Historical and Cultural


Our Historical and Cultural itinerarytakes visitors from the north of the country, with its fascinating historical and religious sites, to the south of the country and its traditional tribes.

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All about the Historical and Cultural.


Our Historical and Cultural itinerarytakes visitors from the north of the country, with its fascinating historical and religious sites, to the south of the country and its traditional tribes.

We start with the UNESCO recognised palaces and castles of Gondar, before travelling north to visit the unique 12th century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Next we visit the ancient city of Axum and legendarily home of the Queen of Sheba and final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.


From there we head to Arba Minch to explore Ethiopia’s spectacular Rift Valley lakes with a relaxing cruise on Lake Chamo and the chance to spot wildlife. We then journey further south to the Omo Valley, home to a huge array of different ethnic groups.


We break our return journey to back to Addis Ababa at Lake Lagano, with another chance to spot some wildlife around the lake.


Finally, we drive through the Abijatta Shalla National Park for some last minute wildlife watching.


·         12th century Rock hewn churches of Lalibela

·         Ancient castles& Palaces of Gondar

·         Wildlife watching around the Rift Valley lakes

·         Traditional tribes


The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.

Airport transfer

Arrival and departure transfers are included, whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you.


Accommodation as listed in the itinerary. Should we need to change hotels, but we will endeavour to keep the same standard.However hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.


You will be escorted throughout by an English speaking guide. You will also have local English speaking guides.


As listed within the itinerary (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner).


Entrance Fees

All entrance fees


A bottle of mineral water every day

What is not included in this tour?Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.


Guests are responsible for arranging their own visa. We would recommend that you obtain your visa in advance of your trip using the evisa service.

International flights

We don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours


It is important that you have insurance in place prior to arriving in country.


Guide and porterage tips, also local payments for photography



  1. Day 1 - Addis Ababa L/D On arrival at Bole International Airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. After lunch a city tour will take you to the National Archaeological Museum, to view the 3.6 million-year-old remains of “Lucy”, discovered in 1974, Ethnological Museum at Addis Ababa University and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Drive to the top of Mount Entoto, which rises to an altitude of 10,500 feet for a panoramic view of the metropolis before making your way back to your hotel. Overnight at Swiss Inn Nexus Hotel or similar.

    Addis Ababa
    The Ethiopian capital is situated on the southern slopes of central Ethiopia’s Entoto Hills and is the world’s fourth highest capital city with altitudes of 2,350m to more than 2,600m. The city was founded in the 19th century by Emperor Menelik II.
    Addis Ababa ”new flower”) or Addis Abeba, also known as Finfinne (”natural spring”), is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia.
    As a chartered city, Addis Ababa also serves as the capital city of Oromia. It is where the African Union is headquartered and where its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was based. It also hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as well as various other continental and international organizations. Addis Ababa is therefore often referred to as ”the political capital of Africa” for its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent. The city lies a few miles west of the East African Rift which splits Ethiopia into two, through the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate. The city is populated by people from different regions of Ethiopia.


  2. Day 2 - Gondar B/L/D This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Gondar. Visit the royal enclosure, containing six castles, a complex network of connecting tunnels and raised walkways. Proceed to the fascinating Debre Birhan Selassie Church with its walls and ceiling decorated with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history. Overnight at Goha Hotel or similar.


    Gondar, once the Ethiopian capital, was home to a number of emperors and warlords, courtiers and kings. The graceful city of Gonder, founded by Emperor Fasilidas, become the capital of the Ethiopian empire around 1635. This settlement, which became Fasilidas principal headquarters, grew into an important town, and remained Ethiopia’s capital, and most popular city, for over two centuries.

    The oldest of Gondar’s many imperial structures is the impressive 17th century palace of Emperor Fasilidas. Many other fascinating historical buildings and relics can be seen in the area. Gaze down from the balconies of the many castles and palaces to imagine the intrigue and pageantry that took place back in the 17th and 18th centuries of this great city.

    Fasilidas endowed his capital with a sizeable palace, known as the Fasil Gemb, or Fasil building. It was larger and more impressive than any structure in Ethiopia up to that time. Fasilidas, who reputedly constructed many other buildings and bridges in the city, was succeeded by his son, Emperor Yohannes (1667-1682), and later by his grandson, Iyasu1 (1682-1706), both of whom built more palaces in the vicinity of Fasil Gemb. Iyasu’s most lasting achievement was the church of Debre Berhan Selassie, the light of the Trinity, which stands, surrounded by a high wall. The interior is marvelously painted with great scenes from religious history.

    Apart from the famous castle in the royal compound, visitors should visit the so-called bathing palace of the Emperor. This two storey crenellated stone structure has a flat roof and two wooden balconies. It is set the middle of a large rectangular bath, reminiscent of a modern swimming-pool, which was traditionally filled with water brought by pipe from the nearby Qaha River. It was intended for the Timket Celebrations which commemorated the Baptism of Christ-a use to which the bath is put to this day.

    Gondar is a town of fairy-tale medieval castles and is noted for the design and decoration of its churches, masterpieces, which were constructed from stone in the form of crenellated castles, are of a significant distinctive design.

    It is also worth visiting the ruins of the palace and abbey of the redoubtable 18th century Empress Mentewab at Quesquam overlooking Gondar. The royal compound, like that at Gondar proper, contains a number of buildings. The largest was apparently used for receptions and served as headquarters of the garrison.

    The palace compound was surrounded by a ’high outer-wall;’ which was about a mile in circumference, with outer precincts all occupied by soldiers, labourers and out-doors servants. Quesquam is wonderful and historic place.

    Outside the palace compound, a second important building constructed during Iyasu’s reign is the church of Debre Birhan Selassie (or light of Trinity), which stands on raised ground to the north west of the city. This is the finest of the Gondarine churches, with its ceiling decorated with many winged angels.

    In the old days it was surmounted by a gold cross, which is now gone. However, original walls painted from top to bottom with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history is well preserved. Because of its extensive population, and the considerable patronage offered by both state and church, Gondar emerged as a major handicraft centre. Many of the city’s principal artisans come from minority groups. Falasha (Jewish) craftsmen include blacksmiths, weavers and masons, and their womenfolk are potters. Muslim craftsmen are mainly weavers and tent­makers, some of whom also served as tent carriers and carpenters.

  3. Day 3 - Lalibela B/L/D This morning fly to the most unique Christian sites of Ethiopia. Lalibela’s churches are collectively referred to as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’.

    Legend has it that Emperor Lalibela had been instructed, in a vision from God, to build the new Jerusalem after returning from Jerusalem which was sacked by the Muslims. Visit the 11 majestic, rock churches that are still used as places of worship by Lalibelans. Overnight Cliff’s Edge Hotel or similar.

  4. Day 4 - Lalibela B/L/D Visit the exquisite church of Yimrhane Kristos. This is a masterpiece of Axumit wood and stone construction which is renowned for its interior decoration and beautiful wooden coffer ceiling. Notice the inlaid of the hexagons and medallions with both figurative geometric motifs. Return back to Lalibela and revisit the remaining rock churches. Return to your hotel with expanding views of the region. Overnight Hotel Cliffs Edge Hotel or similar.


    Located in the north-east of Ethiopia, Lalibela is another renowned historical destination. It is also holy land for Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians.

    Today the town of Lalibela hosts eleven rock-hewn churches and all, apart from their historic significance, are renowned for their excellent and unique rock-carvings. The art displayed on the rocks dates from the twelfth century yet is still intact and in great shape. An active pilgrim site, the town is extensively visited and a source of admiration for architects and tourists alike.

    Founded at the center of the Lasta mountain chain, Lalibela was originally called Roha and was a site of the Zagwe dynasty, of the Agew people. The decline of the Axumite dynasty gave rise to the Zagwe dynasty and, as a result, power shifted southward from Axum. After an interruption of the Solomonic line for almost 12 years, King Lalibela III, from the last of the Zagwe dynasty, managed to have these rock-hewn churches carved.

    It took King Lalibela his entire reign and more than 60,000 men to finish the work. According to local accounts, the work was assisted by angels. Other erected and cave churches built during this period are found at a short distance from the town.

  5. Day 5 - Axum B/L/D Fly to the heart of ancient Ethiopia, the capital of the Kingdom of Axum which was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The archaeological and historical attractions in Axum include monolithic stelaes or obelisks, the tombs of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskal, the legendary Bath of the Queen of Sheba, and the ruins of her ancient palace. Also visit the new and the old Cathedral of St Mary of Tsion (Zion) and the sanctuary that houses the original Arc of the Covenant. The older of the two cathedrals, built in the 16th century, is believed to be built on the ruins of an earlier 4th century church, and is the holiest site in Ethiopia. Overnight Afranos Fantasy Hotel or similar.


    The kingdom of Aksum, the first verifiable kingdom of great power to rise in Ethiopia, immerge during the first century AD. The Persian religious figure Mani listed Axum with Rome, Persia, and China as one of the four great powers of his time. It was in the early 4th century that a Syro-Greek castaway, Frumentius, was taken to the court and eventually converted king Ezana to Christianity, thereby making it an official religion. For this accomplishment, he received the title ”Abba Selama”. At various times, including a period in the 6th century, Axum controlled most of modern-day Yemen just across the Red Sea.

    The Aksumite Empire or Axumite Empire (sometimes called the Kingdom of Aksum or Axum), was an important trading nation in north eastern Africa, growing from the proto-Aksumite period ca. 4th century BC to achieve prominence by the 1st century AD. It was a major player in the commerce between the Roman Empire and Ancient India and the Aksumite rulers facilitated trade by minting their own currency. The state established its hegemony over the declining Kingdom of Kush and regularly entered the politics of the kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula, and would eventually extend its rule over the region with the conquest of the Himyarite Kingdom.

    Under Ezana Aksum became the first major empire to convert to Christianity and was named by Mani as one of the four great powers of his time along with Persia, Rome, and China. In the 7th century the Muslims who originally converged in Mecca, sought refuge from Quraysh persecution by travelling to Aksum which is known in Islamic history as the First Hijra. Its ancient capital is found in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name ”Ethiopia” as early as the 4th century. It is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.


  6. Day 6 - Arba Minch B/L/D Fly to Addis Ababa and connect with your afternoon flight to southern Ethiopia and to the town of Arba Minch. On arrival, board your exclusive 4x4 exclusive 4-passenger vehicle for a short drive will to the village of the Dorze tribe. Walk amongst the Dorze people and their beehive-shaped homes. The tribe are renowned expert weavers, and farmers. Witness their ingenious terracing technique, allowing them to farm efficiently along the mountainside whilst preventing soil erosion. Overnight Paradise Lodge or similar.

    Arba Minch

    Arba Minch (literally ‘Forty Springs’) is the largest town in Ethiopia’s deep south. It is set at an elevation of 1,300m in the foothills of the Rift Valley Escarpment. It’s a very scenic town offering views to the east over lakes Chamo and Abaya, an excellent springboard for Nech Sar National Park and visits to the highland village of Dorze.

  7. Day 7 - Jinka B/L/D Visit the colourful village of the Konso tribe. A pagan society, the Konso erect eerie wooden totems, replete with phallic symbols over the graves of the dead. They also have numerous cults based around the breeding and veneration of serpents. The cornerstone of Konso culture, however, is a highly specialized and successful agricultural economy that, through terracing buttressed with stone, enable these people to extract a productive living from the none-too-fertile hills and valleys that surround them. This will be an excellent day to mingle among the people, take photographs with them and learn first-hand about a culture virtually untouched by the outside world. Later in the afternoon arrive in Jinka, located at the foot of Mago National Park. Overnight Eco Omo Lodge or similar.

    Konso Tribe

    Konso is a tribe which inhabits the area of basalt hills about 85 km to the south from Arba Minch. They speak a Cushitic language. Konso live in villages usually located on a top of a hill and surrounded by a 2m stone wall. Konso are famous all over Ethiopia for their advanced methods of land cultivation, which include irrigation and building of terraces. Also very famous are the Konso’s waqa – carved wooden monuments erected on the graves.


  8. Day 8 - Jinka B/L/D This morning drive to a Mursi tribal village. The tribe is renowned for the now-uncommon custom where their women, upon reaching maturity, have their lower lips slit and circular clay discs inserted. Return back to Jinka for lunch and this afternoon proceed to the Ari Village compound. Learn and understand how the local people process different foods and alcohol. Overnight Eco Omo Lodge.

    Mursi Tribe

    The Mursi number about 5,000 and are primarily pastoralists categorized in the Nilo-Saharan language family. The Mursi are Known for their lip plate tradition; an unmarried woman’s lower lip will be pierced and then progressively stretched over the period of a year. A clay disc indented like a pulley wheel is squeezed into the hole in the lip. As it stretches, ever-larger discs are forced in until the lip, now a loop, is so long it can sometimes be pulled right over the owner’s head. The size of the lip plate determines the bride price, with a large one bringing in fifty head of cattle.

    The women make the lip plates from clay, colour them with ochre and charcoal, and bake them in a fire. Stick fighting or “donga”: At a fight, each contestant is armed with a hardwood pole about six feet long with a weight of just less than two pounds. In the attacking position, this pole is gripped at its base with both hands – the left above the right, in order to give maximum swing and leverage. Each player beats his opponent with his stick as many times as possible with the intention of knocking him down and eliminating him from the game. Players are usually unmarried men.

    The winner is carried away on a platform of poles to a group of girls waiting at the side of the arena, who decide among themselves which of them will ask for his hand in marriage. Taking part in a stick fight is considered to be more important than winning it. The men paint their bodies with a mixture of chalk and water before the fight.

  9. Day 9 - Turmi B/L/D This morning proceed to Dimeka to visit the colourful Hamer tribe. They are well known for their remarkable hairstyles made of ochre, water, and binding resin., resulting in copper-coloured locks. This is a sign of wealth for this tribe. The Hamers are also considered the masters of body decoration. Continue to the town of Turmi. Overnight at Buska Lodge or similar.

    The Hammers

    The Hammers have traditional Bull jumping which is a rite of passage for a younger son; coming of age they must pass through this ritual to marry. The young man must jump, a minimum of four times, over a line of more than 10 bulls. He has to be nude while jumping except for a few cords bound across the chest, as a symbol of the childhood he is about to leave behind him. This event lasts three days, on completion of this test, the young man joins the ranks of the maza – Maza are other men that have successfully completed the bull jumping event. During this ceremony, the women of the tribe provoke the maza to whip them on their bare backs. This is extremely painful and causes severe scaring on the women. The scars are a symbol of devotion to the men and are encouraged by the tribe. After a successful bull jumping, there is an evening dancing ceremony called Evangadi, a Hammer tradition. The Hammers have unique huts that are made up of mud, wood and straw. Since this is not a day to day activities, we have not included it as a part of the program, but you may have a chance to see this at late afternoon. If there is an opportunity to see this event, there will be an additionl charge of $35pp to be paid to the locally.

  10. Day 10 - Turmi B/L/D Turmi is our new base as we explore the region and meet the different tribes who share this valley but live a life uniquely their own. Drive to the Murulle area. Murile (also spelled Muelle and Murli) lies on the banks of the Omo River, and is a popular base for exploring this area. Overnight Buska Lodge or similar.

    Karo and Hammer

    The two main tribes who live here are the Karo and the Hamer, both of whom practice scarification and have elaborate hairstyles. The Karo are experts in body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on their faces, chests, arms and legs. These designs have no special symbolic significance but instead are created for fun and aesthetic effect, as each artist tries to outdo another. Karo men also sculpt and shave their hair into extravagant shapes, with special ochre ”caps” of hair usually containing several ostrich feathers.

  11. Day 11 - Arba Minch B/L/D On the return drive to Arba Minch visit the village of Tsemay tribe, who give girls the right to choose their husband before marriage. In the Tsemay tribe, the brides eat together only during their honeymoon and will not eat together for the rest of their life time. In this village you will appreciate their culture and lifestyle that dates back centuries. They practice small-scale agricultural activities as most of them still depend on nomadic lifestyle. Overnight Paradise Lodge or similar.

    Tsemay tribe

    The Tsemay are located in the southern region, with no more than 10,000 people. In rural areas of Ethiopia, girls are mostly required to keep their virginity until they get married. Never the less this custom is not generalised throughout the county. The Tsemay can engage in premarital relations, and it is not uncommon youngsters to have sexual partners.


  12. Day 12 - Lake Langano B/L/D This morning enjoy a refreshing wildife cruise on Lake Chamo. While cruising search for crocodiles, hippos and a variety of coluorful bird life. After lunch in Sodo, visit Abiyata Shalla National Park to view two lakes with its population of flamingos and the hot springs at Shalla. Continue to your Lake Lagano accommodation, a resort offering both a serene beach front as well as a vast cliff-top with a breath-taking view over the lake. Overnight Sabanna Resort or similar.

    Lake Lagano

    Lake Langano is around a three hours (250km) drive south from Addis Ababa. The lake is one of a series running south down the Ethiopian Rift Valley.

    Bordering the eastern shore of Lake Langano is East Langano Nature Reserve, a beautiful lakeside forest and home to a variety of birds and mammals, including warthogs, baboons and the occasional hippo. The area is a delight to explore on foot or on horseback.

    The forests are mainly podocarpus and wild fig trees, full of Colobus Monkeys and over 300 species of birds, 7 of which are endemic to Ethiopia. There are also numerous wild mammals recorded, although in low populations due to seasonal traditional hunting of the forest by local communities.

    On the western shores of Lake Langano, the Wabi Shabele and Bekele Mola hotels can be found. There the lakeside beaches are marginally better than the eastern, but you will find that due to deforestation most of the acacia forest has now gone, largely due to the illegal production and sale of charcoal.

  13. Day 13 - Addis Ababa B/L/D This morning start our drive to Addis Ababa, stopping at Lake Ziway to view the colourful birds. On arrival in the capital city enjoy an early evening dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant offering a folkloric show and the popular coffee ceremony, before proceeding to the airport for your late-night flight back to home.

    Addis Ababa ”new flower”) or Addis Abeba, also known as Finfinne  (”natural spring”), is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia.

    As a chartered city, Addis Ababa also serves as the capital city of Oromia. It is where the African Union is headquartered and where its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was based. It also hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as well as various other continental and international organizations. Addis Ababa is therefore often referred to as ”the political capital of Africa” for its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent. The city lies a few miles west of the East African Rift which splits Ethiopia into two, through the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate. The city is populated by people from different regions of Ethiopia.