Ethiopia from South to North on September 13-28, 2016

Tour to Omo Valley, Danakil, Axum, Gheralta and Lalibela on Meskel holiday, September 13-28, 2016

Ethiopia is one of the most important and captivating countries in Africa. While it is one of the least developed at this time, there remains the great historical and archaeological heritage, religious traditions and cultural layers. By visiting both Southern and Northern parts of Ethiopia in one tour, you will dive into two whole worlds: the wilderness if the Omo valley and the spiritualism of the center of Christianity in Axum and Lalibela on Meskel holiday, one of the major holidays in Ethiopia. You will climb to the monasteries of Gheralta, walk the salt deserts and ascend the live volcano of Afar.

During the 16 days of our trip, we will make a circle connecting the primeval civilization to the cradle of the Western Christian civilization.
If you are a professional or amateur photographer, your guide and professional photographer Einat Klein, will help you make your best shots.

The tour program is subject to a small change due to a possible visit to the “bull jumping” ceremony (we will try to adjust to the Hamer tribe calendar as much as we can, but one can’t know in advance for sure), and also due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances.

No matter what country you live in, you can join this tour. It’s perfect if you like history or if you are into photography.


Ethiopia is a country that one must visit at least once in a lifetime. And when you’re there, it’s impossible not to fall in love.


What awaits you in this tour:

worlds in one trip, the North and the South of Ethiopia together
Unforgettable days in the cradle of the civilization
Ethiopian tribes of the Omo valley and the Danakil desert
churches of Lalibelathe ancient Christian holy sites

Cost of the tour: $3399

per person

Price based on twin room accommodation. Additional payment for single room accommodation – $450

What’s included in the tour’s cost:
  • Guidance of the professional historian and international photographer Einat Klein
  • Staying in the lodges listed in the tour’s program or the equivalent ones
  • Visit to Lalibela National Park
  • Excursion to Lalibela
  • Visit to the National Park in Axum
  • Excursion to Axum
  • Excursion to Gheralta monasteries
  • Visit to all the locations listed in the tour’s program
  • Visit to the villages of the tribes listed in the tour’s program
  • Ferry over the Omo river
  • Breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day during the tour
  • Mineral water throughout the tour
  • Transportation in Nissan Patrols и Toyota Land Cruisers 4х4 (4 passengers + 1 driver in each 4x4WD) in Omo and Danakil parts
  • Transportation in road coaster AC comfort bus starting from Makele.
  • Additional 4x4WD with the cook and gear in Danakil desert
  • Accompaniment of rangers and guards during the Erta Ale volcano hike
  • English-speaking drivers
  • Entrance fees, rangers, tolls

What’s not included:
  • International airfare. The tour’s program starts from the moment of the meeting the group in Addis-Ababa airport.
  • Domestic flight airfare (Arbaminch-Addis Ababa and Lalibela-Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Airlines, $168)
  • Visa (50$)
  • Medical insurance
  • Other beverages besides mineral water (soda, beer, etc)
  • Personal expenses (laundry, cell phone, etc)
  • Tips to the tribes for taking pictures (several dollars each day)
  • Fee for the “Bull riding” ceremony (only if it takes place, around $30)
  • Tips to the drivers, guides and cooks
  • All other expenses not listed in the tour program

Tour program

Day 1

Day 1
The group meets in Addis Ababa International Airport and the journey begins. First, we will get some rest in a hotel in Addis Ababa where we can take a nap and have breakfast.
In the morning, we will start our way to the south and will ride around 450 km, approaching the lost tribes of the Omo valley.

That day we will meet the first of the tribes, Dorze. Unlike many others, it belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox church and for thousands of years has been famous for its cotton produce. The mountain dwellers, people of this tribe learned to build elephant-shaped houses, weave natural cotton clothing, sintering of ceramics and make an amazing honey vodka. We will meet the people of the tribe in one of their villages and will learn about life and traditions of the Dorze tribe with the help of the local guide, Makkonen.

Then, we will be on our way to the town of Arbaminch (translated as “40 water springs”). Here we will stay in a nice lodge and have some rest before the next day.

Lodging in Addis-Ababa: Addis Ababa Adot-Tina Hotel
Lodging in Arbaminch: Arbaminch Paradise Lodge or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 2

Day 2Right after breakfast we move out towards Turmi – the area where the Hamer tribe lives. Before we get there, we will also stop by the Arbore tribe village. This tribe is known in the area by their magical skills and is highly respected by the other tribes, who sometimes go to them for help if they can’t solve their own problems.

We will also drop by the Dimeka village, where the traditional weekly market will take place that day. We will be able to sample local beer, honey wine, take part in the coffee ceremony and check out the local goods – tobacco, coffee, grains and onions.

After lunch we are off to see the Hamar tribe, the most handsome and expressive tribe of the Ethiopian south. It is known for their fat cattle, large territories and a huge number of local traditions and beliefs.

Lodging: Turmi Buska Lodge or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3

Day 3Karo tribe’s name is translated as “Fish eaters” from the Hamer’s tribe language. People of Karo live on the bank of the Omo river and enjoy not only the pretty scenery, but also all the fish that the river brings. Most of the tribes in the Omo valley do not eat fish, preferring to raise cattle, but Karo is an exception which gets them to be laughed at from time to time by the others. Karo also is one of the few tribes that wear flowers, which, when combined with the AK-47s, looks pretty impressive. We will spend few hours in the Karo tribe’s village and after lunch will continue to the next tribe, Dassanech (previously known as Geleb).

On the way to the Dassanech tribe, we will be facing a real adventure, namely, crossing of the Omo river in old wooden canoes. There are no bridges over the river, and these boats are the only way to get across.

The Dassanech tribe is one of the least developed tribes in the area and, therefore, one of the poorest. They also get laughed at by the other tribes. For example, their previous name, Geleb, meant “Darky”. Their skin tone is in fact much darker than of the other tribes Arbore or Hamar, which is explained by their place of living – it’s almost right next to the South Sudan border. The Dassanech have an interesting tradition of female ranking with the help of decorations and clothings, and also a very characteristic way of the huts building.

Lodging: Turmi Buska Lodge or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4

Day 4On the fourth day we will travel to Jinka, one of the most remote regions of the Southern Ethiopia. There is an excellent ethnographic museum in Jinka, a very picturesque farmer’s market and, most importantly, the tribes of Ari and Mursi live nearby.

After leaving the lodge, we will travel 250 km towards Jinka. That day we will visit the Konso tribe and stop by the weekly market which is patroned by the tribes of Konso, Bena, Ari and sometimes Mursi.

Anyway, the Konso tribe is another one relatively developed tribe of the Southern Ethiopia and, together with the Dorse, is known for their cotton goods, but most importantly, this tribe was the one to introduce the principle of terrace farming to the while Africa. Terraces on the side of the hills are one of Ethiopia’s prettiest sights, and the history and traditions of the tribe is filled with remarkable beliefs and rituals. For instance, this tribe practices mummification of the dead and the only one which respects the cult of the dead. We will have a detailed tour on the rituals and customs of the Konso tribe and one can say that from this moment we will start to go deep into the really lost Ethiopia.

After lunch we will be on our way to Jinka and stop by one of the most well-known weekly markets of Ethiopia, Key Afar, patroned by the tribes of Ari and Bena. The big and bustling market of Ket Afar attracts hundreds of sellers and buyers, every one of whom is trying to get the best deal. Someone sells garlic, someone buys maize, and someone just came to drink some beer and talk to friends.

Here we can know the people of the Bena tribe a little better, who are easily recognized by the massive and colorful bead decorations. As a rule, the markets of the Ethiopian south are the most vivid and colorful sight. Places like these are the dream of any ethnography enthusiast.
Afterwards, we will arrive to Jinka and take a stroll along the town’s main street before the dinner. We will pass another market, little shops, local movie theatres (these need a separate story!), the bulls and their beaters and will learn for sure what “faranji” means.

Lodging: Jinka Resort Hotel or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 5

Day 5

We will dedicate this whole day to one of the Southern Ethiopia most famous tribes, Mursi. This tribe is known in the western world mostly due to their women and their custom of the lower lip piercing. Young girls pierce their lips and insert small ceramic washers. After a while, this washer gets bigger and bigger, reaching the size of the medium plate. The Mursi tribe is also different from the other tribes of the region by their height, unusual hats worn by females and excellent military knowledge.

In the Omo valley every one of the tribes have their own specialization. Hamer own a lot of cattle, Beshada produce ceramics, Ari grow coffee, Nyangatom trades weapons, Karo fishes. The tribe of Mursi is known for their cattle and their fighting spirit. The first thing that we will need to do when we arrive to the Mursi village is to learn couple of words in their language, shake hands with all of the Elders, pick up several kids and get dirty (you’ll see).

After hanging out with the Mursi and seeing one of the most scenic views of the valley we will move out towards the land of the Konso tribe.
We will visit the village of the Konso tribe, known for their skirts and the original hut design. Moreover, Konso is the only tribe in the region with the developed cult of the dead that respects their dead. They are also known for their excellent cotton goods and colorful clothing.

Lodging: Konso Kanta Lodge or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6

Day 6In the morning we will drive to Arbaminch international airport and have our flight to Addis Ababa.

In Addis we will have free time to rest, make our laundry and get prepared to the hardest part of the trip – Danakil.

Lodging: Debre Damo Hotel or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7

Day 7Early morning flight to Mekele and from there – long full day drive to Danakil depression.

We will arrive to the area called Afdera, one of the most remote places of not only Ethiopia, but the whole Africa. This place is so undeveloped that there is no hotels, lodges or anything touched by the civilization at all. And this is great, as we get to spend the night at the campsite. We will sleep on the beds made of twigs (and mattresses) and, most importantly, we will have our own cook, Mandi, the best cook in Africa!

Lodging: Afdera campsite
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8

Day 9
In the morning, before it’s too hot (in this area the temperature doesn’t change much over the year) we will ride to the Afdera lake and the salt quarries. Although this region is totally wild and uncivilized, a big chunk of Ethiopia’s salt harvested here. The tribe of Afar works in the quarries and salt mines, cuts kilometer-wide layers of salt into bricks, loads them on camels and sends to the nearest city with the caravans. This sight is unbelievable and magical. We will see here the strings of caravans and its cameleers and feel like we are in the fairy tale.

After lunch we will travel to El Dom (the campsite that stands at the bottom of the Erta Ale volcano). I have had my share of adventures, but nothing compares to what we will experience this evening. Closer to the dinner time we will start our ascent to the mouth of the volcano. We will have to hike few kilometers before we reach the top and will see the volcano in all of its might and beauty. Erta Ale is one of the few places in the world where we can actually walk to the edge of the volcano’s mouth and look down inside, feel its heat and fire. We will spend the night in the campsite near the mouth of Erta Ale (did I forget to mention it will be the most romantic night of your life) and will start the descent early in the morning, before the sunrise.

Lodging: campsite at the volcano’s top
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9

Day 10In the morning, after breakfast we will go to Hamed Ela. The way there is around 100 km. We will stay at the campsite of Hamed Ela and spend the rest of the day visiting the nearby village, meeting the Afar tribe and getting some rest.

Lodging: Hamed Ela campsite
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10

Day 11

Early in the morning we will make our way to the Earth’s hottest place and the prettiest part of the Syrian-African Rift, the Dalol lake (Dalol Cobar Sink).

One may wonder what to expect at the planet’s hottest place? Probably dull, gray desert? Nothing like that. In Dalol, we will see so many colors and tones that you have never seen before even if you have traveled all around the world. Even in the coolest seasons the temperature can reach 40-45C, but still you will not want to leave this hell on Earth due to all the oxidized minerals, hot geyser eruptions, huge purple, black, green, yellow salt boulders… At the same time all of this explodes, seethes, lives under our feet. This place is so crazy that it’s definitely worth the long way to get there.

After Dalol, we will swing by the salty Assale Lake, where all the salt mining happens. Everything here is dedicated to the one thing – the salt, African white gold.

After lunch, we will go to the town of Mekele, the region’s capital.

Lodging: Mekele Planet Hotel or equivalent
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11

Day 11 Today we will visit the ancient monasteries of Gheralta mountains. We’ll go to beautifully painted Abreha we-Atsbeha, Dugum Selassie and Wukro Chirkos. Depending on group physical condition, those three could be substituted to the Abuna Yemata monastery, the hardest to reach in Ethiopia and one of the most beautiful in the world!

Gheralta is a paradise for lovers of history of ancient Christianity and secrets. Here, in between white and red rocks, were carved hundreds of churches in the V century, many of which are still functional today and are inhabited by monks and hermits. Access to some monasteries of Geralta is restricted and requires a real adventure: ascension on ropes made of animal skins, a small pedestrian crossings, etc. However, as a reward you get a unique heritage of the Ethiopian church, smiles of the monks and contact with the ancient history of early Christianity.

Lodging: Gheralta Lodge
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12

Day 13Today we’re heading to Axum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia. On our way there we’ll visit Yeha Temple, the most ancient Sabean temple ever excavated, and also Debre Damo rocky monastery. The journey from Gheralta will take whole day, but we will be satisfied with incredible views and interesting history!

Lodging: Sabean International Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13

Day 14

This day we’re staying in Axum, the ancient Ethiopian capital and main city of the Axumite Kingdom. This is one of the oldest cities in the world, with the greatest treasures and history: it is here, according to the beliefs of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, where Tablets of the Law, once exported by Menelik, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, from the Jerusalem Temple are stored.

Here we will visit the mysterious Stelae’s park, Maryam Zion Church, Ark of the Covenant Chapel and Kings burial sites.

Lodging: Sabean International Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 14

Day 15Early in the morning after breakfast, we will start our way towards Lalibela, the medieval city and the home of the 13th century churches carved in stone, listed by UNESCO as one of the most important world’s heritage objects. Majestic rocks, canyons, abundance of colors (from the bright red to the saturated green) will take your breath away.

This evening we will witness the Meskel Holiday preparations all over Lalibela and Ethiopia in general. Main ceremony will be held next morning, but bonfires, prayings and worshipers we will meet already tonight!

Meskel is an annual religious holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox and Eritrean Orthodox Churches commemorating the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century.

Lodging: Mountain View Hotel
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 15

Day 16

So.. this is the Meskel morning and the main celebration in Lalibela! The Meskel celebration includes the burning of a large bonfire, or Demera, based on the belief that Queen Eleni had a revelation in a dream. She was told that she shall make a bonfire and that the smoke would show her where the true cross was buried. So she ordered the people of Jerusalem to bring wood and make a huge pile. After adding frankincense to it the bonfire was lit and the smoke rose high up to the sky and returned to the ground, exactly to the spot where the Cross had been buried.

The medieval capital of Ethiopia, originally designed to be the New Jerusalem, replacing home for the persecuted Christians of the Holy Land. Lalibela today is one of the most famous places in the world, its next wonder of the world, protected by UNESCO: cut down vertically in the red rocks 13 churches are a unique work of human hands, capturing the imagination of both, medieval travelers and modern ones.
Lalibela seems to us as an essential point of the program in the northern Ethiopia, a place filled with memorable and unique architecture, ancient temples and manuscripts, crosses and icons. And all this – on a background of classical Ethiopian mountain view. There are also several ancient mountain monasteries around Lalibela, visiting them is an adventure in itself.

Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 16

Day 16

After breakfast our tour will end by the transfer to the airport and flight to Addis Ababa International Airport. In Addis we will have farewell dinner and nice traditional dance cultural program.
Although the days of our travels have ended, the memories and the desire to come back to Ethiopia will stay!

Meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner


Tour itinerary

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