FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4 | Arrive Addis Ababa
Upon arrival at Addis Ababa’s International Airport, you are met by a local Abercrombie & Kent representative and assisted through passport formalities and customs control. You are then transferred directly to the Sheraton Addis, where your room is waiting for immediate occupancy. Later, meet Geoffrey Kent and your fellow guests for lunch, sharing the excitement of the journey ahead. After a short briefing, set out to explore the city accompanied by your expert local guides. Begin at the National Museum, home to Lucy, the famous skeletal remains discovered by American paleontologist Donald Johanson in 1974. Go behind the scenes to the museum vaults in the company of the curator, and view the actual skeleton — the specimen on display to the public is only a replica. Return to the Sheraton Addis for a chance to freshen up. This evening, gather for a cocktail reception and dinner attended by a host of dignitaries and meet the helicopter pilots who will reveal the wonders of Ethiopia over the coming days. For those looking to extend their evening, set out to enjoy the lively ambience of a local jazz club.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5 | Bet Giyorgis & Ben Abeba
After breakfast, transfer to the VIP terminal and board a helicopter — one of a privately chartered fleet reserved for our exclusive use over the next nine days. Fly north to Lalibela with dramatic views of Ankober Mountains and Debre Sina Valley. Touch down to explore a pristine stretch of riverine wilderness en route to Lalibela. Upon arrival, continue overland to Maribela Hotel for time at leisure. This afternoon, meet your local guides for a short talk on the history of Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches. Then, begin your exploration of this hallowed ground with a visit to Bet Giyorgis (also known as the Church of St. George), the largest rock-hewn church in the world. Experience a memorable private ceremony and blessing during your exclusive after-hours visit. Later, enjoy sunset cocktails at Ben Abeba, an architecturally striking hilltop bar and restaurant affording incredible views of this scenic region. Return to the hotel for dinner prepared by your travelling chef. Local musicians provide the evening’s entertainment.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6 | The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela
Explore the rock-hewn churches of Bet Medhane Alem and Bet Maryam for exclusive access before official opening hours. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest of the churches, resembles a Greek temple. Secluded in a corner, three empty graves are said to honor the biblical patriarchs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Connected by tunnel to Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam is renowned for its fine detail. Transfer to the airport and board a helicopter for your flight to the Tigray region. From the air, enjoy views over Mount Abuna Yosef and the Ethiopian Highlands. Arrive at Korkor Lodge in time for lunch, followed by time at leisure, perhaps booking a treatment with the in-house masseuse. Later, enjoy a briefing on Tigray history and the local rock and cliff churches.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 7 | The Danakil Depression & Lake Afdera
Rise early to beat the heat of the day. Begin with a flightseeing exploration of the Danakil Depression, touching down for sunrise overlooking the hauntingly beautiful sulphur pools of Dallol. Back aloft, take in sweeping views of the vast salt pans and Erta Ale’s fiery volcanic crater. Pause for a spellbinding swim in the otherworldly, emerald pools of Lake Afdera. Fly back to Korkor Lodge and enjoy some time at leisure. In the evening, explore the Church of Abuna Gebre Mikael. Though seldom visited, its fine frescoes, columns, cupolas and arches distinguish it as one of the region’s finest churches. A sunset flight brings you back to Korkor Lodge for dinner.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8 | The Tigray Mountains & Gheralta Massif
Enjoy a relaxing morning. Then, set out by helicopter to explore the remote corners of the Tigray Mountains. In the afternoon, fly to the remote churches of Gheralta Massif, Abuna Abraham and Abuna Yemata. First, marvel at the architectural diversity of Abuna Abraham, taking in its beautifully carved cupolas, bas-reliefs and crosses. Proceed to Abuna Yemata, a remote cliff-side church carved into a vertical spire of Tigray’s northern highlands. Accessible only on foot, Abuna Yemata rewards your climb with exquisite frescoes and spectacular views — sights reserved for a privileged few. Toast the day with cocktails at sunset.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9 | Axum & the Simien Mountains
After breakfast, depart by helicopter for Axum, a small town whose placid appearance belies its grand past as a seat of an empire extending across the Red Sea to Arabia. Your approach affords a bird’s-eye view of Adwa, a battlefield where Ethiopian forces defeated the Italian military in 1896. Touch down and begin unearthing Axum’s storied past at Stelae Park, a field of some 120 carved outcroppings ranging from small, roughly hewn stones to finely engraved obelisks towering 10 stories high. The site is also home to what are likely the three tallest stelae ever erected in ancient times. Next, view the Cathedral of Maryam Tsion. Once a pagan shrine, the site was home to Ethiopia’s first church and is rumored to house the sacred Ark of the Covenant. Enjoy lunch as you look out over Stelae Park from Yeha Hotel. After lunch, embark on a scenic, one-hour helicopter flight to the Simien Mountains. Land at Limalimo Lodge and check in before enjoying some time at leisure to acclimate to the altitude. This afternoon, set out on a guided hike of the surrounding hills, keeping watch for the local gelada, a baboonlike monkey. Later, enjoy a Scenic Sundowner cocktail at a spectacular lookout.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10 | In the Shadow of Ras Dashen
Set out for a morning in the Simien Mountains National Park, a sprawling, biodiverse wilderness set in the heart of one of Africa’s largest mountain ranges. Marvel as you pass in the shadows of towering peaks, some exceeding 13,000 feet. The range also boasts Ethiopia’s highest mountain, Ras Dashen, a broad-shouldered goliath topping out at a dizzying 14,928 feet. Home to some of Africa’s most striking wildlife, the park is inhabited by the gelada baboon, the elusive walia ibex and the exceedingly rare Ethiopian wolf. Return to Limalimo Lodge in time for lunch. The afternoon is free to enjoy at leisure. Take in the stunning views from the lodge, schedule a massage, or enjoy a walk through the surrounding forest or nearby village. This evening’s dinner is served at the lodge.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11 | Bahir Dar & the Source of the Blue Nile
This morning, board your helicopter flight to Bahir Dar, a former Jesuit outpost known for its wide avenues lined with palms and flowers. From the air, you might spot Amba Wehni, the inaccessible hilltop fortress where princes awaited their succession to the throne. Upon arrival in Bahir Dar, there may be an opportunity to embark on a leisurely cruise of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. Discover why, even today, the papyrus tankwa that sail the lake bear a striking resemblance to the boats of ancient Egypt. After lunch, continue flying towards the Omo River, pausing for a brief fuel stop at Jinka. Arrive at Lale’s Camp, where the local Karo community welcomes you to the Omo Delta.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12 | Villages of the Omo Delta
Set out before the heat of the day to visit the remote villages of the Mursi and Karo tribespeoples. The schedule is fluid to maximize your authentic interactions with these rarely visited communities. You may have an opportunity to see the distinctive clay lip plates worn by the Mursi and Suri women of the Omo Delta. Return to Lale’s Camp for a leisurely lunch in the shade. Later in the afternoon, visit the Daasanach and Nyangatom, local tribespeople who farm the land along Ethiopia’s southwestern border with South Sudan and Kenya. Returning to your Camp by helicopter, you may glimpse the northern shores of Lake Turkana.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13 | Depart Addis Ababa
Depart early this morning for your return helicopter flight to Addis Ababa. Enjoy a parting glimpse of the Rift Valley as lakes Chamo and Abaya pass below. On arrival, you are transferred to the Sheraton Addis for an opportunity to freshen up and relax. The afternoon is free to enjoy at leisure. For your convenience, personal shoppers and private vehicles have been arranged should you wish to explore the city’s markets at your own pace. This evening, gather with your fellow guests for a farewell cocktail reception, sharing stories and toasting your inspiring expedition through Ethiopia. Your room is reserved throughout the evening, affording you time to prepare for your late departure from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.