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Best time to go: January to April, October to December
10 Nights | from £3,645pp
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Holiday type: Tailor-made
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- Slip into the chaotic colour of Addis Ababa the country's fascinating capital
- Slip back in time to check out the dramatic setting and towering 17th century castles of Gondar
- Laugh at the playful baboons who seem to stop and admire the epic views of the Simien Mountain National park
- Cruise the lake road of the Great Rift Valley –a birdwatchers dream.
- Wrap up and strike out into the high altitude Sanetti plateau to track down the illusive Ethiopian wolf.
- Learn of the colourful Rastafarian culture at Shashamene –a piece of land granted to the black people of the world by Haile Selassie himself and a melting pot of global colour and customs
Day 1 UK / Addis Ababa
Make the most of your Ethiopian adventure by flying overnight to Addis Ababa, the country's intoxicating capital. 'Addis Ababa' translates as 'new flower' in Amharic - the beautiful local language you will hear sung throughout its chaotic streets. Chosen for its verdant setting and wonderful climate this was not always Ethiopia's capital –the (rather romantic) story tells that it was a love gift, the choice of the consort of the Emperor Menelik II who preferred the location to the country's original capital Entoto. Her wishes were granted and the seat of power thus moved.
Day 2 Arrive Addis Ababa
The flower has most certainly bloomed and the second you step out of the airport you realise you are opening the door into an ancient, mystical and deeply religious world fighting strongly to keep its presence amongst high rises and shopping centres. A city of immense contrasts its chaotic streets are a hotchpotch of Menelik remains and dizzying investment. Driving through the wide-lane super highway it's not unusual to pass a religious procession of thousands of white clad devotees moving slowly past 'pop up' holy markets to one of the many, many, glittering churches. Horns honk, goats bleat and open fronted shops selling colourful baskets line the pavements;modern office blocks jostle for space amongst low-rise corrugated tin shacks and beautiful jacaranda trees. It's a heady mix.
Before heading into the country's rural splendour strike out into this colourful metropolis with your charming local guide. Visit the former palace of the infamous Haile Selassie, now a fabulous Ethnographical museum chock a block full of ancient artefacts and laced with beautiful gardens and twinkling fountains.
Sheraton Addis Ababa
Day 3 Gondar
A morning flight takes you to the ancient city of Gondar. Surrounded by fertile plains Gondar, the first capital city of the Ethiopian empire, stands tall. Here castles dominate the skyline;they are so numerous that the city is often described as the 'Camelot of Africa'. Castle walls abound but it is the contrast with European influence that makes this city so unforgettable, seeming in parts more European than African. Visit the castle complex, the baths of Fasilidas and the church of Debre Berhan.
Goha Hotel | Meals: Breakfast
Day 4 Simien Mountains National Park
Buckle up for a stunning drive towards the Simien Mountains, easily one of Ethiopia's most awe-inspiring mountain ranges. The National Park which shares its name has been UNESCO listed due to its wonderful combination of epic scenery and endemic wildlife. Cross the high plateau with its precipitous cliffs and deep, canyon-style gorges and gaze over the verdant terraces and gentle highland ridges which fall from its sides;every pictures is a photographers dream framed by the imposing mountain range winking down over the beautiful scene.
From your park lodge enjoy a gentle trek around the area and get your binoculars out for there is some marvellous wildlife spotting to be had. The lucky few may spot ibex jousting on rock ledges alongside the playful gelada baboons. The also rare Simien fox and Ethiopian wolf are also hiding out here alongside the klippspringer, bush buck and many stunning birds of prey.
Simien Lodge | Meals: Breakfast
Day 5 Chenek –Simien Mountain National park
Drive out through dramatic landscape to Chenek;the park's striking scenery is the result of massive seismic activity in the area about 40 million years ago. Here you can take a gentle hike along narrow paths circling through grasslands and around the mountain ridges on the hunt for the sadly endangered walia ibex, a wild mountain goat.
Soak in the thrilling panorama over a pleasant picnic lunch whilst spotting some of the parks many brilliant birds;the park is rich in raptors and vultures and the threatened species of pallid harrier, lammergeier and augur buzzard are actually quite common throughout the park. Keep your eyes peeled on the way back to your lodge for a pack of playful and inquisitive baboons.
Simien Lodge | Meals: Breakfast
Day 6 Gondar
Taking a leisurely drive back to Gondar there are plenty of opportunities to stop off for snaps and to gulp back lungful after lungful of fresh African air whilst gasping at the awesome views. Arriving in Gondar why not head to the Italian-built piazza that marks the centre of town, a perfect spot for a well-deserved 'buna' (totally addictive Ethiopian coffee). We suggest tucking into some fabulous local cuisine tonight. Try the injera and tibbs –essentially a huge fluffy flat pancake with a variety of lip-smacking spiced meats or vegetables served in the centre, all the tastier when washed down with a locally brewed beer!
Goha Hotel | Meals: Breakfast
Day 7 Addis / Langano
Hop on the flight back to Addis Ababa this morning from where you will strike out into the Great Rift Valley –impressively the only stretch of the earth's landscape that is visible from the moon! The road to the Rift Valley lake area is a pretty one and its fascinating to see the city changing as you leave the suburbs behind. Keep an eye out for the huge flower houses producing blooms for export to Europe.
This road passes all the major lakes found in Ethiopia's Rift Valley;be sure to stop at Lake Ziway, famous for attracting many bird species including white pelicans, hamerkops, sacred ibises, African fishing eagles and even marabou storks which you'll tend to find hanging out out in particularly large numbers around the busy jetty. Rest for the night on the buzzing shores of Lake Langano, a popular tourist destination for city dwelling Ethiopian's, which means there is a great array of water based activities on offer.
Langano | Meals: Breakfast
Day 8 Langano / Goba
Depart Langano and head to Shashemene, the unofficial capital of the world's Rastafarian community and a town given 'to the black people of the world' by Haile Selassie himself. Stop off here for a dose of Rasta culture and a tasty snack before continuing to its neighbouring province of Bale. Continue climbing through the lush and wooded area of Kofele, before dipping slightly across the vast open plains through Dodola and Adaba. The road is quite rough but you are richly rewarded with spectacular views of the jagged outcrops and dramatic valleys. Keep your eyes peeled for you may see a grumpy looking warthog or a long legged mountain nyala cross your path.
Wabe Shebelle | Meals: Breakfast
Day 9 Sanetti Plateau
Today rewards you with a visit to the truly extraordinary Sanetti Plateau –due to it's dizzying elevation (much of it lies at over 4000m) it is adored by the rare Ethiopian wolf which hunts it's rodent prey across the chilly Sanetti heights. A wonderful selection of birds including the spot breasted lapwing, blue winged goose, the migrant wattle crane and ruddy shelduck also love the high altitude lakes that twinkle across the barren, beautiful, landscape.This is the last remaining alpine landscape in Africa and really does offer a sublime and rugged vista unlike anywhere else in the country. As far as the eye can see dramatic peaks rise up and sometimes golden eagles can be seen circling the big clear skies. You'll also have a chance to walk through the beautiful pristine Harenna forest found under a thick heather belt which drops away from the plateau's side.
Wabe Shebelle | Meals: Breakfast
Day 10 Goba / Yirgalem
Head back towards Shashemene, stopping off with a little more time to explore its lively Rastafarian community. Continue to your lodge at Yirgalem, it's a pretty base for the evening nestled between coffee fields not far from Lake Awassa –tuck into a great fish curry and get the low down on the history of the magnificent coffee bean that is said to originate from this country.
Yirgalem | Meals: Breakfast
Day 11 Yirgalem / Addis Ababa
Continue the short drive back to Addis this morning. Your convenient evening flight means you have an afternoon to soak in more of this crazy contradiction of a city and we do suggest you head to the Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa where you can spend your last birr on gold jewellery, pungent spices or wonderful cottons. Eventually it is time for your final Ethiopian dinner, and a sad farewell to this culturally rich, visually dramatic and downright beautiful country.
At A&K all of our journeys are individually tailored to suit your needs and timescale. As a guide this 11 day suggested holiday will cost from £3,645 per person, based on two sharing, excluding international flights.
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Best time to be there
There are two seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May; the wet season runs from June to September. Temperatures are determined by altitude, with highlands (including Addis Ababa) rarely exceeding 25º C. In the lowlands it can get considerably hotter exceeding 40ºC, while in the Danakil Depression it can approach 60ºC
GMT + 3 hours
Visa Required for UK passport holders, obtainable on arrival at a cost of 50 USD per person.