• Lake Tana Monasteries and Blue Nile Falls in Bahir Dar
• Royal Compound and Debre Birhan Selassie church in Gondar
• Historical ruins of mighty Axumite Empire, Queen of Sheba’s palace in Axum
• Ruins of Yeha Temple, dating back to 8th to 5th century BC
• Famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
• National Museum, merkato, Entoto Mountain in Addis Ababa
International arrival to Ethiopia at Bole International Airport. Transfer to hotel. City tour of Addis Ababa including Entoto Mountain (the capital of Ethiopia before Addis Ababa), merkato, said to be Africa’s largest open-air market, and the National Museum (home of Lucy, hominid skeleton dating back 3.2 million years). In the evening, traditional Ethiopian dinner with cultural music and dance show. Overnight at Ghion Hotel (4-star).
Early morning flight to Bahir Dar. After arrival and brief hotel check-in, embark on a boat trip on Lake Tana to explore some of the monasteries hidden on the shores and islands of Lake Tana. In the afternoon, take a city tour of Bahir Dar, visiting Bezawit Hill and the former palace of Haile Selassie, as well as the bustling market. Finish the day with a lovely sunset over the lake. Overnight in Bahir Dar at Tana Hotel.
After breakfast, depart out of town to the Blue Nile Falls for an easy hike in the area. Afterwards, proceed driving north to Gondar. The drive will take you through rural villages, offering wonderful insight into the Amhara culture and the traditional agricultural methods still in use today. Overnight in Gondar at Goha Hotel, set on a hill overlooking the town of Gondar.
Today will be a full day exploring the sites of Gondar, including a visit to the Royal Enclosure, with six castles and several other buildings. Additionally, visit Fasilidas’s Pool, still used for Timket celebrations today, Debre Birhan Selassie church, with the most famous ceiling in Ethiopia and Kuskuam, a former palace in a partial state of ruin overlooking the city of Gondar. Overnight in Gondar at Goha Hotel.
Departing north, continue to Axum, enjoying spectacular views of the Simien Mountains. After stopping for lunch in Adarky, proceed driving through the Tekeze Valley to Axum, home of the ancient Axumite Empire, the Queen of Sheba, and the Ark of the Covenant. Overnight in Axum at Remhai Hotel.
Today is a full day visiting the sites in Axum. Sites to visit include the famous obelisks (one that was just erected after being returned from Italy), the Queen of Sheba’s Bath (which supplies water to Axum year-round), King Bazen’s tomb, and the Queen of Sheba’s Palace. You will also visit the St. Mary of Zion church, where the Ark of the Covenant is kept, according to local Ethiopian tradition. Men only are allowed to enter the old church. Unfortunately, no one (except one specially chosen guardian monk) is allowed to enter the chapel where the Ark is kept. Overnight in Axum at Remhai Hotel.
After breakfast, drive to visit the ruins of Yeha, dating from the 8th to 5th centuries BC, and thought to be the capital of Ethiopian civilization before Axum. Afterwards, visit the Debre Damo monastery, where the men (sorry! No women allowed.) must climb up a 15-m rope to enter. Continue through the state of Tigray and explore some of the less-visited rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia. Some of the most popular churches are Abuna Yemata Guh, and those in the Gheralta cluster. Afterwards, proceed driving to Mekele for overnight at Aksum Hotel.
Today is a full day drive from Mekele to Lalibela, passing through the dramatic landscapes of the Ethiopian Highlands. The highlight of the day will be the ascent from Woldia to the stunning ascent to Mount Abuna Yosef. Overnight in Lalibela at Mountain View Hotel.
Full day visiting the 11 rock-hewn churches of the remarkable king Lalibela. In the morning, visit the Northwestern Cluster of churches – Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, Bet Mikael & Bet Golgotha (entry not permitted for women). After lunch, continue with the Southeastern Cluster of churches – Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanual, and Bet Abba Libanos. Finally, visit the most famous of all the churches – Bet Giyorgis, a huge monolith in the shape of a cross, and constructed in honor of St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia. Overnight in Lalibela at Mountain View Hotel.
Return flight to Addis Ababa. For early risers, take an optional morning hike up the mountain overlooking the town of Lalibela to the Asheton Maryam monastery. Hiking may be done on foot, or with mule, if desired. After returning to Lalibela, it will be time for the return flight back to Addis Ababa. In Addis Ababa, city tour will continue if not completed on first day. (Cultural dinner may also be replaced today, depending on flight arrival times on first day.) Overnight in Addis Ababa at Ghion Hotel (4-star).
Transfer to airport for international departure.