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I had to go there myself. I mean, why intentionally travel to the hottest place on the planet? On the way, you get the idea. Dreamy landscapes that stretch forever, a hot nighttime wind that doesn’t ever let up. I had been told to drink a lot of water, more than you think you need. By the end of the first day, I was way behind. Only after liter number four did I feel the need to go.
This is the Danakil Depression, with its nomadic tribes and salts mine workers and endless camel caravans. The land that time forgot. A friend called it nature’s chemistry experiment, bubbling up to the surface in hot springs in all glorious sulphuric colors. And then the opportunity to peer into the earth’s crust – climbing onto camels to ascend the dome of an active volcano and glimpse its lava lake below.Surreal.
Day 01 Addis Ababa
Upon arrival in Addis Ababa, our representatives will meet you at Bole International Airport and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy the morning of leisure and enjoy lunch at the hotel. This afternoon visit historical sites including the National Archaeological Museum, to view the 3.6 million year old remains of “Lucy”, whose skeleton was discovered in 1974. Continue to the Ethnological Museum at Addis Ababa University; a great insight into the many different peoples of Ethiopia and their respective cultures. After visiting Holy Trinity Cathedral, we will end the day with a drive to the top of Mount Entoto, which rises to an altitude of 10,500 feet and offers a panoramic view of the metropolis.
Nexus Hotel (L,D)
Day 02 Mekelle – HamedEla (Ahmed Ela)
This morning fly to the city of Mekelle, up on arrival in the airport you will be picked up and drive to HamedEla (Ahmed Ela) via Berehale (Bere Ale) where you will pick up police scouts, road guides and permits for the Afar region. From Berehale, proceed driving to HamedEla (Ahmed Ela). We will see the camel caravans along the way, carrying salt from the salt lake to Mekelle for sale. Overnight camping in HamedEla (Ahmed Ela)
Camping (B, L,D)
Day 03 HamedEla (Ahmed Ela)
After breakfast, take a day trip to Dallol, which at 116m below sea level is the lowest point on the African continent. Here the landscape is beautiful, the ground many shades of red and yellow from the hot water, acids and minerals spurting up from the ground. You will also visit Lake Asale, which is the salt lake from which the Afar nomads extract salt. You will witness (and even try) their laborious task of removing salt from the ground as hundreds of camels relax before the long trek back to Mekelle. At the end of the day we return to HamedEla (Ahmed Ela) for overnight camping.
Camping (B, L,D)
Day 04 HamedEla (Ahmed Ela) Dodom-Erta Ale
Early drives to Dodom.After your arrival take a rest and start trekking- together with camels carrying your luggage- to the crater rim of the Erta Ale volcano. At the top, you will peer down at the permanent lava lake (the only one in the world!) while the sun rises over the horizon. Definitely the highlight of the trip! Hike back to Dodom with the first day light.
Camping (B, L,D)
Day 05 Dodom-Gheralta
Drive back and head to Gheralta. The Gheralta Range is home to a treasure trove of rock churches, which are carved into the sandstone buttes.InGheralta Range visit Abreha we Atsbehabefor e check in to the lodge. This church was built in the 4th century by two royal brothers, Abreha and Atsbeha (known in the west as kings, Ezana and Saizana), who were responsible for converting Ethiopia to Christianity. The church is large and cruciform in shape, with interesting architectural features such as cruciform pillars and stepped capitals.
Gheralta Lodge (B, L,D)
Day 06 Gheralta-Axum
Commence driving to the ancient city of Axum.En route visit the churches of Mariam Korkur and Dugum Selassie having rich cultural collections and particular identities of their own.
The next stop is to visit the Temple of Yeha.It is a large Bronze Age archaeological site in Ethiopia. It is the largest and most impressive site in the Horn of Africa showing evidence of contact with South Arabia.The earliest occupation at Yeha dates to the first millennium BC, with a Great Temple, a “palace” (perhaps an elite residence) at GratBe’alGebri, and the cemetery at Daro Mikael with shaft-tombs.
Consolar Hotel (B, L,D)
Day 07 Axum UNESCO site
The city is the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Axum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The archaeological and historical attractions in Axum include: monolithic steles or obelisks, the tombs of King Kaleb and King GebreMeskal, and the legendary Bath of the Queen of Sheba, and the ruins of her ancient palace. We visit the new and the old Cathedral of St Mary of Tsion and the sanctuary that houses the original Ark of the Covenant. The Ark left Jerusalem much earlier than generally thought – in the days of King Solomon – and went to Ethiopia by the hand of Menelik, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
The older of the two cathedrals, built in the 16th century, is believed to be built on an earlier 4th century church, and is the holiest church in Ethiopia.
Consolar Hotel (B, L,D)
Day 08 Axum-Lalibela UNESCO site
This morning fly to the most unique Christian sites of Ethiopia.
Lalibela’s churches are collectively referred to as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’. Legend has it that Emperor Lalibela had been instructed, in a vision from God, to build the new Jerusalem after returning from Jerusalem which was sacked by the Muslims. Visit the 11 majestic, rock churches that are still used as places of worship by Lalibelans. Since its relatively remote location, Lalibela has yet gained the worldwide exposure and has been compared as the “Petra of Africa”.
Mountain View Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 09 Lalibela-Gondar UNESCO site
Fly to Gondar, once the old imperial capital founded in 1635 by
Emperor Fasillides who built a palace and seven churches.Refered to as the “Camelot of Africa”, visit the royal enclosure containing six castles, a complex network of connecting tunnels and raised walkways. Proceed to the fascinating DebreBirhan Selassie Church with its walls and ceiling decorated with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history.
Goha Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 10 Return to Addis Ababa and departure
Board your morning flight to Ethiopia’s capital city. Visit the ‘Merkato’, the largest open-air market in East Africa. Late this afternoon enjoy a “farewell dinner” and coffee ceremony at a famous traditional Ethiopian restaurant. After sampling the various national dishes and enjoying an Ethiopian Folkloric show before your transfer to the airport for your late night flight to Washington DC or home city.
(B, L, D)