Mysteries of Ethiopia
Ethiopia stands at the cultural crossroads of Africa and the Middle East. Discover its dramatic landscapes and diverse cultures on a 13-day adventure. Trek into the stunning Simien Mountains, explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, and introduce yourself to the residents of the progressive village of Awra Amba. In this unique country, surprises await around every turn of the dusty road.
Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Awra Amba Community Visit and Lunch, Gondar Area
Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Ploughshare Women’s Association Visit, Gondar Area
Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Community Injera Making Demonstration and Tasting, Gondar Area
Your Welcome Moment: Meet Your CEO and Group. Arrival transfer. Excursion to Blue Nile Falls. Boat trip on Lake Tana. Bahir Dar market visit. Guided tour of Debre Berhan Selassie Church, Fasiladas’s Bath, and historic castles in Gondar. Simien Mountains trek. Visit to Axum historical sites. Guided tour of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Asheton Maryam hike. Internal flights. All transport between destinations and to/from included activities.
Discover rock-hewn churches in Lalibela and castles in Gondar, visit the Awra Amba community and learn about the local way of life, enjoy a traditional coffee ceremony at the Ploughshare Women’s Crafts Training Center, learn how to make injera (Ethiopian flatbread) before a delicious traditional dinner
The information in this trip details document has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and the operator. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. It may differ slightly to the one in the brochure. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal along the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. Please note that our brochure is usually released in November each year. If you have booked from the previous brochure you may find there have been some changes to the itinerary.
VERY IMPORTANT: Please ensure that you print a final copy of your Trip Details to review a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans.
While it is our intention to adhere to the route described below, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. The itinerary is brief, as we never know exactly where our journey will take us. Due to our style of travel and the regions we visit, travel can be unpredictable. The Trip Details document is a general guide to the tour and region and any mention of specific destinations or wildlife is by no means a guarantee that they will be visited or encountered. Aboard expedition trips visits to research stations depend on final permission.
Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and subject to vary due to local circumstances.
Please note that due to the remote nature of our Ethiopia adventures some of our accommodation may seem rustic by western standards.
It may be required to show a Yellow Fever certificate upon entering the country. Please check in with your local consulate and health expert for advice on Yellow Fever and other inoculations required for this area.
Group Leader Description
Throughout the entire journey in the north of Ethiopia, you will be accompanied on your trip by a Chief Experience Officer (CEO). The Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will be the group manager and leader. He organizes the trip, and will be there to assist you when needed. He will have a general knowledge base of the region, history, culture, and wildlife. He will take care of the small things so you can concentrate on enjoying your adventure. In addition, for some included activities, we engage in local guides to add to the experience and share their expertise.
Group Size Notes
Max 15, Avg 10.
12 breakfasts, 1 lunch
When meals are not included, your hotel will have a restaurant or your will be advised of a good local establishment. Part of the excitement of a G Adventures trip is the ability to try local dishes when possible. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility, though generally food is not expensive. Our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other’s company. There is no obligation to do this though, and you may choose to explore some local restaurants on your own or with your travel companion(s).
Plane, minivan/bus, boat, walking, hiking.
About our Transportation
For this tour we use a combination of flights, minivans, minibus and boats. We use a 12-seater minivan when the group is 7 passengers or less. For larger groups, we will upgrade to a 23-seater coaster bus with cushioned seats, and sliding windows. This style of transportation is a comfortable way to travel through the region. No matter the size of the group there will be extra space to benefit the group. Many of the roads in Ethiopia are under construction. Though at times the quality can be quite good, much of the time we will need to slow our traveling speed, and accept the bumps and dust along the way.
We believe single travellers should not have to pay more to travel so our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers joining group trips are paired in twin or multi-share accommodation with someone of the same sex for the duration of the trip. Some of our Independent trips are designed differently and single travellers on these itineraries must pay the single trip price.
Hotels (12 nts).
Accommodation in Ethiopia is not to the standard of the west or other parts of Africa where tourism is more developed. Hotels don’t always have much character, as they are made more functional than decorative and the choice is limited due to both lack of local and foreign demand. As such customer service standards are lower, due to lack of a large tourism industry and lack of exposure to western service standards. Plumbing can be simple and not always reliable and water pressure is weak, especially in dry season. Safety, location, and cleanliness are our top criteria when choosing hotels. We choose the best one that meets our criteria, and constantly evaluate the options that are out there.
Please ensure that you bring enough toiletries as most hotels do not supply them.
For details of your joining hotel please refer to your tour voucher, G Account, the G Adventures App or contact your travel agent.
An arrival transfer is included on this trip when you arrive on Day 1, or when you arrive up to three days prior to the tour, provided that you have booked your pre-accommodation through National Geographic Journeys in our joining hotel. Due to customer experience and quality considerations, all services related to the tour must be continuous.
If you are obtaining your visa upon arrival at the Bole International airport, the queue is just before you go through immigration check point. There are a couple bank kiosks to the far right of the visa counter where you can exchange US or Euros into Ethiopian Birr. These give the current bank rate.
After completing immigration procedures and claiming your luggage in the airport, exit to the large arrivals hall. Turn right at the meet/greet area and look for the Ambassador Hotel booth. It is the first one in the far right corner of the hall. The Ambassador Hotel staff at the booth will direct you to the shuttle bus that will take you to the hotel. If the greeting staff happen not to be at the booth upon your arrival, wait until they arrive or call the hotel reception at +251 (0) 11 6188284 / 81.
We don’t expect any problems, and nor should you, but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, as soon as possible please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your CEO (if you are not on a group tour please refer to the emergency contact details provided in this dossier). If you are unable to get in touch with your leader, please refer to our emergency contact details. If you have a pre-booked airport transfer and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the Starting Point hotel, following the Joining Instructions. Please apply to your travel agent on your return for a refund of the transfer cost if this occurs.
Should you need to contact G Adventures during a situation of dire need, it is best to first call our local G Adventures operator – EthioGuzo Tour and Travel. If for any reason you do not receive an immediate answer, please leave a detailed message and contact information, so they may return your call and assist you as soon as possible.
EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS
G Adventures Local Operator (Ethiopia)
During Office hours (Weekdays, 9am-5pm Local Time)
From outside Ethiopia: +251 11 6 299 863
From within Ethiopia: 011 6 299 863
After hours emergency number:
From outside Ethiopia: +251 911 478 058
From within Ethiopia: 0911 478 058
G Adventures Local Office (Nairobi, Kenya)
From outside Kenya: +254 727 208 832
From within Kenya: 0727 208 832
If you are unable for any reason to contact our local office, we have a toll-free line for North America, which will connect you directly with our Toronto office.
Toll-free, North America only: 1 800 465 5600.
Calls from UK: 0344 272 0000
Calls from Australia: 1 300 796 618
Outside North America, Australia and the UK: +1 416 260 0999
What to Take
You will be on the move a lot, so our advice is to pack as lightly as possible. Your baggage should be clearly labeled and restricted to one medium-sized rolling bag, duffle bag or backpack, maximum 15kg, plus a daypack. Luggage limits on airlines are strictly enforced and space on vehicles is limited. Porters are not available, so be prepared to carry your own bags.
It is important to pack clothes for warm days and cool evenings, a warm jacket is recommended. In the Simien Mountains, you will be trekking in at high altitudes, and you will be passing through a number of different climate zones, and should pack to prepare for a number of extremes – hot and sunny, cool, cloudy, and misty, fog, rain, wind, and lastly cold. You may experience one or all of these conditions in the same day on your trek. The use of lightweight, breathable, easily removable layers of clothes works best to allow you to adapt to the local conditions. We recommend breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics made of wool or synthetic fibers. Cotton is not recommended for hiking as it does not allow for heat or moisture to enter or escape, and it will not dry once wet. Please note that it gets cold at high altitude, and for this, in addition to several warm layers and good boots, you will need warm protection for your hands and head. Lastly, though only a few degrees north of the equator, and at altitude, the sun’s effects are heightened. Use a hat, sunglasses, sun screen, and wear proper clothing to protect yourself from the sun, to reduce the risk of sunstroke A set of smart casual clothes is also advisable.
• Flight info (required) (Printouts of e-tickets may be required at the border)
• Insurance info (required) (With photocopies)
• Passport (required) (With photocopies)
• Required visas or vaccination certificates (required) (With photocopies)
• Vouchers and pre-departure information (required)
• Binoculars (optional)
• Camera (With extra memory cards and batteries)
• Cash, credit and debit cards
• Day pack (Used for daily excursions or short overnights)
• Ear plugs
• First-aid kit (should contain lip balm with sunscreen, sunscreen, whistle, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, bandaids/plasters, tape, anti-histamines, antibacterial gel/wipes, antiseptic cream, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, rehydration powder, water purification tablets or drops, insect repellent, sewing kit, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
• Flashlight/torch (Headlamps are ideal)
• Fleece top/sweater
• Locks for bags
• Long pants/jeans
• Outlet adapter
• Personal entertainment (Reading and writing materials, cards, music player, etc.)
• Reusable water bottle
• Small travel towel
• Toiletries (Preferably biodegradable)
• Watch and alarm clock
• Waterproof backpack cover
• Windproof rain jacket
Health & Safety:
• Face masks (required)
• Hand sanitizer (required)
• Pen (Please bring your own pen for filling out documents.)
• Rubber gloves
• Smart outfit (For evenings out)
• Hiking boots/sturdy walking shoes
• Hiking pants (Convertible/Zip-off and quick dry recommended)
• Snacks (Protein bars, chocolate, dried fruits, candies, energy sweets.)
• Socks (Trekking socks (woollen or synthetic, not cotton).)
• Thermal base layer (Woollen or synthetic, not cotton.)
• Walking poles (Highly recommended.)
• Shorts/skirts (Longer shorts/skirts are recommended)
• Sun hat/bandana
Note: Please ensure you bring a windproof rain jacket if you are travelling to Ethiopia between June, July & August.
Hand washing of clothes can be done at most of the hotels where we stay. We recommend you bring a non polluting/biodegradable soap, as well as a roll of simple string to act as a drying line for your clothes. If you arrive in the late afternoon, or if there is poor weather, it may not be possible for your clothes to completely dry. Your start/end hotel may also have laundry service for a fee.
Visas and Entry Requirements
All countries require travellers to have a valid passport (with a minimum of 6 months validity). Please note that upon arrival by air to Addis Ababa, nationals of some countries can obtain a visa for approximately US$50. There is often a queue for this. Please do your research before travelling. This information is accurate at the time of writing. Though as fees and policies can change, we highly recommend that you contact your local embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements, or see your travel agent. It is your responsibility to have the correct travel documentation.
It may be required to show a Yellow Fever certificate upon entering the country. Please check in with your local consulate and health expert for advice on Yellow Fever and other inoculations required for this area.
Detailed Trip Notes
American Dollars that are series 1999 or earlier are not accepted and very difficult to change in Southern and Eastern Africa, because of past forgeries.
Ethiopia is a ruggedly mountainous country covering 1,098,000 sq kms and surrounded by Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Djibouti.
Ethiopia has two main seasons, a dry season from October through May and a rainy season from June through September. Temperatures vary according to altitude, but are commonly on the mild side.
Main Rains in Rift Valley occur from March – June and light rains from October – December.
Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 hrs time zone and follows the Julian calendar which consists of 12 months of 30 days each plus a 13th month of 5 or 6 days.
Telephone, fax and email are available in most main towns but are most reliable in Addis. The IDD code for Ethiopia is +251.
Electric supply is 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. The wall socket accepts two circular-shaped prongs, so an adapter is required. Video camera batteries may be recharged at hotels along the route.
Photographs should not be taken of military or strategic buildings or airports. Ask permission to take photos of any person or home. Sometimes money is requested for photos.
There is mostly Orthodox Christianity and Islam through most parts of Ethiopia. Traditional African beliefs such as animism and totemism in the Rift Valley Southern Region.
Amharic is the official language, although over 80 local languages are spoken throughout Ethiopia. English is understood by most educated young people. About 45 languages spoken in Rift Valley Southern region.
Customs at Arrival
Cameras, computers and major electrical items may need to be declared on arrival.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
American Dollars that are series 2006 or earlier are not accepted and very difficult to change in Southern and Eastern Africa, as there are a lot of forgeries. As a result, these notes CANNOT be accepted as Local Payment.
Credit cards are useful for cash advances in Addis Ababa, but you must remember to bring your PIN number (be aware that many ATM machines only accept 4-digit PINs). Advanced cost a 12USD fee locally for transactions under $200 and a 5.5% commission for any transaction over $200.
International debit cards do not generally work in Ethiopia.
While ATMs are available in Addis Ababa, there are no guarantees that your credit or debit cards will actually work in Africa. Check with your bank, but you are encouraged to bring cash. Large denominations, such as $50 and $100 notes are most easily exchanged. We do not recommend bringing traveller’s cheques.
Do not rely on credit or debit cards as your only source of money. A combination of US dollar cash and cards is best. Always take more rather than less, as you don’t want to spoil the trip by constantly feeling short of funds.
If you have extra Ethiopian Birr at the end of your trip that you wish to change back to a major foreign currency (USD, Euro), this can be done at banks of the Hilton, Sheraton and Ghion hotels or at the bank in the airport.
As currency exchange rates can fluctuate often we ask that you refer to the following website for daily exchange rates: www.xe.com.
Please also make sure you have access to at least an additional USD $200 (or equivalent) as an ‘emergency’ fund, to be used when circumstances outside our control (ex. a natural disaster) require a change to our planned route. This is a rare occurrence!
USD20, usually included in most international air tickets.
Tipping is an expected, though not compulsory, component of your tour program. The gesture serves as an expression of appreciation for exceptional service, and amounts given are up to your discretion.
Tipping is one of the most direct ways that you can have a positive economic impact within the African community. Although it may not be customary for you, it is an important source of income for those in the tourism industry. Giving a tip should be a seen as a formal ‘thank you’, and the action should in no way be awkward.
The best method of tipping someone that has served the whole group is to plan in advance, and not rush when it comes to saying goodbye. A suggestion would be for each group member to contribute anonymously by putting their tip into an envelope. This often works the best and the group should gather to present the gift to the recipient(s), offering their thanks and showing their appreciation. This method brings the action out into the open, allowing for a friendly and appreciative interaction between the group and the recipient(s).
You may use the following as a guideline, all given in a per person format:
G CEOs and drivers: $5-10 USD each, per day worked
Supply Driver $3-5 USD (full day)
Restaurant/Café servers: 10% of cost of bill, especially when in a large group (no envelope required)
Local guides: $1 USD for every couple of hours
- Bezawit Climb
- Bahir Dar Market
- City Tour of Addis Ababa (110USD per person)
- Gondar Market Visit
We recommend you contact your family physician, or your local travel clinic for the most up-to-date health information at least one month before departure. Travellers should also carry a basic first-aid kit and hand sanitizers/antibacterial wipes on their travels. Medical facilities are basic throughout these countries. For your own safety, we strongly recommend that you advise your tour leader of any medical condition that may affect you while travelling with the group. Your tour leader will be able to inform you of local health advisories (e.g. drinking water quality). Please ensure you have all the inoculations recommended by your doctor.
Yellow Fever Certificate Note: (Updated: May 2017)
It is compulsory to show a valid Yellow Fever Certificate if you are travelling to the following G Adventures-visited countries from a Yellow Fever endemic country:
- South Africa
For some of these countries, proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is also required for passengers who have travelled more than 12 hours through the airport of an endemic country. If other countries not endemic to Yellow Fever have been visited after visiting an endemic country, then a Yellow Fever certificate may still be required on entry. Please check country-specific regulations before your departure.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that is present in some regions in Africa. Risk of malaria can increase during periods of heavy rain, during the rainy seasons, and in densely populated areas of Southern & East Africa. To prevent malaria, we recommend speaking to your doctor about taking preventative medication (prophylaxis), combined with regular use of insect repellent spray/cream. Please check updated travel health advisories specific to malaria before your departure.
Safety and Security
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government’s advice for their latest travel information before departure. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers’ cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home – you won’t need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. When travelling on a group trip, please note that your CEO has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Your CEO will accompany you on all included activities. During your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your CEO will assist you with options available in a given location please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and we offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time. Although the cities visited on tour are generally safe during the day, there can be risks to wandering throughout any major city at night. It is our recommendation to stay in small groups and to take taxis to and from restaurants, or during night time excursions.
Protests and Demonstrations- Protests and demonstrations, even those that are well intended, have the potential to turn violent with no warning. Counter protests can also turn violent. Action by security forces to disperse demonstrators and protesters may occur at any time. If you are in an area where demonstrators or protesters are gathering, avoid the temptation of staying for a good photo opportunity and leave the area immediately.
Water based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in water based activities when accompanied by a guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any water based activities (in countries with varying degrees of operating standards) have a balanced approach to safety. It is our policy not to allow our CEOs to make arrangements on your behalf for water based activities that are not accompanied by guide(s).
Swimming, including snorkeling, is always at your own risk.
We take all prudent measures in relation to your safety. For ways to further enhance your personal safety while traveling, please visit:
Trip Specific Safety
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, bank cards, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home – you won’t need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
A Couple of Rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on any trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for our travellers. Our philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter, and in particular the local people who make the world the special place it is. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our CEOs have the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is compulsory in order to participate on any of our trips. When travelling on a group trip, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance has been sighted by your CEO, who will take note of your insurance details. When selecting a travel insurance policy please bear in mind that all clients must have medical coverage and that we require a minimum coverage of USD 200,000 for repatriation and emergency rescue. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. If you have credit card insurance we require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with a credit card in your name. Contact your bank for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage and emergency contact telephone number.
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Make every day count by donating $1/day for the length of your trip, and join us in empowering the communities you will visit when you travel. 100% of your donation goes directly to Planeterra projects.
It is recommended to cover legs, and to remove shoes and hats in churches and monasteries. Women should cover their hair with a shawl in churches/monasteries. Please note that Ethiopia is a fairly conservative country, so please dress accordingly.
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You must be 18 to travel unaccompanied on a G Adventures tour. For minors travelling with a guardian over 21 years old, the minimum age is 12.
Check-in times and baggage allowances/restrictions vary by airline and can change at any time. For the most up-to-date information for your flight, please contact your airline. We recommend checking in online in advance to avoid potential delays at the airport.
Chief Experience Officer (CEO), driver, local guides.
PRODUCT_LINE: DEHNG, ID: 23743