Ethiopia cultural holidays

“Travelling with Ethiopian guides, and departing with an average of 6-8 travellers just three times a year, this tour offers an enriching experience for visitors and locals alike.”

Highlights

Addis Ababa | Lalibela | Rock-hewn churches | Mule excursion | Mekelle | Tigray | Aksum | Stelae | Home of the Ark of the Covenant | Walking in Simien Mountains | Gondar | Bahir Dar | Blue Nile Falls | Lake Tana | Boat tour to island monasteries | Optional 5-day extension to Harar

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
19 Oct 2016
£ 2299
excluding flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 19 Oct 2016 departure
07 Jan 2017
£ 2599
excluding flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 07 Jan 2017 departure
09 Apr 2017
£ 2399
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 09 Apr 2017 departure
15 Oct 2017
£ 2399
excluding flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 15 Oct 2017 departure
07 Jan 2018
£ 2599
excluding flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 07 Jan 2018 departure
08 Apr 2018
£ 2399
excluding flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 08 Apr 2018 departure
14 Oct 2018
£ 2399
excluding flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 14 Oct 2018 departure
Our top tip:
Although there are no huge treks, be aware that the walks can be strenuous due to the heat, incline or altitude. The more prepared you are, the better!
Trip type:
Small group, max. 12 people.
Activity level:
Moderate.
Accomm:
10 nights hotels, 3 nights lodges - location varies according to tour.
Solos:
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available with surcharge.
Included:
Accomm., transfers, local flights, local guides, listed activities.
Meals:
All breakfasts, 1 lunch, 12 dinners. $20-30/day should cover additional costs.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type

Small group cultural tours

Typically you will be sharing your experiences with between 4-20 like minded travellers (depending on the trip, operator and how many others are booked on the trip) and you'll have a group leader with you. Whether you are travelling alone or with friends it's good value, and a great way to meet new people! While itineraries are pre-planned there is some flexibility and you'll have plenty of privacy. This trip will appeal to travellers of all ages who enjoy meeting new people as well as experiencing new cultures.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Ethiopia cultural holidays

Environment

On this tour we spend two days in the Simien Mountains National Park, a stunning area of incredible scenery and unusual wildlife. We ensure that we stick to the trails at all times; the flora here can easily be damaged by going off track. While in the mountains it is likely that we will encounter large troops of gelada baboons; our groups are briefed on keeping an appropriate distance so as not to cause distress to these endemic animals. The park fees that we pay for entering the Simiens contribute to important conservation efforts. This is especially important in light of the fact that three species here – the Simien wolf, gelada baboon and Walia Ibex are very rare and found in few other places on earth. By employing local guides here we contribute to the local economies of the villages in the park, thus helping to reinforce the idea that Ethiopia’s natural heritage has value and is worth preserving.

Our guides will brief travellers on appropriate behaviour, both cultural and environmental, and when camping we make a point of ensuring that we leave no permanent traces of our stay behind, taking all rubbish with us. We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues.

Community

We visit a number of important historical sites on this tour. The entrance fees that we pay at these sites helps fund their preservation and ensure that this aspect of Ethiopia’s cultural heritage remains for others to enjoy in years to come – particularly important in a country where finding resources for this can be difficult. In addition to this some of these sites contain ancient and fragile religious frescoes that are very susceptible to damage. We make a point of advising our travellers not to touch these valuable paintings to ensure that they remain as they are.

As well as visiting the key highlights of this region we make an effort to stop at lesser visited sites, including the churches in Tigray and some of the more remote churches in Lalibela, ensuring that the economic benefits of tourism do not altogether bypass such areas.

Some churches and monasteries in Ethiopia cannot be visited by women, and all require that one dresses respectfully before entering. We are careful to respect local customs and culture and our groups are briefed on this aspect of Ethiopia. Travellers also have the opportunity to support local communities by purchasing local handicrafts.

Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.

We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures – usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come. This is especially pertinent in the Omo Valley where tribal cultures are under much pressure from both tourism and mainstream Ethiopian culture.

We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services. As well as our local guides and tour leaders, we employ guides from the communities and regions that we visit, ensuring that the benefits from tourism are more fairly shared and do not end up always being funnelled towards Addis Ababa.

We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Furthermore, in order to allow our clients to make an informed decision on where a greater proportion of their money should be spent, we avoid including pre-paid full board meals where possible. Local restaurants and cafes then benefit.

Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasis our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.

Reviews of Ethiopia cultural holidays

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 Feb 2016 by

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


Walking in the Simien mountains.

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


Great if you are interested in culture, history and religion - there are a lot of
churches!

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


Not specifically, but I didn't see it do any harm, and generally contributed to the
developing tourist industry.

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


Reviewed on 13 Apr 2015 by

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


Although the Churches, Museums and Palaces were stunning and memorable the aspect that made the most impact was meeting people in different parts of Ethiopia and gaining some understanding of how they live. In particular the Awrumba village on the way from Gondar to Bahir Dar was quite an eye opener and proves that with a lot of will and effort anything can be accomplished.

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


Be prepared for some arduous walking - not constant but definitely requires some stamina!

Don't try to do too much in a short period. There is a lot of flying involved and if you are not careful you can spend too much time getting from one place to another.

There are some early starts involved and with the time difference the first few days can be hard. It makes sense to start the day early particularly if it is hot but go to bed early!

Bring enough US Dollars to cover hotel extras (drinks, laundry etc). A lot of hotels have the "Visa" sign in reception but the connection rarely works outside of Addis Ababa.

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


I certainly hope so but it is hard to know where the money is going. We mostly stayed in Ethiopian run hotels so we hope that we helped to promote employment of local people. Buying a few souvenirs and eating in local restaurants also helps.

Not convinced that tourism of any kind reduces environmental impact or supports conservation.

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


9/10. My only regret was that we couldn't stay longer in some places. It can feel like a bit of a whirlwind tour but if you only have two weeks there is no alternative.

Reviewed on 04 Feb 2015 by

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


The most memorable parts of the holiday were the fantastic scenery, visiting the
churches hewn out of rock at Lalibela, being present at the Timkat festival and
spending time with the baboons

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


Go with an open mind and you will have many wonderful surprises

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


The money spent by the tour provide employment for local people

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


It was very well organised and a wonderful experience

Reviewed on 31 May 2014 by

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


rock cut churches of lalibela and tigray, waking up in the crisp cool morning in
tigray with the gheralta mtns in clear view, right in front of my room in beautiful gheralta lodge, nice evenings by the lake tana

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


be prepared for the flies, tourists, mosquitoes and patience for the
water/electricity (might get turned off suddenly)

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


yes. bought souvenirs from locals, discouraged beggers, stayed at accommodations
that use solar energy and are self supplied, like growing their own vegetables
and used local material for buildings

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


very good

Reviewed on 29 Jan 2014 by

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


There were so many memorable parts of the holiday. Ethiopia's amazing scenery, the rock hewn churches of Tigray and Lalbela, and the Blue Nile Falls; and all the magnificent paintings in their churches.

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


I would recommend that they establish how much money they require on a day to day basis. I would budget for $20-$30 max. When I emailed Responsible travel and asked their response was not very helpful in my opinion.

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


To a degree

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


Amazing. However with a bit of tweaking I believe it could have been even more amazing.

Read the operator's response here:

Hi David

Many thanks for your review. We really value the feedback. We are so pleased you enjoyed your trip in Northern Ethiopia.

With regard to budget most meals are included except in Addis Ababa and also lunches throughout. We do allude to a budget for food and drink in our country notes. All other items are really of a personal nature so it is difficult to say what a good budget should be but we thank you for your guidance.

In terms of benefiting local people, our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned partners, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a positive economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within our partners means that your experience will be enhanced. We engage with our partners on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our local partners fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an on-going relationship.

Our travellers are usually only accompanied by locally based staff and guides. We do not send UK or other non-local staff to escort our clients unless absolutely unavoidable. This ensures that your tourist spend goes directly in to the local economy.

Also to keep our environmental and cultural footprint to a minimum we operate only small groups that average 6-8 clients with an absolute maximum of 10.

I would be interested if you could contact us directly so that we can see how some tweaking would have made the trip even more amazing for you.

Best Wishes and thanks again
Mark


Reviewed on 24 Jan 2014 by

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


Debre Birhan Selassie church and the openness of the Ethiopians.

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


Saviour it and enjoy!

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


It is difficult to say whether the tourist dollar reaches those in need but buying their handicrafts may do so. We supported conservation but I don't think there was either a negative or positive effect on environmental issues.

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


Much to appreciate and enjoy

Read the operator's response here:

Many thanks for your feedback. We are delighted that you enjoyed your trip to Ethiopia.

Our very small groups and limited departures means that our impact – both cultural and environmental – on the destinations that we visit is small and sustainable. By not bringing groups to our destinations on a regular basis, we hope not to have an adverse effect on the sometimes vulnerable ethnic groups that live there and the local environment. For this trip we only operate 3 departures a year with an average group size of 6-8 people.

We take our role incredibly seriously and are determined to put as much as possible back into the communities we are privileged to visit. We have gone to great lengths to personally research our tours and to meet with our locally owned and operated partners. We have built up strong relationships with our partners who we prefer to call ‘colleagues’. We believe that our continued success is dependent on these close ties.

Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned partner organisations, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within our partners means that your experience will be enhanced. We try to engage with our partners on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our partners fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an on-going relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.

Our travellers are usually only accompanied by locally based staff and guides. We do not send UK or other non-local staff to escort our clients unless absolutely unavoidable. This ensures that the money you spend goes directly in to the local economy.

Once again thank you for your comments.


Reviewed on 03 Nov 2013 by

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


The rock churches at Lalibela. The fact that they are not monuments or museums but a live and living church and place of pilgrimage makes them all the more special.

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


This tour had some long drives to get to Tigray and then the Simeon Mountains. They are worth it. The scenery is stunning and the churches at Tigray well worth the effort to get to.

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


It benefited local people because we used a local tour company and hotels rather than international chains. Also we used two lodges which were environmentally friendly. However apart from employment and tourist spending it is difficult to define environmental or conservation benefits.

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


Very good. I will be looking for more similar experiences.

Reviewed on 01 May 2012 by

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


Everything was excellent, could not find any faults. Unexpectedly we stayed at the Giralta Lodge for one night, which was very nice, would liked to have stayed longer. Stopped for a picnic one lunch time and shared our food with 3 local children who did not know how to crack a hard boiled egg, so the driver told them to crack it on their head! Driver did not like donkeys on the road, but they kept walking in front of him. On last night had a surprise trip to a local restaurant with traditional music and dancing before catching our flight home.

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


We were advised to take US$, but when changing money at the bank UK £ was a better exchange rate, so it is best to take £ with a few dollars $. Don't rely on ATM machines or credit cards. Simien Mountain Lodge a rip-off considering the price. Bedrooms good, but food was extremely poor. Staff did not seem interested, service the worst of anywhere.

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


Local hotels and restaurants used.

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


Excellent, we were the only 2 on the trip and had a 4WD air-conditioned vehicle to ourselves. Driver was really good and we were able to stop whenever we wanted to either to take photos or at a market, etc. It was a really surprising country and would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of adventure and history.

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