Harmattan Tours


Tours in Africa and the Middle East






Northern Ethiopia: the historical route and Awra Amba







Further information:

Staffan Martikainen
+358 40 7617945,


Jarmo Pikkujämsä
+221 77 143 90

Skype: jarmo.pikkujamsa




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Ethiopia is like no other country. The country is host to pan African institutions, but the dominating cultural traditions have little in common with those of other countries in Africa. Ethiopia was never colonised, and partly for this reason, is a country where ancient historical traditions have been preserved. The ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament. You will find yourself transported back in time, visiting unique churches, monasteries and castles in beautiful surroundings. To give you another angle of life in Ethiopia, this 11-day tour also includes a visit to the Awra Amba community, which has chosen to break with tradition in its strife for non-violence and equality.



Sun: Arrival in Addis Ababa

Arival at Addis Ababa Bole airport. Meet your guide. Transfer to Embilta hotel (15 min.)


Mon (Day 1): Addis Ababa

Free time in the morning, giving those of you who arrived on a late night flight some time to rest. In the afternoon, we will discover Addis Ababa – the capital since the late 19th century, founded by Empress Taitu and given the name “New Flower”. The city is situated at 2 300 metres above sea level. It is pleasant and airy and known for its café culture (remember – Ethiopia is the homeland of coffee!). Our city tour includes Mount Entoto, the brilliant Ethnological Museum, and St. George's church.

Embilta hotel. Breakfast only.


Tue (Day 2): Axum

After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly to Axum. This town is the most ancient capital of Ethiopia and the place where, according to Ethiopian tradition, the Queen of Sheba lived and reigned in the 9th century B.C.

We start our visit at the archeological museum of Axum and the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, which is believed to be the last resting place of the Original Ark of the Covenant.

In the afternoon, we will walk to the famous 4th Century Stelae field (Unesco World Heritage Site), and see the ruin palace and tomb of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel from the 5th and 6th centuries. The site of the residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba (9th century BC) is situated just outside the present town.

Yeha or Remhai Hotel. Full board.


Wed (Day 3): Axum - Simien Mountains

After breakfast, drive to Simien Mountains National park crossing the Tekeze River Gorge and appreciating the picturesque Simien mountains, another Unesco heritage area, whose highest peak, Ras Dashen, reaches 4.550 metres above sea level. Overnight in Simien Lodge, the highest hotel in Africa. www.simiens.com. Full board.


Thu (Day 4): Simen mountains - Gondar

In the morning, drive to Chennek, where, if we are lucky, we may see the endemic Walia Ibex. We will also see troops of the typical Gelada Baboon en route and appreciate the breathtaking scenery. After lunch, drive to Gondar visiting a Felasha (Ethiopian Jewish) village.

Goha or Quara Hotel. Full board.



Fri (Day 5): Gondar

Sightseeing tour of Gondar: the Royal compound with several majestic castles with architectural elements pointing to both Europe and India. The Bath of Fasilidas, just outside town, is in fact a palace. It stands in a rectangular, neatly walled depression, which is filled with water once a year for the Timkat (Epiphany) celebrations. The finest of the Gondarian churches is that of Debre Birhan Sillassie or ‘Trinity at the mount of light’ from the 17th Century – with angel paintings that today is something of an Ethiopian national symbol.

Goha or Quara Hotel. Full board.


Sat (Day 6): Gondar - Bahir Dar

After breakfast we depart for the three hour drive to Bahir Dar. We pass rural villages, cross mountain passes with stunning vistas. Bahir Dar rests on the shores of Lake Tana and is one of Ethiopia’s prettiest cities with wide avenues, palms and jacarandas and stunning lake views. For centuries Bahir Dar has been a trading center for the region and the tankwa (traditional papyrus boats) can still be seen transporting goods across the lake.

In the afternoon, visit the Blue Nile falls, which in the rainy season is one of the most spectacular falls in Africa, 400 m wide and 45 m high. However, the river was recently dammed upstream and the river levels are now controlled. There is some nice bird watching on the easy 30-min walk to the viewpoint. Hippos and crocodiles are occasionally spotted on the banks of the river. The road to and from the falls can be rough and dusty.

Overnight in Summer land or Abay Minch Lodge. Full board.


Sun (Day 7): Bahir Dar – Awra Amba

After breakfast, we head out on Lake Tana to the Zege Peninsula and its famous monasteries. While on board our private boat, keep an eye out for a variety of bird species and the traditional tankwas crossing the lake. After a short hike through local villages and coffee farms, we reach the monastery of Ura Kidane Meret, is home to an important collections of crosses and crowns dating back to the 16th century. The painted maqdas, colorful and well-preserved, tell stories of the Ethiopian saints. The second monastery we visit, Azwa Maryam, is a small and pleasant site with gardens and a humorous young priest. 


In the afternoon, we drive to the Awra Amba village and spend the rest of the day visiting the unique community. See description below.


Guest house at Awra Amba (basic). Full board.


Mon (Day 8): Awra Amba

We spend the day studying the different activities and way of life of the Awra Amba community.

Guest house at Awra  Amba (basic). Full board.


Tue (Day 9): Awra Amba - Lalibela

After breakfast, drive to Lalibela visiting the small town of Debre Tabor and Amhara villages en route. On reaching Lalibela, transfer to the hotel for overnight.

The small town of Lalibela is situated at over 2,500 metres in the Lasta Mountains. With its rock-hewn churches, still in use, Lalibela is arguably one of the most important religious and historical sites in all of Africa and the entire Christian world. Ethiopia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion. The Ethiopian Orthodox religious practices partly have roots in Judaism. The churches are said to have been constructed during King Lalibela’s reign during the 12th and 13th centuries when Lalibela (then known as Roha) was the capital of the Zagwe dynasty. Many different theories exist on how they were built and by whom, including angels and the Knights Templars.  Legend has it that King Lalibela was exiled in Jerusalem and returned to Ethiopia to build a New Jerusalem.

Lasta Hotel. Full board.


Wed (Day 10): Lalibela

Visit of the rock-hewn churches, which are unofficially regarded as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. In the morning, visit the first group of six churches and in the afternoon visit the second and the third group of churches. These churches are Ethiopia’s top tourist attractions and are registered as an Unesco World Heritage site.

Lasta Hotel. Full board.


Thu (Day 11) Lalibela - Addis Ababa

Transfer to the airport and fly back to Addis Ababa. The rest of the day, sightseeing tour of Addis Ababa including National Museum (with the 3 million year old skeleton if Lucy), the  Trinity Cathedral, and Merkato - the largest open air market in Africa.

In the evening, visit to one of the best traditional restaurants of Addis to see the traditional dances of the Ethiopian people and to taste a variety of meals of the Ethiopian people.

Transfer to the airport for departure. Breakfast and dinner.



Price example: € 2,500 (single room supplement € 400)


Price inclusive of:

Accommodation on twin room sharing

Breakfast in Addis Ababa and full board elsewhere out of Addis Ababa

All transport

Professional English speaking guide

All entrance fees


Price exclusive of:

Lunch and dinner in Addis Ababa

International airfare

Alcoholic drinks


Other expenses of personal nature like shopping, laundry, etc.

Any expense not included in the inclusive list above




Founded by Zumra Nuru in 1998s, the Awra Amba community consists of 400 members who live together with a common goal of solving socio-economic problems through helping one another in an environment of egalitarianism. Children get access to primary education in a school run by members of the community. Women have equal rights as men and there is no distinction in divisions of labour between women and men. People in the community practise no religion as distinct from most communities in Ethiopia.

The village is unique not only for its attitudes toward gender, religion, and education, but for the social security it provides its members in need. There are formal committees to provide services which include: education, to receive guests, to take care of patients, the elderly and children, and community health. There is a literacy campaign for adults, a library, and a preschool. Despite living in a culture which practice early marriage, the people of Awra Amba have decided girls should not marry only after reaching the age of 18, and boys at or above 22.





Copyright © Harmattan Tours 2012