‘This land is a museum of man's ancient history’
Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, Ethiopian poet, playwright, and art director
The expedition of a lifetime, occurring in one of our universe most enchanting moments: the occasion of the Annular Solar Eclipse which will be taking place in June 2020 in the sky over Lalibela. We will be discovering the ancient land of Ethiopia, marvelling at Four World Heritage Sites, meeting local communities, embracing nature and admiring endemic flora and fauna. We will savour local cuisine and sip coffee -the national liquid bliss- and will embrace history in its fullest form through art, architecture, literature and religion. Museums, national parks, lakes, rivers and monasteries will unfold before our eyes and on June 21 2020, the sky will turn into a magic entity of natural wonders.
June 10 2020- June 22 2020
Duration: 12 nights/13 days
Day 1, June 10 2020: Arrival
Arrive to Addis Ababa at Bole International Airport, meet and greet with one of Timeless Ethiopia staff (outside the airport building) for the transfer to Hyatt Regency Hotel where you will be spending your first Ethiopian night at an altitude of over 2400 m above the sea level.
Day 2, June 11 2020: Addis Ababa
Today you have a full day guided city tour of Addis Ababa which comprises a visit to the National Museum which hosts the famous 3.2 million years old fossil of Lucy, the Ethnographic Museum, Entoto St. Mary Museum, St. Trinity Cathedral church and Merkato market, the largest open-air bazar of Eastern Africa.
Lunch in restaurant; dinner and overnight in the in the hotel.
Day 3, June 12 2020: Bahir Dar
Early breakfast and transfer to the airport for the flight to Bahir Dar. After check-in in Blue Nile Avanti Hotel, we drive to the Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tissisat (smoking water) fall: 100 m (328 ft) wide, the water plunges for 45 m (148 ft) giving rise to steam clouds and rainbows. After lunch we will have a boat trip on Lake Tana which hosts 37 islands and 32 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural interest. We visit the monastery church of Ura Kidane Mihiret which is the best known of the monasteries and has an important collection of religious icons from the 16th to 18th centuries A.D.
Dinner and overnight in the hotel
Day 4, June 13 2020: Gondar
Drive to Gonder, which is 180 km away from Bahir Dar. Gonder was the first capital city of the Ethiopian Empire which began in 1632 with the reign of Fasilidas. The city hosts a dozen castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years and seems more European than African. After lunch, we visit Fasilidas' Palace, probably the most impressive of all the castles found in the area and the oldest one! We continue on to the Church of Debre Berham Selassie (Light of the Trinity). The interior of Debre Berham Selassie is decorated with beautiful frescos, cherubs and paintings. Debre Berham Selassie is rumored to once have been the proposed final resting-place of the Ark of the Covenant.
The Royal Enclosure is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Dinner and overnight in AG hotel.
Day 5, June 14 2020: Gondar- Simien Mountain National Park - Gondar
Today you have an excursion trip to the majestic Simien Mountain National park (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Early morning, with the lunch box, we drive to Debark. This is a small market town at an altitude of 2700 meters near the boundary of the Simien Mountains National Park. It is famous for its corrugated iron roofed buildings along with its colourful and bustling market area. Before entering the park, you need to register at the park headquarters just outside the city. Here an armed Scout will join the visitors: it is one of the park regulations. Simien National Park is a spectacular landscape, where massive erosion over millions of years has created jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The park is of global significance for biodiversity conservation because it is home to globally threatened species, including the iconic Walia ibex, a wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world, the Gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf. At the height of the road there is a magnificent view of the strangely eroded foothills of the series and you might be lucky enough to spot your first bearded vulture and gelada baboons of the trip. After the visit to the National park, drive back to Gonder. On the way visit the Fellasha (Ethiopian Jews) village.
Dinner and overnight in AG Hotel.
Day 6, June 15: Drive to Axum
After breakfast we drive to the ancient town of Axum through the chains of the Simien Mountains and the Tekeze river valley.A major tributary of the Atbara River, itself a tributary of the Nile, the Tekeze rises near Lalibela and flows in a deep ravine, north and then west, where it forms part of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, to enter Sudan below Om Hajer. Tekeze represents a major link between the north and south of the country. The scenery of today will be a gradual change from what you have seen so far in Ethiopia Lunch in restaurant, dinner and overnight in Sabean Hotel
Day 7, June 16: 2020 Axum
Today you will get to know the enchanting and historically precious city of Axum which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The legends narrated in the Kebre Nagast (Book of Kings) recount how the city of Axum as early as the 10th century B.C was already the city in which the Queen of Sheba resided. It is recounted that the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to Axum where it remains to this day, preserved in a sanctuary. Famous long before the time of Christ, Axum was the capital of the long Axumite reign, one of the oldest African empires and represented a crucial connecting-point between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years. Visit the Granite stone Stele of Axum, The Tombs of King Kaleb and his son King G/Mesekel, The Ezana’s stone inscription, The Queen of Sheba’s palace and Swimming pool, and the Church of Zion, which is the final resting place of the True Arc of The Covenant.
Lunch in a restaurant, dinner and overnight in Sabean hotel.
Day 8, June 17 2020: Gheralta and Yeha
After breakfast we drive to Adigrate by the Adwa Mountains with a city tour of Adwa. The small town of Adwa, just 20 km east of Axum, is of great importance to Ethiopians since it was in the surrounding hills that emperor Menelik II defeated the Italian Army on 1 March 1896, thereby ensuring that his empire would be the only African State to enter the 20th century as a fully indepedepent entity. In the city centre, we can admire the outside of the Church of Adwa Inde Selassie built by Emperor Yohannes IV in 1868 whose inside is decorated with superb contemporaneous murals (note: the church is not always open to tourists).
The day proceeds with the visit Yeha Temple, which is more than 2800 years old and the small museum in the Church compound. This is one of the region’s most important sites as it still hosts Ethiopia’s most impressive pre-Axumite archeological site. Founded at least 2800 years ago, Yeha served as the Capital of D’mt for many centuries prior to being usurped by Axum in the 1st century BC. Yeha’s single most remarkable antiquity is the well preserved 12 m high Almaqah Temple comprising at least 52 layers of masonry. Other two Tigray rock churches will be visited today: Aba Gerima and Petros Paulos. Lunch in restaurant; dinner and overnight in Gheralta Lodge.
Day 9, June 18 2020: Mekele
After breakfast, drive to Mekele with, en route, visit of three among the finest rock-hewn churches of Tigray.
Abraha Atbesha: a 10th-century legacy. It’s large and cruciform in shape, with cruciform pillars and well-preserved 17th- and 18th-century murals and a wonderful wooden door. Some of the church treasures, including what’s believed to be King Atsbeha’s golden shoes, are properly displayed in glass cases in the adjacent museum. The obtrusive portico was an attempt by Italians to win over locals by proving they weren’t Muslims.
4th C rock church of Wukro Cherkos: a semi-monolithic crooked cruciform sandstone church which boasts beautiful cruciform pillars, cubical capitals, an outstanding Aksumite frieze and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. In 1958 Haile Selassie himself, apparently, ordered the angular roof squared with concrete for either aesthetic reasons or to protect the church from water seepage.
Medhane Alem Kesho: Also known as Adi Kesho, after its location, this is one of Tigray’s oldest, tallest and finest rock-hewn churches. Its exterior and interior walls are roughly hewn, which only makes the elaborately carved coffered ceiling that much more special. Ask to watch them unlock the door from the inside: rather ingenious. From the end of the 4WD track, it’s a steep-but-easy 10-minute climb to the church Lunch en route, dinner and overnight in Planet hotel.
Day 10, June 19 2020: Drive to Lalibela
After breakfast, departure to reach the mythical Lalibela. The route winds through the spectacular scenery of the Amba Alague and Alamata mountains, with peaks of over 3000 meters and where vegetation varies continuously.
Lunch en route; dinner and overnight at Tukul Village Hotel
Day 11, June 20 2020 Lalibela
‘’After the fall of the Kingdom of Axum in the 12th century, the kings from the Zagwe dynasty transferred their residence to Lalibela, south-east of Axum, where they erected a flourishing and densely-populated capital city, the residence of their Middle Age dynasty. Lalibela, previously known as Roha, was called in this manner to commemorate the King of Lalibela from the end of the 12th century. The city was established as New Jerusalem. In that historical period, travelling and pilgrimages to proper Jerusalem were impossible because the lands between it and Ethiopia had been conquered by Muslims.
The city of Adwa, only 20km east of Axum, is of tremendous significance to Ethiopians, since it was in the surrounding hills that Emperor Menelik II defeated the Italian army on 1 March 1896, thereby ensuring that his empire would be the only African state to enter the 20th century as a fully independent entity. The churches of Lalibela leave no one indifferent. These intriguing edifices have in their entirety been forged out in a homogeneous lump of red volcanic tuff. They seem to be absolutely unreal and created by some kind of a superhuman power. Rock temples may be admired in different places in the world, but it is solely here that not only the internal space, but also facades and external walls have been forged out. The churches of Lalibela are referred to as the least known of the eight wonders of the world, and they fully deserve that name. The buildings are in their entirety forged out of rock and, simultaneously, completely separated from it. In the subsequent centuries, Lalibela was gradually decreasing in importance, so as to become a small village. For those unaware of its existence, this place situated at the foothills of the mountain called Abuna Yosef is practically inaccessible. It is only approaching rock temples really close that makes it possible to judge its exceptional character. Monolithic Saint George’s Church, having the characteristic shape of the Greek cross, evokes admiration. The largest church is Bet Medhane Alem, and it is 33 meter long, 23 meter wide and 11.5 meter high. The king of Lalibela is said to have employed 40 thousands workers to build it. A legend has it that the workers were labouring throughout the day and at night their work was continued by angels with doubled strength. Why were these temples not erected of stone, in a more ordinary manner? The answer to this question has remained unknown until today. One of the hypotheses claims that such a manner of constructing safeguarded them against ending up destroyed in case of invasion from enemies. New Jerusalem does not offer only rock churches, but also underground dark corridors in which echoing footsteps of deacons are still to be heard.
More from the UNESCO on the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/18/
After breakfast, visit the first and the third group of churches, which have seven rock churches. After lunch visit the second group of churches, which have four rock churches. Lunch in a local restaurant, dinner and overnight at Tukul Village
Day 12, June 21 2020 Lalibela and the exceptional Annular Solar Eclipse
Today the wake-up call is early as we will be experiencing one of nature’s most breath-taking events: annular solar eclipse (info: https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/solar/2020-june-21 ).
It is uncommon, on a globe that is seven-tenths water, to have an eclipse that is largely over land, but in the case of the annular eclipse of 2020, more than 80 percent of the track rests on terra firma.
Only the last fifth of the Moon’s path falls over the Pacific. The extended terrestrial nature of the track means that eclipse travellers can choose to sample from one or more of many countries and many climatologies. Along the way, average June cloud cover ranges from as low as 5 percent in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula to nearly 95 percent in the monsoon weather of China and Taiwan. This is an attractive eclipse for the enthusiastic traveller, as its extremely short duration—around 20 seconds — promises a display of solar structure that is normally reserved for total eclipses.
The core of the Moon’s shadow first makes planetfall a few degrees north of the equator at the border between the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), heading northeastward across Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea to reach the shores of the Red Sea.
On the Ethiopian Highlands, the eclipse comes in the midst of the rainy season but before its much wetter peak in July and August. Lalibela, one of Ethiopia’s most popular tourist destinations and smack on the central axis, is one of the better sites for eclipse visitors. Its sunshine statistics are not particularly impressive compared to regions farther along the track, but the satellite images show that the morning cloud is most often composed of small cumulus buildups that would disappear during eclipse cooling.
Details of the Annular solar eclipse visible (97.06% coverage of Sun) in Lalibela
Duration: 2 hours, 27 minutes, 34 seconds
Duration of annularity:1 minute, 4 seconds
Partial begins: 21 June 2020, 6:52:20
Full begins: 21 June 2020, 7:59:38
Maximum: 21 June 2020, 8:00:10
Full ends: 21 June 2020, 8:00:42
Partial ends: 21 June 2020, 9:19:54
Times shown in local time (EAT)
We will then return to the hotel for a quiet moment and an early lunch.In the afternoon, visit of Yemrehanna Kristos Church which predates the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela of about 80 years and is built inside a cave. The drive (roughly 1 hour and a half) will take us to a splendid scenery town of Lalibela and driving through totally magnificent scenery one finds a church that is built inside a cave. Note: the steep 15 minute walk up to Yemrehanna Kristos, at this altitude, can be exhausting. The alternative is to use a mule. Inside the cave, a beautiful church presents itself, built the traditional way with the main structure being a combination of wooden and granite struts. Once inside the church, it is the wooden ceiling that is spellbinding - the attention to detail is extraordinary. Dinner and overnight in Tukul Village Hotel
Day 13, June 22 2020: Addis
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and flight back to Addis Ababa where you will have a bus and guide at your disposal for personal visits and shopping.
Day use of rooms at Hyatt Regency Hotel.
In the evening, after the dinner program in one of the traditional restaurants with live music and dances, transfer to the airport for international departure. End of the tour