Day 1 (26th December 2020): Arrival at Addis Ababa – Cultural exploration – Flight to Jinka – Evening with the Aris (L, D)
Suggestion: We highly recommend that you arrive with the morning flight of Ethiopian Airlines that lands in Addis Ababa at 8 am.
Upon your arrival at the airport of Addis Ababa, you will be welcomed by a Rahhalah representative, and you will head downtown for a city tour around the main landmarks of the Ethiopian capital.
You will start with the National Museum of Ethiopia where you will meet the famous “Lucy”: the most ancient hominid fossil yet discovered, found in the Danakil Depression of the Rift Valley region. The museum also houses the remains of many other ancient hominids, bearing tribute to the evolution of our species.
You will then drive to Entoto Mountain to visit the Entoto Maryam Museum that exhibits a collection of royal garments, coins, and drums as well as the royal crown used by Menelik II. You may also visit several ancient churches in the proximity, the old palace of Menelik II, and, finally, Merkato: the largest open-air market in Africa. The broader area is overflowing with interesting monuments and historical sites, some of which you may explore, while there will be ample opportunities for souvenir shopping.
In the afternoon, you will take the domestic flight to Jinka.
Once there, and after you have settled in your accommodation, you will explore the villages of the Ari Tribe: one of the 16 tribes of the Omo Valley Region. The Aris are renowned for their traditional houses which are beautifully decorated with art made by the village women and are encircled with coffee and enset (otherwise known as Ethiopian or false banana) plants. On the way, you will stop by several households to observe the diversified activities of the locals like pottery making, blacksmithing, house painting, distilling, and more, and learn details of this intriguing culture.
Finally, you will have your first countryside culinary experience, as you get a taste of the local food and drinks, with some analysis and demonstrations. The highlight will possibly be the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, while, in the end, and with the help of the villagers, you will bake Enjera: the traditional bread.
Accommodation: Camping in the village of Ari Tribe, around Jinka Town.
In the morning, you will drive to Mago National Park to meet the Mursi tribe, known internationally for their lip plating, earlobes, and stick fighting (donga) – a form of initiation. As you cross the park, you may also have the chance to meet game animals that occasionally emerge and cross the road – after all, you are surrounded by wilderness.
You will return to Jinka for lunch, and, then, you will load your luggage in the car and drive to Turmi, stopping on the way to meet the Benna tribe.
Once in Turmi, you will spend the rest of the day exploring the villages of the Hamar people. You will have the opportunity to interact with the locals, observing their rituals and practices, and perhaps you may even see a Bull Jumping ceremony: an initiation ritual during which a man runs on the back of a series of cattle lined-up next to each other.
In Turmi, you will also visit a Primary School to get a glimpse of a typical school environment and the local educational system. The connection with the teachers and children will help you acquire more profound understandings regarding the local culture, community, opportunities and challenges, and how they are addressed.
You will spend the evening in one of the Hamar villages to attend Evangadi: an impressive Traditional Evening Dance Performance, accompanied by Wetele: a local delicacy. It is an old recipe of grilled goat, cooked in a unique and traditional technique. In the end, you may even try a few dance steps yourselves, following the example of the locals!
Total driving distance: 260 km/6 hrs.
Accommodation: Camping in the village of Hamar Tribe, around Turmi Town.
In the morning, you will drive southward, towards Omorate: the border town between Ethiopia and Kenya.
Note: Please make sure that you carry your passport for the emigration office registration.
When you reach the famous Omo River – the largest Ethiopian river outside the Nile Basin – you will cross to the other side using a traditional dugout wooden canoe to visit the villages of the Dassenech tribe. They were originally a pastoral tribe but, having lost most of the land that provided food for their livestock, they moved along Omo River, turning to agriculture as well. They represent a small minority within Ethiopia, but their beautiful faces and traditions will inspire you.
Afterwards, you will head to Konso town (also known as Karati): the first place in Ethiopia to be recognized by UNESCO for its cultural landscape, archaeological megaliths and ancient trading activity.
On the way, you will visit one of the weekly local markets attended by people from different ethnic groups who, with their diverse products and unique backgrounds, turn the market into an exceptional cultural experience for every visitor. You will have the chance to observe the various practices, the relations among people and animals, and get a glimpse of authentic life in this part of Africa.
Total driving distance: 300 km/6.5 hours.
Accommodation: Camping in the village of Konso Tribe, around Konso Town.
Day 4 (29th December 2020): Hiking through the villages of Konso – Searching for crocodiles on Lake Chamo (B, L, D)
In the morning, you will hike through the traditional villages of the Konso people, scattered on the slopes around the town. The Konso tribe is famous for its ancient agricultural techniques and labor-intensive terrace building all over their land. As you hike in the area, you will be able to admire the scenic landscapes, and the wonders humans have created there over centuries: achievements recognized today as part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
On the way, you will have the opportunity to observe these old agricultural activities in practice, and you will spend time with the locals in specially arranged Q&A sessions during which, with the help of an interpreter, you can learn anything you want about the tribe.
In the afternoon, you will head to Arba Minch (Forty Springs): the largest town in Southern Ethiopia, perched at an elevation of 1,300m at the foothills of the Rift Valley wall. There, you will enjoy a boat trip on Lake Chamo, looking for hippos and crocodiles. Large numbers of crocodiles can frequently be viewed at a location known as “Azo-Gebeya” which means “Crocodile Market” and hosts one of Africa’s most impressive crocodile gatherings.
Total driving distance: 85 km/3 hours.
Accommodation: Haile Resort or similar in Arba Minch.
Day 5 (30th December 2020): Trekking around the Dorze villages – Return to Addis Ababa – Departure (B, L)
After breakfast, you will ascend the western escarpment of the Rift Valley. The high mountains, some of which are almost 4000m tall, provide an ideal setting for Arba Minch which, given its natural surroundings, is perhaps the best-located city of East Africa. On the way, you will stop at a viewpoint to enjoy panoramic views of the town, as well as the Nech Sar National Park and the “Bridge of God”: an isthmus between the twin lakes of Chamo and Abaya.
At the mountain top, you will stop at Chencha, the capital of the Dorze tribe, and you will embark on a half-day trek (around 3 hours), following old trails that connect the various tribal villages. On the way, you will connect with the locals, marveling at the stunning landscapes of the region and enjoying the clean air of the highlands.
The Dorze people are famous for their huge beehive huts, which are among the most distinctive traditional structures of Africa. Every Dorze compound is surrounded by enset (false banana), coffee, and other crops.
This tribe is also known for producing the country's best-woven cotton clothes, which most Ethiopians purchase for special occasions. The trail will take you to some local Cloth Making Associations, where you can see by yourself the excellent quality of these creations. Finally, you will have the opportunity to observe the locals in their daily tasks: the women spinning cotton and preparing Kocho (a typical Dorze bread made of branches and roots of the enset plant), as the men weave cotton, harvest the crops, and engage in other agricultural activities.
In the afternoon, you will head to the airport for your domestic flight to Addis Ababa, where, those of you who are not extending their visit to Lalibela, will catch your international flight back home. The ones who will stay in Ethiopia for a few extra days will spend the night in a hotel in Addis Ababa.
Note: We recommend that you catch an Ethiopian Airline flight leaving after 9 pm.
Optional Extension to Lalibela
In the morning, you will be transferred to the airport for the domestic flight to Lalibela: a historic town that shelters numerous rock-hewn churches built below the ground. Many people argue that Lalibela’s churches should be recognized as the 8th Wonder of the World.
Upon arrival and after a short coffee break, you will spend the day exploring the rock-hewn churches: a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a marvel of human creativity. There are 11 such churches, 4 of which are purely monolithic or attached to the living rock only at the base. They are located around the town and are divided into three groups: the first group includes six churches, the second one, and the third four.
In the afternoon, you will have ample time to walk around the villages of Lalibela, visit local families, observe their way of life, and experience the traditional Coffee Ceremony performed in the typical Ethiopian style.
Accommodation: Lalibela Vacation Home Stay.
Day 2 (1st January 2021): Hike to the Asheton Mariyam Church – Flight to Addis Ababa – Departure (B, L, D)
In the morning, you will ride a horse or hike to the Asheton Mariam church, perched on the highest point of the area. It is one of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, and it is believed to be the first attempt of King Lalibela to chisel churches out of the living solidified rocks.
Afterwards, you will be transferred to the airport to catch a flight to Addis Ababa.
Once back to the capital, you may spend the rest of the day shopping in the local markets, resting, or engaging in optional activities at Addis Ababa.
In the evening, you will head to the international airport to catch your flight back home.