B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World


Azewa Mariam Monastery on Lake Tana

O Nile, you are the majestic blood line of my African glory
That shower my blessings upon the starved of the world
You are the eloquence that rings the Ethiopian bell across the deaf world
You are the gifted dancer of graceful rhythms
That harmonize with your sisters Atbara and Shabale
With your brothers Awash and Juba
To fertilize the scorched sands of Arabia.
O Nile, without your gift Mediterranean shall be a rock of dead waters
And Sahara shall be a basket of skeletons.
You are Africa's black soil that produces life
You are the milk that quenches the thirsty multitudes
You are the messenger of my gospel, O Nile,
That brings my abundant harvest to the mouth of the needy.
You are the elegant pilgrim of my mercy.
You are the first fountain, you are the first ever Ethiopia
You are the appeaser of the lustful greeds
You are the first Earth Mother of all fertility
Rising like the sun from the deepest core of the globe
You are the conqueror of the scorching pestilence
You are the source, you are Africa
You are Ethiopia, you are the Nile.

Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin, Nile, 1997


This 3-week tour of Ethiopia explores the archaeology and history of this fascinating country. We begin the tour in the capital Addis Ababa where we visit the renown outdoor markets known as the Mercato. We then spend the afternoon in the National Museum. Here we see the archaeological heritage of the region including the remains of the famous Australopithecus afarensis known as 'Lucy'.

The following morning, we fly to Bahar Dar in the NW part of the country. We take a boat ride on Lake Tana to see the beginning of the Blue Nile. We visit an island monastery and explore the local markets. The next day we drive to Gondar, stopping on the way to explore the handicrafts of Awramba and the religious art in the Debre Birhan Selassie church. We explore the antiquities of Gondar including the royal castles of the 17th Century.

The next day we drive to the spectacular Simien Mountains National Park. We see the rugged landscapes and take a scenic hike to see the famed Gelada baboons. We then have a longer hike through the stunning landscapes of the Simien Mountains. This includes a visit to Chenek and the beautiful Jimbar waterfall. We are likely to see ibex, baboons and other wildlife.

The next day we drive through beautiful mountain scenery to Axum, the ancient capital of a vast Empire which ruled much of Ethiopia from the 1st to 8th Century AD. We see ancient royal stelae, the archaeological museum and the Mary Tsion Church which houses the purported remains of the Ark of the Covenant (we canít see the Ark). The following day we take a short drive to see the ancient Temple of the Moon at Yeha before heading to Tigray where we spend a day and a half exploring the famous painted rock-cut churches.

Our trip next takes us on a scenic drive to the historic site of Lalibela. Here we see the remarkable 800 year old UNESCO listed rock-cut churches, carved into the native bedrock and painted with numerous icon paintings. Amongst the churches we see is the Yemrehanna Krestos church, one of the earliest in the region. We also see the Arbaitu ensessat monastery, a local centre of handicraft.

The following day we fly to Dire Dawa and make for the historic city of Harar. This fascinating 16th Century walled city preserves a rich heritage of Islamic culture. We take a walk in the old quarter and visit the house of the poet Arthur Rimbaud and also see the Ras Mekonnen house. In the evening we experience the feeding of wild hyenas which congregate on the outskirts of the town.

We next head south to explore the Awash National Park where we take a game drive. We continue southwards and explore the stunning Bale Mountains - we take a leisurely hike to spot wildlife including Bushbucks and Nyala as well as many bird species. Our tour ends at the Sanetti Palateau which is the best place to see the rare Ethiopian Wolf. We will also see many migratory birds. The tour ends back in Addis Ababa where there is a chance for last minute shopping in the Mercato.

Gelada baboon in the Simien Mountains

Day 1: Arrive in Addis Ababa
You arrive in Addis Ababa - a tour representative will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. The group will meet in the lobby of the hotel and go out for dinner. Overnight Addis Ababa.

Day 2: Mercato outdoor market - National Museum
In the morning we explore the Mercato of Addis Ababa, Africa's largest outdoor market. The markets are full of colour and action. After lunch we visit the National Museum of Ethiopia. Here we explore ancient and medieval artefacts including the remains of various Australopithecus. Overnight Addis Ababa.

Day 3: Bahar Dar - Lake Tana
This morning we fly to Bahar Dar on Ethiopian Airlines. We take a boat tour on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and tour ancient island monasteries with a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we visit the marketplace in Bahar Dar.

Lake Tana
Blue Nile falls

Day 4: Drive to Gondar
We drive to Gondar (4 hours) through scenic country side with a stop at the Awramba village which is known for its handcrafts. We have lunch at the scenic town of Goha. In the afternoon we visit the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, famous for its religious art and especially its iconic ceiling depicting angels.

Day 5: Gondar
Today we visit the remote ruins of Kuskuam, built for Empress Mentewab in the 1700's. After lunch, tour the Royal Enclosure of Gondar, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring five castles built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings beginning in the early 17th Century. The castles are a testament to the resilience of this once mighty African Empire.

Gondar palace
The Simien Mountains

Day 6: Simien Mountains
In the morning we drive (3 hours) to Sankabar, the gateway to the Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage area. We take in the spectacular scenery and view wildlife including the Gelada baboon. In the afternoon we do a light hike in the park.

Day 7: Hike in the Simien Mountains
Today we do a hike in Simien Mountains National Park. We take in the scenery at Chenek, the most spectacular part of the Simien Mountains, and make a stop at Jimbar waterfall. We might spot some wildlife such as the endemic Walia Ibex and the Gelada baboon. In the afternoon we return to Gondar.

Day 8: Drive to Axum
Today we take a spectacular drive (7 hours) to Axum, capital of the ancient Axumite Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We make frequent stops at viewpoints along the way. We arrive in Axum and have some leisure time in the afternoon.

Day 9: Axum
Today we tour the ancient stelae fields of Axum, monuments which have been standing for upto 2000 years. Visit the new Archaeological Museum. After lunch we see the St Mary Tsion Church, which houses the supposed Ark of the Covenant according to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (no one is allowed to see the Ark.) We also visit some royal tombs and archaeological sites at Axum.

Day 10: Yeha - Adigrat
In the morning we drive (1 hour) to Yeha where we see the 2500 year old ruins of an ancient moon temple. We continue our journey (2 hours) to Adigrat where we visit Aba Gerima and Petros Paulos, two of the Tigray region's oldest and finest rock churches. We stay in Gheralta.

Day 11: Tigray churches
Today we visit more of Tigray's remote and ancient rock-hewn churches: we see Abraha Atsbeha, dating from the 10th century; the beautiful Wukro Chirkos Church; and Medhane Alem Kesho. In the afternoon we continue (2 hours) to Mekele.

Day 12: Drive to Lalibela
Today we take a scenic road (8 hours) to Lalibela. We arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon and enjoy the sunset from the terrace.

The stelae of Axum
Rock cut church at Lalibela

Day 13: Lalibela
We tour the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and built structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs, and fabulous examples of icon paintings. In the late afternoon we observe Ethiopian cooking of the staple Injera and the traditional coffee ceremony.

Day 14: Lalibela - Yemrehanna Krestos
In the morning we drive (1 hour) through scenic rural countryside of the Ethiopian Highlands to Yemrehanna Krestos, a beautiful church situated in a shallow cave that predates the churches of Lalibela. We stop at the Arbaitu ensessat monastery where the monks and nuns make handicrafts. We return to Lalibela where we see two more rock-cut churches.

Day 15: Fly to Dire Dawa - Harar
In the morning we fly to Dire Dawa via Addis Ababa. We then drive (1 hour 30 min) to Harar with stops at Ethiopia's largest "chat" farm and some coffee plantations. In the evening, we see the hyenas that gather nightly outside the town.

Day 16: Harar
Today we stroll through the 16th Century walled city of Harar, one of the most important cities in the Islamic World. We see the home of Arthur Rimbuad, renowned French poet who worked and lived in Harar as a "gun-runner" during the 19th Century. We also visit the house of Ras Mekonnen (father of Haile Selassie); and see a traditional Harari home.

Day 17: Awash National Park
This morning we drive (6 hours) to Awash National Park. In the afternoon we take a game drive in Awash National Park and visit an area frequented by hyenas.

Day 18: Bale Mountains
Today we drive (5 hours) to the Bale Mountains National Park. After lunch we take a leisurely afternoon hike, possibly spotting two endemic mammals that frequent the area: Menelik's Bushbuck and the Mountain Nyala. Birds in this area include the Blue-Winged Goose, the Spot-Breasted Lapwing, the Abyssinian Long Claw, the Wattled Ibis, the Black-headed Siskin, Rouget's Rail, and numerous other species.

Town scene in Harar
Exploring the Bale Mountains

Day 19: Sanetti Plateau
Today we take an excursion to the Sanetti Plateau which is the best place to see the Ethiopian Wolf - the world's rarest canid species. Migratory birds such as the Ruddy Shelduck and Wattled Crane should also be visible. The Sanetti Plateau is the world's largest expanse of Afro-Alpine moorland. In the afternoon we drive (3 hours) to Awassa in time for a late afternoon arrival.

Day 20: Drive to Addis Ababa - Mercato
In the morning we drive to Addis Ababa (4 hours 30 min) passing through the scenic Abidjatta National Park. After we check into our hotel we have some time to visit the Mercato markets for last minute shopping.

Day 21: Depart Addis Ababa
The morning is at leisure to relax and finish packing. We depart Addis Ababa International Airport in the afternoon.

* Please note that the Company reserves the right to make alterations to the itinerary in the period up to 60 days prior to a tour departure. The itinerary may also be subject to minor re-arrangement due to the scheduling of the operators and availability of access. If this occurs, the Company will endeavour to provide a comparable alternative.


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