Ethiopia holidays and festivals

“Deeply traditional and religious, there are few better ways to really experience Ethiopia than by visiting one of its many vibrant festivals - where you'll be welcomed by locals.”

Highlights

Addis Ababa | Bahir Dar | Blue Nile Falls | Gonder | Hike in Simien Mountains | Aksum | Stelae | Mule trek | Lalibela | Rock-hewn churches | Lake Abiata-Shala National Park | Optional: Lake Tana boat trip

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

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Check dates, prices & availability

Date
Price
Basis
17 Dec 2016
£ 2409
including UK flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 17 Dec 2016 departure
Our top tip:
Vegetarians and even vegans will discover this is one of the easiest countries to visit in Africa; regular "fasting" days mean that there is an abundance of meat- and dairy-free dishes.
Trip type:
Small group, max 18. Age 16+
Activity level:
Moderate. 1.5 hr mountain walk and 5hr mule trek are optional.
Accomm:
9 nights comfortable hotels, 2 nights standard hotels 1 night basic. Most rooms en suite.
Solos:
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available with surcharge.
Included:
Accomm., internal flights, transport by private minibus, tour leader througout, listed activities, flights if booked.
Meals:
Breakfasts only.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Ethiopia holidays and festivals

Environment

Activity:
We aim to benefit Ethiopian communities as much as possible by stopping to use local restaurants, Tej cafes and services as much as possible. For example, we encourage clients to take the optional mule trip to Ashatan Maryam as local people who run these excursions rely on tourism for income. We operate on a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy and local guides enforce this through responsible tourism briefings. These should help clients better understand the living situation for many and the environmental issues in the area. We pay park fees when we enter Lake Abiata-Shala National Park, which are contributed to funding conservation initiatives and community projects. This region is home to the Oromo people, farmers and cattle herders, and a number of wildlife species. We should see Grants gazelle, greater and lesser flamingo, as well as a variety of water birds, including the Sacred Ibis, which loves to perch in fig or acacia trees.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Accommodation and Meals:
You will spend 9 nights in comfortable hotels, 2 nights in standard hotels and 1 night in a more basic hotel. Accommodation will be locally staffed as per law in Ethiopia, which is a benefit to local communities. Hotels provide plentiful, locally sourced breakfasts and where meals are not provided, your local guide will be able to recommend the best restaurants and cafes wherever you are. This is a wonderful opportunity to support businesses in the area and to explore Ethiopia’s delicious cuisine. At the marketplace in Bahar Dar, clients can buy fresh produce and even see the local specialty ‘enjera’ being made. This is sour dough made from a grain called ‘teff’ and is used as a scoop to eat from warm, and often spicy, casserole dishes known as ‘wat.’

Local Craft and Culture:
There is plenty of culture to discover in Ethiopia and we include several cultural and historical sites on this itinerary. We start at Addis Ababa and visit the National Museum, Menelik’s Mausoleum and Holy Trinity Church- Ethiopia’s main cathedral. We also visit some of the monasteries and churches around the thirty or so islands of Lake Tana, 17th and 18th century castles in Gondar, the tombs and stelae of Axum and the rock-hewn churches of Labilela. Our entry fees contribute to the preservation of many of these important places, whilst we can also support locals by purchasing souvenirs in and around these monuments. There are handmade religious crafts such as traditional paintings, icons and wooden crosses on our trip to Bahirddar, Gondar, Axum and Labilela.

Charity:
Since 2013, plans have been in place to support a remote village school in Debre Chiwa in the Simien Mountains. Over the past couple of years, we have supplied financial donations and manpower which has allowed 2 new, furnished classes to be built. Because of these improvements, the number of pupils and teachers has doubled and the school now receives some state funding. Arriving in Gondar we will also stop by at the Kindu Trust, a local organisation which works with disadvantaged children, their families and communities. We receive a briefing on their projects and are shown their small handicrafts shop where clients can purchase souvenirs including baskets, textiles, prayer beads and jewellery. These are all made by the beneficiaries of the Trust and profits fund their activities. Occasionally we stop at villages or schools where clients can also leave behind much needed educational supplies such as pens and notebooks.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

Reviews of Ethiopia holidays and festivals

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 10 Oct 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Walking with grass eating baboons/monkeys on the Seminan mountains. The mountain views were wonderful. Meeting with local people was interesting and enabled greater understanding of local needs. Taking an optional boat trip on Awassa Lake to see the hippos and bird life.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Bring plenty of insect repellent, everything else you may need can be purchased at local pharmacists or shops which will support the local community.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Was able to purchase items, such as water, fruit and meals at local stalls/shops/restaurants throughout the which benefited the communities we visited.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Great - value for money

Reviewed on 09 Jan 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Simien Mountains and Lalibella.

My guide was fantastic and the tour was really well planned

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be respectful to the local people when using your camera

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Not particularly

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent

Reviewed on 04 Apr 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


This trip encompasses a large area of Ethiopia so there were many hi-lights. The rock hewn churches of Lalibela are fantastic and we were amazed at the castles and palaces in Gondar. There are stunning pre christian stelae in Axum, as well as the 'suggested' resting place of the fabled Ark of the Covenant. The wildlife is amazing too, and bird watchers will be amazed at the diversity and quantity of species. Finally the landscape is a wonderful mix of high plateaux, stunning mountain ranges and rift valley lakes and plains.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for relatively basic conditions in some hotels, yet most are comfortable. The food is very good and during lent there is a decent choice of vegetarian and vegan foods available, yet after a 2 week holiday you will be eating the same sort of meal more than once. We found the fasting food (including the Injera bread) very good and you can even get 'Fasting' pizzas, which come without cheese and a multitude of different vegetables - a vegan delight! Other tips I would pass on are: Change up to £250 at the airport. It will save time getting your travel money here and this amount should cover all your expenses during the trip, including tips. If you need to change more cash later on some of the hotels offer poorer rates. This may not sound a lot yet food is particurlarly reasonable (lunch £2-£3 & dinner £5-£6) and you can get a bottle of the very decent local wine in a restaurant for around £3-£4. Again if you are vegetarian or vegan it's even cheaper. In terms of costs you may think the prices are remarkably cheap, yet remember, in restaurants they will add 15% tax and a further 10% service charge. Also it is far easier (and cheaper) to obtain your visa on arrival. Just join the queue with the other arrivals and have an exact amount of $20 (no other currency is accepted). It took us no longer than 30 minutes to complete. In terms of malaria, there is no hard and fast rule. I took Malarone with me, whereas others on the trip had no protection. Some of us did get bitten by mosquitoes, yet it is debateable whether or not they would carry malaria as you rarely descend lower than 1,800m on this trip. If you're not sure or even a little concerned I would take malaria protection. It also goes without saying to take all the usual sprays, coils and plug-ins to deter mosquitoes. A quick note on altitude too. In the Simien Mountains you will walk at around 3,200m. This was the highest I have ever walked before and I did have a very slight headache, yet minor enough to barely notice. What I did feel though was a little out of breath when briskly walking uphill!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


There are opportunities to purchase gifts/food/drink from local people. We visited a local charity in Gondar called the Kindu Trust which helps local children and families. We all felt this was a very worthwhile visit and we were able to contribute individually. In terms of environmental impact there is a lot of travelling by bus and plane. You can't really get around Ethiopia without this sort of transport, so it is a necessay evil.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A fantastic trip. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and this enhanced our experience of the wonderful and varied places you visit on this trip. There is a bit of everything in Ethiopia from culture to history and amazing landscapes. I would recommend a holiday here for the sheer diversity this amazing country offers.

Reviewed on 01 Feb 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The sites, sights and people of Ethiopia.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


It is not for the faint hearted. Most mornings we had a very early start. There were several long road trips on bumpy dusty roads. Hotels are variable - some had very good facilities and some only average - bathrooms in almost all cases could have been better HOWEVER none of this takes away from the wonderful scenery, the amazing friendly people and the astonishing history of this fascinating country.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


It benefited certain of the local people - ie the workers at hotels and some of the vendors in markets. Certainly the tour operator used local guides and local hotels. And definitely minimized impact on environment as we were all extremely careful not to leave more than a footprint ort two.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent.

Reviewed on 28 Jan 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Being in Ethiopia for Timkat (at Axum) was an unforgettable experience. Discovering the extraordinary cultural history of Ethiopia with the help of experienced and delightful guides was stimulating and enriching.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't expect luxury accommodation or air-conditioned local transport - but given the country's turbulent history (much of it recent) both were better than I'd expected. Do go, the people are wonderful, the country is fascinating and beautiful.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes., definitely. Local guides, local hotels, restaurants and cafes, local drivers. The only concern was the number of plastic water bottles we must have gone through.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent.

Reviewed on 01 Nov 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Walking in the Simien Mountains and the Churches at Lalibela.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


It was quite strenuous. If you are older some of the climbing was quite strenuous at altitude. October was a wonderful time to go as everything was green and the flowers were beautiful after the rains.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Hopefully the money that we spend in hotels and restaurants benefited local people. We also used local guides.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was the first holiday of this type that I had done (I am 53) and it was wonderful. A real adventure with a fantastic guide in Gebre.

Reviewed on 30 Jan 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The drive through the Simien Mountains, bet gyorgis church in Lalibela, the wonderful Ethiopian people, lovely weather.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Mix with the local people as much as you can; they are the most beautiful natured people imaginable. Don’t expect it to be like home and if you don’t like it, don’t moan to other people on the trip as it spoils their holiday.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


A little.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A bit expensive and our English guide put us off doing anything ourselves, but generally good.

Reviewed on 29 Jan 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The whole Timkat festival in Axum, although I believe it must much better in Gondar, given the atmosphere and location. The night vigil was particularly moving.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be aware of thieves disguised as friendly teenagers in crowded areas. Be prepared for lack of flushing water in hotels and poor quality food throughout; small local restaurants provide better food than the Hotels were you are bound to eat. Choose a better itinerary.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


No! The environment is already filthy and highly polluted.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The local guide was outstanding and made me feel warmth towards Ethiopia and a wish to return in a less frantic way. Holiday rating? average to poor.

Reviewed on 27 Jan 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The most memorable part of my holiday was the way that the faithful at Axum, where we passed the Timkat festival, welcomed us all wholeheartedly into their ceremonies. Far from being merely onlookers, we felt a part of the process, though we stopped short of the ritual baptism in some fairly gungy water in the Queen of Sheba's bath. We could not have achieved this independently, as the inside knowledge and experience of our guides got us to the right place at the right time

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


For other travellers who like me are unused to trekking/adventure holidays in the developing world I would say do not underestimate the effect of altitude in Ethiopia and bear in mind that just because you are sleeping in a hotel it does not necessarily mean the same standard of comfort or service you have come to expect in Europe. Also there are very few opportunities to exchange money outside Addis Ababa, even in hotels. Don't bother taking the mobile. Even if you can get a signal, it is rare to be able to make or receive an international call.(Bliss if you're trying to get away from it all but a nightmare if you have responsibilities back home)

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


It is important to make the effort to "escape" from the group and get out and access local services. Quite apart from the mark-up on refreshments (water etc) in hotels, though everything in Ethiopia is cheap by comparison with the UK, you do spread the tourist dollar around within the community, (and give everyone the chance to practice their English). Everyone does their best to show Ethiopia in the best light to the relatively few tourists who venture into this stupendous country. Tourists provide employment and give incentives to young people to remain at school, particularly girls.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Overall I would rate it **** - I knocked off a star because I am not fit enough to run up the mountains.

Reviewed on 21 Nov 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Very difficult to say. Probably the short trek in the Simien Mountains, though this is partly due to the contrast with the rest of the holiday.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Get as much of your money as possible broken down into small notes.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


It benefited local people to the extent that our money is going into the local community. Hopefully the general infrastructure of the roads will improve to meet the requirements of tourists and consequently benefit the local communities. This of course may not benefit the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The country was as fascinating and beautiful as I had anticipated. The trip leader was excellent. The opportunities to interact with the local communities were somewhat restricted.

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