Li River and Karst mountains, Yangshuo County, Guilin City, Guangxi Province, China

Itinerary: Ethiopian Horizons & Omo Valley Extension

Ethiopian Horizons 26 December 2018 to 9 January 2019

With Omo Valley Extension 26 December 2018 to 14 January 2019

In this fascinating country you will be amazed to witness how ancient historical traditions have been preserved in a remarkable manner for thousands of years. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Orthodox Coptic Church open a window into the authentic world of the Old Testament. Step back in time and explore thousands of years of history, legend, and lore as you journey across Ethiopia to witness the Coptic Christmas festival, one of the greatest, most colourful and ancient festivals celebrated around the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. We also offer the option of an extension to the remote Omo Valley. Isolated for millennia from the rest of the world, the beautiful valley is home to an exciting mix of many small and distinctive tribal groups. Lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves. Lacking any material culture and artifacts common to other cultures, these tribes find unique ways in which to express their artistic impulses.


On this Journey you will:

• Participate in the celebration of Gena, the "Ethiopian Christmas"
• Experience Ethiopian Orthodox Christian doctrines and traditions
• Visit 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
• Be amazed by the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
• Enjoy the magnificent scenic and endemic wild life of the Simien Mountains
• Explore the ancient city of Axum, the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant
• Discover the "fairy tale" castles of Gondar
• Take a cruise on Lake Tana to visit the ancient fresco-painted Island monasteries
• See the source of the mighty Blue Nile and the Blue Nile falls
• Wander “Felasha” or the "Black Jewish" village
• Visit the vibrant city of Addis Ababa, Africa’s Capital
• Meet your ancestor, "Lucy", at Addis Ababa’s National Museum
• Take an option to the "living museum" of the tribal peoples of the Omo Valley

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. Ethiopian Horizons is a tour for everyone wanting to see Africa on roads less travelled and explore new horizons rarely encountered. On this adventure, we use 4 star hotels in Addis Ababa and the best available elsewhere. As we take more tourists to more remote parts of the world, we recognize our obligation to plan and operate our Journeys in a responsible and sustainable fashion. We view this as an environmental, cultural, and social necessity. Above all, we are committed to the well-being of the communities, which are our hosts, the cultural and natural environment that we are there to experience. We also believe that by following these policies we can provide you with more rewarding and interesting experiences.

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and crafts and tribal people, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies and tribal village customs.


Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the itinerary as per B (Breakfast), L (Lunch), and D (Dinner).

Itinerary: Ethiopian Horizons

Day 1: 26 December 2018, Depart Australia

Depart your capital city with Emirates Airlines, transferring in Dubai

Day 2: 27 December 2018, Arrival Addis Ababa

Arrive in Addis Ababa Ethiopia at 1240. Welcome to Ethiopia! You have arrived at the world’s third-highest capital city. We will be welcomed and assisted by our local tour guide and driver for the transfer to the Hotel. Addis lies in the central highlands of Ethiopia at an altitude of 2,300m. Climatically, this large city is a highly encouraging introduction to Ethiopia: characterised throughout the year, both day and night, by comfortable temperate weather, interrupted by the occasional torrential downpour. Time permitting we will have a short orientation tour of the city as you adjust to the altitude.

Overnight stay: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa

Day 3: 28 December 2018, Addis Ababa - Bahirdar, B/D

In the morning, drive to Bahirdar through the Great Blue Nile Gorge with a stop-over at different small villages like Dejen, Chancho and Goha Tsion. Small Ethiopian villages feature constructions taking you all the way back to old Ethiopia and its way of life. The picturesque villages boast a series of traditional dwellings that existed for years maintaining their historical significance. As you pass the elegant iconic traditional houses you will be flooded with smiles and greetings in over 82 dialects. Everything you see around the villages will just be the beginning of the many ‘wow’ moments on your Journey. Delighting you with its rich culture, history and clean atmosphere, these beautiful Ethiopian villages will stay in your memory forever.

Overnight stay: Avanti Blue Nile, Bahirdar

Smiling Ethiopian Children, Ethiopia

Day 4: 29 December 2018, Lake Tana - Blue Nile Falls - Bahir Dar, B/D

After breakfast, we will enjoy a boat cruise over Lake Tana to visit the ancient 14th century island monasteries of Lake Tana. Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake, covering more than 3500 sq km, and its waters are the source of the Blue Nile, which flows 5223km north to the Mediterranean Sea. Lake Tana’s beauty can only be truly appreciated when travel across its azure waters, view the lush shoreline and rich birdlife. But even the lake's natural beauty plays second fiddle to its centuries-old monasteries, full of paintings and treasures. Steeped in mystery and legend, the old churches of Lake Tana form peaceful retreats for their monastic residents and visiting tourists alike. Several are beautifully decorated, none more so than Ura Kidane Mihret on the Zege Peninsula, covered from top to bottom with paintings that collectively serve as a visual encyclopaedia of Ethiopian ecclesiastical messages.

The Blue Nile meanders sluggishly out of Lake Tana, but not far out of Bahir Dar we’ll drive to see the Nile in a very different mood. The river pours over the side of a sheer 42m-high chasm and explodes into a haze of mists and rainbows before continuing on its tumultuous path to Khartoum, where it joins the White Nile. The ‘Nile that Smokes’. Though far smaller than its natural 400m-wide flow, the three-pronged waterfall is huge in scale and grandeur-even as its waters are reducing with the construction of an hydro-electric dam upstream.

Overnight stay: Avanti Blue Nile, Bahirdar

Lake Tana, Ethiopia

Southern Red Bishop, Ethiopia

Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia

Day 5: 30 December 2018, Bahir Dar - Gondar, B/D

After breakfast, drive to Gondar through the beautiful countryside scenery to arrive at Gondar around lunchtime.

After checking into our hotel and having lunch there (at own expense), we will start our tour of Gondar which will include: the Royal Enclosure, which lies at the heart of Gondar and gives the city much of its character. Surrounded by high stone walls, the enclosure covers an area of 70,000 square meters and contains six castles, a complex of connecting tunnels and raised walkways, and several smaller buildings. It’s a fascinating place to explore. Then it’s on to the pool of King Fasilidas, and the famous Debre Berhan Selassie church adorned with brilliant frescos; one of Ethiopia's most beautiful churches. Appealing as it is on the outside with its stone walls, arched doors and two-tiered thatch roof, it's the inner sanctuary with its glorious frescos that really shines. But it was very nearly destroyed like most of Gondar’s other churches. When the marauding Sudanese dervishes showed up outside the church gates in the 1880s, a giant swarm of bees surged out of the compound, chasing the invaders away.

Overnight stay: Goha Hotel, Gondar

Gondar, Ethiopia

Ancient church fresco Gondar, Ethiopia

Day 6: 31 December 2018, Gondar - Simien Mountains National Park, B/D

After an early breakfast, we will drive to Simien Mountains National Park. En-route we will be visiting the “Felasha” village. This is a colony of Jews known as "Falashas" or "Emigrants." In their families they make use of the expression "house of Israel," or simply "Israel"; the word "Jew" is almost unknown. The origin of the Falashas is unknown but according to a tradition they left Jerusalem in the retinue of Menilek, the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Driving from Gondar up to the Simien Mountains National Park, nothing prepares you for the spectacular scenery that awaits at the top of the massif. Massive erosion over the years has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1500m. We are now in the heart of Africa's most underrated wildlife destination. The Ethiopian wolf, is the ultimate prize, the sighting of a lifetime. There are gelada monkeys across the high northern plateau as well as other primates, while watching the extravagantly horned and sure-footed walia ibex cling to a rocky precipice is one of the great sights in nature. The birdwatching, too, ranks among the best in Africa. The entire range is a UNESCO World Heritage site and considered a rival to Colorado’s Grand Canyon.

For the rest of the day you can trek around the park along well established walking trails taking in some of the grandest vistas to explore the stunning views and wildlife.

Overnight stay: Simien Lodge, Sankaber

Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Walia Ibex and Ethiopian Wolf, Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Gelada Monkey, Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Day 7: 1 January 2019, Simien Mountains National Park - Axum, B/D

After breakfast start driving to Axum through the beautiful scenery of the Simien Mountains, Limalimo, and the Tekeze River Gorge.

Overnight stay: Sabean Hotel, Axum

Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Day 8: 2 January 2019, Axum, B/D

After breakfast our visit in Axum begins in the Stele Square, which consists of some 75 or more stelae of various shapes and sizes, concentrated within an area of less than 1,000 square meters The modern view of the stelae field is dominated by the stele accredited to King Ezana, the third-largest ever erected at Axum. This engraved block of solid granite, which stands some 23m high, was transported from a quarry 4km distant, most probably by elephants. No satisfactory explanation has been postulated for how such a massive block of stone was erected – one Axumite tradition has it that it was the work of the mysterious powers of the Ark of the Covenant. The stele is carved with a door and nine windows, which are thought to symbolise the door and nine chambers of Ezana’s Tomb, and the nine palaces built by the king. Then we visit the Kaleba Tombs, the 4th century Christian inscription of King Ezana, the Queen of Sheba’s Palace, Archeological Museum, and Tsion Mariam Church where the original Ark of the Covenant is said to be housed.

Overnight stay: Sabean Hotel, Axum

Day 9: 3 January 2019, Axum - Hauzien, B/D

The landscapes of the northern Tigray region seem to spring from some hard-bitten African fairy tale. The luminous light bathes scattered sharp peaks that rise into the sky out of a sandy, rolling semi desert. In the morning, we drive to Hauzien, the centre of some of the most ancient rock-hewn churches, through the stunning and historical mountains of Adwa. The 120 churches are as intriguing as the landscape is beautiful. Very different from the more famous monolithic (carved out of the ground and only left attached to the earth at the base) churches of Lalibela, the Tigrayan churches are carved from cliff faces, built into pre-existing caves or constructed high atop some high plateau.

Overnight stay: Geralta Lodge, Hauzien

Day 10: 4 January 2019, Hauzien - Mekele, B/D

In the morning, we drive through a landscape now carpeted in lush forests, dense patchworks of cultivation, shady coffee plantations and deep river valleys; the Western Highlands seem like an Ethiopian Arcadia, to Mekele en-route visiting some of the most ancient of the Tigray rock-hewn churches including: Wikro Cherkos, Abrha We-atsbeha, and Dugum Selassie.

Overnight stay: Planet Hotel, Mekele

Day 11: 5 January 2019, Mekele - Lalibela - Celebration at Bete Emanuel, B/D

After breakfast, start driving north to Lalibela through Sekota en-route we will visit Yimrhane Kirstos and different villages of the Agwe tribal people. In the evening, we will drive to Bete Emanuel to attend the special celebration of the Coptic Christmas with chanting and dancing by the priests and deacons. A highlight of any trip here is witnessing one of the many festivals that are an integral part of the traditional culture, from age-old ceremonies marking rites of passage to Christian celebrations of singular passion, the impact upon those who witness such events can provide travel memories to last a lifetime. The ceremony will be accompanied by a capacity crowd of pilgrims who come to witness this event from far of hamlets and inaccessible valleys on their bare foot walking for weeks and even months.

Overnight stay: Harbe Hotel, Lalibela

Yimrhane Kirstos Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Day 12: 6 January 2019, Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela - Ethiopian Christmas Eve, B/D

In the morning, we will drive to the sites where we will find the concentration of some of the remarkable rock-hewn churches of the ancient town of Lalibela. Here we stare down on the churches, hand-carved out of the rock. Each one is seamless, hewn from the red volcanic rock, and each one is different inside and out, some bright and patterned, others unadorned. Bet Giyorgis and the churches in the northwest cluster are mostly excavated from below the ground, and are surrounded by courtyards and trenches, so that they mimic normal buildings. Several of these churches are monoliths or three-quarter monoliths – free from the surrounding rock on three or four sides – a style of excavation that is unique to Ethiopia. This is a living UNESCO World Heritage Site. At night, we will attend the Christmas Eve ceremony with the pilgrim sat Bete Mariam church. The dancing by the deacons and the priests continue throughout the night while the pilgrims clap and ululate to the drum beats. At midnight, there will be a candle light ceremony to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Overnight stay: Harbe Hotel, Lalibela

Bet Giyorgis Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Bet Giyorgis Church, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Religious Ceremony, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Day 13: 7 January 2019, Lalibela - Asheten Mariam - Ethiopian Christmas, B/D

In the morning, we will once more drive to Bete Mariam to witness the final ceremony of Ethiopian Christmas. On this day, as it has been going on centuries over centuries the priest will be lined up with their drums on the cliff edge of Bete Mariam, and some more on the bottom representing the shepherds and the angels announcing the birth of Jesus. You can’t help but witness a scene which has been going here on this day centuries over centuries in the same manner.

After lunch (at own expense) and a rest at the hotel, we will continue our journey into Ethiopia’s long and marvellous history with a visit to other remarkable rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. These include: Bete Gebriel, Bete Merkorios Bete Amanuel, Bethlehem and Bete Aba Libanos. At the end of the tour, there will be a special Ethiopian traditional coffee ceremony for us prepared at a local house. In celebration of Ethiopian Horizons, our travel partners there farewell us with a special traditional buffet dinner with local drinks.

Overnight stay: Harbe Hotel, Lalibela

Religious Celebration, Lalibea, Ethiopia

Bete Gebriel, Lalibea, Ethiopia

Day 14: 8 January 2019, Lalibela - Addis Ababa, B/D

After breakfast, transfer to Lalibela airport for the flight to Addis Ababa, arriving at 1140. We begin an afternoon tour of this amazing capital which will include the National Museum. The collection here is ranked among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa. The highlight is the palaeontological exhibition, the home of world-famous Lucy. Her 1974 discovery in the north western Ethiopia changed our understanding of human origins forever. Time permitting we may visit a part of the Merkato Markets, if you’re a market lover, its one place you can’t miss It’s considered Africa’s biggest market, an open air sprawl of vendors that goes on for kilometres. It’s one of those markets that weaves in all directions and you never know what you’re going to stumble into or what you’re going to find.

In the evening, there will be a farewell dinner party with traditional special buffet and local drinks to celebrate your Journey.

Overnight stay: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa

Day 15: 9 January 2019, Addis Ababa - Departure, B

Time this morning to see the enthralling Ethnological Museum. Set within Haile Selassie’s former palace, and surrounded by the beautiful gardens and fountains of the university’s main campus, this one is easily one of the finest museums in Africa, showing the full sweep of Ethiopia's cultural and social history.

In the early afternoon transfer to the airport for your flight home, or for those visiting the peoples of the Omo Valley you will be picked up to begin your journey.

Itinerary: Optional Extension, Peoples of the Omo Valley

Hamer Tribal People, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Nothing in highland Ethiopia prepares one for South Omo; it’s literally fantastic. Descending from the green highlands into the low-lying plains of South Omo feels like a journey not merely through space, but also through time, as one enters the vast and thinly populated badlands that divide the mountainous centre of Ethiopia from its counterpart in Kenya. Like much of neighbouring northern Kenya, South Omo is as close as one can come to an Africa untouched by outside influences. The culturally diverse, immaculately colourful and defiantly traditionalist agro-pastoralists who inhabit the region seem to occupy a physical and psychic landscape little different from that of their nomadic ancestors. This is Africa as it once was, or as some might still imagine it to be, and its mere existence is at once wonderful and scarcely credible.

"Our experience of visiting the Mursi and Hamer Tribes in the Omo Valley was incredibly rewarding, interesting and something we still contemplate to this day. For the adventurous who are interested in culture in Africa, this is an experience you absolutely should not miss".

Day 1: 9 January 2019, Arrive Addis Ababa - Langano, B/L/D

Time this morning to see the enthralling Ethnological Museum. Set within Haile Selassie’s former palace, and surrounded by the beautiful gardens and fountains of the university’s main campus, this one is easily one of the finest museums in Africa, showing the full sweep of Ethiopia's cultural and social history. You will be picked by our driver for the drive to the Rift Valley Lakes region. En-route you will visit some of the most beautiful Rift Valley Lakes including, Lake Langano and Zway.

After check in to the beautiful lake side, lodge you will relax around the lake, or take a relaxing trek around the acacia forest.

Overnight stay: Sabana Lodge, Langano

Day 2: 10 January 2019, Addis Ababa - Arbaminch, B/L/D

After breakfast, drive to Arbaminch en-route visiting different picturesque villages of the different tribes such as the Welayta at Sodo and Alaba at Tembaro. Some of these peoples are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other's faces, chests, arms, and legs. In this captivating region, you are privileged to witness age-old customs and rituals, learning of the symbolism that remains an integral part of everyday life. It’s an absolutely unique wilderness.

When you approach Arbaminch town, you will make detour to the mountain village of Chencha, the home of the Dorze people. The Dorze people, renowned cotton weavers whose tall beehive shaped and bamboo woven dwellings are among the most distinctive structures to be seen anywhere in Africa.

Overnight stay: Paradise Lodge, Arbaminch

Traditional Face Painting by Tribal People, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Beehive shaped dwellings from Dorze People, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Day 3: 11 January 2019, Arbaminch - Jinka, B/L/D

After an early breakfast, we will drive to Jinka en-route visiting different cultural people and their villages which include the Konso and the undulating landscape of Konso area.

The Konso are famous for their old and unique terracing and unusual engraved wooden statues of Konso grave markers. Between Konso and Jinka, will also have brief stops to visit the different cultural people and their villages like: Tsemay around Weito River, the Benna at Keyafer and the Ari at Kako Village.

In the afternoon, drive to Mursi Village. The Mursi, undoubtedly the most celebrated residents of South Omo are distinctive group of pastoralists. The Mursi are best known for their unique item of decoration, lip plates. Women of Mursi wear circular clay plate on their lower lip and the bigger a women can wear, the greater her value when she gets married.

"To accomplish such a feat as wearing those large plates, the women of the tribe have their bottom lip sliced at a young age, roughly 15-16, before they are to be married. Small plates are placed in the opening to begin stretching the lip until they are able to wear larger plates. The largest plate on record ever worn by a Mursi woman was almost 24 inches in diameter. For the men, the larger the plate on the woman, the more attractive they seem."

Overnight stay: Eco-Omo Lodge, Jinka

Benna Tribal People, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Mursi Tribal People, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Day 4: 12 January 2019, Jinka - Turmi, B/L/D

In the cool morning, drive to Turmi en-route visiting different tribal villages including the Ari and Bena.

In the afternoon, we will visit the Hamer Village. The Hamer, display an elaborate and diverse selection of body decorations. They are also identifiable for their high cheekbones, elaborate custom of beads, cowries and leather, and thick copper necklaces. At the same village we will enjoy the seasonal cultural activities including the famous Evangadi (Hamer Dancing).

Overnight stay: Buska Lodge, Turmi

Bena Tribal Woman, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Day 5: 13 January 2019, Turmi - Arbaminch, B/L/D

In the morning, we will start driving back to Arbaminch with brief stops to visit different villages including Erbore and Tsemay.

In the afternoon, we will have a boat cruise over Lake Chamo to see some of the biggest African crocodiles, Hippopotamus and many beautiful aquatic birds including the lovely Kingfisher and African Fish Eagle.

Overnight stay: Paradise Lodge Hotel, Arbaminch

Day 6: 14 January 2019, Arbaminch – Melak Kontre -Tia-Adadi Mariam - Addis Ababa - Departure, B/L

In the morning, drive back to Addis Ababa visit the different Rift Valley Lakes including Abaya, Zway and Langano. You will stop at Tiya, where you will see the northernmost example of a peculiar type of engraved, standing stelae which stretch across parts of southern Ethiopia. These stelae are believed to have been erected between the 12th and 14th centuries and are almost certainly grave markers. Recent excavations at Tiya have revealed the remains of young people of both sexes, aged between 18 - 30 and buried in foetal positions. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stelea field at Tiya today comprises more than 45 stones of up to 2m.

Drive directly to the Airport for your flight home



Indicative price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 4223.00
Single supplement: AUD 910.00
Airfare from Australia: TBA shortly currently approx. AUD 1790.00


Indicative price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 2120.00
Single supplement: AUD 300.00


• Accommodation in double/twin share occupancy with breakfast and dinner
• Sightseeing in modern air conditioned private vehicles
• English speaking licensed guide
• Meals as indicated in the itinerary
• Entrance fees to places mentioned in the program


• Air Fares from your capital city
• Tips (approx. USD 130 per person) to be disbursed by the tour leader
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)
• Personal expenditure such as drinks with meals
• Domestic flight in Ethiopia


• Accommodation in double/twin share occupancy with breakfast and dinner
• Sightseeing in modern air conditioned private vehicles
• English speaking licensed guide
• All meals as indicated in the itinerary
• Entrance fees to places mentioned in the program
• Boat cruise on the Lake Chamo and Omo River


• Tips (approx. USD 60 per person) to be disbursed by the tour leader
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)
• Personal expenditure such as drinks with meals

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline. Please visit or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government traveladvice.


On International Flight tickets

• Please refer to your conditions of ticketing

On Land package cost

• Between 64-31 Days: 65 % of land cost
• Between 30-16 Days: 75 % of land cost
• Between 15-04 Days: 90 % of land cost
• Within 2 day-No show: 100% of land cost

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347


Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.

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