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Marco Polo Journeys

Ethiopia: Historic Route & Simien Mountains 2021


11 days from $7,495 per person

Limited to 18 guests

Discover the stunning jewels of Ethiopia, revealing the threads of ancient culture, religion, architecture and natural beauty that form this diverse nation’s rich tapestry, and experience unrivaled insider access as you cruise to the source of the Blue Nile, examine the Lucy skeleton and explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

A&K Advantages

  • Gain privileged access to the National Museum’s authentic, 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton, skipping the representational reproduction displayed to the public
  • Unearth the history of Axum, taking in Stelae Park’s iconic obelisks and viewing a church rumored to house the Ark of the Covenant, in this alleged home of the Queen of Sheba
  • Explore the vivid frescoes of Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches, each an inspiring, active shrine to a Christian civilization that pre-dates its northern European counterpart by centuries
  • Set out on a drive through the staggeringly scenic Simien Mountains National Park in search of exotic wildlife, such as the country’s endemic gelada monkeys and Walia ibex.
  • 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 National Park | Wild Retreat
DAY 7
Simien Mountains National Park | Scenic Safari
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
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. Visit 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 guests.

Sheraton Addis
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 an 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. Tour the Cathedral of Maryam Tsion, rumored to have once housed the sacred Ark of the Covenant, and Dongar Palace, where local legend holds that the Queen of Sheba once held court in this, the grandest of Axum’s palaces.

Sabean International Hotel
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 and Bet Giyorgis (also known as the Church of St. George), the largest 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.

Mezena Lodge
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 abuts a simple church hewn from a shallow cave. See the church’s spring-fed holy water basins 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 predate 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).

Mezena Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 6
Simien Mountains National Park | Wild Retreat

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. Proceed 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, topping out at a dizzying 14,928 feet. Home to some of Africa’s most striking wildlife, the park is inhabited by the gelada monkey, walia ibex and the exceedingly rare Ethiopian wolf. Settle into your lodge, joining in a presentation focused on the advanced social behaviors of the gelada monkey.

Limalimo Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 7
Simien Mountains National Park | Scenic Safari

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 baboon-like gelada monkeys. Continue a short ways on foot, pausing to take in the mists of a secluded waterfall.

Limalimo Lodge
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, believed to be the former home of legendary explorer James Bruce. Continue on to Fasiladas 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.

Gondar Hills Resort
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. Enjoy 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 Take in the spectacular views of Blue Nile Falls 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
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. Afterward, enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure. Gather in the evening for a farewell dinner.

Kuriftu Resort & Spa
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, return to the airport for your international flight home.

Sheraton Addis (dayroom)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Explore Dubai: Stopover Package

Middle-East-UAE-Dubai-Skyline-2020

3 days from $1,995 per person

Single Supplement from $1,195 per person

Take advantage of an incredible opportunity to spend two nights in Dubai before or after your journey.

 

Accommodations:

Taj Dubai from $1,995 | Single Supplement from $1,195
Palace Downtown from $2,295 | Single Supplement from $1,595
Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai from $2,295 | Single Supplement from $1,595
Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach from $2,495 | Single Supplement from $1,695

International air not included.

3 Days

Fly to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and check in to your luxury hotel. Discover the best of this dazzling city, viewing its remarkable architecture; visiting the Spice Market and the colorful shops at Deira Gold Souk; and ascending the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper. On the last day, continue on to your journey or board your flight home.

Taj Dubai
Palace Downtown
Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai
Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (Day 2); Breakfast (Day 3)


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

  • 2021
  • Feb 14 - Feb 24
    Available
    Price
    Single Supplement
    Internal air from
    Availability
    Price
    $7,495
    Single Supplement
    $1,395
    Internal air from
    $855
    Availability
    Available
    How many people are travelling in your group?
  • Oct 16 - Oct 26
    Available
    Price
    Single Supplement
    Internal air from
    Availability
    Price
    $7,495
    Single Supplement
    $1,395
    Internal air from
    $855
    Availability
    Available
    How many people are travelling in your group?
Journey Details

Internal Air: Economy class from $855
Addis Ababa/Axum/Lalibela/Gondar; Bahir Dar/Addis Ababa

Minimum age is 10 years.

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

Last group event: hotel transfer at 2:00 p.m. on Day 11.

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.


Preparing for Your Journey

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Essential Information

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