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Ethiopia Majesty Music and Mystery

Ethiopian tour: Music Festivals and Photography

The description below was for the 2015 tour. The person escorting these tours is not longer available.

At this stage we do not have another departure set.

We can arrange samll private groups (4+) using this wonderful itinerary and expereinced local guides.

Tour Description

This extensive tour of the oldest country on the African Continent offers a variety of experiences. The dates for the trip have been chosen to coincide with a spectacular Ethiopian Orthodox religious festival 'Hidar Zion " in Axum with processions, church services, traditional chanting and drumming and a Music festival in Arba Minch.

The tour starts in Addis Ababa and continues via BAHAR DAR and Lake TANA to visit ancient monasteries, to the Royal Enclosure of GONDAR, to the breathtaking landscape of the SIMIEN MOUNTAINS, where we stay one night in the highest hotel on the African Continent. In AXUM we visit the religious festival, we marvel about AXUM’s mysterious stelae, visit isolated monasteries in TIGRAY province and make our way to MEKELLE and south-west along the Rift Valley into the highlands to the most famous site, LALIBELA’ s rock hewn churches.

We visit markets, meet the locals, sample local food and the traditional food ‘ injera’ and return from LALIBELA to ADDIS ABABA by plane and continue by plane on the same day to DIRE DAWA, our launching point to travel to the walled Muslim city of HARAR in Eastern Ethiopia.
From HARAR we continue our drive across the Hararghe Mountains to AWASH National Park. We visit game parks, see Zebras, Gelada baboons, crocodiles and hippos in the southern lakes and a variety of endemic birds and flora along the lakes of the RIFT VALLEY on our way to ARBA MINCH. In Arba Minch we have the chance to visit a Music festival ‘Festival of the 1000 stars”, where the many different tribes of the southern part of Ethiopia treat us to an exquisite display of their traditional music and dance.

Option to South Omo Valley: : From Arba Minch you have the option to drive to the South Omo Valley (for 5 – 6 days) to visit the tribes of the Hamer, Mursi, Konso, Ebore people and other ethnic communities who live a very different but fascinating lifestyle and all have their own customs and traditions (e.g. lip plates, jumping of the bulls, etc.)

Day 1:
Arrival in Addis Ababa , welcome by our agent and guide, transfer to hotel. After settling into our hotel and a small rest, we spend 1/2 day exploring Addis Ababa beginning with a visit to the National Museum, one of the most important sub-Saharan museums in all of Africa. The museum is home to the fossilized humanoid Lucy, as well as an amazing collection of artefacts and royal items.

Day 2:
We continue our sightseeing in Addis, visit St. George Cathedral, the Holy Trinity Church, the Ethnological Museum and Mount Entoto.

Day 3:
We take an early flight across the highland plateau to the lakeside town of Bahir Dar/ Lake Tana. Check in to our hotel and then drive (after lunch) 32km south to visit the Blue Nile Falls. While walking to the Blue Nile Falls we cross the historic 'Portuguese Bridge'.

Day 4:
Today we are planning a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the monastery churches of UraKidane Mihiret and Azoa Miriam. Ura Kidane Mihiret is the best known of the monasteries and has an important collection of religious icons from the 16th to 18th century. We return by boat to Bahir Dar and after lunch drive around Lake Tana to the 17th century former capital of Ethiopia, Gondar.

Day 5:
Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian Empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of King Fasilidas. In Gondar are a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years. The city seems more European than African and also has Islamic influence. In the afternoon, we visit Fasilidas' Palace, probably the most impressive of all the castles found in the area and the oldest one. We continue on to Quskuam Church and the Church of DebreBerham Selassie (Light of the Trinity). The interior of Debre Berham Selassie is decorated with beautiful paintings. Debre Berham Selassie is alleged to once have been the proposed final resting-place of the Ark of the Covenant.

Day 6:
We leave Gondar to travel to the Simien Mountains ( Simien National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site ). We visit the village of Felashas (Jewish minority), known for their ceramics on way to the Simien Massif. In the park, many of the mountain peaks exceed 4000m; the highest is Ras Dejen, at 4.543m above sea level. These mountains consist of volcanic masses that have been eroded over centuries. Today they have amethyst-coloured peaks, deep gullies, endemic flora, and the endemic gelada baboon. A picnic lunch will help us through the day til dinner in the Simien lodge, the highest accommodation in Africa.

Day 7:
We leave our mountain lodge to travel north to Axum, enjoying wonderful views of the Simien Mountains, crossing the Tekeze River and heading for the ancient Axumite capital, stopping at interesting points en route for photographs of the scenery. It is a long drive, the road is not fantastic, but the views are spectacular!

Day 8:
Today we have all day to visit the huge single stone Stelae, testimony of the ancient and powerful Axumite Kingdom, the museum and the well guarded sanctuary chapel containing the Ark of the Covenant.

Day 9:
We witness today the religious festival of Hidar Zion where pilgrims come from afar to pray, chant andto partake in the various processions. In the afternoon we proceed to Geralta via the historic Adwa, the location of a famous 1896 battle in Ethiopia's history of freedom and visit Ethiopia's most ancient temple at Yeha. Proceed to our overnight stop at Geralta Lodge, a restful oasis in the Tigray Province.

Day 10:
Well deserved rest day in Geralta Lodge! Possibility to visit the local market, enjoy the peaceful surroundings of this restful place with very nice Italian food, local wine and excellent service. O/N Geralta Lodge B/D

Day 11:
It will be hard to leave Geralta Lodge. We proceed to Mekelle, en route visiting the ancient rock churches of Tigray including the oldest Muslim shrine of Negash which is related to the first Muslim migrant to Ethiopia from the family of Mohammed around 7thC. AD.

Day 12:
Early morning start to drive south to Lalibela, the 10th century capital of Ethiopia, full of awesome architecture and en route view the Maychew Mountains, the highland lake Ashenge and stop at EshetAmba School, (SchoolsaGift) an Australian based project to improve and enlarge the school and its conditions so more children have access to education.

Day 13:
Lalibela is the site of twelve rock hewn churches (the Eighth Wonder of the World) which were built in the 12th century and are carved out of the pink granite rock. Lalibela has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each church (Bet) has a unique architectural style; all are superbly carved and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings. The entire city may be described as a sculpture dedicated to the glory of God. The day is dedicated to visiting the first group of churches and the stunning weekly market.

Day 14:
After breakfast we drive to one of the most remarkable churches called Yemirihane Kristos which was built in 11th C. into a natural cave. After lunch we visit the remaining cluster of 5 churches including the majestic Bet Giorgis church.

Day 15:
We depart Lalibela and fly to Addis Ababa, change plane to continue to Dire Dawa.

Day 16:
After visiting the Kefira market in Dire Dawa, we continue to Harar, a 16th century walled city and World Heritage Site, the spiritual heart of Ethiopia's largest Islamic community with its 87 mosques. We explore the ancient and atmospheric city starting by driving around the walls by car to see the five gates, then on foot into the narrow lanes and visit the Rimbaud House, Harai, where Oromo and Amhara people trade in the markets; buy chat and at night we feed the wild hyenas !

Day 17:
We leave Harar and drive through the Hararghe Mountains to Awash National Park. The journey is very scenic. We overnight in Awash National Park and plan to see some of the animals (Oryx, Great Kudu, Grant's gazelle and different birds) at dusk.

Day 18:
Our drive along the lakes of the Rift Valley, stop at Lake Ziway and continue to Lake Langano, our overnight lodge.

Day 19:
We enjoy a peaceful morning at Lake Langano before we head to the twin lakes Abiata and Shala on our way to Yergalem. O/N Aregash Lodge B/D

Day 20:
After breakfast we drive to Arba Minch and stop on the way at Awassa Fish market on the shores of Awassa Lake and visit the traditional house of Halalba people. O/N Arba Minch, Paradise.

Day 21:
This morning we plan a boat trip on Lake Chamo to view crocodiles and hippos. In the afternoon we enjoy the Music festival "Festival of the 1000 stars'. The music festival is a presentation of songs and traditional dances of the many and quite distinct tribes in this part of Ethiopia.

Day 22:
After early morning breakfast you have 2 choices
- a trip to the Konso people known for their traditional villages, terraces and their last tribal king in Ethiopia or
- visit the village of Dorze high up in the hills, known for their varied use of the 'false' banana plant. The afternoon will again be dedicated to the Music festival. All good times need to come to an end!

Day 23:
Today we return to Addis by plane, spend the afternoon in Addis for last minute shopping and enjoy farewell dinner just before we check in at airport for return flight to your home destination.


South Omo Valley extension tour details.

  Main tour South Omo extension
Twin Share per person    
Single where possible    


Todays world of travel is very different from some years back and each person must be satisfied that they are fully informed and based on information gathered from various sources, make their decission to travel or not. The most cautious approach is taken by the Australian government travel advisory (not just to Ethiopia mind you) and we draw this to your attention; Travel Advisory. Locals (indigenous and expatriate) can have a different view.

Included in this price is:

  • Domestic flights within Ethiopia
  • All Airport transfers
  • Air conditioned mini/midibus. For the South Omo extension the vehicles are Toyota
  • Landcruisers.
  • Accommodation in 3* (or best available) hotels with en-suite
  • Boat tours on Lake Tana and Lake Chamo
  • All entrance fees at churches, monasteries, castle, museums as shown on itinerary
  • National Park permits
  • All breakfasts plus one meal per day usually dinner.
  • Services of a European tour leader
  • Services of local guides - English speaking
  • All applicable local government taxes                  


Not included is, extra costs are/might be

  • alcoholic drinks
  • international flights
  • tips and other expenses of personal nature