Travel through a medieval world of historical treasures, with Christian beliefs and practices little changed in thousands of years. Mountains and plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by lowlands, semi-desert and tropical forests.
Ethiopia, which has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other African country, is historically and culturally fascinating. From rock-hewn churches, diverse geographic features ranging from mountains to desert and over eighty different ethnic groups, this is a country of contrasts and diversity.
Arrive into Addis Ababa in the early morning. Check into your luxury Addis hotel – one night full board basis. In the afternoon take a tour of the city, seeing the National Museum for the fossilized remains of “Lucy”, the most famous Australopithecus afarensis who is around 3.3 million years old, Trinity Cathedral and a special visit to a blind women’s self-help group where they make pottery.
Travel to Bahir Dar on an early flight (one hour flight). Enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Tana to the 14th century island monasteries of Ura Kidan Mihret and Azwa Mariam, walk through the coffee plantations and meet the local islanders. Look out for the traditional papyrus boats, tankwa, transporting goods. Visit to the Blue Nile Falls (locally called Tis Issat), in the afternoon. Stay overnight at a lodge on the edge of Lake Tana.
After an early breakfast, you will drive two hours to Gondar, the former capital, where you will stay for one night. On the drive, stop for mid-morning tea at a beautiful crater lake. Explore the 17th and 18th century Gondar palaces in their seven hectare walled enclosure, and the vine-swayed Empress baths. Then visit Debre Berhan Selassie church with its angel painted ceiling - no visit to Gondar is complete without it!
Drive to the stunningly beautiful Simien Mountains. Spend three nights at a luxury lodge, and go walking with your guide through the mountains (altitude 3500-4350 meters), home to gorgeously hairy gelada baboons, walia ibex and highly endangered lammergeyer vultures. During your stay, have a picnic at the Jinbar waterfalls and interact with local shepherds, whose children spend many days on the mountain and sleep in caves overnight.
Fly from Gondar to Lalibela. Your hotel for the next two days has spectacular views over the valleys. On the first afternoon visit the first set of 11th century sunken carved-rock churches. Witness the monks chanting in their mesmerising melodious rhythm. On day 8 drive to Yemrehanna Cristos church and then in the afternoon visit the remaining churches in Lalibela including the famed St Giorgis whose ‘roof’ has been carved into a cross shape.
Fly from Lalibela to Axum, founded in the 4th century and home to the oldest Christian sanctuary. Your hotel overlooks the stelae field and its 22 metre high stelae which are over 1800 years old. Spend the afternoon viewing the palace ruins of the Queen of Sheba, and the church of Saint Mary of Zion (Tsion Mariyam). Legend has it that this UNESCO Site holds the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
Travel to Tigray, with its 140 cliff churches, dating between the 4th and 11th centuries. See the spectacular scenery, shrines, and hermitages of the Sabean and Axumite sites. These include the Gheralta region which holds the Yeha Temple Marian Korkor and the Aberha Tsebeha rock churches. Whilst here you can also visit a local house to experience the daily life of Tigrayans, who trace their heritage back to the legendary King Menelik.
Drive to Mekele and fly to Addis Ababa - two hours’ drive and one hour’s flight. Return to the luxury Addis Ababa hotel to use a day room, and do some last minute shopping before having a traditional Ethiopian dinner with a dance ceremony. Check in for your flight home just before midnight.
Prices from GBP £5540 or USD $7200 per person.
(Prices subject to currency exchange rates and exclude flights. Based on a minimum party size of 4. Single occupancy supplement applies.)
Iconic Ethiopian landscapes and wildlife - The Simien Mountains, known globally as a UNESCO Universally Outstanding Valuable Park, is actually visited by few people, though numbers are increasing and so they should as this is one of the most beautiful mountain...
Extraordinary wildlife, highlands and forests and remote wilderness locations. The Bale Mountain National Park is incredible and one of the best in the country yet it is not visited as much as the Simien National Park. We recommend staying here at...
With Rock hewn 11th century churches and known as the eighth wonder of the world, Lalibela should always be on everyone’s list to visit when in Ethiopia. The town of Lalibela is actually a small isolated town that sits at an...
Gondar – Ancient Castles and Palaces - a UNESCO World Heritage site founded in 1635 by Emperor Fasilidas. Gondar is one of the main attractions in northern Ethiopia and is noted for its 17th century castle, the Fasil Ghebbi (Royal Enclosure)....
A visit to the Omo Valley is an adventure and meeting ancient and strong willed tribes is equally so! The low-lying plains in the south of Ethiopia is home to some of the oldest cultures in Africa, this is an extraordinary...
The original seat of Christianity in Ethiopia and regarded as the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, Axum (or Aksum) is also the home of the largest Stelae in the country. It is also the original seat of...
On the edge of Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country ( 84 kilometres long by 66 kilometres wide), Bahir Dar this is a super place to relax and enjoy the lake, visit the island monasteries and also visit the...
A treehouse! A sleepout! Surely both words make an instant connection to the child in every adult as well as to children themselves? Treehouses and sleepouts can seriously extend the fun and enjoyment, in a clement climate of course, of time spent in the bush, in the desert or even by the ocean.
Fly camping is, for many, the ultimate bush experience and is for those people who don’t want to be “stuck in a vehicle” or just want an exciting and adventurous change from staying at, especially, a permanent camp or lodge. Flycamping also works well for those who want to explore a region mainly on foot, by canoe, on horseback or walking with camels, which could easily be a multi-night experience.
If you are looking for that essential experience in the African bush which offers perfect comfort whilst not losing the essence and feel of being properly “on safari” then a classic permanent camp fits the brief!
Design, style, comfort, excellence, location. Shake - don’t stir! – these ingredients and blend in varying quantities for perfection to suit all tastes. Luxury lodges in Africa, especially the uber-stylish, are ideal for anyone wanting to celebrate a “big” anniversary or birthday, or just those who simply place a high importance on design and style, in whatever measure, as part of their visit to Africa.
Africa is a continent that evokes the senses, the “feel” of the bush challenges one’s sight, hearing and smell especially. Being in a lodge removes to a great extent one essential part of this trio: the sound of the bush, especially at night. Canvas walls allow the sounds of the bush to permeate one’s room, without losing any iota of luxury; the best of all worlds and a huge layer of extra value.
If one is looking for adventure, whether as a couple of a family, or somewhere that’s just vast fun with plenty of variation in activity for a group of friends mixed with wonderful hosting and a totally relaxed atmosphere, then a ranch is the answer.
The ultimate in barefoot luxury has to be a Private Island or Coastal Retreat where the essence of “barefoot living” is mixed with perfect comfort, service and style. The oft-used image of miles of white-sand beach with just “you” leaving a pathway of footprints etched into the damp sand at the water’s edge may be slightly hackneyed but, in real life, it is a perfect antidote to the mad, rushed, “real” world. It is attainable!
Bush Camps are perhaps the ideal balance between more rustic “fly” or “mobile” camps and more permanent camps offering a more advanced luxury experience. Bush Camps tend to be a southern African phenomenon, because they are often closely allied to walking in certain parts of Zambia and Botswana.
Oh my word! Where to start? We have such an array of styles in our beach lodges. Tell us what comes to mind, what your mind conjectures in terms of “Beach Lodge” and we can almost certainly fill the brief.
Boutique Hotels are always wonderful, mixing sympathetic and often unusual décor and style with a very personal hosting ethic – and all in a small and intimate package. So often such properties are also owner-run, which fits brilliantly well with our - and your, as our clients - own preferences. In the same vein, Africa has some examples of the boutique hotel genre that rival anything available anywhere else – and not all are in cities even if many are more urban.
Travelling as a family? Perhaps a small group of friends or just two couples spending some time together on holiday? Wanting to be able to get “close to the action” in terms of game, or be near a specific activity? Do you feel a yearning for something authentic in terms of Africa-bush-living and yet not wanting to give up any basic comforts (Heaven forbid!)?
Time off in this manic, I’m-always-available, information-driven, day and age is precious; a bracket around a few days or weeks that may be the culmination of a long period of work and a considerable amount of planning. No matter how hard we try, with all the pressures that surround us it can be a tough balancing act to make enough time to “spend” (what an apposite word that is!) with those who matter and doing the things we wish.
Some of us are just drawn to the magic of water and for many people the relaxing effects of being on or by the water are part of the rejuvenation that comes with a holiday. So, for those who like to take to the water, whether it’s for the gentle soothing of the sound of the ocean, or being on a river, or taking the helm and sailing under the guidance of a skipper, the sailing and houseboats that we have to offer add another dimension!
Walk on top of the world in the stunning Simien Mountains, surrounded by views that span for hundreds of miles. See canyons and waterfalls, interact with local shepherds tending their flocks and watch the delightful geladas forage in their large groups before returning to the cliff faces at night. There are many endemic species amongst the diverse habitats, and the possibility of seeing the endangered Ethiopian wolf.
Fly by private helicopter over the alien landscape of the Danakil depression, one of the hottest places on the planet. The active sulphuric springs and volcanic lava lakes leave colourful salt deposits across the desert. Meet the Afar tribe who mine the salt from the vast pans. This is where the fossil of the Austalopithecus “Lucy”, was found, along with many other ancient hominin fossils.
Ethiopia is well-known for its 12th and 13th century Coptic churches which were painstakingly hewn from the solid rock of Lalibela. Here there are 11 churches to explore in four separate groups. Many of these churches are linked, often by dark tunnels.
Explore the cliff churches, monasteries and shrines of Tigray, some of which requires one to have the feet of a mountain goat to reach them! Dating between the 4th and 11th centuries, there are over 120 churches perched high up in the Gheralta Mountains. Many of these churches are still practised in today.
Axum is home to the oldest Christian sanctuary, but the city itself was founded even earlier in the 4th century BCE. The field of ancient stelae is well worth a visit, as well as many other historical artefacts.
Explore the 17th- 18th century palaces of Fasilidas in Gondar.
The Bale Mountains are one of the least-visited areas in the country and fantastic for off-the-beaten-track escapism amongst the pinnacle-type formations reaching to the sky and vast barren plateaus with endemic wildlife and ever-lasting plants. Wildlife found here comprises endemic, endangered and newly-discovered species across the contrasting ecosystems where Afro-Alpine forests descends into the Harenna Forest with its juniper and hygenia woodland .
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, has the museum for “Lucy” as well as some fantastic philanthropic projects which one can visit during your stay here. There is also the opportunity to see a spectacular local dance ceremony while eating a traditional Ethiopian dinner.
Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana is a base from which one can take a boat cruise to see the colourful murals in the 14th century monasteries, or visit the Blue Nile Falls.
Harar is the holy city of Ethiopia’s Muslim culture with symbolic Islamic architecture in the medieval city wall, as well as over 100 mosques and shrines. Uniquely, Harar welcomes hyenas into the city and one can witness them being fed at night by the Hyena Man.
The tribal peoples of the Omo valley region have distinctive and unique cultures. One can meet several of these tribes and interact with them, asking them about their lives and varied traditions which are very different to our own.
If you are an adventurous traveller, interested in culture and history, Ethiopia is perfect for you! We only select the best experiences and accommodation in Ethiopia, however this is a little-visited country and most accommodations are simple rather than luxurious.
A Fixed Wing Flying Safari is a unique concept of travel in Africa. It introduces another dimension to a typical African safari, that of the beauty of the continent from the air. Accompanied and guided by experienced pilots who are also experienced safari guides a Fixed Wing Flying Safari is a truly memorable and exclusive experience.
Epic helicopter journeys exploring corners of Africa that few have been to or even ever heard of. We specialise in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, the Congo and Namibia. Our tailor-made safaris cover wild and spectacular mountains, valleys, forests and deserts, with a focus on ‘remote and unknown, unexplored and unforgettable’.
Wow! What a sensational time I had! Thank you for putting together such an interesting trip for me, and a huge thank you for the seamless travelling I had.
Safari to Kenya
Finally I put pen to paper! I just wanted to let you know how delighted we all were with the fabulous safari you organised for us to Tanzania.
Family Safari to Tanzania
This is just a quick note to thank you for all your hard work in arranging what turned out to be a holiday of a lifetime.
Honeymoon to Namibia
Thanks to The Explorations Company, our family trip to East Africa was the trip of a lifetime.
Family Safari to Tanzania and Kenya
Enclosed is a copy of Melanie’s journal from Africa. Although it is a bit long, I thought you might enjoy reading it.
Family Safari to Tanzania
I am delighted that I stumbled across The Explorations Company at the Scottish Game Fair and that you convinced me you were the right people for organising our honeymoon.
Honeymoon to Botswana
There were so many wonderful moments that we had– I could be here all night writing about them. The coffee stops and sundown drinks were always fun and entertaining – in beautiful places on riverbanks accompanied by hippos snorting or kingfishers at their work. I am sure we will speak soon but in the meantime, we are home safe and it was the best holiday ever!
Family Safari in South Africa
Our trip in Africa was a dream come true. We all fell in love with Africa, needless to say and I have told all my friends to book such a trip with you soon.
Family Safari to Namibia and Botswana
Thank you for organising our fantastic trip to Kenya, it now ranks as our favourite holiday ever and we have been on a few!
Family Safari to Kenya
I couldn't thank you enough! Our trip was wonderful, mostly because everyone paid attention to all the details. Africa, was so beautiful and all the people we met were so kind and helpful. Lots of tears leaving.
Safari to Tanzania
As time passes, the memories of our trip to Kenya just continues to get better. I have come to the conclusion that this was my favourite trip ever!
Safari to Kenya
What an incredible time we had on our safari. A huge thank you for organising it! It was without a doubt the most amazing holiday we will ever have.
Riding Safari Kenya
Zambia seems a long time ago but fortunately we only have to get out the photos (as we often do) and it all comes flooding back! It was terrific and there was nothing that we wished we had done differently.
Safari to Zambia
Well I'm with you. For some reason it is a place that just gets into your soul. There are a few places around the world that have done that to me.
In short the holiday was amazing, beautiful, peaceful, fascinating, hugely educational - just absolutely amazing.
Family Safari Zimbabwe and Riding
I would just like to add my personal thanks to you for the work you did in creating our holiday and ensuring that all our bookings and connections worked out so well.
Safari to Tanzania
We were so pleased to have selected someone with the clear passion and knowledge for the area that you have.
Safari to Kenya
Many thanks for helping me to organize the trip to Kenya! We had a truly wonderful time and were very well looked after! I really loved the fly camping; the riding was great and the horses lovely - thank you for all your professional help.
Riding Safari Kenya
We had the MOST FANTASTIC time in Namibia. Loved it all! We saw amazing scenery met wild and interesting people, not to mention wild and interesting animals and insects.
Safari to Namibia
We had a fantastic time! You really did a great job for us. We both thought San camp was absolutely incredible.
Safari to Botswana
Our trip was wonderful and was a beautifully organised experience. I would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Castleton.
Family Safari South Africa
If you had heard my voice when I called you to thank you, you would have heard sheer HAPPINESS. This is from the fantastic 11 days in Zambia you have organized for us. We have not a single negative point to report! and I loved all the camps.
Safari to Zambia
We had a fantastic time – as did Marie and Dave - “amazing holiday of a lifetime” is how they summed it up on the flight home. Thanks again for creating such wonderful memories!
Safari to Tanzania
We had both been on standard safaris before so we decided to try something different, perhaps walking in less well known parts of Kenya.
Walking safari Kenya
A big thank you from us all, we all had the most wonderful time and enjoyed everything so much it is hard to decide what we enjoyed the most.
Family Safari to Kenya and Tanzania
Katharine, I would like to thank you for all! My holiday was perfect, I really liked everything... The walking company you recommended is the best company in whole Africa to do the Kilimanjaro Mountain, they are very professional, organized, adorable and careful people! The guides in the mountain were incredible, everybody in our group reached the top of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak) and this was one of the most important and valuable experiences that I have ever had in my life!
Tanzania Mount Kilimanjaro and safari
Thank you and your team for the most wonderful flowers that arrived for us today. Thank you also for all your help, care and attention to detail which made everything run so smoothly.
Family Safari to Kenya and Tanzania
Firstly, many thanks for the beautiful flowers. It was the biggest bouquet I have ever received and it was gorgeous.
Safari to Zimbabwe and Zambia
Take the first step on your extraordinary journey into Africa
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...