Ethiopia cultural holidays
Description of Ethiopia cultural holidays
This spectacular Ethiopia holiday is a small group tour, travelling with local expert guides on a cultural circuit of the north of the country. Ethiopia is, quite simply, a totally enticing and exciting place to visit, bursting with history and culture yet still far off the tourist trail.
This two week tour starts and and ends in the capital city of Addis Ababa, and then we take internal flights to get to and from the north. Our first stop is Lalibela, exploring its famous rock cut churches, dating back to the 13th century. This is a place of living culture with many of the residents here still priests, and so it is considered a very sacred place. As is nearby Tigray, sometimes compared to Petra in Jordan, with more churches carved out cliffs and rocky terrain. We also have two days to explore the fine archaeological ruins at Axum, one of Africa’s oldest continuously inhabited sites dating back to the Aksumite Kingdom of 100AD, with giant stone obelisks towering as high as 33 metres.
Ethiopia’s towering natural heritage doesn’t get much more magnificent than the Simien Mountains, where we stay in a lodge that gives us access to hiking trails among these famous jagged peaks, otherwise known as the ‘Roof of Africa. It is also habitat to some wonderful wildlife, the most famous being gelada baboons,Walia ibex and lammergeyer vultures.
The finale of this Ethiopian tour is at Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls. As well as being a beautiful landscape, it is home to many important religious artefacts and, like so many of the sacred places we visit on this trip, has strong monastic traditions. The gateway town to the lake is Bahir Dar, where we pick up a flight back to Addis Ababa to return home.
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7 Reviews of Ethiopia cultural holidays
Reviewed on 10 Feb 2016 by Hannah MurrayGreat if you are interested in culture, history and religion Read full review
Reviewed on 13 Apr 2015 by Lauren KaswellAlthough 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. Read full review
Reviewed on 04 Feb 2015 by Margarita LytleGo with an open mind and you will have many wonderful surprises Read full review
Reviewed on 31 May 2014 by berta piresvery good....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 Read full review
Reviewed on 29 Jan 2014 by David EvansThere 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. Read full review
Reviewed on 24 Jan 2014 by Ken EdwardsSaviour it and enjoy!...Much to appreciate and enjoy Read full review
Reviewed on 03 Nov 2013 by Richard BaconVery good...the most interesting were 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. Read full review
PlanetOn 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.
PeopleWe 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.
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