• Festivals of Ethiopia

    Exploring the cradle of mankind and witnessing one of two unique festivals!

    Experience Ethiopia, an ancient country steeped in a long and mystical past. This journey will expose you to Ethiopa's plenitude of tribal cultures, lifestyles, and religions and each date will focus on a different local festival.  January will feature the world-famous Timkat Festival and September's trip will highlight the colorful Meskel Festival.

    best times to go: January, September - October, December

    departures: 1 scheduled dateview departures

    pricing: from $5,095 see detailed pricing

    East Africa

    Easy to Moderate
Also great as a private trip. Call for details

Exploring the cradle of mankind and witnessing one of two unique festivals!

With a rugged landscape of towering mountains and rolling savannahs, and a variety of highly unique cultures and traditions, Ethiopia is one of the world’s most interesting—but less frequented—destinations. Dating back to the earliest origins of humanity, Ethiopia is often called the “cradle of mankind;” it’s a country with a long, colorful and often tortuous past whose written history in the language of Ge’ez goes back over 2,000 years. Yet, this ancient country also boasts a present-day plenitude of tribal cultures and lifestyles.

Our comprehensive journey takes us from animistic communities in southern Ethiopia, with their resplendent body decorations, elaborate textile work, and austere lifestyles, to the Amharic people of the north, with their distinctive rituals that hark back to ancient Ethiopian Christianity. Covering many facets of Ethiopian culture and history, this trip is led by a local Ethiopian guide who will provide a true insider’s view of this fascinating land.

Your adventure begins in the south, on the western side of the Rift Valley, where you’ll travel from one remote, traditional village to another for close encounters with the local tribes. You’ll take a boat ride across Lake Chamo, home to herons, kingfishers and some of the world’s biggest crocodiles, and walk around the jewel-toned lakes of Shala, Abijata and Langano. You’ll visit an island monastery to admire its murals depicting scenes from Ethiopian Christian lore, and tour the ancient capital of Gondar, with its medieval, Portuguese-styled castles, Italian colonial buildings, and beautifully painted church. Our next stop is Lalibela, known for its monolithic, rock-hewn churches that are among the man-made wonders of the world. Today, these remarkable churches are the residence of white-robed monks who perform traditional Ethiopian Christian rituals in the ancient language of Ge’ez, just as they have for centuries.  Here we will experience either the Timkat Festival (in January) or the Meskel Festival (in September) before moving on to Axum, the oldest city in Ethiopia and the reputed resting place of the sacred Ark of the Covenant.

The January Timkat Festival is a wonderful manifestation of the Epiphany pageant as thousands of colorfully robed coptic monks carry replicas of the "Ark of the Covenant" from their churches to be worshipped and anointed with holy water. Monks chant and dance for 3 days amidst centuries old monolithic rock-hewn churches in the higland town of Lalibela.

The September Meskel Festival is a popular festival in Ethiopia celebrated to honor the finding of the true cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified by Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great.  The day is celebrated by Christians in Ethiopia with dancing, singing and wearing colorful, traditional clothes.  Golden yellow flowers known as the "Meskel Daisies" bloom just once per year during the time of this festival.

For those wishing to extend their time in Ethiopia, we will be offering an extension to the walled city of Harar, located in the eastern Ethiopian highlands, and the capital of Islamic Ethiopia with no less than 99 mosques!


Walking, cultural touring


  • Explore the deep history and diverse cultures and religions of the "Cradle of Mankind"
  • Meet the tribal people of the Omo Valley, known for their unique rituals and striking body decorations
  • Visit the stunning, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the holy city of Axum, and the former royal capital of Gondar
  • Witness a colorful religious festival on each departure!

Duration: 16 days Start Location: Addis Ababa End Location: Addis Ababa

Download Detailed Itinerary
  • Day 1 : Arrive in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    Arrival in Addis Ababa and transfer to hotel.

  • Day 2 : Addis Ababa

    Exploration of Addis Ababa, including the National Museum, the Ethnography Museum, and Mercato.  Traditional dinner and cultural show in the evening.

  • Day 3 : Arba Minch

    Fly south to Arba Minch in the Rift Valley, home of over 80 different ethnic groups.

  • Lake_chamo
    Day 4 : Lake Chamo

    We take a boat ride on Lake Chamo, home to crocodiles and hippos, before visiting a Dorze village, known for their weaving skills and their bamboo domed houses.

  • Bigstock-hamaer-tribe_small
    Day 5 : To Jinka

    We drive south and visit Konso territory before reaching the town of Jinka.

  • Eth_day5_hamar
    Day 6 : Mursi tribe

    Visit to the dense bush territory of the Mursi tribe, where the women are known for their large clay lip plates. Overnight in Turmi.

  • Tribal_woman
    Day 7 : Turmi

    Spend the day exploring more tribes of the Omo Valley, including the Dassanech and Hamar people.

  • Mursi_woman
    Day 8 : Turmi to Konso

    Monday is market day in Turmi, and we'll explore the market on foot before driving to Konso.

  • Day 9 : Langano Lake

    We drive to the lake region of the Great Rift Valley and overnight along the shores of Lake Langano.

  • Eth_day9_bluenile
    Day 10 : Bahir Dar

    We drive to Addis Ababa, then take a short flight to the town of Bahir Dar and Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile.

  • Day 11 : Tissisat Falls

    Morning boat tour of the Ura Kidana Mehret island monastery, followed by an afternoon walk up to the dramatic Tissitat Falls.

  • Eth_day11_gondar
    Day 12 : Gondar

    Scenic drive to the city of Gondar, a Portuguese-influenced, bygone cultural hub founded in the 17th century.

  • Lalibela
    Days 13 - 14 : Lalibela

    Short flight to Lalibela, a highland town renowned for its historic ,12th century rock-hewn churches.

  • Day 15 : Axum

    We fly to Axum, the oldest city in Ethiopia, and visit the seven stone obelisks, the religious center of Coptic Ethiopia and rumored home to the sacred Ark of the Convenant.

  • Day 16 : Return to Addis Ababa, later flight home

    Return flight to Addis Ababa, day rooms at group hotel, and last-minute shopping or sightseeing. Evening transfer to airport for return flights home or join our extension to Harar.

Download Detailed Itinerary

DATES: Best time to go: January, September - October, December Departures: Sep 15 - 30, 2014 Meskel Festival


2014 Prices
$5,095 (4-14 members)
$700 internal air

$800 single supplement

  • Debre Damo Hotel
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    This 4 star hotel is conveniently located just 7 minutes from the airport and boasts 102 rooms, lobby bar, restaurant, Sky bar, health club, business center, and souvenir shops and all the services to make your stay in Addis pleasant and relaxing.

  • Swayne's Hotel
    Arba Minch, Ethiopia

    Swaynes Hotel is located in Arba Minch which, in Amharic, means “forty springs”. The hotel enjoys a spectacular hilltop setting overlooking Rift Valley basin, with views of the forest of Netch Sar National Park, Lake Chamo, and Lake Abaya. The location makes an ideal base from which to explore, and is the gateway to the remote villages and unspoiled cultures of the magnificent Omo Valley.

  • Jinka Eco-Lodge
    Jinka, Ethiopia

    A new eco-lodge located on the outskirts of Jinka town across the Neri River, one of the tributaries to the great Omo River and near the Arie village, one of the main tribes of Jinka.  The lodge offers horse back riding, trekking in the beautiful mountains surrounding Jinka, home-cooked meals from their own garden, plus eco-friendly tented cabins with great views.

  • Buska Lodge
    Omo Valley, Ethiopia

    Situated in the heart of Southern Ethiopia in the Omo Valley, Buska Lodge is an unpretentious eco-lodge offering travelers the best accommodation and meal service in this region.

    Buska Lodge overlooks the plains of Buska Mountain and has been constructed to blend beautifully in to the natural surroundings. Covering a total of 30,000 sq. meters area, the Lodge’s compound is a fascinating green area with about 120 species of plants.

    Buska Lodge offers the rare opportunity to learn about and experience the culture and traditions of the local Hammer community offering a rare glimpse into the cultures of the Omo Valley. The Hammer are famous for their Evangadi dance and “Bull jumping” ceremony where a young man who wants to marry jumps over a line of bulls in order to show that he is worth to the pride’s family. The Hammer share traditions and rituals with surrounding people like the Tsemai, Ari, Karo, and Bena.

  • Tukul Village Lodge
    Lalibela, Ethiopia Tukul Village is a new hotel with attractive views of Lalibela and its surroundings. It is within walking distance of many of the ancient churches, including the Church of St George.
  • Abay Minch Lodge
    Bahar Dar, Ethiopia

    Abay Minch Lodge is situated in the outskirts of Bahar Dar, close to Lake Tana. The rooms are in small bungalows and the garden is well kept and peaceful.

  • Sabana Resort
    Langano, Ethiopia

    The best resort on the shores of Lake Langano.  Bungalows are situated on a cliff top, each having their own distinctive view over the expansive Lake Langano with the Arsi Mountains in the background and are built with local materials and simple designs. Surrounded by green grass, acacia and palm trees, local flowers and a sandy beach area.

  • Kanta Lodge
    Konso, Ethiopia

    A new eco-lodge with solar-heated water and Ethiopian style bungalows located on a hillside with lovely views.

  • Yeha Hotel

    Overlooking Axum’s exceptional northern Stelae field, and the Queen of Sheba’s bathing pool, the Yeha boasts the best location in Axum.

Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.

Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you'd never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You'll be in good hands with them every step of the way.

  • Zerihun Tassew

    “Zed” was born in 1976 in the village of Gurd Shola near Addis Ababa. His father is Oromo and his mother Amharic and he and his siblings were raised in Addis. After graduating from the Addis Ababa Technical School with a degree in mechanics, Zed began working as a senior mechanic for a private company. Soon after, he was hired by Dinknesh Ethiopia Tours to work as a senior mechanic. His natural people skills soon led him to become a respected driver-guide and during this time, he began specializing in birding tours. He is a licensed guide who now does both the historical routes as well as naturalist tours. Zed speaks Amaharic and English.

photo credits: ©MTS Photo File


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Activity Ratings


Many activities are optional and involve fairly easy travel. Trips may include short hikes of two to three hours or optional walks at low elevations. Includes less demanding sea kayaking and river rafting trips with Class I-II rapids.


More active trips involving hiking over moderate terrain, usually - but not always - with vehicle support and at elevations less than 10,000 feet, or trips with long hiking days, multiple sea kayaking days, wilderness camping, or other invigorating activity. On many trips, you can elect to skip a day's activity, depending on logistics. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips and river rafting trips with Class III rapids.


Hiking and trekking over steeper or more rugged terrain or where elevations may exceed 10,000 feet - often several days in a row. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips (4-5 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.

Ultimate Challenge!

Our most demanding trips: trekking over steep, rugged terrain at high elevations (no vehicle support) or with substantial altitude gains and losses; trips to remote, extreme wilderness; mountaineering trips. Includes our most demanding sea kayaking (5-7 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.


Departure Dates

Sep 15 - 30, 2014 Meskel Festival

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