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Priests in Lalibela, Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Journey to sub-Saharan Africa's oldest civilisation, and discover a land rich in historical treasures.

Ethiopia has history and cultural richness in abundance. Trace the past from the skeleton of one of the earliest discovered hominids, our ancestor of 3.5 million years, to the remains of the Kingdom of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Abyssinia.

The famous Historic Route covers the length and breadth of Ethiopia's geographical and historical landscape, allowing you to follow the course of the country's history through the pre-Christian stellae of Axum, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the 17th-century castle of Gondar, and the forbidden City of Harar.

Gane and Marshall are the UK's leading specialist on Ethiopia's Historic Route, with over 20 years' experience of organising tours to the region. Our Historic Route itineraries cover difficult-to-access regions of Ethiopia, such as remote Tigray, that are not usually included in standard tours. We also offer itineraries focusing specifically on Ethiopia's Orthodox Christian heritage, which can be timed to coincide with the major religious festivals.*

Alongside its rich history, Ethiopia also offers fantastic trekking opportunities in the Simien Mountains, a natural wonder and a designated world heritage site. The Simiens are home to much endemic flora and fauna, including the Simien fox, the walia ibex, the gelada baboon, the bearded vulture, thick-billed raven and eagles. Further south, the Bale Mountains are equally rich in wildlife and natural splendour. For more information, see our Ethiopia trekking pages.

Considering a holiday to Ethiopia? Contact us today to discuss your travel plans. We know the country extremely well and can help you plan the perfect holiday, tailor-made at no extra cost to you. Our Ethiopia trekking and cultural programmes are accompanied by excellent guides and offered at very competitive rates.

NEW guided tours of Ethiopia's Historic Route, visiting Lalibela, Axum, Gondar, and remote Tigray. Departing in January, April and September 2015/16, our Ancient Ethiopia programmes are timed to coincide with the festivals of Timket, Palm Sunday and Meskel, and are led by superb guide, Zablon Beyene. They provide a fantastic way to explore the best of Ethiopia's rich cultural heritage in the company of others.

* Click here to view an Ethiopia programme that we organised over Easter 2014 for London's Temple Church, and here to view video footage taken during the trip by journalist Bob Maddams.

ETHIOPIA TRAVEL ADVICE

  • Ethiopia is a good year-round destination but the dry season (November to May) is the peak holiday season.

  • Ethiopia's mountainous regions may see rain between May and September. Trekking is still possible during these months.

  • Ethiopia's Historic Route, comprising Axum, Lalibela, Bahir Dar and Gondar, can be rushed through in a week, but we recommend longer, particularly if you want to include Harar and the spectacular rock churches of Tigray in your itinerary.

  • A holiday to Ethiopia combines well with a stay on the Tanzanian or Kenyan coast.

  • Consider timing your visit to Ethiopia to coincide with one of the country's major national holidays or festivals. Ethiopia comes alive during the important celebrations of Timket (Jan), Palm Sunday (April) and Meskel (Sept).

Ethiopia

Regions in Ethiopia

Fallen stellae of Axum, Ethiopia

Axum

Axum is a city in northern Ethiopia named after the ancient Kingdom of Aksum, a naval trading power that ruled from 400 BC into the 10th century. We offer private tours of Axum as part of our guided Ethiopia Historic Route tours.

Ethiopia rural scene - Bahir Dar (Rachel Clarke)

Bahir Dar

The city of Bahir Dar is located on the southern shores of Lake Tana, in Ethiopia's northern Amhara region. The region is famous for the beautiful monasteries and churches that populate the thirty-seven islands of Lake Tana, many of which are accessible by boat.

Mountain Nyala

Bale Mountains National Park

The Bale Mountains constitute a 2,400 sq km national park in the Ethiopia Highlands, home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. They provide marvellous trekking territory, though they are somewhat overshadowed by the Simien Mountains to the north.

Rift Valley Lakes, Ethiopia - Birdlife

Ethiopian Rift Valley Lakes

The Ethiopian Rift Valley lakes form the northernmost section of the African Rift Valley. In central Ethiopia the Great Rift Valley splits the Ethiopian highlands into northern and southern halves, and the Ethiopian Rift Valley lakes occupy the floor of the rift valley between the two highlands.

Debre Birhan Selassie

Gondar

Gondar, formerly the royal capital of Ethiopia from 1666 to 1864, was founded by Emperor Fasiladas in 1635. The town is famous for its many medieval castles and churches. The oldest of these structures are located in the 15th-century Royal Enclosure built by Fasiladas.

Harari Woman

Harar

Harar is an important Muslim holy city, home to no fewer than 90 mosques. Though it lacks the historic marvels of Gondar and Axum, Harar is one of Ethiopia's liveliest, most welcoming cities.

Priest

Lalibela

Lalibela, formerly known as Roha, is a remote town in northern Ethiopia considered to be the country's holiest site after Axum. Built in response to the capture of Jerusalem by the Muslims, Lalibela was originally intended to be a New Jerusalem, with many of its buildings modelled after sites in Jerusalem.

Ethiopia tribes lady (Kamili Safaris)

Omo River Valley

The Omo River Valley in south-western Ethiopia presents a dramatic contrast to Ethiopia's northern highlands. Removed from the dominant Christian/Islamic traditions of northern Ethiopia, the southern valleys are populated by a mix of tribal communities, each with their own unique customs and appearance. Tribal tours are the main attraction of the south, but Omo also contains Ethiopia's best, and remotest, wildlife parks.

Gelada Baboon

Simien Mountains

The Simien Mountains, which include Ras Deshen (Ethiopia's highest mountain), are located in the north-western corner of the country. Now a world heritage site, the Simiens boast some of Africa's most stunningly beautiful mountain scenery. Our trekking routes into the Simiens take you far from the regular tourist trails.

Abune Yemata Church, Tigray

Tigray

Tigray is Ethiopia's best-kept secret. This northernmost region of the country was the birthplace of Ethiopia's Axumite Empire, and among the first regions to have embraced Christianity, a heritage still visible in the numerous rock churches that dot the rugged landscape.

Example itineraries in Ethiopia

Ethiopia's Historic Route (with Tigray and Simiens)

Comprehensive guided tour of Ethiopia's famous Historic Route (Axum, Gondar, Lalibela, Lake Tana, Addis Ababa), extended to include remote Tigray and the Simien Mountains.

Ethiopia's Historic Route

This guided Historic Route tour visits Axum, Lalibela, Lake Tana, Bahir Dar and Gondar. The programme can be extended to include more elements, such as the rock churches of Tigray, the Rift Valley lakes, Omo Valley and southern Ethiopia, and the Bale and Simien Mountains.

Simien Mountains Trek with Historic Route

Our standard Simien Mountains trek, this trekking itinerary takes you to remote parts of the Ethiopian Highlands and to the summit of Ras Deshen. This tour includes as standard some aspects of the Historic Route, such as Gondar and Lalibela, and may be extended to feature more.

Walled City of Harar (extension)

This short, 3-day tour of the famous Walled City of Harar in eastern Ethiopia can be booked as an extension to one of our full-length Ethiopia programmes, such as our escorted Historic Route tours or Simien expeditions.

Ethiopia Rates 2016-17

Ethiopia Historic Route and Simien trek rates for 2016/17.

Ancient Ethiopia - Palm Sunday and Easter Festival Tour

Fully guided tour, running 7th to 17th April 2017 so as to coincide with the Palm Sunday and Easter festivities.

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