AUD 4652 / pp
13 - 25 January 2021
Join us on this small-group tour to Ethiopia for the Timkat Festival which is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's celebration of Epiphany. Pilgrims travel for days to the churches at which the celebrations are held.
Addis Ababa → Adigrat and Tigray → Mekelle → Axum → Simien Mountains → Gondar → Bahir Dar → Blue Nile Falls and Lake Tana → Lalibela
Day 1: Addis Ababa
Arrive in Addis Ababa and transfer to hotel accommodation. The rest of the day is free to relax. Overnight at Nexus Hotel or similar.
Day 2: Addis Ababa – Adigrat and Tigray churches
A morning flight takes us to Mekele and on by road to Adigrat. We explore the sites of Tigray, visiting some of the region’s 130 rock churches including Medhane Alem Adikusho, Wukro Cherkos and Abraha Atsbeha. The architecture is notably different here. Churches are in part or wholly excavated within the living rock, rather than carved from it. Overnight at Agoro Lodge or similar.
Day 3: Mekelle - Axum
Axum passes through spectacular landscapes. Axum is Ethiopia’s holiest town and since 1980 a World Heritage Site. Highlights include a remarkable collection of ancient stelae, the bath and palace of the Queen of Sheba, and St Mary of Tsion Church, claimed by some to hold the Ark of the Covenant containing the original stone tablets handed down to Moses. Overnight at Yared Zema Hotel or similar.
Day 4: Axum - Simien Mountains
The journey to the Simien Mountains is long, but as we ascend towards the mountains the scenery is rewarding. Along the way, it’s worth keeping an eye out for endemic Ethiopian wildlife, including Gelada Baboons and many species of birds. Depending on our arrival time there may be an opportunity for a short walk in the park to glimpse the breath-taking beauty of Simien mountainscapes. Overnight at Ras Dejen Hotel or similar. Please note it can be very cold in the mountains at night so you should bring warm clothing to wear.
Day 5: Simien Mountains
Today we walk in the mountains, taking in awe-inspiring viewpoints and spotting some of the endemic wildlife. The effects of altitude, though mild, will be apparent. We’ll make frequent stops, stay well hydrated and travel at the pace of the slowest. Shorter hikes are possible for those preferring not to walk for the whole day. Overnight at Ras Dejen Hotel or similar.
Day 6: Simien Mountains - Gondar
Drive to Gondar, once Ethiopia’s imperial capital, and famous for its beautiful castles and palaces. This afternoon, you can witness the Eve of the Timkat Festival celebration. Overnight at Goha Hotel or similar.
Day 7: Timkat Celebrations
Early in the morning, we will go to the church to see the Timkat celebration and the crowd waiting to be baptized by the holy water. The water which symbolizes the Jordan River is blessed by the priest, and the patriarch then dips a golden cross into it, and extinguishes a burning consecrated candle on the altar. He then sprinkles water on the assembled congregation in commemoration of Christ's baptism in the Jordan River. The ceremony will be over around 8 am and afterwards, we visit some of the town’s main sites, which include the Bath of King Fasiladas and the ornately decorated Debre Birhan Selassie Church (Light of Trinity) known for its colourful murals. Overnight at Goha Hotel or similar.
Day 8: Gondar - Bahir Dar
After breakfast we continue to explore Gondar before the drive to Bahir Dar, close to Lake Tana, stopping at points of interest en route. On arrival check into our hotel which overlooks Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile. Overnight at Avanti Blue Nile Hotel or similar.
Day 9: Blue Nile Falls and Lake Tana
From the town we drive to the Blue Nile Falls, taking a short walk to view the falls themselves, before returning. We take boats out onto Lake Tana to explore its collection of ancient monasteries, dramatically situated on the lake’s islands and peninsulas. Overnight at Avanti Blue Nile Hotel or similar.
Day 10: Bahir Dar - Lalibela
After breakfast, start the journey to the town of Lalibela, stopping at points of interest along the way. Overnight at Mountain View Hotel or similar.
Day 11: Lalibela
This morning we will begin to explore the rock-hewn churches known in some circles as the 8th wonder of the world. This afternoon we will continue visiting these intriguing monuments to discover more of Ethiopia’s enigmatic past. Overnight in Mountain View Hotel or similar.
Day 12: Lalibela - Eve of Timkat Celebrations
This morning we will visit the first group of rock-hewn churches known in some circles as the 8th wonder of the world. This afternoon, you can witness the Eve of the Timkat Festival celebration in one of the Rock-Hewn churches. Overnight in Mount View Hotel or similar.
Day 13: Departure
At a suitable time, you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight. Tour ends.
12 nights at the hotels
Day 2, 3, 4 - Breakfast and Dinner
Day 5 - Breakfast and Lunch
Day 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 - Breakfast and Dinner
Day 13 - Breakfast
Guided tours as per itinerary (only local guides)
Transfers as per itinerary
24/7 phone/WhatsApp support line
ABTA and ATOL bonded
Meals not mentioned
Optional tours and activities
Discover Ethiopia’s natural beauty as it reveals itself in the Simien Mountains
Visit the annual Timkat Festival, which celebrates the Ethiopian Epiphany
Spend time in Lalibela exploring both the main churches and lesser-known ones
Explore the sites of Tigray, visiting some of the region’s 130 rock churches
Learn about the history of the ancient Axumite Empire at Axum
Travel to ‘Africa’s Camelot’ – the wonderful castles and palaces of Gondar
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