Stuart Bailey The Darkot trek was my 4th and favourite trip with Wildfrontiers, in a lifetime of travel, and no one gets you closer to the real people that inhabit this hard place in which to live. Read More
Tim and Sue Milward Why Ethiopia? The smiling people, the Timkat festival, the truly extraordinary rock-hewn churches and the mind-blowing scenery in the Simien Mountains. Read More
John & Christine Yerbury To ride on beautiful deserted wide open beaches with only the moving figure of Lucas on the shimmering horizon to show us the way was an amazing experience and lasting memory. Read More
This is a great itinerary that visits the very best of the northern historical circuit whilst offering a few hidden treasures as well, many of which are not offered, to our knowledge,by any other UK tour operator. Starting our tour in Addis we will fly to Gonder with its medieval castles and then drive up into the wonderful Simien Mountains where we will stay at the stunning located Simien Eco-lodge. But it is from Axum that the trip really becomes quite different, as we drive - rather than fly - to the World Heritage town of Lalibela via Yeha, through Eastern Tigray and one of the most visually stunning parts of the whole country, to see some of most rarely seen rock churches. From Lalibela (which for some is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world) we then undertake an incredibly rewarding village walk, spending 2 nights with local communities in conjunction with the charity TESFA (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives). As a fitting climax, we finally arrive in Bahir Dar for a stroll beneath the Blue Nile Falls and a boat ride on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile.
Please note that all our group tours are scheduled to be led by our award-winning guide Dario Ghirlanda who won the Bronze Award in the prestigoius 2013 Wanderlust Guide Awards. For more details see here
The flight time from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa is 7:45hrs direct with either Ethiopian Airlines and BMI.
• Take a torch to Lalibela - you'll need it for the churches
• Wear slip on shoes - as you're not allowed to wear them in the churches you'll be taking them off a lot
• If you like a bit of nightlife, check out one of the jazz bars in Addis
• When visiting the Simien Mountains, take binoculars - they're great for spotting Ibex and Gelada baboons
• And in the Omo Valley take plenty of small change - locals charge to have their picture taken
If you want to read up on your destination we recommend a variety of guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, Odyssey Guides, The Rough Guide and Footprint Guides. All these publications have good general information as well as more specific country information that will help orientate you in the areas you visit.
Good books and maps of Ethiopia are available at Stanfords in Covent Garden, London or online at www.stanfords.co.uk
Relevant Reading: The Life of My Choice, Sir Wilfred Thesiger , chronicles the extraordinary life and adventures of Britain’s greatest living explorer, a great deal of which " particularly his childhood " was lived in Ethiopia. If you wish to go more specific then there is also The Danakil Diary: Journeys through Abyssinia by the same author, concentrating on the coronation of Haile Selassie and a hunting trip to the desolate Danakil desert region.
In Ethiopia with a Mule, by Dervla Murphy; Ethiopia with Love, by Thelma Tolstoy; Sheba: through the desert in search of the legendary Queen, by Nicholas Clapp; and In Search of King Solomons Mines, by Tahir Shah all make excellent reading material.
A new book about birds in the region is Birds of the Horn of Africa, by Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe. The History of Ethiopia, by Harold G Marcus is a concise history of Ethiopia, surveying the evolution of the oldest African nation from prehistory to the present.
The Ethiopians, by Richard Pankhurst is a slightly less scholarly (but rather dry and boring) look at those that inhabit this fascinating land.
The Sign and the Seal, by the controversial archaeologist Graham Hancock is a must in our opinion. Whatever you may think about his ideas and conclusions, there’s no denying his writing is extremely engaging, putting Ethiopian history in a very accessible form.
The Pale Abyssinian, by Miles Bredin, and Scramble for Africa, by Thomas Packerman are also worth a go.
When the Emperor Dies, by Mason McCann Smith is an excellent work of fiction that you may be able to get hold of.
When To Go
The weather in Ethiopia, at least in terms of the heat, is fairly consistent all year round. The only real change is in rainfall and as all our trips go between the end of the long rains (September) and the beginning of the short ones (April) this should not be a problem. During the day the temperature hovers around the mid 20’s, falling to an overnight low of 6-8 degrees (and perhaps even colder in the mountains).
Luggage: We find it is easiest to use a soft bag - rucksack/hold-all/duffel bag - as it can be transported and stored more easily. No hard cases please!
On all our trips a small daypack is practical for keeping general items (e.g. camera, books, wallets etc.) at hand when your main pack is out of reach. It is also handy for day trips and excursions.
Clothing: In general you should bring clothes you feel comfortable with, though when in Churches you should dress modestly with shoulders covered. As a guide we suggest a packing list like this: • 4 x Light cotton shirts or T-shirts, short sleeved and long. • 2/3 pairs of cotton trousers. If preferred, women can wear dresses and skirts • Pair of shorts • Lightweight jumper or sweatshirt • 2 x Good quality fleeces or warm jumpers • Warm jacket • Set of lightweight waterproofs • Set of thermal underwear • Warm nightwear • An extra “outfit” if you’d like to dress up a bit on occasion • Hat and gloves • Swim suit or trunks • Socks, thick ones for walking as well as light weight ones for evenings etc. • Pair of sturdy walking shoes/boots with good grip • Pair of recreational shoes, adventure sandals, trainers or pumps • Flip flops/sandals for showers
Equipment: The following is useful extra equipment for you trip: • Travel towel, travel soap and toiletries • Trekking poles (if you usually travel with them) for uneven paths, which can be slippery when wet. • Good quality 3-4 season sleeping bag is optional. Bedding is provided on TESFA treks, but it can be cold and you may prefer to have your own sleeping bag. • Sleeping bag liner (cotton or silk) • Torch (LED head-torch keeps your hands free) • A bandanna or large handkerchief is useful for dusty tracks • Pair of good quality sunglasses • Water bottle • Plug adapter
Personal First Aid Kit: While we do carry a large medical kit we would advise that you take some of the basics with you. This should include: • Any prescription medication required (please inform the tour leader at your pre-departure meeting about these) • Antibacterial dry hand wash • Painkillers: paracetamol & ibuprofen • Rehydration salts (Gastrolyte) • Malaria Tablets • Travel motion-sickness tablets if required (e.g. natural ginger tablets) • Diarrhoea remedies • Antihistamines • Cold/flu decongestants • Mosquito Repellent • Insect bite cream • Laxatives • Plasters/Bandage/Steri-Strips/Blister pads • Sunscreen (30+ factor) • Moisturiser/after sun cream/lip balm • Contact lenses and solution if required (A kit with most of this in is available at www.nomadtravel.co.uk)
Optional Extras: • Ear plugs (if sharing a room / camping) • Alarm clock • 3-4 plastic carrier bags are very useful for dirty washing, dirty shoes and rubbish • Binoculars • Small packs of tissues • Money belt or secure pouch for money and passport etc. • Eye patches if light affects your sleep • Sewing kit/scissors • Writing materials • Spare batteries/camera memory cards • Swiss Army knife • Universal bath plug • Calculator (for currency conversion) NB: If you wear glasses, it is advisable to bring a spare pair since opticians are rare. If you wear contact lenses you may find that climatic changes and dust can create visual irritation, therefore, it is advisable to bring a pair of glasses.
You might be tempted to buy a few souvenirs here and there, so leave a little room for those extra purchases!!
Hand Luggage: Although it is very rare that luggage goes missing on flights, it has been known to happen and so it’s a good idea to carry a spare top, toothbrush, wash kit, underwear and any other essentials in your hand luggage so that you can at least freshen up while waiting for your bags to catch you up. If you wear your sturdy shoes/boots it will also reduce weight in your luggage and keep them safe.
Time: The Julian calendar is used in Ethiopia and their current year is 7 years behind us. Christmas is celebrated on 7th January and New Year on 11th September. Some Ethiopians set their clocks from dawn to dusk and there is a six-hour difference between Ethiopian time and Western time.
Ethiopia is 3 hours ahead of GMT. A useful website to check the time zone differences is www.worldtimezone.com
Food and Alcohol: The Ethiopian Highlands are predominantly Orthodox Christian with ‘fasting’ each Wednesday, Friday and during Lent when only vegetarian dishes are available. The main hotels do not worry about this and therefore it should not be something that affects you.
As far as alcohol is concerned everything is available but the quality is sometimes questionable. For a decent spirits it’s probably best to buy duty free. Beer is very good and wine " of a reasonable quality " is available, but will need to be carried in the vehicle.
Electricity: Those bringing video & digital cameras that require battery chargers should also bring a 3 pin (round), ‘Swiss’ style adapter. In the Ethiopia they use 220v. In most hotels you can charge from the mains using a travel adaptor plug, but electricity supplies can be erratic.
Money: In Ethiopia the official unit of currency is the Birr. To check out the latest exchange rate for the places that you are visiting you can go to www.oanda.com
A few points to help you plan: • Only the few large hotels and banks accept credit cards and Travellers Cheques so they are basically useless. • It is strongly recommended you travel with US dollars, Euros or Sterling in cash. • It is useful to bring lots of small denomination notes. • By keeping the receipt you get when you change money in Addis you can change back any spare currency prior to departure.
Language & Religion: Ethiopia has 83 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. The largest ethnic and linguistic groups are the Oromos, Amharas and Tigrayans. Amharic is the official national language of Ethiopia. English, Arabic, Italian and French are widely spoken by many Ethiopians.
The main religions in Ethiopia are Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Paganism. Ethiopia is a predominantly Christian country and the majority of Christians are Orthodox Tewahedo Christians.
Cultural Sensitivity: At Wild Frontiers we are very aware of the ethical impact tourism can have on ancient cultures. We realise that taking a group of tourists through such a region can have a negative impact on the lives of those who live there and on all our tours we go to great lengths to minimise the negative and accentuate the positive…after all, there are also many good things that the tourist can bring.
To help this process we ask that our clients do not hand out pens or sweets to children. As one sign in Egypt emphatically put it, ‘Please don't make beggars out of our children!' No matter how well intentioned, in our opinion the dolling out of free gifts fosters a ‘beggar mentality' that is ultimately extremely destructive to a society. In addition we do not condone giving out money to beggars or ‘students'.
However, we also realise that we are exceptionally privileged to be travelling in areas where most of the people have far less than us and that the desire to ‘help' can be very powerful. As a result we ask that you refer to the Wild Frontiers Foundation which supports specific projects in the areas where we travel.
Photography: Please remember, we are guests in Ethiopia and we may sometimes inadvertently cause offence by taking photographs without first asking permission. Many countries have very strict rules about taking photos of army, police or any official personnel; restrictions apply at borders, bridges and any government building. Please exercise care in this regard as the penalty is often confiscation.