Arrive Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Arrive in Addis Ababa, where you are met and transferred to your hotel.
Addis Ababa | Exploring the City
Set out on an afternoon city tour that includes visits to the Ethnographic Museum, Trinity Cathedral, National Museum and St. George’s Cathedral.
Hawzen | Mountain Vistas
Fly to Mekelle. Upon arrival, drive to Hawzen, located in the spectacular Gheralta Mountains. En route, visit the rock-hewn churches of Wukro Chirkos, as well as architecturally stunning Abraha we Atsbeha, a muralled, cruciform-shaped church dating back to the 10th century. Check in to your lodge, which is constructed of local materials from the Tigray Region and features mountain views.
Hawzen | Ancient Rock Churches
Visit the ancient rock churches of Tigray. You may have the chance to see roughly hewn Medhane Alem Adi Kesho, considered by many to be Ethiopia’s oldest rock church, as well as the rock dome church of Mikael Melehayzenghi.
Axum | Former Empire
Drive to Axum, stopping en route at the temple of Yeha, believed to date back to 700 BC. Axum was once the seat of an empire, which extended across the Red Sea to Arabia. Visit iconic Stelae Park, featuring the three tallest stelae erected in ancient times. At the Axum Museum, see artifacts from the Axumite empire and learn how technologically advanced Axum was. Proceed to the Cathedral of Maryam Tsion. Established in the fourth century by Kin Ezana, it was Ethiopia’s first church; set on the site of a former pagan shrine, the original structure was destroyed in the 16th century. It is believed that the Ark of the Covenant was kept in a sanctified outbuilding on the compound.
Lalibela | Pilgrimage Site
Fly to Lalibela. One of Ethiopia’s holiest cities and a center of pilgrimage for most of the country, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is called the “New Jerusalem” due to its monolithic churches and rock-cut architecture. Begin your exploration of this hallowed ground with a visit to Lalibela’s northwest cluster of six churches, including 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, all connected by a tangled maze of tunnels and passageways.
Lalibela | Cave Churches
After breakfast, travel to Nakuta La'ab, a monastery carved from a rock cave. Continue on to 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 one woman — and a group of angels — in a single night. Attend a time-honored coffee ceremony, observing the roasting and brewing process, which is done in a special jebena (clay kettle).
Gondar | The “Camelot of Africa”
Famous for medieval castles and churches that earned its nickname, “the Camelot of Africa,” Gondar was founded in 1636 by Emperor Fasiladas as the royal capital of Ethiopia. Explore Fasilitas’ Compound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains six medieval stone castles and several smaller buildings from the 16th century. Later, visit the church of Debre Berhan Selassie, its walls and ceiling decorated with Biblical and medieval scenes. Legend has it that a swarm of bees saved the church from marauding invaders.
Bahir Dar | Island Monasteries
This morning, drive to Bahir Dar, where you check in to your resort and enjoy lunch. This afternoon, embark on a cruise of Lake Tana, exploring two renowned island monasteries: the beautiful, circular Ura Kidane Mihret, set on the forested Zega Peninsula, and Azuwa Maryam, adorned with lively 18th-century paintings.
Bahir Dar | “Smoking Water”
Set out on an hour-long hike to the majestic Blue Nile Falls. Marvel as the currents crash 140 feet to the roiling rapids below, creating a spray that gave the falls its local name of Tis Issat, or Smoking Water. Spend the remainder of the afternoon at leisure.
Depart Addis Ababa
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, relax in your dayroom. Or, if time allows, visit one of the largest open-air markets in Africa or the Kechene Women’s Potters Association for a local pottery-making experience. Then, transfer to the airport and board your homebound flight.