Title: Ethiopian Epiphany in Gonder
Tour Code: FS – 045
Duration: 11 DAYS
Start: January 16
End: January 26
Jan 16 Early in the morning, depart north to Bahir Dar via Debre Markos. On the way visit the Portuguese bridge, said to have been the first bridge in Ethiopia. Afterwards, you will pass through the spectacular Blue Nile Gorge. The gorge extends nearly 400km and reaches depths up to 1500m. Overnight in Bahir Dar (hotel).
Jan 17 In the morning, take a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the island monasteries, such as those on the Zege Peninsula and Kibran Gabriel (not allowed for women), and the source of the Blue Nile River. In the afternoon, drive out to the Blue Nile Falls for a short hike in the area. Finish the day with the sunset over the lake. Overnight in Bahir Dar (hotel).
Jan 18 Drive to Gonder, Then you will visit the Gonder castle compound (World Heritage Site).Starting around 3:30 P.M you will attend the colouful processions of the eve of Ethiopian Epiphany. In this procession, the replicas of the original Ark (Tabots) from different churches will be removed and are carried by priests under huge, colorful umbrellas. Deacons also carry processional crosses, religious paintings and bells. On the occasion, a lot of people will sing, dance and ululate accompanying the priests all the way to the place where the Tabots are supposed to m (Pool of King Fasildes). Overnight Hotel.
Jan 19 in the morning you will visit the remaining sites of Gonder like the beautiful Debere Brhan Selassie church. Today is the main day for the celebration of the Ethiopian Epiphany. So you will have a chance to see the sprinkling of the blessed holy water in remembrance of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the river Jordan in the hands of John the Baptist. The Tabots are also carried back to their original places in the same way that they are brought. Overnight Hotel.
Jan 20 Early morning, depart north for Axum, enjoying spectacular views of the Simien Mountains. After stopping for lunch in Adi Arkay, proceed driving through the dramatic Tekeze Valley, offering some of the best landscapes in the country. Proceed to Axum, home of the ancient Axumite Empire, the Queen of Sheba, and the Ark of the Covenant. Overnight in Axum (hotel).
Today will be a full day visiting the sites of Axum, including the famous obelisks (one that was recently erected after being returned from Italy), the Queen of Sheba’s Bath (which supplies water to Axum year-round), King Bazen’s tomb, and the Queen of Sheba’s Palace. You can also visit the St. Mary of Zion church, where the Ark of the Covenant is kept. Men only are allowed to enter the old church. Unfortunately, no one (except one specially chosen guardian monk) is allowed to enter the chapel where the Ark is kept. Overnight in Axum (hotel).
After breakfast, drive to visit the ruins of Yeha, dating from the 8th to 5th centuries BC, and thought to be the capital of Ethiopian civilization before Axum. Afterwards, visit the Debre Damo monastery, where the men (sorry! No women allowed.) must climb up a 15-m rope to enter. Proceed through the state of Tigray, stopping en-route at Wukro to visit the rock-hewn church of Chirkos. Overnight in Mekele (hotel).
Early in the morning, embark on a full day of driving to Lalibela. Here you will pass through several small villages, with typical sandstone homes of the Tigray people. Proceed through this rural area for the stunning approach to the home of Ethiopia’s most prized destination – Lalibela. Overnight in Lalibela (hotel).
In the morning, start your tour of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, visiting the Northwestern Cluster of churches – Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, Bet Mikael & Bet Golgotha (entry not permitted for women). After lunch, continue with the Southeastern Cluster of churches – Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanual, and Bet Abba Libanos. Finally, you will visit the most famous of all the churches – Bet Giyorgis, constructed in honor of the patron saint of Ethiopia – Saint George. Overnight in Lalibela (hotel).
Early in the morning, drive to Kombolcha via Woldia, on the way visiting the lake in the town of Hayk, where you can visit the local monastery and enjoy the birdlife. Overnight in Kombolcha (hotel).
Return driving to Addis via Debre Birhan. On the way you pass the Mezezo Escarpment, with a good chance to see the endemic gelada baboons. If today is a Sunday, you can stop in the town of Senbete to visit the lively market including the interesting camel market In the evening we will have a fare well dinner in one of the Ethiopian restaurants for traditional dinner and live stage dances from the different ethnic groups. Then transfer to the airport for your departure to Home or to your next destination. Tour End!
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