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. The wide range of altitude has given the country a variety of ecologically distinct areas – from the highest point on the Simiens to the Danakil Depression that lies below sea level.
Ethiopia has an outstanding 31 endemic species of mammal, including Galada Baboon, Walia Ibex and Ethiopian Wolf found on the remote mountains of Bale and Simiens.
Addis Ababa is the fourth largest city in Africa - a melting pot of cultures and a bizarre combination of past and present - Italian Fascist buildings sit alongside luxurious high rise hotels; priests in medieval robes mix with African bureaucrats and wandering minstrels singing songs that are centuries-old.
Around the corner, neon signs light up modern bars and discotheques beat with the latest global hits. Addis Ababa was chosen for its beauty, hot springs and agreeable climate by Taitu, the consort of Menelik II.
Today, you can get one of Africa’s finest tasting coffees in Addis, visit the St George Cathedral and Museum, see the legendary ‘Lucy’ in the National Museum, and dine on the legacy of Italy’s colonisation - pizza.
Blue Nile Gorge
Spectacular flight to Lalibela, through astonishing landscapes, as we follow the course of the Blue Nile Gorge.
Ethiopia’s holiest city & center of pilgrimage, with 12th and 13th century monolithic churches.
We arrive in Lalibela mid morning. In the company of a local guide, we will visit some of the famous 12th century rock- hewn churches.
Intended to be a ‘new Jerusalem’ following the capture of the Holy lands by Muslims, the rural town of Lalibela is an ancient world with medieval rock- hewn churches, hidden crypts and dimly lit passageways, carved from solid granite, a millennia ago.
Today, it is not only the physical structures that remain frozen in time, but a place of pilgrimage for many of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians.
Accommodation is on the edge of the Lasta Mountain.
The Tekezé River has created one of the world’s deepest canyons – over 2000 feet in places.
Thousands of years of erosion has worn down the Ethiopian plateau and created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. At 4,543m, the Simiens are Ethiopia’s highest range.
This region lends itself to one of the most spectacular scenic flights in Africa – landing on a remote flat-topped pinnacle to take in the vast awe-inspiring vistas which rival the Grand Canyon.
The jagged peaks and deep valleys are home to rare and endemic wildlife including the Ethiopian wolf, Gelada Baboon, and the Walia Ibex - a wild goat found nowhere else in the world. Also found here is the lammergerie (bearded vulture) - a massive vulture with a wingspan of up to 3 metres, with a distinctive diamond- shaped tail and black moustache.
Its old name of ossifrage (or bone- breaker) relates to its habit of dropping bones from great heights onto rocks beneath - bone marrow is its favoured source of food.
The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum mark the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire & Persia
A morning spent in the fascinating town of Aksum - famous for Stellae and stone monuments.
One of the most important ancient sites in sub-Saharan Africa, Aksum is now something of a rural modern town. Scattered around this World Heritage Site are ruins of palaces, underground tombs and inscriptions that rival the Rosetta Stone.
Pilgrims still journey to Aksum and the majority of Ethiopians passionately believe that the Art of the Covenant resides here.
More than 100 metres below sea level, the Danakil Depression is peppered with colourful sulphurous springs, acid lakes, active volcanoes and giant salt pans.
Some of the hottest temperatures known to man are found here in the Danakil Depression. Unlike anything else on this planet, this extraordinary place is located on a geographical fault within the Great Rift Valley, at the Horn of Africa.
Irta Ale - Danakil Depression
There is something magical about this radical attraction – the ‘smoking mountain’ - as referred to by the Afar people.
Irta Ale - in a state of continuous eruption since 1967 - is the most famous of the Danakil Depression’s volcanoes. Its small southerly crater holds the only permanent lava lake on the planet. Temperatures plummet as night falls, and anyone lucky enough to camp here, will witness some amazing sights.
The nomadic Afar people inhabit this region are ‘belligerent and proud’ as portrayed by Wilfrid Thesiger. Today, you are most likely to see the Afar with their huge trains of camels, gently snaking their way across this inhospitable land to collect salt, believed to be following ancient salt routes.
Historical treasures & ancient places of worship
The Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia has particularly spectacular landscape - stratified mountains and sharp peaks that rise from the plains.
Tigray’s rock hewn churches
Very little is known about the origin of the 120, or so, rock churches or their architectural history. Local tradition attributes most of the churches to the 4th century Aksumite Kings, Abreha and Atsbeha.
Access to the churches involves some interesting hikes up the steep (and sometimes sheer) cliff faces. Inside many of the churches are colourful frescoes - hundreds of years old. The priests who live on these mountains follow a simple life that revolves around the Orthodox Christian calendar.
Harar - The Walled City
The walled city of Harar is the holy city of Ethiopia’s Muslim community, founded sometime between the 7th and 11th century. It has only been accessible to Westerners for the last 150 years. The old city wall is the main attraction and symbol of Islamic architecture and the old town is home to over 100 mosques and shrines. The long-standing tradition of feeding meat to wild spotted hyenas evolved during the 1960s.
The Kondudo or “W” mountain outside of the city is home to an ancient population of feral horses, which are now highly endangered. The Harar Brewery, established in 1984, welcomes guests for beer tasting.
The Bale Mountains includes Tullu Demtu, the second-highest mountain in Ethiopia, and Mount Batu. 2,200 square kms have been designated as the Bale Mountains National Park to protect the astounding range of habitats and special species of wildlife.
A pristine wilderness with the world’s largest expanse of Afro- alpine moorland, and an amazing mix of habitats that supports a multitude of rare species, many endemic to Ethiopia and some found only within the park. Ethiopian Wolves, Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck and various rodent species, plus lions, Giant Forest Hogs and significant numbers of endemic and rare birds, are found here. The scenery, lush mountain forests and pristine streams, are a great attraction, and make for exceptional trekking opportunities.
Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme
The only species of wolf in Africa, as well as the most rare and endangered canid in the world is the Ethiopian Wolf. Fewer than 500 remain in small populations, threatened by loss of highland habitats, disease and persecution.
The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme is committed to the conservation of this species, by monitoring numbers and protecting the areas where they live. The program vaccinates domestic dogs to control the spread of disease, and it runs an education campaign for local school children to foster conservation ethics.
People of the Omo River delta
Sheltered from the outside world by mountains, savannah, and colonization, the tribal people of the Omo have distinctive and unique cultures
In NW Kenya lies one of the Rift Valleys largest lakes – Turkana – also known as the Jade Sea owing to its eccentric turquoise colour. 90% of the lakes water is fed from Ethiopia’s Omo River, and years of erosion has created the amazing Omo River Delta – a constantly changing floodplain covering an area of 1500km2.
Living within close proximity of each other is a multitude of traditional tribes and nomadic herdsmen that have walked this scorched place for centuries - their customs and traditions unchanged.
Known as ‘the people of Delta’ the Dassanech live on the delta, rearing livestock and cultivating crops in the day and hunting crocodiles at night. The Suri are self-sufficient people, expert in stick-fighting priding themselves on the scars they carry. The Hamar have unique rituals – bull fighting amongst them. We will also have the privileged to meet other tribes including the Murci, Karo and Nyagatom.
Private helicopter and expert pilot / guides are provided by a leading air charter company based in East Africa, specialising in heli-safaris and adventures, with more than 10 years of experience in this field.
The Eurocopter AS 350 B3’s are perfectly adapted to fly in East Africa’s hot and high environments.
Aircraft are fitted with satellite tracking software, pilots are trained in ‘first person on scene’ first aid, and all precautions are carried out to ensure maximum safety and comfort.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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 ...
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