Mystical Ethiopia

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Mystical Ethiopia

Group trip dates: From 05 January 2018 To 21 January 2018
Duration: 17 Days

Ethiopia is a mystical country, full of mystery from the beginnings of Christianity in the north and numerous tribes in the south. Beautiful landscapes of the south, especially the Omo Valley, where the Konso, Hamer, Dassanach and Mursi peoples dominate. They shock and awe in their distinct colorful outfits. In the north monolithic monasteries dominate, as well as the stele's, reminiscent of the rich history of kings of the 5th and 6th centuries. Here we will tour the ancient capital of Aksum with the hidden Ark of the Covenant, where the spontaneous celebrations of Timkat take place. in Harar we'll see the 13th century muslim town of Jugal. This journey is a trip back in time, which will take place during Timkat.

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Day 1 (Fri Jan. 05):   Depart Newark for overnight flight to Addis Ababa

Meet at Newark Airport at 6:00pm at counter of Ethiopian Airways #509 for departure at 8:15pm.

Day 2 (Sat Jan. 06):   Arrive Addis Ababa

Dinner and breakfast on board the plane. Arrive at 9:35pm local time. Welcome by local guide and transfer to our hotel. Welcome dinner (depending if flight arrives on schedule) and overnight in hotel. (D?)

Day 3 (Sun. Jan. 07):   Flight: Addis Ababa - Arba Minch / transfer to Konso

After breakfastwe will transfer to the airport. Departure at 1:30pm on Ethiopian Airways to Arba Minch. Arrival at 3:20pm and transfer to Konso (90km). On the way we will visit a few fortified villages. The Konso people are famous for their very colorful outfits. They are known for their impressive terracing of the land and unusually engraved wooden statues used as grave markers. Dinner and overnight at our hotel/campground. (B,D)

Day 4 (Mon. Jan. 08):  Drive: Konso – Hamer People Territory - Turmi

Early morning after breakfast we’ll drive to Turmi (190km). We will enter the South Omo Valley, which can be easily compared to the famous Garden of Eden, as here one can find dozens of tribes of different cultures, costumes and sizes. On the way, we will see Bena Tsemay peoples and their cultures. After lunch we will enter the Hamer peoples territory and will visit the village and small market in Turmi and Demeka, where if we’re lucky (as this ceremony can’t be arranged for tourists) we may see a special initial ceremony of ‘bull jumping’. Hamer people are semi-nomadic pastoralists and are known for their highly decorative outfits. Dinner and overnight at Turmi. (B, L, D)

Day 5 (Tue. Jan. 09):   Drive: Turmi – Omorate – Karo - Jinka

After breakfast we will drive to Omorate (72km) and will cross the Omo River by boat to visit a village of Dassanach people. After we will drive back to Turmi for lunch and continue to the small village of Karo (120km) people. They are experts of body painting and the men also sculpt and shave their hair into extravagant shapes. Dinner and overnight in our lodge in Jinka. (B, L, D)

Day 6 (Wed. Jan. 10):   Visit Mursi peoples and the Village

Today we’ll spend the day visiting the Mursi tribal villages located in the Mago Nat’l Park. The tribe is renowned for the now-uncommon custom of their woman, upon reaching maturity, having their lower lips slit and circular clay discs inserted. Dinner and hotel in Jinka.  (B, L, D)

Day 7 (Thu. Jan. 11): Drive to Arba Minch

Today we will leave the Omo Valley and drive to Arba Minch. On the way we will visit Key Afer and Konso multi-cultural markets dominated by Aari, Bana, Hamer and Konso peoples. Dinner and hotel in Arba Minch. (B, L, D)

Day 8 (Fri. Jan. 12):   Arba Minch – Netch Sar Park & springs / Fly to Addis Ababa

Today we will visit the very picturesque town at the foothills of the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by escarpments. We will also visit the Nech Sar National Park, which protects a thrilling beautiful landscape of mountains, lakes and forest. If time permits we will also visit crocodile farms. Depart from nearby airport at 3:05pm on Ethiopian Airways to Addis Ababa. After arriving at 4:45pm transfer to hotel for dinner & overnight. (B, D)

Day 9 (Sat. Jan. 13):   Flight: Addis Ababa to Daire Dawa / Visit Harar

After early morning breakfast transfer to the airport for 1h flight to Daire Dawa on Ethiopian Airways. Depart at 7:00am. After arriving we will take direct 1 hour drive to historical town of Harar, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our visit will include the walled inner city called Jugal where we walk along a maze of alleys that lead past its 83 mosques, and various historical buildings, unique homes and colorful markets. Harar is considered to be Islam's fourth holiest city after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Before return to our hotel we will observe two hyena men, who make their living by feeding wild hyenas after dusk. Hotel and dinner in Harar. (B, D)

Day 10 (Sun. Jan. 14):   Flight: Daire Dawa - Addis Ababa - Aksum

After breakfast we will return to Daire Dawa for a short city tour. Departure at 12:25pm on Ethiopian Airways to Aksum with a connection in Addis Ababa. After arriving in Aksum at 4:00pm, transfer to our hotel for dinner and overnight. (B, D)

Day 11 (Mon. Jan. 15):   Full day tour of Aksum city of Ark

Full day city tour of this former capital of the ancient Aksumite Empire – legendary home of Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant. We will visit the ancient stelae fields, standing for 2000 years and also some of the oldest churches in Ethiopia as well as palace ruins and trilingual tablets recounting events that took place two thousand years ago. If time permits we’ll visit the new and impressive Archeological Museum. Hotel & dinner in Aksum (2,130m). (B, D)

Day 12 (Tue. Jan. 16):   Flight: Aksum - Lalibela

Morning transfer to airport for 30 minute flight to Lalibela (2,630m).  Departure at 11:45pm. After arriving begin a tour of the historical & magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs, and fabulous examples of icon paintings.  Hotel and dinner in Lalibela. (B,D)

Day 13 (Wed. Jan. 17):   Flight: Lalibela – Gondar   

After breakfast before transfer to the airport short visit to Lalibela Church Museum. Depart at 12:45pm for 30 minutes to Gondar (2,200m). After arriving, transfer to our hotel. Gondar – named Camelot of Ethiopia served as imperial capital for 300 years and has 5 impressive 16th century castles and the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, famous for its religious art and its iconic ceiling - depicting angels. Hotel and dinner in Gondar. (B, D)

Day 14 (Thu. Jan. 18):   Gondar - Timkat

We will divide our full day tour in Gondar between exploring the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage site built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings, and observing a preparation for special religious celebration TIMKAT. Having survived several wars, including World War 2, the castles are a testament to the resilience of this once mighty African Empire. Timkat is very important to Orthodox Christians 3 day’s festival commemorating Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River. Colorful procession during which replica of the Arc is removed from church altar and swaddled in colorful cloth before being paraded around. The biggest and most colorful procession of all is in Gondar which ends in Fasil’s Pool to re-enact the original baptism. Hotel and dinner in Gondar. (B, D)

Day 15 (Fri. Jan. 19):   Gondar – Timkat /  Drive to Bahir Dar

From the morning we will observing Timkat ceremonies which are unique and impressive. In the afternoon we will make a 180km drive to Bahir Dar. Hotel and dinner in Bahir Dar. (B, D)

Day 16 (Sat. Jan. 20):   Bahir Dar /  Flight Bahir Dar - Addis Ababa + tour

After breakfast transfer to the airport for 1h flight to Addis Ababa. Depart at 8:40am on Ethiopian Airways. After arriving our city tour begins with a drive to the Entoto Mountain (2,900m), from which we can enjoy a panoramic view of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Here we will visit the Entoto Maryam church and museum. Then we’ll visit the National Museum with its famous 3.5 million year old skull known as Lucy. After visiting the St. George Cathedral we will visit St. Trinity Cathedral where we will see the tomb of Emperor Haile Selassie who ruled Ethiopia for almost 40 years. Our tour will end at Mercato - the biggest open air market in Africa. Farewell dinner and overnight. (B, D)

Day 17 (Sun. Jan. 21):   Flight: Addis Ababa - New York

After breakfast transfer to airport for return flight home.  Depart at 9:00am on ET#508. Breakfast and lunch on board the plane. Arrive Newark at 6:15pm.

* * * End of the itinerary * * *


Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north and northeast, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 100 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world, as well as the second-most populous nation on the African continent. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.

Some of the oldest evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia. It is widely considered as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond. According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations settled in the Horn region during the ensuing Neolithic era. Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BC, Ethiopia's governmental system was a monarchy for most of its history. In the first centuries AD, the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region, followed by the Ethiopian Empire circa 1137. During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was the only territory in Africa to defeat a European colonial power and retain its sovereignty. Many newly-independent nations on the continent subsequently adopted its flag colours. Ethiopia was also the first independent member from Africa of the 20th-century League of Nations and the United Nations. In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by the Derg, a communist military government backed by the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Derg established the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.

Ethiopia's ancient Ge'ez script (Ethiopic script) is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world. The Ethiopian calendar, which is approximately seven years and three months behind the Gregorian calendar, co-exists alongside the Borana calendar. A majority of the population adheres to Christianity (mainly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and P'ent'ay), whereas around a third follows Islam (primarily Sunni). The country is the site of the Migration to Abyssinia and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. A substantial population of Ethiopian Jews, known as Bete Israel, also resided in Ethiopia until the 1980s. Ethiopia is a multilingual nation with around 80 ethnolinguistic groups, the four largest of which are the Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigrayans. Most people in the country speak Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic or Semitic branches. Additionally, Omotic languages are spoken by ethnic minority groups inhabiting the southern regions. Nilo-Saharan languages are also spoken by the nation's Nilotic ethnic minorities.

Ethiopia is the place of origin of the coffee bean, which was first cultivated at Kefa, one of the 14 provinces in the old Ethiopian administration. It is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile west, jungles, and numerous rivers, and the world's hottest settlement of Dallol in its north. The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest continuous mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves contains the largest cave on the continent. Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Additionally, the country is one of the founding members of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity. Its capital city Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Standby Force, and many of the global NGOs focused on Africa. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ethiopia experienced civil conflicts and communist purges, which hindered its economy. The country has since recovered and now has the largest economy (by GDP) in East and Central Africa. According to Global Fire Power, Ethiopia also has the 41st most powerful military in the world, and the third most powerful in Africa.

Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa or Addis Abeba (the spelling used by the official Ethiopian Mapping Authority), is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. It has a population of 3,384,569 according to the 2007 population census, with annual growth rate of 3.8%. This number has been increased from the originally published 2,738,248 figure and appears to be still largely underestimated.

As a chartered city, Addis Ababa has the status of both a city and a state. It is where the African Union is and its predecessor the OAU was based. It also hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and numerous 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 is populated by people from different regions of Ethiopia. It is home to Addis Ababa University.


The Konso, also known as the Xonsita, are a Lowland East Cushitic-speaking ethnic group primarily inhabiting south-central Ethiopia.


According to Hallpike (1972), Konso family traditions indicate that they are a composite people, both physically and culturally, with members originally hailing from all the surrounding areas.

In terms of physical appearance, the Konso tend to be small and wiry, with high cheekbones and pointed chins. Skin color ranges from reddish brown to almost black, but is dark brown on average. Some individuals more closely resemble the Oromo, possessing thin lips and greater stature; others have a distinctly more 'africoid' phenotype and are much shorter. According to Hallpike (1972), the latter somatic characteristics are more marked amongst Konso women. George Murdock (1959) attributes the pronounced 'negroid' influence on the Konso in general to early inter-mixture with the agricultural pre-Nilotes, who entered the Ethiopian highlands about 5000 years ago.


Hamer is one of the woredas in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region of Ethiopia. It is named after Hamer people who are living at this woreda. Part of the Debub Omo Zone, Hamer is bordered on the south by Kenya, on the southwest by Kuraz, on the west by Nyangatom, on the north by Bena Tsemay, and on the east by the Oromia Region; the Weito River separates it from the Oromia Region. Hamer includes part of Lake Chew Bahir along its southeastern border. The administrative center is Dimeka; other towns in include Turmi. Hamer was part of former Hamer Bena woreda.


The Mursi (or Mun as they refer to themselves) are a Nilotic pastoralist ethnic group in Ethiopia. They principally reside in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, close to the border with South Sudan. According to the 2007 national census, there are 7,500 Mursi, 448 of whom live in urban areas; of the total number, 92.25% live in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR).

Surrounded by mountains between the Omo River and its tributary the Mago, the home of the Mursi is one of the most isolated regions of the country. Their neighbors include the Aari, the Banna, the Bodi, the Karo, the Kwegu, the Nyangatom and the Suri. They are grouped together with the Me'en and Suri by the Ethiopian government under the name Surma.


Axum or Aksum is a city in the northern part of Ethiopia. The town has a population of 56,500 residents (2010), and is governed as an urban wäräda.

The original capital of the Kingdom of Aksum, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Africa. Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from about 400 BCE into the 10th century. In 1980 UNESCO added Aksum's archaeological sites to its list of World Heritage Sites due to their historic value.

Located in the Mehakelegnaw Zone of the Tigray Region near the base of the Adwa mountains, Axum has an elevation of 2,131 metres (6,991 ft). Axum is surrounded by La'ilay Maychew wäräda.


Lalibela is a town in Amhara Region, northern Ethiopia famous for monolithic rock-cut churches. The whole of Lalibela offers an exceptional testimony to the medieval and post-medieval civilization of Ethiopia. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and a center of pilgrimage. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Ethiopia is one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity in the first half of the fourth century, and its historical roots date to the time of the Apostles. The churches themselves date from the seventh to thirteenth centuries, and are traditionally dated to the reign of the Zagwe dynasty king Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (r. ca. 1181–1221 AD).

The layout and names of the major buildings in Lalibela are widely accepted, especially by local clergy, to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. This has led some experts to date the current church forms to the years following the capture of Jerusalem in 1187 by Muslim leader, Saladin.

Lalibela is located in the Semien Wollo Zone of the Amhara Region, at roughly 2,500 meters above sea level. It is the main town in Lasta woreda, which was formerly part of Bugna woreda. The Rock-Hewn Churches were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.


Gondar or Gonder is a city and separate woreda in Ethiopia. Located in the Semien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region, Gondar is north of Tana Lake on the Lesser Angereb River and southwest of the Simien Mountains. It has a latitude and longitude of 12°36′N 37°28′E with an elevation of 2133 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by the Gondar Zuria woreda.

Gondar previously served as the capital of both the Ethiopian Empire and the subsequent Begemder Province. The city holds the remains of several royal castles, including those in Fasil Ghebbi (the Royal Enclosure), for which Gondar has been called the "Camelot of Africa". Gonder was historically the center of Jewish life in Ethiopia.


Timkat (Amharic: ጥምቀት which means "baptism") (also spelled Timket, or Timqat) is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany. It is celebrated on January 19 (or 20 on Leap Year), corresponding to the 10th day of Terr following the Ethiopian calendar. Timkat celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. This festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism (similar to such reenactments performed by numerous Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land when they visit the Jordan).
Orthodox priests at a Timkat ceremony in Jan Meda.

During the ceremonies of Timkat, the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, which is present on every Ethiopian altar (somewhat like the Western altar stone), is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and borne in procession on the head of the priest. The Tabot, which is otherwise rarely seen by the laity, represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan for baptism. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated near a stream or pool early in the morning (around 2 a.m.). Then the nearby body of water is blessed towards dawn and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom enter the water and immerse themselves, symbolically renewing their baptismal vows. But the festival does not end there; Donald N. Levine describes a typical celebration of the early 1960s:

    By noon on Timqat Day a large crowd has assembled at the ritual site, those who went home for a little sleep having returned, and the holy ark is escorted back to its church in colorful procession and festivities. The clergy, bearing robes and umbrellas of many hues, perform rollicking dances and songs; the elders march solemnly with their weapons, attended by middle-ages men singing a long-drawn, low-pitched haaa hooo; and the children run about with sticks and games. Dressed up in their finest, the women chatter excitedly on their one real day of freedom in the year. The young braves leap up and down in spirited dances, tirelessly repeating rhythmic songs. When the holy ark has been safely restored to its dwelling-place, everyone goes home for feasting.

Trip cost with all flights included: $4,950

• per person in a 2-person room, min. 15 travelers
• Single supplemental payment: +$685

Trip cost includes:

• Flights: Newark - Addis Ababa - Newark
• All in-country flights throughout the trip
• Accommodations at 3* & 4* hotels and campgrounds
• Transfers in a private bus with local guides and our Classic Travel English/Polish speaking guide
• All breakfasts, dinners and 4 lunches
• Entrance fees to all museums, ruins and National Parks included in the trip

Trip cost does not include:

• Services not mentioned in the itinerary
• Cost of optional trips/attractions
• Tips for guides/drivers
• Insurance
• Baggage porterage

Additional comments

• Citizens of the USA do not require travel visas to Ethiopia. We remind you that passports MUST be valid 6 months after your the trip return date.
• If you plan on taking part in this trip with a group of 10 or more friends/relatives and would need a connecting flight to reach the starting destination of the trip (NYC) there is the possibility of receiving group discounts on the connecting flight. Please contact as soon as possible if this is the case.
• In the event that there is an odd number of group participants, the person to last join the group will be required to buy a single supplement for the trip or, when possible, share a 3 person room.
• In the event that 60 days before the trip departure date the number of trip participants is under 12, an additional supplemental payment of $150 per person may be required.

Trip Reservation

In order to secure a reservation for this trip each participant must pay a deposit of $500 and complete and sign a trip participation form. For guided group trips the number of space is limited – reservations are accepted in the order that they are received in. Full payment is required 90 days before departure. If the departure date is already within 60 days, then full payment is required immediately. If payment is not made in this time frame, the trip price as well as a spot reserved on the trip are not guaranteed.

For the quickest turnaround, please request your reservation through our website (use the “Request Reservation” option on the trip page). Our agents will email you with the invoice, payment options, all applicable forms, and instructions on how to complete the reservation. You may also request a reservation by emailing us at, or by calling our office toll free 1-800-774-6996.

Trip Cancellation

Any cancellation by a client must be made in writing and be acknowledged by the company in writing (mail/email/fax). The date on which the request to cancel is received by the company or its agents will determine the cancellation fees applicable. The cancellation fees are expressed hereafter as a percentage of the total tour price, excluding insurance.

Cancellation 120 or more days before the trip: return of deposit, less $20 for office fees.
Cancellation 119-90 days before departure: Loss of entire deposit.
Cancellation 89-60 days before departure: 50% of cost of services booked.
Cancellation less than 60 days before departure: 100% of cost of services booked.

Cancellation of trip by Classic Travel

Classic Travel reserves the right to cancel a trip under any circumstances. Cancellation cannot be made under 60 days to trip departure date, except under circumstances of "Force Majeure," which our agency has no influence or control over.

When it comes to trip cancellation, the client has the following options:

Use the trip deposit payment towards another trip as a deposit or partial payment (if the amount is larger than $500).
Receive a full refund of the paid deposit for the canceled trip

Classic Travel is not responsible for any costs incurred to the clients in preparing for the trip.

Required Documentation

Trip participants must be in possession of a valid passport, any applicable visas, and their insurance policy. Passport must be valid 6 months past the return date. It is highly recommended that participants have at least three photocopies of these documents. The trip participant accepts full responsibility for obtaining all such documents and is responsible for any adverse consequences resulting from missing or defective documentation. At the time of booking Classic Travel will advise on what documents are required for your trip.

Travel Documents Issued by Classic Travel

No later than two weeks prior to departure, all trip participants will receive via mail and/or email a packet that contains flight tickets (if purchased through Classic Travel), a detailed trip itinerary, additional information & brochures, baggage tags, and a list of suggested items to bring.

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Travel Insurance

Insurance is not included in the cost of this trip. Medical insurance is mandatory for all trips and it is up to the trip participant to choose an insurance package that fits their needs. Prior to the commencement of the trip, Classic Travel will request all trip participants to provide a copy of their travel insurance certificate. Medical insurance should cover accident and sickness expenses and emergency evacuation.

We also highly recommend that cancellation insurance is purchased. This will allow you to recover your costs in case you must cancel the trip due to an unforeseen circumstance (sickness or death of yourself or a close family member, extreme weather conditions, terrorism, loss of employment, etc).

Travel insurance can be purchased through Classic Travel - our plans are available to all our clients regardless of nationality and residency. We offer travel medical insurance as well as more comprehensive insurance packages that cover trip cancellation, trip interruption, travel delay, baggage loss, and more. During the reservation process we will provide you with our insurance options and rates.

You may choose to purchase travel insurance with us or with any other venue, so long as you are insured!

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