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Marco Polo Journeys

Ethiopia: Historic Route & Simien Mountains 2017


11 Days from $6,995

Limited to 18 guests

Reveal the secrets of this enchanting country as you discover the source of the Blue Nile, examine the groundbreaking Lucy skeleton, spot the Simien Mountains' distinctive ghelada baboons and explore extraordinary rock-hewn churches such as Bet Giyorgis (the Church of St. George).

A&K Advantages

Discover the stunning jewels of Ethiopia, revealing the threads of ancient culture, religion, architecture and natural beauty that make this diverse nation's tapestry so rich

Observe the actual 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton, a major anthropological find that solidified Ethiopia as the cradle of civilization

Trace the glory of past empires among the ruins of palaces and monuments in Axum

Explore the vivid frescoes of Lalibela's rock-hewn churches

Set out on a drive through Simien Mountains National Park in search of exotic wildlife

Roam the medieval castles and churches of Gondar, revealing the secrets of Africa's Camelot

Cruise Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, and hike out to see the breathtaking Blue Nile Falls

Itinerary at a Glance

DAY 1
Arrive Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
DAY 2
Addis Ababa | A Rich History of Diversity
DAY 3
Axum | Echoes of a Glorious Empire
DAY 4
Lalibela | Ethiopia’s New Jerusalem
DAY 5
Lalibela | Hewn by the Angels
DAY 6
Simien Mountains | Wild Retreat in the Heavens
DAY 7
Simien Mountains | Safari in the Clouds
DAY 8
Gondar | Camelot of Africa
DAY 9
Bahir Dar | Lake Tana Cruise
DAY 10
Bahir Dar | Majesty of the Falls
DAY 11
Depart Addis Ababa
DAY 1
Arrive Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Upon arrival in Addis Ababa, you are met and transferred to your hotel. Known as Ethiopia’s “new flower,” Addis Ababa is your gateway to this amazing adventure.

Sheraton Addis
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DAY 2
Addis Ababa | A Rich History of Diversity

Hit the streets of Ethiopia’s sprawling capital for a closer look at this nation’s gripping history. Begin your exploration of Addis Ababa at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a monument to the country’s liberation from Italian occupation during World War II and final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie. Next, dive deeper into Ethiopia’s rich cultural diversity at the Ethnographical Museum. Conclude your excursion at the National Museum, seeing the authentic Lucy skeleton, a significant anthropological revelation. Later, gather for a welcome dinner at your hotel and get acquainted with your fellow travellers.

Sheraton Addis
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 3
Axum | Echoes of a Glorious Empire

This morning, fly to Axum, a small town whose placid appearance belies its grand past as a seat of empire extending across the Red Sea to Arabia. Begin unearthing Axum’s storied past at Stelae Park, a field of roughly 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. Continue on to get a glimpse of the advanced technologies that drove this empire at the Axum Museum. Next, tour the Cathedral of Maryam Tsion. Once a pagan shrine, the site was home to Ethiopia’s first church and is rumored to have once housed the sacred Ark of the Covenant. Conclude your excursion at Dongar Palace. Local legend holds that the Queen of Sheba once held court in this, the grandest of Axum’s palaces.

Sabean International Hotel
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 4
Lalibela | Ethiopia’s New Jerusalem

Fly to Lalibela, a holy city and Ethiopian center of pilgrimage. Known as “New Jerusalem,” this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to several monolithic rock-cut churches. Begin your exploration of this hallowed ground with a visit to Lalibela’s northwest cluster of six churches, including Bet Giyorgis (also known as the Church of St. George), the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world. Carved below ground level, the monolithic churches are ringed by trenches, courtyards, graves and hermit cells, connected by a tangled maze of tunnels and passageways.

Hotel Maribela
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 5
Lalibela | Hewn by the Angels

After breakfast, head to the outskirts of town to visit the Monastery of Nakuta La’ab. Named after King Lalibela’s successor (and nephew) who commissioned it, this medieval monastery and simple church hewn from a shallow cave contains spring-fed holy pools, paintings, crosses and other sacred relics. Continue on to explore Lalibela’s southeast cluster of five churches. Older and more timeworn than the churches of the northwest, some of the structures pre-date the reign of King Lalibela by five centuries. According to legend, the southeastern church of Bet Abba Libanos was built by just one woman in only one night, along with some heavenly intervention from a group of angels. Cap off your excursion with a time-honored coffee ceremony, observing traditional roasting and brewing techniques featuring a customary jebena (clay kettle).

Hotel Maribela
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 6
Simien Mountains | Wild Retreat in the Heavens

This morning, fly to Gondar, pausing for a traditional Ethiopian lunch at a local restaurant upon your arrival. Continue on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Debre Berhan Selassie Church to take in its vividly painted scenes of biblical lore and medieval history. Continue four hours overland to Simien Mountains National Park, a sprawling, bio-diverse 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 ghelada baboon, walia ibex and the exceedingly rare Ethiopian wolf. Settle into your lodge, joining in a presentation focused on the advanced social behaviors of the ghelada baboon.

Simien Lodge
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 7
Simien Mountains | Safari in the Clouds

Set out on a scenic morning drive through the mountains, stopping in Chennek, a remote village perched some 11,800 feet above sea level. Continue on through giant lobelias and Afro-Alpine scrub, keeping a lookout for walia ibex, klipspringers and bushbucks. Pause for a picnic overlooking the vast mountain landscape. Next, pass through some of Ethiopia’s most stunning mountain scenery, stopping to encounter a group of ghelada baboons. Continue a short ways on foot, pausing to take in the mists of a secluded waterfall.

Simien Lodge
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 8
Gondar | Camelot of Africa

Embark on a morning drive to Gondar, a storied town of medieval castles and churches. Dubbed the “Camelot of Africa,” Gondar was founded in 1636 by Emperor Fasiladas as the royal capital of Ethiopia. After settling in at your lodge, step out to explore the town. Begin at Fasiladas Palace, a church believed to be the former home of legendary explorer, James Bruce. Continue on to Fasilidas’s Pool, a cavernous bathing pool once used by the former emperor. Enclosed by towering stone walls and guarded by six turrets, the pool is still filled every January 19th for the local Timkat ceremony.

Mayleko Lodge
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 9
Bahir Dar | Lake Tana Cruise

This morning, depart overland three hours to Bahir Dar, a former Jesuit outpost known for its wide avenues lined with palms and flowers. After checking in to your resort, 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. Disembark on an island to explore two of the lake’s secluded monasteries, Ura Kidane Mihret and Azuwa Maryam — both known for their manuscripts, iconography and paintings.

Kuriftu Resort & Spa
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 10
Bahir Dar | Majesty of the Falls

Set out on an hour-long hike to the majestic Blue Nile Falls. Marvel as the currents of the Blue Nile crash 140 feet to the roiling rapids below, flowing on to its long journey out to the Mediterranean. After you take in the falls, enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure. Gather in the evening for a farewell dinner with your fellow travellers.

Kuriftu Resort & Spa
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 11
Depart Addis Ababa

In the morning, visit Bahir Dar’s bustling markets, browsing handwoven capes and scarves made from local cotton. Continue on to Weyto village, stopping to witness boatbuilders crafting tankwa, small papyrus vessels that have ferried people and livestock across Lake Tana for centuries. Later, fly back to Addis Ababa and transfer to your hotel dayroom. This evening, transfer to the airport for your international flight home.

Sheraton Addis (dayroom)
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Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Program Note: Travel in this remote region entails lodging in basic accommodations; visiting sites with limited accessibility for those with mobility challenges; and active elements such as walking over steep, uneven terrain.


Prices are in USD, per person, based on double occupancy.

  • Oct 15 - Oct 25
    Call for Availability
    Price
    Single Supplement
    Internal Air From
    Availability
    Price
    $6,995
    Single Supplement
    $1,395
    Internal Air From
    $750
    Availability
    Call for Availability

    Price shown is guaranteed for 7 or more guests. For 2-6 guests, the price will be $8,395 per person double occupancy

Journey Details

Internal Air: Addis Ababa/Axum/Lalibela/Gondar; Bahir Dar/Addis Ababa (from $750)

Minimum age is 10 years.

First group event: welcome briefing at 10:00 a.m. on Day 2.

Last group event: farewell dinner at 7:00 p.m. on Day 10.

Departures are guaranteed to operate with a minimum of 2 guests.

Program Note: Travel in this remote region entails lodging in basic accommodations; visiting sites with limited accessibility for those with mobility challenges; and active elements such as walking over steep, uneven terrain.


Destination Information

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Climate

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CDC Information

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