Small Group Ethiopian Festival Tours

Discover the world of the ancient Ethiopians as you take these festival tours on the Historic Route of Ethiopia. With more than 80 different ethnic groups living together with traditions as old as humanity itself, Ethiopia is a melting pot of cultures. In this fascinating country, you will be amazed to witness how ancient historical traditions have been preserved in a remarkable manner for thousands of years. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament. Like nowhere else, in this country you will find yourself so dramatically transported back in time to participate freely in the sacred rituals of an ancient faith.

Below you will find small group departure festival tours carefully crafted around some of the most important and colorful festivals in the Ethiopian calendar. On these tours, you will also visit the unmatched sites of Ethiopia’s Historic Route among which four of the sites are listed under UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Step back in time and explore thousands of years of history, legend, and lore as you take these trips to the Historic Route of Ethiopia to witness some of the most colorful and ancient Christian festivals.

    Ethiopian Christmas Festival Celebration at Lalibela — 13 Days

    This is one of the greatest and most colorful festivals on the Ethiopian calendar. At Lalibela, it is celebrated with greater devotion, chanting, dancing, and singing around the rock-hewn churches that were built more than 800 years ago. The ancient city of Lalibela will be filled with tens of thousands of pilgrims who come from all directions of Ethiopia and from all walks of life.

    Most of the pilgrims reach Lalibela from far off hamlets and inaccessible valleys, walking on their bare feet for days, weeks, and even months to share the blessing on Christmas day. Although Ethiopian Christmas is on January 7, there will be different ceremonies held around the rock-hewn churches starting the night of January 4th. This is an ancient Christian tradition that has remained unchanged over the years. Witnessing this event, you feel like you are transported centuries back in time. 

    Discover the world of the ancient Ethiopians as you visit the unmatched sites of the Historic Route of Ethiopia — Axum, Lalibela, Gondar, the island monasteries of Lake Tana, the Palace of Queen of Sheba, and the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Cruise along Lake Tana, the source of the Great Blue Nile River; trek along the spectacular Simien Mountains, "the chess pieces of gods"; and see the Gelada "Bleeding Heart" Baboon.

    Trip Highlights

    • Celebrate Ethiopian Christmas around the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela 
    • Experience Ethiopian Orthodox Christian doctrines and traditions.
    • Visit four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
    • Be amazed by the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, one of "the living wonders of the world".
    • Enjoy the magnificent nature and endemic wildlife of the Simien Mountains.
    • Travel back in time as you explore the ancient city of Axum, the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
    • Discover the fairytale castles of Gondar.
    • Take a cruise on Lake Tana to visit the ancient island monasteries.
    • See the source of the mighty Blue Nile River and Blue Nile Falls.
    • Discover the old walled city and the fourth holiest city of Islam.
    • Visit the vibrant city of Addis Ababa.
    • Meet your ancestor Lucy at the National Museum in Addis Ababa.
    • Try the varied Ethiopian food.
    • Attend an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

    Itinerary: Ethiopian Christmas Festival

    Day 1: Addis Ababa

    Arrive in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Welcome to Ethiopia! Upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you will be welcomed and assisted by your tour guide and driven to your hotel. If you arrive in the morning, an optional city tour can be arranged.

    Overnight: Hotel, Addis Ababa

    Day 2: Addis Ababa, Bahirdar

    In the morning, drive to Bahirdar through the Great Blue Nile Gorge with stops at different small towns like Dejen, Chancho, and Goha Tsion.

    Overnight Hotel, Bahir Dar

    Day 3: Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls, Bahir Dar

    After breakfast, we will take a boat cruise over Lake Tana to visit the ancient 14th-century island monasteries of Lake Tana.

    After lunch at the hotel, we will drive 35 km to visit the majestic Blue Nile Falls.

    Overnight: Hotel, Bahir Dar

    Day 4: Bahir Dar, Gondar

    After breakfast, we drive to Gondar through the beautiful countryside scenery to arrive at Gondar around lunchtime.

    After check in to Goha Hotel and lunch there, we will start tour of Gondar that includes the Royal Enclosure, the pool of King Fasilidas, and the famous Debre Berhan Sellassie church adorned with brilliant frescos inside.

    Overnight: Goha Hotel, Bahir Dar

    Day 5: Gondar, Simien Mountains National Park

    After an early breakfast, we will drive to Simien Mountains National Park. Enroute we will visit the "Felasha", or Black Jewish village.

    On the drive from Gondar up to Simien Mountains National Park you will enjoy the spectacular scenery including at the top of the massif. For the rest of the day, we will trek around the park and Sankaber to explore the stunnining views and wildlife.

    Overnight: Simien Lodge

    Day 6: Simien Mountains National Park, Axum

    After breakfast, we drive to Axum through the beautiful scenery of the Simien Mountains and the Tekeze River Gorge.

    Overnight: Hotel, Axum

    Day 7: Axum

    After breakfast, we will visit the ancient city of Axum. Your visit in Axum includes the Stele Square, Kaleba Tombs, the 4th-century Christian inscription of King Ezana, Queen of Sheba’s Palace, Archeological Museum, and Tsion Mariam Church, where the original Ark of the Covenant is housed.

    Overnight: Hotel, Axum

    Day 8: Axum, Hauzien

    In the morning, we drive to Hauzien, the center of some of the most ancient rock-hewn churches, through the stunning and historical mountains of Adwa.

    Overnight: Lodge, Hauzien

    Day 9: Hauzien, Mekele

    In the morning, we drive to Mekele enroute visiting some of the most ancient Tigray rock-hewn churches including Wikro Cherkos, Abrha We-atsbeha, and Dugum Selassie.

    Overnight: Hotel, Mekelle

    Day 10: Mekele, Lalibela, Celebration at Bete Emanuel

    After breakfast, we drive north to Lalibela through Sekota. Enroute you will visit Yimrhane Kirstos and different villages of the Agwe tribal people. In the evening, we will drive to Bete Emanuel to attend the special celebration of Emanuel with chanting and dancing by the priests and deacons. The ceremony will be accompined by a capacity crowd of piligrims who came to witness this event from far off hamlets and inaccessible valleys on their bare feet walking, for weeks and even months.

    Overnight: Hotel, Lalibela

    Day 11: Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopian Christmas Eve

    In the morning, we will drive to the sites with the highest concentration of rock-hewn churches of Lalibela from 1200 AD. At night, we will attend the Christmas Eve ceremony to be held at Bete Mariam church. This evening, you will attend the Ethiopian Christmas Eve Ceremony with the pilgrims. The dancing by the deacons and the priests continue throughout the night while the pilgrims clap and ululate to the drum beat. At midnight, there will be a candlelight ceremony to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

    Overnight: Hotel, Lalibela

    Day 12: Lalibela, Asheten Mariam, Ethiopian Christmas

    In the morning, we will once more drive to Bete Mariam to witness the final ceremony of Ethiopian Christmas. On this day, as it has been for centuries, the priests will be lined up with their drums on the cliff edge of Bete Mariam and others at the bottom, representing the shepherds and the angels announcing the birth of Jesus. 

    After lunch and a rest at the hotel, we will continue our journey into Ethiopia’s long and marvelous history with a visit to more of Lalibela’s remarkable churches. The rock-hewn churches that we will visit this afternoon include Bete Gebriel, Bete Merkorios Bete Amanuel, Bethlehem, and Bete Aba Libanos. At the end of the tour, there will be a special Ethiopian traditional coffee ceremony for the group prepared at a local house.

    Overnight: Hotel, Lalibela

    Day 13: Lalibela, Addis Ababa, Departure

    After breakfast, transfer to Lalibela airport for the flight to Addis Ababa. Depending on your departure time, we can arrange an optional city tour of Addis Ababa.

    In the evening, there will be Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours complimentary farewell dinner party with traditional special buffet and local drinks (flight schedule permitting). At the end of the farwell dinner, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for the flight back. End of tour.


    Additional Info

    • Trip Type: Cultural and Festival Tour
    • TourCode: GHET-F05
    • JourneyType: Private Journey
    • TourDuration: 13 Days
    • Activities/Description: This cultural tour to the Historic Route of Ethiopia allows you to step back in time and discover thousands of years of history, legend, and lore. You will explore the Historic Route of Ethiopia as well as experience Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas, a colorful and ancient celebration around the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.
    Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours has been operating responsible travel activity and adventure holidays in Ethiopia for more than a decade.Travel to Ethiopia with Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours and discover amazing Ethiopia. We have a wide selection of holiday tour packages including the following: cultural tours for groups and individuals, family holiday options, varied adventure tours and travel packages, photo expeditions, trekking adventure holidays, cultural explorations in the Omo Valley, and photo tours in Ethiopia. We are the local travel specialists and the leading Ethiopian tour operator based in Addis Ababa. Contact us for your holiday in Ethiopia.
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