Ethiopia’s famous historical sites lie in the north of the country and include the obelisks and stele of Axum, the churches and Coptic monasteries on the Lake Tana islands, the castles of Gondar and Lalibela, the African Jerusalem with its monolithic churches. En route, visitors can get a flavour of local life passing through towns and villages and enjoy some of the country’s spectacular natural beauty in the Simien Mountains National Park.
Overnight flight on Ethiopian Airlines from Heathrow to Addis Ababa.
On arrival in Addis Ababa, you will be met by your guide and taken to Golden Tulip Hotel for an overnight stay.
In the morning you will catch your flight to the lakeside town of Bahir Dar. Later, you will take a boat trip on Ethiopia’s largest body of water, Lake Tana, to visit the monasteries of Ura Kidane Mihret and Azwa Mariam which are found on the largest peninsula of the lake. These monasteries are known for their colourful frescoes of religious scenes and an impressive display of illustrated bibles written in Ge’ez, Ethiopia’s oldest language. Overnight at Kuriftu Resort and Spa.
Today you will drive from Bahir Dar to Gondar, the 17th and 18th century capital of Ethiopia. In Gondar visit the ‘Royal Compound’ with its many majestic castles constructed in the European middle age architectural style, the bathhouse of Emperor Fasilides and finally Debre Birhan Selassie Church which is the finest of the Gonderine churches. It was built during the reign of Emperor Iyasu (1682 - 1706) and the interior walls of the front room are covered with paintings on cloth. The ceiling is built with thick beams and it is decorated with winged angel heads and wall paintings depict scenes from the life of Christ and Mary. Overnight at Goha Hotel.
Today you will be driven from Gondar to Simien Mountains National Park. The park is situated at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,200 metres and boasts varied flora with three marked botanical areas. The highest parts have meadows with little vegetation, characteristic of Afro-Alpine zones. In addition to spectacular scenery, sightings of endemic wildlife such as Gelada monkeys and Walia ibex can be enjoyed. Return back to Gondar for an overnight stay at Goha Hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly to Axum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia. This morning, visit the Archaeological Museum of Axum and the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, which is believed to be where the Ark of the Covenant is housed. In the afternoon, visit the enormous carved obelisks in the stelae field, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the 4th century AD, the ruins of the palace and tomb of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel (5th and 6th Century AD) and what some believe to be the 9th century BC residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba. Overnight at Sabean Hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to the 12th century hand carved rock churches of King Lalibela (1181 - 1221) whom the town is named after. This afternoon you will visit the first group of six churches which are known as “Earthly Jerusalem”. The churches are laid out in a cluster and connect to each other through an underground stone tunnel. Overnight at Mountain View Hotel.
This morning, a mule ride takes you to the hilltop semi-monolithic church of Asheten Mariam (13th Century AD). The peak of the hill offers wonderful views of the surrounding area including the town of Lalibela. In the afternoon, visit the second group of churches known as “Heavenly Jerusalem”. You will also visit the spectacular cross-shaped St. George’s Church which is carved from the earth’s surface two storeys directly down in the shape of a cross. You can also view many fantastic ancient relics, such as icons, gold and silver crosses and manuscripts written in the ancient language of Ge’ez. Overnight at Mountain View Hotel.
Fly back to Addis Ababa and in the afternoon have a sightseeing tour of the city that includes a visit to Trinity Cathedral, a beautiful church with a baroque style of European architecture which is unique to both Ethiopia and Africa, and the National Museum, home to many archaeological and historical findings including the famous complete hominid fossil remains of ‘Lucy’. In the evening, you will have a farewell dinner at one of the best traditional restaurants of Addis Ababa to see the folkloric dances of the Ethiopian people. Overnight at Golden Tulip Hotel.
You will be taken to the airport for your morning flight on Ethiopian Airlines back to Heathrow, arriving this afternoon.
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