- Ethiopia A Cultural Odyssey
Journey to the spectacular peaks of Simien Mountain National Park, visit UNESCO-recognised castles and fortresses in ancient Gondar, take in the impressive Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela and go in search of the rare Ethiopian wolf and mighty Nile crocodile as you explore Ethiopia's architectural and wildlife wonders. Prehistoric archaeological findings, medieval churches and unique wildlife, found nowhere else in the world, combine to create this fascinating tour.
Depart London on your scheduled, overnight flight to Addis Ababa.
On arrival in Addis Ababa, you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your hotel. Check into your hotel then embark on a city tour through Ethiopia's sprawling capital. Witness Ethiopia's pre-historic importance with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, which houses fossilised evidence of the sabre-toothed tiger and the preserved remains of Lucy, the oldest hominid ever uncovered. Take in the bustle of local shoppers and enthusiastic hawkers at Merkato Market, Africa's largest open-air market. Return to your hotel with time to relax before tonight's welcome dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your early flight to Bahir Dar, a city of wide, palm-lined avenues nestled on the shores of Lake Tana. On arrival, continue on to the shimmering expanse of Lake Tana, Ethiopia's largest lake and the source of the Blue Nile. Join pelicans, wallowing hippos and local fishermen in handmade papyrus boats as you glide across these calm waters on a boat ride across the lake. Later, witness the daily life of local villagers at Pauper's Village and Market before checking into your hotel in Bahir Dar for your overnight stay.
Visit the Blue Nile waterfalls and its thundering curtain of water, known locally as the Great Smoke for its thunderous plumes of water and mist. One of Bahir Dar's most spectacular sites, the river then continues onwards to Khartoum. Take an afternoon at leisure to relax.
This morning, drive north to the city of Gondar This morning, drive to the city of Gondar, where its imperial past can be seen in the centuries-old castles and fortresses, collectively known as the Royal Enclosure. which have earned the city UNESCO Heritage status. Explore this 'Camelot of Africa' on today's guided tour of the city, taking in the crumbling battlements, imposing castle walls, royal bathhouses and buildings of a past age. Continue on to the lively Gondar Market, wandering the labyrinth of stalls selling everything from live chickens to 'berbere', the spicy local pepper mix.
Soak in spectacular scenery on this afternoon's walking tour along the rugged nature trails of the UNESCO-recognised Simien Mountain National Park. A region of breath-taking peaks, green valleys and rugged terrain, enjoy the chance to spot gelada baboons in their natural habitat, before delighting in a unique opportunity to witness the dramatic Jan-Bar Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Africa, which plunge 500 metres into a narrow chasm. Return to your lodge for dinner and your last night in the Simien Mountains.
After a second walk around the National Park, travel back to the nearby city of Gondar to visit the beautiful arched doors and two-tiered thatched roof of Debrebrihan Selassie Church, one of Ethiopia's most beautiful churches.
Following breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Lalibela, the geographic and spiritual heart of Ethiopia. This UNESCO-listed city draws white-robed pilgrims in their thousands as they journey to its medieval Rock-Hewn Churches. On your arrival, visit the first group of 12th century churches, a collection of monolithic structures skillfully chiselled into rock under the orders of King Lalibela, who was attempting to build a 'New Jerusalem'. After wandering the passageways linking the churches and admiring these towering temples, visit the nearby village and market for a chance to experience local life and view the traditional round huts and homes of the area. After time to explore, continue on to your hotel for check-in and dinner.
Enjoy another day exploring Lalibela's famed churches as you cross the Jordan River to the second group of these incredible structures. If you're lucky, you might have the chance to witness a church service as these ancient religious sites are still used daily for worship and prayer. Return to the village for the afternoon and discover the sights and sounds of local life before making your way back to your hotel for the evening.
After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight into the heart of Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley as you travel to the city of Arba Minch, via Addis Ababa. On arrival in Arba Minch, check into your hotel and, if time permits, travel to a nearby handicraft workshop and silk farm to learn more about the traditional techniques and creative skills used to make these beautifully crafted local goods. Return to your hotel for dinner and an evening at leisure.
This morning, explore Ethiopia's spectacular Rift Valley lakes, formed during the last Ice Age along the massive fault line running through East Africa. Board a boat for a relaxing cruise along Lake Chamo, home to a large population of the world's largest crocodile - the Nile crocodile. Spot wildlife on the water's grass-lined edge as you meander across the lake, passing the area popularly known as 'Crocodile Market'. Here, watch dozens of these massive, powerful creatures basking lazily in the sunshine, mouths open to regulate their temperature. Travel onward to Nechisar National Park, a ridge of savannah sandwiched between the calm waters of Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya, and journey through the park on the lookout for the herds of zebra, antelope, buffalo and giraffe that roam these grassy plains.
Embark on a unique cultural experience as you travel to Dorze Village this morning. Explore distinctive, tall beehive-shaped huts, built entirely from banana leaves and learn about the villagers' nimble-fingered weaving techniques whilst swaying to the beat of their rhythmic traditional music. Drive onward to the city of Hawassa, stopping en route in a village near Wolaita Sodo to visit the bustling market, displaying pottery, spices, fragrant cooked dishes and colorful Ethiopian garments. Arrive in Hawassa, a picturesque city located on the shores of Laka Hawassa, and check into your hotel in time for tonight's dinner.
After breakfast, join Hawassa's seafood lovers at the local market, where fishermen sell their freshly-caught bounty from wooden rowing boats and mouth-watering smells waft from food stalls. A visit to nearby Abijatta Shalla National Park takes you into the heart of this lake region, rich in birdlife. Drive through the park, watching flamingos perched in the blue waters, pelicans and cormorants swooping down for a catch and fish eagles gliding through the sky.
This morning, embark on a trip to Debre Libanos Monastery, one of the most remarkable monasteries in Ethiopia, situated on a terrace between a cliff and the gorge of one of the tributaries of the Abbay River. Later today, return to your hotel and relax before a farewell dinner this evening and transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK or chosen extension.
Keith Buxton16 Mar 20
Provided full breakfast at 0445 (excellent), good internet, nice a la carte. Nice log fires, hot water bottles at night, underfloor heating in bathroom much appreciated.Amazing surroundings, not surprisingly, no internet. Nicely appointed large chalets. good tasty meals. Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch. Good quality meals attractively presented. Nice good sized pool, chlorinated (we used it). Aamazing views from the restaurant, but our room (130), was small, dark and poky, with only occasional lights working. Haile Resort, Hawasa. Excellent hotel, reasonable internet, buffet meals good, and an excellent clean swimming pool (again, which we used.). AN amazing holiday with lots of variety, and very well organised. Getachew (our guide) was amazing, with his degree of knowledge, and the clarity of his instructions/discussions. We could not fault Ethiopian Airlines,we were well supplied with meals (on the long haul) and snacks on all the short haul flights.
Neil Smith22 Oct 18
Generally fine. No problems
A visa is required for entry into Ethiopia. British Citizen Passport Holders can pay for their visa on arrival at Addis Ababa (Bole) International Airport. You can purchase your visa be-forehand; We work closely with The Travel Visa Company who will be able to arrange your visa for you on your behalf. Please call them on 01270 250 590 and quote 'Mercury holidays'. The current cost of the visa is £102 per person. We recommend that you apply for your visa 8 weeks before travel, however please be aware that your passport will be required for the application so make sure that you will not need it during this time. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry to Ethiopia. Visa requirements are subject to change and obtaining a visa is the responsibility of the traveller and not Mercury Holidays. We recommend you check with your destinations' Tourist Board or Embassy prior to departure for the most up to date guidelines regarding visas and passport validity.
We strongly recommend that you and all members of your party are suitably insured as soon as you book your holiday. It is a condition of booking that you must have suitable travel insurance. It is important that you purchase travel insurance that suitably covers your participation in whatever activities you may undertake at the time that you make your booking. To assist you with this, we have arranged travel insurance in partnership with Holiday Extras. To arrange your travel insurance with Holiday Extras, please call 0800 781 4237 and quote 'WK830' for preferential rates. Please ensure you provide us with the name of your insurer, policy number and their 24 hour emergency contact number as soon as possible. Mercury Holidays will not be liable for any costs incurred by you due to your failure to take out suitable travel insurance from the date of booking.
If booking more than 10 weeks before departure a deposit of £49pp will need to be paid at the time of booking with the full amount payable at 10 weeks prior to departure. The deposit applies to adults and children. If you are within 10 weeks of travel then the full balance of the holiday will be payable.
Baggage allowance (per person): Each passenger is entitled to 1 piece of hold luggage with each bag not exceeding 20kg. Hand luggage: One piece not exceeding 4Kg and with maxi-mum total dimensions not exceeding 118 cm (55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm). Should you wish to take additional luggage you will need to pay extra at check-in.
It is your responsibility to check any health and vaccination requirements applicable to your booked arrangements. We can only provide general information about this. Health and hygiene facilities and disease risks vary from country to country. You should take health advice about your own needs as early as possible and in good time before your departure. Sources of information include; www.fco.gov.uk, http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/, www.hpa.org.uk, your General Practitioner or a specialist clinic.
This tour is accessible to most people with a good level of fitness and normal mobility. It involves climbing of steep stairs and getting on and off coaches and boats. This tour is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties.
The minimum number of travellers in your group will be 10, and the maximum will be 21. If in the unlikely event there are less than 10 people booked on your tour date, we will endeavour to reduce any disruption to your holiday and try to operate your tour with lower passenger numbers. If we are not able to operate your departure date then you may be asked to change to a different date and a full refund will be made available to you should this alternative not be suitable.
This is a fully escorted tour, meaning that you will be met on arrival by your national guide who will remain with you for the duration of your trip. You will also be joined by a local guide in each of the cities which you visit, ensuring that you have first-hand knowledge at all times.
The currency in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Birr. We recommend that you exchange your currency in Ethiopia, there are foreign exchange bureaus at many places across Ethiopia, your tour guide will be able to assist you. Some local banks will not change money back into Euro's or Pound Sterling, so do not change up too much money. It is advisable to carry smaller note denominations as some outlets and vendors may not accept the larger notes.
You will need to take some extra money with you to cover any personal purchases, such as souvenirs, laundry and extra drinks and snacks. Approximately £300 - £400 per person will be sufficient for the duration of the tour.