45 independent reviews for Ethiopia holiday, tailormade

Reviews for Ethiopia holiday, tailormade

SHOW
11
34
0
0
0

review 26 Feb 2017

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

The most exciting was seeing the Wallia Ibex and the open heart monkeys. The most memorable is the image of the people on the move, herding their cattle and livestock, walking on the roadside, carrying heavy loads, everything from water containers, sacks of grain, wood, hay and even stones. Every day was a moving tableau.

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

Leave your preconceptions at home and come with an open mind.

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

Because we spent most of our time in the villages, it certainly helped local people - from what we spent directly on gifts, from what we ate and drank, from our accommodation which gave jobs to people and the payments for photos, guides, rangers, scouts, priests and drivers.

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

Ethiopia has much to see, so much variety, every day is different from the terrain and landscape, the crops and foods, the cultures, the tribes, the agricultural architecture, the history, the legends, the birds, the church, the handicrafts, the hotels and the different peoples. It was an amazing experience, but a humbling one as some of the villagers have very little.

review 26 Feb 2017

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

Every day brought new and exciting sights, sounds and experiences - from the vast numbers of people and livestock that walked the roads, to the stunning scenery to the awe inspiring churches. My most memorable experience was the opportunity to sit alone in Bet Giyorgis in Lalibela soaking up the atmosphere whilst listening to a local musician and singer serenading a couple celebrating their wedding outside - so moving.

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

Make sure you have plenty of small notes and coins and prepare to be hassled by the constant call of 'take picture ' as it is associated with the handing over of 5 birr for the privilege of the photograph or the local children trying to sell you small trinkets. It does get annoying but you have to accept that for many it is the only way they have of surviving through the dry season and it is much better than begging. If you are travelling south and have the opportunity, fly from Addis to Arba Minch rather than drive - you are not missing that much. Try and see the museum in Jinka before visiting the southern tribes. It was one of the better museums and provided lots of information on the different tribes.

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

I believe the holiday benefited the local people as all the guides and most of the drivers were from the local area for each of the different sites visited. The guides encouraged us to buy our souvenirs locally rather than purchasing them in Addis at the end of the holiday. Seeing how the local people struggled to collect water every day just to survive certainly encourages you to minimise your water and food wastage, so in that respect you could argue you make every effort to support conservation.

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

I can't thank Eskinder enough for the itinerary he put together for us. We did and saw so much in the 3 weeks we were in Ethiopia. There were no hitches and all the guides were incredibly knowledgeable and so evidently proud of their own areas - and rightly so. We were really looked after and every effort was made to make us feel welcome where ever we went. Seeing how hard the people work just to survive a basic life is such a humbling experience and we both came away from Ethiopia feeling lucky to have experienced it.

review 21 Mar 2016

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

We loved visiting Yemrehanna Christos, the church in a cave about 40km outside Lalibela. Not many other visitors go there, but Eskinder knows how special it is and always includes it in his tours. We hadn't heard of it before but it was the highlight of our trip so we are grateful to Eskinder for including it.

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

Our trip was 9 days, 9 nights and tailor-made so that it could fit in that time schedule. We would have preferred to have longer so our main recommendation is to plan for maybe a full two weeks if possible.

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

We were linked up with local guides in each place - they were incredibly knowledgable and we greatly enjoyed getting to understand the country through their eyes. In this way we really felt that the trip benefitted local people more than other big tour groups that did not use local guides.

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

Great trip! We loved the country and everything it has to offer! We couldn't recommend it more! Eskinder organised the tour perfectly and it all ran very smoothly.

review 21 Feb 2016

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

A five hour hike, there and back, to visit Debre Maryam Korkor, a rock hewn church in Eastern Tigray, perched on a wide ledge 2000 feet up at an altitiude of 8000 feet. The climb required a lot of rock climbing and we are both around seventy years old, but our guides could not have been more encouraging or helpful and with their help we were thrilled to climb this cliff and see the church and the spectacular landscape all around.

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

We do not want international style hotels but at our age do require a minimum standard of comfort. Everywhere we stayed was clean and comfortable and the food was surprisingly good especially at the Simien Mountain Lodge. In towns or on rare tarmac roads, vans are adequate but with so many dirt roads, do ask for 4x4 vehicles, not least for comfort.

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

Our excellent Ethiopian tour operator told us that over 40 people benefited from our visit. Tourism is important for the economy of Ethiopia and there is little evidence of it being detrimental in any significant way. Everyone we met or had dealings with were open and friendly and often keen to communicate in English.

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

It was a splendid holiday very well organised by the operator. The company is run by a delightful man, who answered all our questions most professionally and on meeting turned out to be a most interesting man. Small problems were quickly dealt with and nothing marred our very happy experience. The guides employed locally were all excellent. The weather in February could not have been better.

review 15 Feb 2016

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

Experiencing the people and culture was the most memorable part of my trip.

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

I would recommend any traveler do plenty research on the countries they plan to visit prior in addition to using a travel guide.

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

I feel it definitely benefitted local people.

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

The vacation was wonderful.

review 9 Dec 2015

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

Seeing the bull jumping and visiting the Hamer village to watch them dance and it was not a touristy event. Also drawing one of the women in the Murcii village. And sharing our picnic with the ravens in the Simien mountains.

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

Don't encourage the children who will certainly beg by giving them ANYTHING. Sweets, pens,books or money. Do not encourage begging. If you want to give something then entrust someone you really trust with some money to buy something necessary such as shoes. Beware of youths who want you to buy them a book to help with their studies. It will be expensive and inevitably sold back to the shopkeeper and the profits shared. Be careful of taking too much luggage if you have internal flights. Contrary to what we were told at Heathrow our hand luggage was not weighed by the way. It's not true that you have to eat with your hands all the time. In fact at all. Don't be afraid of the tribal people. They are fascinating. Walk around the village before you get out your camera so that you have a look round. Don't give more than 5 bir for a photo. We were advised by a group of Norwegian doctors that there's no malaria in the north and it wasn't necessary to take malarone until you go to the south.

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

Hopefully entrance fees etc will filter down to everyone. Our guide in the Simien mountains was very careful to ensure that we didn't impact on the wildlife. Tourism creates jobs and increases investment but it's difficult otherwise to see the benefits to the country apart from the fact that the experience for us brings greater understanding of the people and their environment.

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

We had a wonderful time. Eskinder was brilliant and gave us so much of his time. Fantastic guide and driver for 7 days in the south. We loved the contrast of the north and the south. Such a beautiful country. An excellent trip, fascinating and well organised which I would recommend to anyone wanting to see Ethiopia. And we felt perfectly safe!

review 7 Dec 2015

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

Every day over the 3 weeks something very special or exciting happened. Personal highlights - watching the celebrations for the feast of St. Michael in a rock hewn church - it was an occasion amongst many of 'stepping back in time'. Getting so close to the gelado monkeys against the backdrop of breath taking beauty in the Simien mountains. Staring into the faces of old women who had their lives etched into their many wrinkles in the numerous tribes we visited in the south. Visiting the Dorze people and the village where the philosophy is - all are equal and of equal worth. Holding hands with the most beautiful children. Staying in the home of a family in Harar.

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

Be realistic about some of the practical issues - toilets, wifi, plumbing etc - having said that we were pleasantly surprised at our accommodation. Sort out the tipping system and make sure you always have plenty of small notes. Don't be tempted to give money, pens etc to children - give to an organisation - it only encourages a demeaning begging culture and can mean children stay away from school. If you want to give practical things - pens clothes etc give them to someone responsible through your guide. Always as permission before taking a photo close up and pay when requested to for a photo. Travel light.

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

it definitely benefitted local people as money went straight into the communities and the tour organiser lives in Ethiopia. There were many opportunities to buy from local people or markets (all our food was from local sources) and other opportunities to give/buy from a charitable cause we visited a scheme which employs women with HIV, a school that serves the family of lepers .Lots of the places we visited highlighted their eco status. Sadly both flying and using the jeeps can only have harmed the environment but if you want to travel....

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

Absolutely brilliant. Words cannot do real justice in capturing our experience and Eskinder and his team were fantastic in so many ways- Eskinder made you feel that he genuinely wanted to make the trip a trip of a lifetime- nothing was too much trouble.

review 23 Mar 2015

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

Review of our trip to Ethiopia from 7 February to 2 March 2015 When we first started planning our trip to Ethiopia, back in June 2014, we spent a lot of time researching different tour companies. We were very fortunate to come across Responsible Travel in the UK who put us in contact with our tour company. We requested quotes from other companies however their pricing was always more competitive and response time to any questions was incredible. Once we had decided which areas of Ethiopia we wanted to see, they put together a package tailored to our family. As we were primarily going to Ethiopia to visit our daughter, who is working on the Guassa Plateau researching Gelada Monkeys, the operator had to factor a stay of nine days in the Ethiopian Highlands. He was incredibly patient with all our questions, requests, changes to the original plans, extra things we wanted to see and do, amending the itinerary a few times for us. On our arrival we stayed at a lodge about an hour from Addis Ababa which we had pre-booked. At the end of our stay our operator personally collected us from the lodge and took us back to Addis Ababa for a complimentary city tour, he collected us the following morning and took us to Bole Airport for our flight to Lalibela. We were met at Lalibela airport by Mario and our first stop was at the Rock Hewn Churches, this was incredibly interesting and Mario was so informative. We checked into the Mountain View Hotel in time for lunch and really enjoyed the scenery from the roof top terrace. It was fantastic watching Lammergeiers flying below us. We had dinner at the Ben Abeba restaurant which again was an amazing experience, we spent time chatting to the Scottish co-owner who explained that in a few years time the whole building will be a waterfall of flowers. Mario took us to all the churches in Lalibela and on the Saturday took us to the Monastery of Yemrehanna a church in a cave, there were so many mummies there. Next stop on our tour was Gonder where we were met at the airport by Gage and Desu the driver. Gage was once again a lovely guide who was passionate about his city. We went to the Debra Birhan Selassie church, Royal Enclosure and Fasilidas's Pool followed by a great meal at the Four Sisters, we watched a shoulder dancing show and even had a jig! From Gonder we were driven to the Siemien Mountains by Desu and at Debark we met up with our guide Yalew and security guard. We spent two nights at the Siemien Mountain Lodge, the lodge is beautifully situated in the most incredible mountains that I have ever seen. The only negative about the Lodge was the cost of the meals. For the price we paid per head, one would expect a well prepared and wholesome meal however the food was very basic. We were taken on a walk with Yalew and the security guard and on our return in the evening we had our first sighting of Gelada Monkeys. The next day we were driven to Chennek camp and were very fortunate to see a good sized family of Walia Ibex as well as vultures on a Gelada carcass at the bottom of the cliffs. Our tour continued to Bahir Dar, Desu was still our driver for this part of the tour. We met up with local guide Mas. We stayed in the Abay Minch Lodge, one of my wishes was to hear chanting but we had not expected it to start at 3:00am and continuing till the power went down at 06:00am, not a very good night's sleep! We were lucky enough to see the Blue Nile Falls with plenty of water. Fortunately for us there was a problem with hydraulics somewhere up river and the waterfall received the benefit of this problem. We also went by boat on Lake Tana to visit the island monastery. All in all another good day. It was then back to the airport for our flight back to Addis Ababa, but not before we stopped and had freshly made fruit juice with Mas and Desu. We have to commend Desu, he is a wonderful young man and an excellent driver. Eskinder met us at Bole Airport and took us to the Global Hotel and in the morning he came back to the hotel to introduce us to Tariku the driver taking us to Guassa. We spent the morning running around Addis Ababa with our daughter who had some work tasks to attend to before leaving the city. We also spent some time in Bambi's buying food for our trip to Guassa as we were staying at the Guassa Community Lodge which has self catering facilities. We spent nine nights at Guassa Community Lodge which was basic to say the least however as we wanted to spend time with our daughter while she was back at work, the sacrifices were worth it. We soon got used to the non flushing toilet with no roof, the more difficult problem was that there is a shower facility that was not working. We bucket bathed for the whole time we were there. The upside was that every evening we had a wonderful log fire in the communal kitchen/lounge as it was bitterly cold. We also spent time chatting and playing domino's which was great fun. We visited Mehal Meda on market day and were amazed at how far people walk with their donkeys, mules, goats, sheep and cattle to get to town for the market. We met with some friends of our daughter in Mehal Meda and had a lovely afternoon with them. We had the opportunity of walking with our daughter while she worked and loved the chance of getting to know some of the monkeys by their characteristics and their names. We also did some amazing walks with her between her camp and the lodge. All too soon it was time for us to pack up and say goodbye to her as she is still in Ethiopia for another 4 months. We all felt heart sore leaving her behind. Once back in Addis Ababa we all took advantage of a good shower and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing before Eskinder took us to the Habesha 2000 restaurant for our very last traditional Ethiopian meal before we left. Early the next morning Eskinder picked us up from our hotel and took us to Bole Airport for our flight home. We cannot thank you enough for making our time in Ethiopia so memorable, you have a real hands on approach to your business and clients and you have certainly gone the extra mile to ensure that our whole trip ran smoothly. All the guides and drivers that you organised are so proud of their country and their heritage. They all have a fantastic knowledge of the history of Ethiopia. We highly recommend you and your company to anyone planning a trip to Ethiopia and we wish you every success for the future. Lastly, we are still planning to come to the Danakil Depression in September 2016 and look forward to meeting with you again.

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

Make contact with this operator, he is excellent at his job

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

Definitely

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

Beat all our expectations

review 1 Dec 2015

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

It is difficult to pick out just one memorable or exciting part as our various experiences in Ethiopia were all very special in their own way. But I guess if I had to pick out three highlights they would be: the extraordinary beauty of the Simien Mountains and the chance to see the gelada baboons at such close quarters; the amazing rock-hewn churches of Lalibela; and the opportunity to see the way of life of the different tribes in the Omo valley. We had an amazing time and have brought home very fond memories of Ethiopia.

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

Try to see as much of the country as you can. The south is very different from the north and it is well worth extending your holiday to try and see the Omo valley if you can. The accommodation is much better than we were led to believe and the food was excellent. but perhaps that was because we booked with Eskinder Hailu who made sure we had good accommodation wherever we stayed (even where it was fairly basic). Don't give money or pens to local children. Instead try to buy something (however small) from the local people. When visiting the tribes don't start taking photographs immediately. The guides appreciate it if you listen to their stories first and leave the photographs till the end. Some of the local tribes people try to encourage you to take photographs of them by embellishing their normal dress or headgear. Ask the guide to point out those wearing authentic styles.

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

This is a difficult question. As a tourist, one hopes that any souvenirs we buy- especially if you are buying directly from the community - benefits the local people. Also in the Simien mountains, the fees for entering the national park are being fed back into local conservation and ibex numbers have increased over the period the park has been operating. However, in the Omno valley, the tribes ask for money for taking photographs. We we were happy to pay but I was concerned that some are now 'dressing up' and waiting for the tourists (instead of getting on with their everyday lives) and that we are having an adverse impact on their lives by changing the way they live.

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

Amazing. I must say an extra special thank you to the operator who gave such wonderful personal service in arranging the holiday and in looking after us while we were in Ethiopia. On the last day of our holiday we had about 8 hours between our flight back from the Omo valley and our flight back to England. He could have just left us at the airport or stuck us in a hotel for a few hours. But no he met us and took us first for a drink and then for a meal at a restaurant with traditional food and wonderful traditional entertainment (both singing and dancing). What a wonderful way to spend our last evening of our holiday.

review 2 Nov 2015

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

Eskinder Hailu from the holiday provider put together a three week odyssey starting in the North and working our way finally to the South Omo Valley. It was a combination of history, culture and nature - a wonderful and interesting trip. Thank You Eskinder

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

I sort of let Eskinder know how much time we had and let him recommend what we should do.

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

Ethiopia, I think, realizes how important tourism is to their country - but I wonder how tourism might adversely effect the Rock-Hewn Churchs in Lalibela and the different tribes in the South Omo Valley.

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

Eskinder did a wonderful job.

review 7 Sep 2015

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

The most memorable part of my holiday was visiting the weekly markets. Travelling the dusty roads of Ethiopia by jeep, we firstly saw hundreds of people making their way to the busy marketplaces. We learned so much through observing the different modes of dress and the various goods/livestock that they were bringing with them. At the markets themselves the atmosphere was generally electric ... bustling, enormously busy and so vibrant in colour. I was astonished to find how much the human landscape varied from place to place. For me, visiting the marketplace was the best place to see the different tribes people, it was more natural context.

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

I found it very helpful to use this website. I had previously spent a massive amount of time trawling through reviews of tour operators. I didn't know who to trust. I was finding it difficult to make comparisons. I was losing track. I found this website reasssuring in the sense that it promised ethical and responsible tour companies, this was a priority for me.

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

Yes, I am 100% confident that the tour provided to us by our holiday provider benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts and supported conservation. We were informed of the various measures that the group took to ensure that they made a difference and we also saw many examples of their promises in action.

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

I loved the time I spent in Ethiopia. It was made even better by the fact that we were in the hands of such a competent and capable bunch of people. Everybody we came across, from guides to drivers to staff at the pre- arranged accommodations gave us a super service. I would be more than happy to recommend both the destination, this website and my chosen tour company to a friend.

review 25 Mar 2015

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

'Most memorable' is a hard call - I lost count of the number of times we said, 'Isn't that amazing!' Going to St George's Basilica for the Christmas Eve service on 6th January. How the stars blazed when we camped 12,000 feet up in the Simien mountains. Staying in a traditional house in the old quarter in the Muslim town of Harar. Meeting the Scottish lady who is setting up a restaurant in Lalibela.

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

Take full advantage of the tour operators knowledge and experience when planning your route. We chose to drive all of the Historic Route but flying parts of it would certainly save time, if that is an issue. Our trip was 24 days. As well as the Historic Route, we drove to Harar with an overnight stop at Awash NP, highly recommended, then flew back to Addis. We didn't go south to the Omo valley.

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

Yes, certainly, to the first part as we stayed in locally owned places. Impact on the environment is hard to gauge but we tried to be minimalist. Save your empty water bottles and give them to the children - you can make a kid's day! Possibly our best impact was providing employment.

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

Excellent. Ethiopia is challenging in many ways. The tour operator went out of his way to make sure that we were cared for and given the best experience possible (which was very good!). He was always in touch with our driver as we travelled, looking for ways to improve things for us. We had intended doing the three day Simien walk but with a chest cold doubted our ability: He smoothly arranged for us to walk the best bits and have the car take us in between. He has the respect and liking of his staff, always a good recommendation. When we arrived, he had no hesitation introducing us to other clients who had finished their trips so that we could ask them questions. I have to mention our driver, Abinet, who drove well and carefully in sometimes difficult conditions, always with good humour.

review 17 Mar 2015

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

My 2nd visit to Ethiopia, visiting the rock churches in the beautiful rural landscape of northern Tigre, the Simien and Bale Mountains (where I observed 7 of the endemic wolves that I have been wanting to see for ages), travelling to the south to the Omo Valley. The landscape is particularly beautiful and the birdlife tremendous.We did a day trip out from Lalibela to visit a cave monastery Yemrehanna Kristos. This was very good indeed and the countryside and birdlife terrific.Hawassa is a delightful place with good restaurants. Walking by the lake in the setting sun with lots of locals was fun as was the early am fish market + the Maribou storks. Superb birdlife at Lake Langano (and a good Sabana Lodge with excellent food)

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

Leave enough time to travel slowly in the south. It is quite tiring and there are long drives on dirt roads. Give yourself time to go for walks and birdwatch and make sure your agent knows exactly what you want. Read the Bradt Guide edition 6 before you plan your trip, for tiptop up to date info. Stay a couple of nights at Geralta Lodge or somewhere else to have enough time for the rock churches in northern Tigre. There are great opportunities to walk here without a formal trek. Visiting the different tribes in the south is tricky - they have been too exposed to tourism and start demanding money and photos, even if you don't want to take photos. An airport is being built at Jinka so the problem will probably get worse. My experience in Konso visiting a village was better and more relaxed. The local guides organised things well at Konso.

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

I certainly hope so - our operator seems very wise about this. I certainly felt in the Bale Mountains the awareness of animal conservation and the local guide (Mohammed) from Bale Parks office was excellent. In the south you get charged entrance fees to villages and to see certain things. I hope the money goes for the good of all the people. I certainly bought enough baskets and jewellry from the local people!

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

Excellent. We thought our drivers were particularly good, reliable and calm all through the trip. The local guides in each area that the company owner had found for us were really good and went out of their way to help and explain. We felt they enabled us to meet local people which we like very much. I would recommend the operator and tour to all my friends.

review 27 Oct 2014

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

Almost every day in Ethiopia was a memorable day. We had a very full agenda to full-fill over 19 days and Eskinder managed to accomplish this with a minimum of fuss and stamped his personal appeal by discretely checking on our welfare almost daily with each local guide. All of the local guides were personable and knowledgeable and very accommodating to our requirements. We had a wonderful time and commend all involved in organising it.

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

The people of Ethiopia are fantastic, never once did we feel threatened or unsafe. Give them a smile or a wave as you pass them by, a Salam'na will always break the ice and the offer of a hand shake goes a long way in establishing a relationship, even a brief one. Spend your money in villages, don't quibble, they need it more than you do.

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

Yes, our money found its way into several tiers of each community as we passed through, and therefore was of benefit to each local community. We thought that our environmental impact was very small given the organic nature of the Ethiopian Communities as a whole. From an international perspective our holiday is driving discussion at home in our community in Australia, and we may be able to further overcome the age old stereotype of Ethiopia which was manifested in the Famine days of Live Aid. (30 years ago)

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

We believe it was one of the best holidays we have experienced. It had it all, Lost worlds, Fabulous archaeology, Magnificent Scenery, History by the bucketful, wonderful art and Tribal wonders. But most of all some of the most wonderful and welcoming people on the planet.

review 13 May 2014

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

Every single day was memorable, and virtually every day was exciting - for the right reasons, not scary reasons- and this being our 8th African country, we did wonder if we had already seen it all ... and were delighted that we absolutely hadn't! Its got the best of everything - history - not just Lalibela but also very many other buildings, monuments, plus great museums in Addis; breathtaking scenary especially rift valley mountains and lakes; lovely friedly locals with many different tribal cultures; plus the food, injera is absolutely delicious! Then there was the camel market in the north, the livestock markets full of tribal people in astonishing local dress; the incredible restaurant in Lalibela in a breathtaking modern building, owned by a Scottish woman....

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

Firstly, go with this company - Eskinder went more than the extra mile to organise our trip, and looked after every detail, the vehicles were all Toyota land cruisers, in excellent condition, the drivers all drove well and spoke English, as did the guides who travelled with us. We were able to manage each day as we wished, staying or stopping as we wished. Guides were great, of special note was our young female guide Kidist, an inspiring example of a women in Africa and a privilege have her company. Secondly, go for as long as you can! Its a huge country, very diverse, and if you can go for 3 weeks you can see so much more; if you can, take the time to visit the south, it really is worth the drive. Thirdly, ensure you have good vehicles and english speaking guides.

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

Yes, very much so. Hotels used by this company were all locally owned and staffed and in many places were the major source of employment. Wildlife was abundant around all the lodges we stayed in and locals working there couldn't help but understand the value of the wildlife to the tourists, who are the only source of employment in most places. Water is very scarce in most of the country, and many locals rely on untreated river water, hopefully tourism will help to finance more clean water projects.

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

Absolutely wonderful in every respect, and - bonus! - not a single day's illness for either of us! We were privileged to spend much of our time with Ethiopian drivers and guides, and with Eskinder himself, who talked freely with us about everything imaginable, and we returned home having had not just a wonderful and exciting holiday but also some understanding, and huge respect, for all things Ethiopian and especially its people.

review 13 Nov 2014

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

Trekking the Simien mountains and seeing the Gelada baboons

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

Be sure to take sufficient night clothing. Also a blow-up thermarest because the ground is not level and mattresses very thin.

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

Yes.

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

A good experience. Our guide was excellent. Very caring, very conscientious, very knowledgeable and always available. We highly recommend him. Overall, 8/10

review 19 Jul 2014

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

Seeing the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela was the impetus for booking the journey and they certainly did not disappoint...what engineering marvels and still the centres of an active faith.

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

Try to time your itinerary to be in Lalibela on a Sunday morning to see the churches in 'action' , visit a nightclub in Gondar for an immersion in Ethiopian music and co-incide with the Dimeka and/or kefar Afar market days in the South Omo Valley.

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

Local people benefited by using a locally based operator, with many local guides and drivers. The need to fly a number of sectors in the north was a necessary evil as the distances were vast, the road conditions less than perfect, and given our time restraints it was our only choice.

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

So many people have asked us - why Ethiopia and we have been able to change mindsets that dwell on devastating famines. The country is so unique in many ways and Eskinder was such a dedicated tour operator....answering numerous emails as we fine-tuned our itinerary, meeting us personally each time we routed through Addis and keeping in touch with our guides as we made our way around the country. I can highly recommend him.

review 18 Mar 2014

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

Going to a wedding in Gonder which would not have been possible without the local guide, the churches in Lalibela, trip to the Simian mountains, having coffee, local markets in the south.

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

Try and get small denomination notes (1,5 & 10 birr) for tips, small purchases in markets, coffees etc.

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

Benefitted local people in that a local driver & a guide were employed in each place we stayed and many of the sights required additional local guides. Hotels appeared to be staffed by local people and were not government owned.

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

Excellent. Having arranged the itinerary with the operator, the organisation by Eskinder Hailu was excellent and we had no worries about guides, drivers, travel arrangements or hotels and could concentrate on seeing the country and the people.

review 19 Jan 2014

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

Every day was a new experience. Ethiopia is a beautiful country with lovely people. The deprivation was startling and one had to remind oneself this is how so many people live. Mixing with the locals at markets and villages was very real and exciting. The local guides were generally very sincere.

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

Be prepared for rough dusty roads and road works and some long road trips.

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

Because we travelled with this tour company and the wonderful attentive eskinder we felt everything local was taken into consideration and we had a true picture

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

It was an amazing experience, well managed and with very caring and attentive guides and drivers

review 5 Jan 2014

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

Lalibela and the South Omo Valley.

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

Eskinder and the tour company were excellent and took very good care of us. Travel in Ethiopia can be difficult - roads are terrible and hotels well below the standards found elsewhere.

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

Yes

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

Excellent with the caveats mentioned above.

review 26 Oct 2013

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

Seeing all the wonderful sights Ethiopia had to offer

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

I felt if you had Eskinder organizing your holiday you will have nothing to do but enjoy the experience. He took the stress out of travelling by having everything super organized.

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

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

Excellent

review 25 Oct 2013

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

Simien Mountains were breath taking. Nights are very cold there, but it's worthwhile.

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

I would suggest that you do your sight seeing of Addis Ababa on you return and after you have adjusted to Ethiopian ways. Addis is the least appealing of all the cities and places you will visit, but it does contain places of interest. We loved everywhere we went and everything we did on the Northern Cultural route. The countryside is far less interesting (though still pleasant) as you move south of Addis, but the people who seem very used to tourists are much more 'in your face' as they beg or sell.

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

Yes, our trip involved a huge number of drivers, guides, staff at hotels, rangers etc who all benefited directly from us being there. It was good to feel that all our spending was in Ethiopia and very little would have been in the UK

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

Excellent holiday - great variety of experiences.

review 21 Oct 2013

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

Eskinder, organised a 16 day tour of the north for us in October 2013. This included three days visiting the churches of Tigray and a couple of days in the Simien Mountains as well as the usual cultural sites. We took four internal flights to save travelling time and Eskinder arranged for us to be provided with car, driver and guide in each location as well as booking hotels. Overall the service we received was excellent and we would have no hesitation in recommending or using this company again.

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

In planning the trip we developed our own detailed itinerary and Eskinder made helpful suggestions on it, gave good answers to all our queries and was always very prompt to respond to emails. The itinerary acted as the 'contract' between us and we would urge anyone else to prepare a similarly detailed specification, including all the points agreed during the planning stage. This is because communication along the chain from Eskinder, through his local agents, to the guides was not always clear - although this was probably no fault of Eskinder. However the itinerary was always honoured with any suggested changes being for the better. The only problems we had related to the quality of vehicles out of Gonder and Bahar Dar. The Land Cruiser which took us from Gonder to the Simien Mountains was so old it had difficulty making it up the hills on the main road, and eventually broke down in the national park. Although another vehicle was sent promptly from Debark, this cost us several hours and meant that we had to do our sightseeing in Gonder by tuk-tuk. The minibus that took us to the Blue Nile falls in Bahar Dar had broken seats, which the local agent was clearly aware about.

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

The guides - local to each location - were all excellent: knowledgeable and informative, and they spoke good English. Eskinder had made a sensible choice of hotels within our specified mid-price range and the constraints of what was available. The vehicles were mostly serviceable (though see below) and the drivers all careful.

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

Eskinder's client service was absolutely excellent. He was impressively conscientious: he kept close track of our progress, was informed by his local agents when things went wrong, and sought detailed feedback from us at the end of the trip when we got back to Addis Ababa.

review 21 Oct 2013

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

Hard to say......what we saw was interesting and rewarding, and the laid-back schedules reflect travelling realities but also give time to relax and take it all in. The Simien Mts are beautiful. Large parts are catastrophically eroded and overgrazed, and parts are conserved in name only. Other parts are really special and were blazing with wild flowers. October is the perfect time to see this place. It is botanically interesting and scenically splendid.

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

Our trip was to some extent tailored to our personal priorities - to see natural areas and photograph historic buildings and natural scenery. We asked to omit purely cultural aspects. It was well designed to achieve exactly that. To those who share those aims, avoid spending any but the most essential time in Addis Ababa. It is nothing but crowded, dirty and old. Get away as soon as possible. There are apparently no good hotels in Addis, but the lodges we stayed at elsewhere were fairly simple, authentic and pleasant, and well-sited. Do not be tempted to try and see too much, as road travel in Ethiopia is slow and bone-shaking, and distances routinely measured in hours rather than kilometers.

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

I am a conservationist and brought my message with me, as I always do. So, yes, I hope so, and the responses from the guides and other people I spoke to were very positive - all were interested, grateful for my input and keen to learn and understand. Our Simien guide was already well informed and knew almost all the hundreds of flowering plants. Very impressive, seeing I may be the first person who has ever prompted him to produce all this knowledge!

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

Well designed and well organised. Choice of guides was outstanding, and we never felt unsafe on the roads, although the vehicles were sometimes a bit battered! It was our mistake that we spent one and a half days and 2 nights in Addis Ababa, but for anyone who does not come from a polished first world country with a fascination for third world poverty and dirt, skip it!!!

review 21 Oct 2013

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

The views in the Simien Mountains.

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

Take flea powder, the fleas in the Churches are horrendous.

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

The trip certainly benefited local people. Dont think it reduced environmental impacts or conservation in any special way.

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


review 27 Aug 2013

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

The gorgeous paintings in the island monasteries of Lake Tana were fantastic - amazingly preserved and coloured and funny and charming. All 3 children got sick though with shigella and so that cur short the holiday but strangely still marvellous. People so nice and helpful and lovely food and culture.

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

Addis is high up and cold and rainy during the summer months. Tigreya is stunning

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

Yes - all money went to local tour agents and guides.

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

Excellent

review 26 Feb 2013

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

It's difficult to pick out a highlight from such a trip. The stone churches at Lalibela and the stellae at Axum were extraordinary, but the most memorable bits for me were seeing and meeting the Konso, Hamar and Mursi tribes in the south.

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

Take lots of antiseptic hand-wash - you'll need it, especially after handling money. Take shoes which are easy to take off and put on - you have to remove your shoes every time you enter a church. Give yourself lots of time to get through Addis Ababa airport on departure: the queues and slow bureaucracy mean that you'll almost certainly need it. Smile a lot: We found almost all the Ethiopians we met delightfully friendly. Even those who try to sell you things or beg will desist if you simply smile and say "No, thank you".

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

We doubt it. We flew a great deal in the north - which was necessary because of time constraints but wasn't environmentally friendly - and we did nothing for conservation. As for benefiting local people, whilst tourism almost always provides important money for local economies, we were concerned here that tourists visiting some of the tribes in the south (particularly the Hamar and Mursi) might actually lead them to develop a culture of dependence and also cause them to decorate and mutilate themselves in order to make themselves more 'attractive' for tourist's photos.

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

It was an extraordinary experience: stimulating, enthralling, and, in parts, troubling. The images it left us with will remain with us for many years to come.

Read the operator's response here:

I thankfully welcome Mr Paul's review and am grateful that they have used us, an Ethiopian based operator company. We have hired around 13 people from the locals for this trip and money earned as as a result is consumed locally. This has benefited directly around 13 people and their many dependents. All the hotels and accommodations were also locally owned. They also hire the locals and get most of their needs from the same. Markets were also the highlight that our visitors had a chance to visit and buy souvenirs. I do agree with their concern that some of the tribes in the lower Omo valley particularly Mursi tribes have developed such a behavior. This problem has indeed a complex nature and needs a careful intervention of the different parties the local tourism and culture bureau, local elders, tourists, operators etc. We have never hesitated to aware those in our reach. As for the environmental impacts we have designed the itinerary to cover the most parts of the country with in 17 days. There is a time constraint issue. However we have used 4 internal flights which are available only in the North that are an hour long. This has helped us to avoid too much fuel consumption had they been by car.

review 31 Jan 2013

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

Impossible to pinpoint any one individual part; the whole experience was memorable. History, culture, scenery, meeting the people - deliberately or accidentally - were highlights and if one person has to be named then it must be Eskinder, the master mind behind the whole operation.

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

Go with an open mind; don't expect French cuisine, German motorways, North American customer service or British Health and Safety standards. Ethiopia is rich in rewards but a desperately poor country at the same time. It is in need of external investment to improve things for its peoples and tourism is one way to help this. Strongly recommend the Bradt Travel Guide to Ethiopia - the best guide book we have ever used.

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

Yes. Local guides and drivers obviously benefit but so do hotels, restaurants and so on. City-hopping by plane and so much road travel aren't exactly environmentally-friendly but there is no other way to do it in such a big country. We felt that some of the villagers in the south could do more to help themselves rather than just expect tourists to pay for taking their photos; we were uncomfortable about this aspect as it made us feel like voyeurs visiting a human zoo.

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

Unforgettable. No TV documentary, reading or other external source of information can replace personal experience and contact. We wanted to see the real Ethiopia and thanks to Eskinder and his team, feel that our lives have been enhanced.

review 28 Jan 2013

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

The Timkat celebrations and trekking

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

Just relax and enjoy, everything is well taken care of.

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

Yes, definitely benefited local people

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

100 per cent.Very well organised by Eskinder, who went above and beyond to ensure that everything ran smoothly - not an easy task as there was eight of us, but Eskinder and staff managed with great ease. A pleasure to travel with this company. We'll be back.

review 2 May 2012

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

The whole trip was a sensation, far better than we expected. The fantastic scenery especially in the north, the climb to Maryam Korkor church, diverse cultures, rural areas where there are no tourists, of course Lalibela, Simien mountains, Omo tribes, key afar market, Shala and awash national parks. Also some great accommodation ie Gheralta, Awash, Lalibela and Arbaminch.

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

If you have the time travel by road. Some of the roads are not too good ie Debark to Axum, but the scenery is stunning. Donít give money etc to beggars. Change small amounts of money as you go along, Ethiopia is a very cheap country.

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

We had a main guide and driver for the whole trip who were brilliant, plus local guides at the main sites. We travelled north, south and east over 20 days covering over 4500 kms by road with just two internal flights; if we had the time to cut these out we would have done.

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

Fantastic, brilliantly organised by the companyís owner, a top man. Everything apart from a 45 minute delay for a puncture went without a hitch; having travelled quite a bit in Africa, thatís saying something.

review 18 Feb 2012

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

The whole trip was memorable. Highlights include: the climb to Maryam Korkor church in Tigray. Gheralta Lodge. Boat trip Lake Tana. Complimentary cultural evening organised by Eskinder for our last night in Ethiopia. Wildlife, the mountains, canyons, gorges and the glimpses of rural life. The charming people especially in Tigray. The vibrant colours of the houses. Rock churches in Tigray and Lalibela. Staying in a traditional guest house in Harar.

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

Don't change too much money, it is virtually impossible to change the local currency back to a hard currency. Don't give money or pens to children. If you want to give money give to a local charity.

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

We deliberately selected an Ethiopian based company and flew Ethiopian Airways, this meant that all money spent on our holiday went to local people/companies.

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

Lots of wonderful memories. Excellent trip, efficiently organised by Eskinder. The itinerary was well planned and adapted to our specific requirements. There was a good selection of hotels including the outstanding Gheralta Lodge and Rowda Webr Guesthouse in Harar. We appreciated the range of sightseeing options and activities, the knowledge of our local guides which gave an insight into the country and its history. Our driver and tour leader inspired confidence and we felt safe and well looked after at all times. We would highly this tour company.

review 15 Jan 2012

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

Because the country is so varied, there were several high points. In the North, Lalibela stands out on account of its beautiful situation high in the mountains. And also of course, the series of famous rock-hewn churches it contains. What impressed me most was that these churches were not simply empty museums, but active sites of worship. When I was there, pilgrims were already arriving from all over Ethiopia to celebrate Christmas. It was a wonderful sight. In the south, the highpoint for me was the visit to the Karo village, beautifully situated on a high plateau overlooking a bend of the mighty Omo river. The Karo people were very friendly and forced me to think deeply about things (and values) that were really important in life.

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

Just sit back and enjoy it. A lot of work has been done in the background to make sure everything appears smooth and effortless. There is also an element of flexibility built into the holiday, so if you see something you didn't expect and want to investigate, it is usually possible to arrange it.

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

Apart from bringing foreign money into the local economy, I arranged to assist the Ari people collate and translate their oral history and legends. This will become a resource for visitors as well as for future generations of Ari people. I also managed to initiate links between a Primary school in Axum and one in Scotland, which should be of mutual benefit to the children of both schools in the future.

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

It was excellent. First class.

review 13 Nov 2011

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

It is hard to choose one particular part, as the whole trip was really special. On my list of favourites are Lake Tana, the Blue Nile Falls, the Simien mountains, of course Lalibela (truly astonishing!!!), the Dorze and Konso villages, Key Afar market (fantastic); but the steles scattered in the fields around Axum and the castles and churches at Gondar and the Mursi and Karo people were marvellous and unforgettable too. Lalibela probably deserves a special mention: it is hardly known internationally, but it is a top-ranking town of art and history (and I should know, as I'm Italian); what really makes it different is that the art and history is still absolutely alive: you do not just do sightseeing, it's not just a beautiful museum, it is part of people's everyday life. Ah, and our guides were also memorable, in the best possible way :-)

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

Trust your guides: they are committed to show you how beautiful their land is. Ask: they will be happy to give information, explain and also just chat. Enjoy the moment, try out everything, don't be afraid. Let yourself be surprised by all the very unexpected and excellent things this land has to offer: a truly riveting history, breathtaking historical and natural treasures, kind and cultured people. Bring comfortable shoes: sandals might not be the best choice (see Tungiasis, it happened to me - nothing terrible, but a bit unpleasant). Read as much as you can about the country and it's history. I found the Bradt guide to be very good, and while there I gave in and also brought and read "The Sign and the Seal" by Graham Hancock: I consider him to be slightly out of his head, but the book is very informative, interesting and entertaining.

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

It surely benefited local people: many are striving to set up a touristic infrastructure, and mostly are succeeding very well. My impression is that right now tourism in Ethiopia has all the potential to become a very important source of income and of contact with the rest of the world. Ethiopia is beautiful, and Ethiopians are righty proud of it, and it is a shame most of us know so little about this country. I consider the fact that I can now contribute to give a positive image of this country to also be a benefit for the local people. I truly hope that tourism, now still at the beginning, might be developed in a sustainable way.

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

It probably is already clear from what I have written above that I rate this holiday very highly. I did not really know what to expect when I chose this destination: I knew bits and pieces about Axum and the Ark of the Covenant and the Queen of Sheba and Menelik II and Haile Selassie (we Italians invaded Ethiopia in 1936 and staid till 1941, doing all sorts of horrible things... so we know a bit about it and Eritrea). What I found was beyond all expectations. This country has serious problems which it would be silly to deny: poverty and education come to mind immediately. But please forget the stereotyped images of a huge stretch of desert haunted by starving children: this land is green, dotted with lakes ad crossed by rivers, rich in culture and art and natural wonders and human kindness.

review 22 Apr 2011

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

Hard to say as it was all memorable! The contrast between North and South Ethiopia is startling so we would not wished to have missed either, the North with its history and architecture, including the amazing rock churches, and the South with its culture and different tribal groups.

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

If you don't have a lot of time, then go with the reputable tour company, as we did. This meant that they took charge of all guides and scouts when visiting sites (usually compulsory) and made life easy and relatively hassle-free.

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

Yes, as far as possible. All the guides and drivers were people local to the area being visited so we felt that the financial benefits of our holiday were quite wide-spread. Guides were very informative about local customs etc so we didn't offend. However, of course we stood out and we did use internal flights - perhaps less harmful than the diesel fumes being pumped out by trucks on the road!

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

Excellent in all respects. Eskinder and his team were very helpful, courteous and generous throughout and the trip ran without a hitch, even though we covered a huge amount of the country. Ethiopian people are friendly and charming and we learnt a lot about the country and its people.

review 7 Mar 2011

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

All of it was wonderful, the most amazing part was the tribes in the Omo Valley, it was like being transported to another world & time.

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

The trip was great although some of the distances travelled by car were long, I would suggest having a look at some internal flights although having said that, you would miss the wonderful & vibrant everyday life just walking along the streets and in the villages, there is always something to marvel at.

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

The local people benefited from travellers happy to support local shops by buying local products, all at an amazingly low price. There are no big groups of tourists on buses, how refreshing, and people traveling in these parts seem well aware of any impact on the environment, no rubbish thrown around.

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

We have travelled extensively over the last 14 years, this was by far the most memorable, enjoyable & best trip we have done. We are hoping to return again if possible in the not too distant future.

review 10 Nov 2011

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

The whole trip was really fantastic. One of the most interesting things in Ethiopia is diversity. There were four main destinations. Each one worth a travel: Nile Blue falls, Simien Mountains, Lalibela, and Omo Valley. We had a great expectation about Lalibela and Omo Valley. Nile Blue, lake Tana, and Simien Mountains were very exciting surprises.

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

First of all, you need to go both North and South. They are so different and so interesting. That means that you need to have enough time. Our only regret: we would have be able to spend more time in each place. Probably some places are rather different depending in the month of the year. We travelled in September and we were very lucky: everything was green and beautiful. The trip has to be planned to be able to visit some local markets: they are unforgettable.

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

Of course. Tourism is a very effective way to development, mainly when a country has so many things to offer. The tourist is doing a significant financial effort but you can see that your money is creating a lot of jobs and is shared by a lot of people who are having their living on an activity where both parties have significant benefits.

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

Wonderful holidays. Beautiful landscapes, nice people, safe place, good food, rich history, great diversity, wonderful tribes, paradise of photography. We would like to have the opportunity to spend more time and to go to new places (the East) and see more tribes.

review 1 Nov 2011

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

We are in love with Ethiopia! We decided to go there for various reasons with unclear expectations or none, but the whole experience was beyond any thought. From the very first day in Addis we felt so touched by its gentle people, the colourful landscape of the city. It is so worth it to stay a couple of days in Addis and explore its churches, its streets, and perhaps have your first contact with a coffee ceremony, injera and a St George beer. We flew to Bahir dar from Addis, the flights are quite cheap and the time you save is definitely worth it. Bahir Dar is an amazing city! We had a very nice guide there and enjoyed every single moment there, specially the trip on the way to the Blue Nile Falls and of course the falls themselves blew our minds. I will never forget those kids and the scenery. The monasteries in Lake Tana are a piece of art full of history!

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

We drove to Gonder, we didnít like it much this city, but this was the door to go to the Simien Mountains. We stayed there for 3 days enjoyed the view unfortunately it was a bit misty. The whole experience here was a mixed of feelings because apparently you need a scout, a guide, a cook, cook assistance and driver! We thought that this was too many people and it is not cheap. We would advise you to stay at least 5 days to make it worth it. We think that most of the agencies there have overpriced the Simien mountains trip. However the scenery is beautiful, the fauna and vegetation unique. Be aware that the temperature can drop up to 0 degree at night. We were quite cold in our first night at the second camp and did not have the appropriate equipment. From Gonder to Lalibela by plane, since we arrived we liked it! A different landscape and different experience. A small town full of cultural icons, impressive ancient churches, indeed a spiritual place. I was most impressed by its rich history. We visited other southern cities such as Shashamane where we meet very nice families, Awasa Lake, Lake Langano etc.

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

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

Eskinder from the very beginning was very useful and replies to our emails very quickly, he has loads of patience with us too. He and his team was very caring, friendly and try to meet our requests including a visit to a boxing club, arrange a nice Rastafari guide in Shashamame and orphanage at the very last minute. We would certainly recommend this operator! It was an amazing experience, looking forward to going back.

review 6 May 2011

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

Easter Saturday night in Lalibela churches.

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

There is a lot to discover and a lot of different places to see in Ethiopia.

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

Yes.

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

A must for the ones that want to discover different cultures, people and places.

review 12 Feb 2011

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

The extraordinary landscapes of the Simien Mountains; the churches and monasteries of Lake Tana; the wonderful rock-hewn churches of Lalibela; the boatrip on Lake Tchamo with its 'crocodile market' where we saw more than 50 crocs and some hippos. The outstanding service provided by Eskinder, from the tour operator.

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

Consider carefully how much travelling you want to do. We had asked for two night stays in various places and we were very pleased we did so. If doing the trip again we would probably ask for even less road travelling and some built-in times to relax (perhaps visiting fewer places but having more time to take it all in). It can be very wearing travelling for hours and hours on dusty, very bumpy unmade roads, of which there are rather a lot! Dollars are more useful than pounds sterling. You cannot change birr back into pounds sterling at the airport so be careful not to change too much. Be prepared for cold nights in the mountains and hot days generally. Assume hotels outside Addis to be sometimes lacking in some basics such as hot water or electricity, even if they are supposed to be 3-4 stars. Best bets for hotels seem to be the Lodge-type. Although not compulsory tipping guides/drivers etc. seems to be expected but it is very difficult to work out how much to give. We worked on the basis of about 60 birr a day for guides and 30 birr a day for drivers.Haggling needed for any purchases. People in the north usually happy to be photographed if asked but in the tribal areas most locals definitely do not want their photos taken and will stop you taking photos if you try, even from a distance. Important to respect their wishes in this matter. With the Mursi tribe expect to pay 3 birr per person per photo! Don't give money to children who will approach you. If you want to give money do so via Eskinder who will be able to organise for your money to be used for schools, etc. Meat usually very chewy but fish tasty. Expect to taste the best coffee you have ever had but it is usually very strong - worth asking for extra hot water or have a 'macciato' (with milk). At least 2 hours needed at Addis airport for return check-in. Local flights on time and easy. Don't be afraid to tell your guide/driver when you want to stop for photos, stretch your legs, have a coffee, etc. The guides have an itinerary they are supposed to stick to but you are the customer and should be able to say what you want and what you do not want! We sometimes decided to take an afternoon off from the schedule as we needed a rest! Be honest with Eskinder when he asks how everything went - he wants to know in order to make things better for his next clients and he does not get at all upset with polite suggestions. But do tell him the good things as well!

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

Ethiopia seems to be in its infancy with regard to tourism, and so far there appears to have been little negative impact caused by tourism in the north of the country. Most people are welcoming to tourists and clearly tourism is bringing financial benefits to the population. Inevitably, however, locals, particularly children, have cottoned on to the fact that it is worth begging from tourists, although the government is taking steps to minimise this. Sadly the effects on the local tribes in the Omo Valley are not entirely beneficial. The Mursi, for example, charge for every photo and their whole lifestyle is now related to their daily tourist visits. They store up the money they make and don't spend it!

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

We rate this holiday very highly. Eskinder is a wonderful tour operator - he worked very hard for us, doing his best to make the holiday as memorable (for the right reasons!) as possible. He met us at the airport and showed us Addis Ababa on our first day. He took us out to dinner when we returned to the capital half way through our holiday. He clearly wanted to know how everything had been, the good and the bad points. He contacted his agents every day more than once so kept thoroughly up to date on how things were going. He met us when we came back from the south and again wanted to hear our impressions of every aspect of our trip. He drove us to the airport when we left. He is everything that we were hoping for, and more. He looked after us very well. The whole holiday that he had organised seem to go very smoothly. Ethiopia itself is a fascinating country quite unlike any other sub-Saharan country, in part because, despite a few years of Italian occupation, it has never really been colonised. It is a country of unspoilt landscapes and people. In some ways it seemed to us that the north and the south were two different countries, with different cultures and histories and eco-systems, the north closer in feel to Egypt or Yemen and the south closer to northern Kenya. Go visit before it gets too popular with tourists, and ask Eskinder to organise your trip!

review 4 Jan 2011

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

The churches at Lalibela and the Simien Mountains are both stunning destinations and for very different reasons. The Simien are spectacular - a bit like half the Grand Canyon - and with interesting wildlife; and Lalibela is extraordindary, especially around New Year, in the preparation for Orthodox Christmas.

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

Go

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

By booking through this operator (speak to Eskinder) we avoided a middleman and the whole cost of our holiday went to Ethiopians. The service offered was of a very high standard and he (Eskinder) clearly cares hugely about all aspects of the trip.

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

This was a great holiday, but please take more time than we did (9 days)- Ethiopia deserves far longer to attempt to do it justice.

review 10 Feb 2010

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

Every day was exciting and I would not have wanted to miss out any of the places visited. But to pick a few, experiencing the procession of the Ark at Lalibela, being fed holy honey by a priest in an ancient church, sitting surrounded by gelada baboons, interacting with the Hamar people (including of course shopping in the market in Turmi), and photographing Muris ladies with their lip plates in. But also the care, professionalism and simple pleasantness of our guides at every location.

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

Recognise Ethiopia is a big country and if you want to see it all, and you will, you must put up with long days travelling. Any hassles from children and young men are mild (e.g. "give me pen" or "what is your name") and are easily handled with a smile and "salem". Ethiopians are generally polite and friendly. You will enjoy interacting with people. Forget your preconceptions about famine and desert. Fortunately famine is infrequent and localised. Much of the country is green, lush and productive, and rural people (that is 80% of the population) are able to support themselves and their families and have hope for the future. It is a beautiful country with varied terrain. Generally warm to hot but cool at times in the highlands. The booking conditions required us to pay 50% prior to departure and 50% in cash in Ethiopia. I was a little nervous about carrying the money but we were met at the airport on arrival and in practice it was not a problem. On the plus side as this is an "all inclusive" package, you do not have to carry much money yourself when travelling around the country - just enough for any alcoholic drinks, for tips and for souvenirs. And the cost of these is low by European and US standards.

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

There are substantial benefits. Tourism is a vital industry bringing foreign currency that is much needed for development. Even those people largely outside the cash economy such as the Hamar and Mursi do need some money and tourists provide this without necessarily having a profound impact on their way of life (schooling will have a much bigger impact than tourists taking photos). The tour company's guides provide good advice on how to behave to minimise negative impacts on the people and places visited.

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

A wonderful country to visit and an excellent tour company to visit it with. In particular Highway Tours is managed in a very hands-on way by a man dedicated to making the experience as enjoyable and trouble free as possible. The level of service he provides is fantastic and all the guides who work for him strive to achieve the same standard. He is very willing to amend the itinerary as new opportunities arise too. Just ask and he will try as best he can to make it happen.

review 9 Feb 2010

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

There were several memorable parts to our holiday and it is impossible to decide which to choose so I'll tell you about just four of them! We chose our date to be at Gondar for the Timkat festival - the Christian Orthodox Epiphany where the Ark of the Covenant is paraded through the street by priests in the principle Ethiopian towns. We accompanied the huge procession for its 2 kilometre walk to Fasilida's baths and the next morning watched the men and boys leaping off the tower into the water of the baths to be purified (the baths are filled for this ceremony and in consequence there is no water left for the hotels etc.) Our walks in the Simien Mountains were impressive as the scenery is magnificent with steep gorges, Gelada baboons and plenty of bird life. The ghastly "hole in the ground" toilets at the camp site were sadly, also memorable. Being hugged by 2 drunk Hamar women in the Omo Valley is also unforgettable. I accepted to put on one of their headdresses so consequently had a ring of red clay mixed with rancid butter around my head as this is what they apply to their hair for decoration. Finally: being invited by Eskinder to participate in the sheep killing ceremony at his mother's house. It was the day before fasting began (for 56 days), so fresh (!) sheep is eaten the day before. When we arrived the sheep was alive in the yard, when we left there was a little mutton left sizzling over the open fire. Of course we eat the meat with injeera, the staple food of the people (it is an acquired taste!).

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

Be prepared! It was our 2nd trip to Ethiopia but other than the abundance of new roads being built but not yet completed, and many new buildings being constructed in Addis, little has changed. Hotel accommodation in Addis is excellent but the city is very highly polluted by black smoke belching out of exhaust systems. Outside Addis reasonable accommodation is not easy to find and sometimes you will be without running water and/or electricity?

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

Local people benefited as we booked directly with Eskinder, so there were not any "between men" - all our expenditure went directly to the people there.

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

Excellent. We would highly recommend using Eskinder because he was so considerate and attentive. He provided us with a tailor made tour and virtually everything went according to plan. The drivers and guides he used were very good, particularly Girma who accompanied us to the South.

review 15 Dec 2009

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

The most memorable part of our holiday was when Eskinder, head of the tour company, surprised me and my husband with T-shirts and enrolment in the World Food Walk. The tour operator really took the time to specifically organize something that me and my husband spoke of, even though it is out of the ordinary for tour companies to do something like that. Eskinder took great care of us and my husband and I will always remember what a great time we had contributing to Ethiopia!

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

Do not go for just ANY tour company! In a foreign place, you just don't know who you will end up with or what kind of events will be worth your money. My husband and I are really happy we chose this operator - I cannot stress enough what a great time we had in Ethiopia. From the food to the intimate tours - there was detailed attention put into every aspect of our trip. It was within budget and we had an amazing time!

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

ABSOLUTELY! We were able to donate food to the locals and had the opportunity to participate in socially aware events such as the World Food Walk. We visited natural scenery and local villages. Ethiopia has really tried to keep its originality. Our tour company was great - they organized amazing hikes at unbelievable locations. You will have memories and pictures for a lifetime!

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

5 out of 5!!!! Our trip was GREAT! Our organizer was SO considerate and thoughtful. We really have Eskinder and the whole tour company to thank for our incredible time!

review 11 May 2009

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

The two places that stood out were Lalibela and the Simien Mountains. The rock-hewn churches around Lalibela are not only outstandingly beautiful but a stunning human achievement which has stood the test of time. Being there in Easter week, it was especially gratifying to see that the churches are not just a tourist venue, but they are also an important part of people's lives across the country: the priests still pray there, and allow people to see the holy relics, or just wander in to pray or meditate. The Simiens provided breathtaking scenery, with something a little other worldly about the shape of the mountains in the distance. They are worth visiting just to see the Gelada baboons grazing in packs of many dozen, but we also saw klipspringers, bushbucks, a solitary Walia Ibex as well as vultures and lammergeyers. We were also pleased to find time to visit Harar, though it was not long enough for a place which is extremely relaxing, especially if you can find time just to soak up the atmosphere. Watching the hyenas feed was quite an experience, even though only one of us plucked up the courage to go near them. Oh, and the coffee is fantastic, even for Ethiopia.

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

Given more time, we would have loved to go to the rock churches of Tigray, which are more readily accessible from Axum than we had thought. It would also be an opportunity to go a bit more off the beaten track, though that is not to say that any of the sites in Ethiopia, stunning though they are, had more than a handful of tourists when we were there.

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

We were particularly keen to book with a locally-based company, and we were glad we did because Eskinder, who runs the tour operator, could not have done any better. He set up an itinerary which we felt was just right for the amount of time spent in each place, and his guides and drivers were all first class. Eskinder himself was so concerned that everything went well in Harar that he took a 12-hour coach ride both ways just to check out his new driver there.

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

We had been wanting to go to Ethiopia for a long time and we were glad we finally went. There are so many outstanding and memorable places to visit which are only not so well known because the country is just starting to attract visitors in any numbers. The people are all so welcoming, and there is absolutely no sense of any danger, either to yourself or your belongings. The finishing touch is the food which will be an unexpected delight for those not previously acquainted with Ethiopian cuisine, though you will need to develop a liking for injera.

Read the operator's response here:


review 14 Sep 2008

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

The highlights were definitely Gonder and Lalibela, and all the beautiful landscapes we drove through. The local guide at Gonder was particularly helpful and interesting. The driver and organiser who travelled with us all the way were both friendly and very efficient.

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

Make sure you take along warm clothes and rain gear if you're travelling in July/august! The rainy season is NOT a joke - though it was sunny and dry at least part of every day...

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

We did benefit local people in as much as we had local guides at every stop along the route, and did some shopping, but as regards the environmental impact, I'm not sure: we drove instead of flying, which was fantastic, but I'm not sure about the carbon footprints! A list of local charities at the major stops one could donate to would be helpful too. There's a good system in Lalibela with donation boxes at the hotels, but perhaps the local guides and agents could help organise this in the other places? It seems a far better way to deal with charity than random coins given to beggars, depending on the state of your conscience that day...

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

It was a very beautiful, very enlightening holiday, though not a restful one. The road conditions made it necessary to take a roundabout route, and we spent quite a bit longer in the car than we would have liked to. That's no fault of the organiser's, more of my own for not reading up enough about the itinerary.

Read the operator's response here:

I am glad to read our client, Laurence's honest and realistic review. I would like to say that the review will be an important input to further improve our services also in a way that would reduce carbon releases. There were a total of nine local guides involved in the thirteen day trip. All the accommodation my clients stayed at and the restaurants are locally owned which also use primarily the local resources such as employing their staffs from the local residents; purchasing their needs like vegetables, cereals, and teff from the local farmers. Also in Addis my guests visited manufacturing cooperatives of traditional weavers and had bought some of their products. This has a great significance in encouraging the weavers' effort and supporting their economies. To protect the environment and preserve the cultural and historical heritages, our clients were provided with Travelers' Code of Conduct and recommendations on different issues like on wild life and vegetation; camping and fire; water; waste disposal; interacting with people; religious and cultural sacred sites etc. Also as the trip didnít required it, we didn't camp and /or used firewood or drive inside parks. I can say that the trip has left no negative impacts on the environment. As most part of the trip was by car, we could do little to minimize fuel carbon release; however, since the Lalibela - Addis trip was by flight we could at least do some effort in this regard.

Holiday Reviews

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. In addition, we don't run these holidays ourselves - our only interest is giving you the best independent advice.

Read our review policy

Convert currencies