Lost Worlds of Ethiopia

Tribes of the Omo Valley and Spectacular Festivals


Ethiopia holds a fascinating mix of cultures, from its Orthodox Christian heritage in the highlands, revealed in stunning rock-hewn churches, to the animistic tribes in the Great Rift Valley. In the mountain highlands, we explore Axum, Ethiopia’s holy city, and World Heritage-listed Lalibela, with its 12th century subterranean churches. A different side of Ethiopia thrives in the far south, where we visit the tribal cultures of the remote Omo Valley. Each trip is timed for a festival—January trips attend Timkat, the exuberant Epiphany celebration; in September, you’ll witness Meskel, with its flickering bonfires and carpets of yellow daisies.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-7
Addis Ababa / Lake Tana / Simien Mountains / Gondar / Axum / Lalibela

In Ethiopia’s highlands, we boat to an island-monastery on vast Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, then overnight in Simien Mountains National Park, home to fascinating wildlife. We’ll also explore Gondar, Ethiopia’s royal capital, and Axum where, according to Ethiopian legend, the original Ark of the Covenant resides in the Church of St. Mary of Zion. In Lalibela, we visit the extraordinary World Heritage-listed churches hand-carved out of the town’s pink volcanic rock.

Days 8-12
Tribes of the Omo River Valley

We drive southwest to the Rift Valley, with a visit to Abijatta-Shalla National Park en route. In the Omo region, we find an array of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes, from the Bume and Karo to the Bena and Hamar. Their body adornments, such as scarification, face painting, and lip plates, hold rich cultural symbolism. While we’re here, we usually visit Korcho, a small Karo village, to watch a traditional dance by the villagers. Our schedule in the Omo Valley is flexible and subject to local conditions.

Days 13-16
Addis Ababa / Timkat or Meskel Festival

Our private charter flight (avoiding a two-day drive!) whisks us to Addis, where we witness Timkat, with its processions of Orthodox priests and parishioners in traditional dress (January), or the dancing and celebratory bonfires of Meskel (September). Both festivals offer superb cultural encounters. Depart on Day 16 via Addis Ababa.



Spectacular festival on each trip: Timkat (January) or Meskel (September)
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the medieval city of Gondar
Tribal villages of the Karo, known for their body painting, and the Bume and Mursi tribes
Small group size—maximum 8—for greater flexibility and more intimate cultural encounters


Length: 16 days
Cost From: $8995  
Arrive: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Depart: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lodging: 3 nights at the 5-star Sheraton in Addis, 12 nights very rustic hotels and lodges
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Rugged road travel by 4WD vehicle, easy walks, cultural explorations