lowlands. Arrive in the National Park and transfer to the Simien lodge for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Sat, Dec 02
Drive to Gondar
Drive in the National park through the breathtakingly beautiful landscapes to the viewpoints at Chilquanit. The national park is home to the Gelada Baboons, Walya Ibex, Klipspringers, grey duikers and Wattled Ibis. Today you will see Gelada Baboons, different birds and plants. Spend some time at the viewpoints before you drive back to Debark and have lunch. Afterwards, drive to Gondar passing through the beautiful landscapes at Amba Ghiorgis and Kossoye. You will also pass through the Felasha village, former village of the Black Jews. Upon arrival in Gondar, transfer to Goha Hotel for Dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Sun, Dec 03
Drive to Bahirdar
Morning visit of the castle compound where you can explore the 17th C castles of Emperor Fasiledas, Yohannes, Eyasu, David, Bakaffa and Queen Mentiwab. Also visit the bath of Fasiladas where the Ethiopians celebrate Epiphany or Timket every 19th of January. Then head to visit the church of Debre Berhan Selassie with the famous wall paintings of more than 80 winged-angels covering the ceiling. Lunch in town before you drive south to Bahirdar. Your drive to Bahirdar will take you through the beautiful countryside of the Amhara people, the mountains at Adis Zemen and the wetlands around Wereta where you will see some interesting birds. Upon arrival transfer to the Abay Minch lodge or similar for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Mon, dec 04
Morning have a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit some of the most interesting churches of the area, Ura Kidane Mihret church and Azwa Maryam. Please note that you have to walk about 25 minutes per way through the coffee forest to see the first church. You will also see the departure point of the Blue Nile River from its source before you return to Bahirdar. Have an early lunch in the Desset restaurant before you drive to Tisissat to visit the Blue Nile falls. Please note that the amount of water at the falls will not be much because of the diversion of the water above the falls to the hydroelectric dam. Afterwards Return to Bahirdar and transfer to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Tue, Dec 05
Drive to Lalibela
Today’s drive will take you through some of Ethiopia’s beautiful landscapes to Lalibela. Your drive will be passing through the wetlands around Wereta where you will see some interesting birdlife. You will also pass through Debre Tabor and the beautiful landscape around Nefas Mewcha and Gashena. Arrival in Lalibela will be in the afternoon and you will be transferred to the Mountain View Hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)
Wed, Dec 06
Full Day in Lalibela
Start your exciting day visiting the first group of rock-hewn churches of Lalibela including Bete Medhanealem, Bete Maryam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil and the “double church” of Debre Sina and Bete Michael in which the “Selassie-Chapel” in integrated. After lunch, visit the second group of churches including “the double-church” of Bete Gebrel and Rafael, the tabot-less Bethlehem, Bete Merquorios, Bete Emanuel with its Axumite architectures on the exterior and interior walls and Bete Abba Libanos. You will also visit the famous cross-shaped church of Bete Giorgis. Afterwards back to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Thu, Dec 07
Lalibela to Addis
Morning drive 8 kms out of town and visit the cave church of Neakutoleab before transfer to the airport for your flight back to Addis. Upon arrival meet and transfer to your hotel for check in and balance of the afternoon free. Evening farewell dinner party in one of the cultural restaurants with live music and traditional dance. Overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Fri, Dec 08
Addis - USA
After breakfast start a day trip to the archaeological site of Melka Kunture, where continuing excavations are uncovering evidence of early man. Lastly, visit Tiya an archeological UNESCO site, which is distinguished by 36 standing stones or stelae and visit one of the villages of the Gurage people before driving back to Addis for some free time and day use room before transferring to the airport for departure back home. You will land in USA morning of Dec. 9th (B,L)
We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed