Our 17 day south-to-north trip is the ultimate Ethiopian tour. During this unforgettable journey through the Great Rift you'll discover ancient tribes, hand-carved rock churches, take boat trips and so much more.
Day 1 – Arrival in Addis Ababa - Capital of Ethiopia
Welcome to Ethiopia! You’ll be stepping off the plane into Africa’s fourth largest city and diplomatic capital, Addis Ababa. Your Yared Tour & Travel guide will be there to meet you at Bole International Airport and drive you to your hotel. The direct translation of Addis Ababa is ‘new’ ‘flower’ and you are likely to find this rapidly growing city a fascinating place full of contrasts between traditional and modern Ethiopia, making it a great starting point for your tour.
Day 2 - City tour Addis Abeba
Today begins with a drive to Entoto Mountain where we visit the historical site of Emperor Menelik’s Palace and Maryam church, the oldest in Addis Ababa. From here we drive through Shiro Meda which hosts the city’s largest market for traditional clothing, continuing to the campus of Addis Ababa University, home to one of Africa’s best Ethnological museums and the former palace of Emperor Haile Selassie. You visit the Ethnological or Ethiopia's National Museum with ‘Lucy’, the world-famous fossilized hominid. The museum also showcases ancient artefacts from Axum and Gondar, and an exhibition of Ethiopian art. Then visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral (built in 1933), the largest Orthodox church in Ethiopia and the final resting place of Haile Selassie. To conclude, you will visit the busy life of traders in Mercato - Africa’s biggest outdoor market.
Day 3 – Via Tiya & the Rift Valley to Arba Minch
Today you’re heading to the south! It’s a 6-7 hour drive to Arba Minch and we’ll be stopping off along the way to visit Tiya – one of Ethiopia’s most important, and least understood World Heritage stelae fields containing 41 obelisks engraved with interesting symbols thought to be around 600 years old. We arrive in Arba Minch region, meaning ‘forty’ ‘springs’, in the afternoon. The southern city, situated in the Gamo Gofa region is rich in natural resources including two Rift Valley lakes – Chamo and Abaya – home to large populations of hippos and crocodiles, innumerable little springs, Nech Sar (‘white’ ‘grass’) National Park and huge irrigated fruit farms which provide an important source of fruit farms.
Day 4 – Nech Sar & Dorze tribe
During today’s action-packed excursion, we visit the nearby scenic Nech Sar National Park. From the park’s edge, we take a motorboat on the lake to see hundreds of huge Nile crocodiles bathing in the sun and hippos bobbing in and out of the water. There are also many pelicans and other birds around the lake. In the afternoon, we drive into the Gamo highlands outside of Arba Minch, to visit an extraordinary mountain community called Dorze. The traditional way of life of the Dorze people is fascinating. The friendly local community invite you into their beautiful villages to view their huts artfully woven from bamboo and thatched with leaves, which look like huge beehives or upturned baskets, followed by visits to the weaving, pottery and tanning cooperatives. You will also enjoy the breath-taking views of the lakes in the valley.
Day 5 - To Turmi - Hamar Region
Today you will travel from Jinka to Turmi. You’ll witness the landscape dramatically change to wild, dry, acacia tree savannah and feel the warmth and humidity rise. You’ll also notice colourful wraps change to animal skins, shoes to rubber sandals, and the diverse fashions of passers-by wearing brightly coloured adornments and fantastic hairstyles. Turmi village lies in the heart of the Hamar tribe region. From here you will explore different tribes in the Lower Omo Valley. You can best visit the Hamar tribe in the evening, after the work has been done. Therefore, we will take you here just before sunset. You will spend time in the Hamar community with a trained guide and a local family, enjoying the traditional food, drink, delving deeper into rural tribal culture.
Day 5 (more) - Hamar Tribe
Ancient traditions still form the backbone of daily life in Hamar. Most live in rural settlements and practise traditional livelihoods through subsistence agro-pastoralism. Daily life revolves around taking care of livestock, domestic duties and farming of maize and sorghum. Hamar men are semi-nomadic and travel with large herds of goats and cattle between grazing areas, whereas Hamar women take care of the children, cooking, water and firewood collection. Ceremonies and rituals are an integral part of traditional Hamar life. The most well-known is a rite of passage for men into adulthood and marriage called ‘ukili bula’ or bull-jump. During the ceremony, a young Hamar man leaps naked over several of his family’s bulls. It’s a highlight to witness if there’s one taking place whilst you’re here.
Day 6 - Meet the Dassenech or...
To the south on the borders of Kenya lives a distinct tribe known as the Dassanech. The Dassanech people still live, predominantly, a traditional way of life revolving around cultural responsibilities, rituals, subsistence farming and livestock. They are living next to the mighty Omo River between Omorate and Lake Turkana. Therefore, the Dassanech people have adopted fishing, first with spears but today with nets, and fish is an important part of their diet and livelihood. The drive from Turmi to Dassanech, takes less than 2 hours and the elevation drops a further 500m so temperatures can easily climb above 40 degrees, making Omorate the hottest town in the Lower Omo Valley. You will visit a traditional Dassanech village, crossing the Omo river by boat and observe how the Dassanech people have adapted to survive the heat.
Day 6 – ...or meet the Karo tribe
The Kara tribe are one of the smallest ethnic groups in the Omo Valley, linguistically and culturally, they share characteristics with Hamar but they also have their own unique traditions. The Kara can be reached on a narrow dirt road which takes 2 hours to reach northwest from Turmi. You can visit them in the morning or stay overnight camping. The group are well-known for their beautiful body painting skills. They use a white-coloured clay to decorate patterns over their bodies for rituals and ceremonies. The Kara live on the banks of the Omo river further upstream than the Dassenech, they also fish and irrigate crops during the annual flood.
Day 7 - Jinka via Key Afar market
Our next stop is Jinka, a fast-developing market town set in a cradle of green hills above Mago National Park which gives the area a cooler climate compared to the rest of the Lower Omo Valley. We pass through Key Afar, the main town of the Banna tribe. We’ll catch one of the biggest traditional tribal markets which takes place on Thursdays. Groups of Ari, Benna, Tsemay and Hamar people are the main attendees, walking long distances to buy and sell local commodities at the Key Afar market, like tabacco (‘tampo’), coffee husks (‘bunno’) and sorghum (‘asine’). At the catle market men trade cows and goats. As the day progresses, you will also see the popular drink ‘parsee’ – a beloved traditional beer made from fermented sorghum being passed around groups of people in large calabash gourds.
Day 8 - Flight to Axum
Our next destination is Axum, the historic capital of the Axumite Empire located at the base of the Adwa mountains in the far north of the country, Tigray region. The ancient kingdom was once an important meeting point of cultural and commercial interests, home to the Queen of Sheba during the 10th century BC and has a legendary and mysterious heritage. To reach Axum, we drive on a long and impressive route following the edge of the Simien Mountains passing through the gorge of the Takeze river, and small towns with traditional stone farmhouses typical of the Tigrian countryside.
Day 9 - Archeological city Axum
Today we visit ‘The Stelae Field’, an active UNESCO archaeological site containing several enormous, symbolic obelisks sculpted from granite, which are believed to have served as monuments to the Empire’s Kings, some 1,700 years old. The largest obelisk stands at 24m high. We learn more about the ancient civilisation, excavations and research findings at the Archaeological museum, whilst local legends will be brought to life for you with stories from a trained local guide.
Day 10: Drive to Simien Mountains
Today we drive from Axum to the Simien Mountains. To reach the Simien, we drive on a long and impressive route following the edge of the Simien Mountains passing through the gorge of the Takeze river, and small towns with traditional stone farmhouses typical of the Tigrian countryside.
Day 11 - Hike in Simien Mountains & Gondar
You’ll have the chance to make a beautiful hike in the morning in the Simien Mountains and then continue towards Gondar, a legendary city so full of regal history that it is often regarded to be ‘the Camelot of Africa’.
Day 12 - Fasilides' Gondar
We take the full morning to learn about the Kings and Emperors of Ethiopia and discover all the best of World Heritage Site Gondar. During a guided tour, we visit some of the oldest and most impressive buildings dating back to the 17th century and Fasilides’ time; the Royal Enclosure, a 70,000 sq/m compound contains the remains of several royal buildings; Fasilides’ castle, Iyasu’s palace, Dawit’s Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Empress Mentewab’s castle, a chancellery, library and three churches. Near the city lies Fasilides’ ancient bathhouse, home to an annual ceremony where it is blessed and then opened for bathing, and finally Debre Berhan Selassie church, said to be one of the most beautiful and well-preserved in the country. Then we drive to Simien Mountains.
Day 13 - Awra Amba & Bahir Dar
On the road between Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela we’ll be stopping off to visit a village like no other in Ethiopia. The special community of Awra Amba is a thriving egalitarian society where residents believe in gender-equality, shared responsibility, hard work and education. The village was founded in 1972 on the vision of a young farmer named Zumra and a small group of like-minded friends. Today, Awra Amba has successfully evolved into a self-sustaining community, independent of food aid and religious funding. Residents run a weaving social enterprise and profits are invested into community services such as a local library and retirement home. You’ll have the chance to visit the village. We are then heading to the capital of the Amhara region and one of Ethiopia’s most popular highland cities, which is Bahir Dar. The rest of the day is free time.
Day 14 - Lake Tana & falls
Bahir Dar is the big city in north-western Ethiopia. Around 30km south of Bahir Dar and Lake Tana we visit the Blue Nile Falls. It’s immense power and beauty is known locally as ‘tis abay’ meaning ‘great smoke’. The best time of year to see the falls is during the wetter months. To reach the most beautiful viewpoint, we take a gentle stroll for around 1½ hours. Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, is Ethiopia’s largest lake and an absolute delight to explore. We’ll be taking a boat ride to the lake’s peninsula visiting two picturesque church monasteries dating back to the 13th & 14th centuries. You’ll have a chance to explore the monasteries, see the colourful murals of Christian saints and martyrs adoring their walls and hear stories about the remains of ancient Ethiopian Emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Day 15 - Drive to Lalibela
We’ve saved the best of your Ethiopia tour until last, the world wonder of Lalibela. In this magical, cobblestone town, you can view no less than thirteen beautiful medieval churches. Lalibela’s churches have also been carved out of rocks, like Tigray’s, but they sit below ground level, some connected by narrow passages. It is believed the churches were built for King Lalibela, with the help of angels (as the legend tells), whose vision was to create a ‘new Jerusalem’ for Christian Ethiopians during the 13th century. After a long journey, you’ll soak up more of the jovial atmosphere and traditional nightlife at a local bar whilst enjoying Asmari performances, Ethiopia’s version of stand-up comedy. And of course, you will have the chance to taste Lalibela’s delicious local honey wine and enjoy more good Ethiopian food.
Day 16 - Churches of Lalibela
Today you explore the mystical rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, that are organised into two groups. The northern group consists of six churches including Bet Medhane Alem, the largest of all Lalibela churches which has the shape of a Greek temple. Bet Maryam, dedicated to Maria has a bath which is said to have wonderful healing properties. Other churches are Bet Meskal, Bet Danaghel, and the interconnected churches of Bet Golgotha and Bet Mika'el. The southern group consists of four churches including Bet Amanuel which is praised by art historians for its beautifully decorated exterior walls. Bet Abba Libanos, has a structure of great charm, and Bet Gabriel-Rufael.Last but not least you visit the remarkable church of Bet Giyorgis, carved into a cross shape and perhaps the most elegant of all in Lalibela.
Day 17 - Relax in Addis Abeba & back home
Today we head back to Addis Ababa by plane. You could shop or make a single final visit in the capital in the afternoon. Or you take a rest in your dayroom in Addis Ababa. On the final day you will enjoy a farewell meal and celebration in one of the city’s cultural restaurants. Enjoy the authentic Ethiopian cuisine for the last time, whilst enjoying traditional dance and music.
You can make this trip as a minimum of 2 people. You'll travel through the country in a comfortable 4x4 vehicle with one of our experienced driver/guides. If you are traveling as a family or group of 5+ we will use a minibus or a second 4x4 vehicle. If you are a group of 4 people you can also opt for a minibus if you'd prefer. If you are planning to travel solo we can advise about where you can partly travel by public transport or organise a group trip with others.
4x4 car and fuel
Driver with lots of experience in tourism
All entrances to the mentioned attractions
Government tax and VAT
Guarantee according to Dutch Law
CO2-compensation for flight and land arrangement
Water every day
Meals not mentioned (lunch and dinner)
Tips for guides
Extra excursions not mentioned
Budget accommodation includes camping, homestays or local hotels with shared sanitary facilities. Camping is often set in stunning natural locations, Yared takes care of the materials.
Mid-range accommodation in Ethiopia is generally considrered 2-3 star hotels. You will stay in double rooms (double or twin) with their own shower and toilet. This is best value for money.
In Ethiopia, luxury accommodation has everything you’d expect from a high quality hotel in terms of comfort, service and facilities. This option is not available in all parts of Ethiopia.
2. Travelling to North & South-Ethiopia takes you to humid areas with possibility of mosquitos. Don't forget mosquito repellent!
3. Temperatures in the South can climb up to 40 degrees. Out of respect for the local culture, it is recommended to cover shoulders and knees.
4. Power outages are very common in Ethiopia especially in the countryside. A power bank, portable solar device and flashlight come in handy.
– Chris & Riny (NL)
It was a journey with many impressions. Ethiopia is a special country with a lot of variety and we are also happy that we did both the north and the south. We were very satisfied with the organization of Yared Tour & Travel. We listened very carefully: there was enough rest in the program and the hotels met our wishes. The warm welcome at the office in Addis Abeba and the fact that Chris could borrow a SIM card was very pleasant. Thanks!
– Gerdy (NL)
''We had a wonderful trip in Ethiopia with Yared Tour & Travel! Thank you for the organization and the personal contact!''