Ethiopia vacation, Ethiopia in Depth

“This Ethiopia tour combines the fascinating Northern Circuit with the chance to explore the little visited Tigrai region – an in depth, unforgettable 15 days.”

Highlights

Addis Ababa | Bahar Dar | Lake Tana boat trip and monasteries | optional: visit Blue Nile Falls | Gondar | Simien Mountains | Axum | battlefield of Adwa | Temple of Yeha | rock-hewn churches | Wukro | Lalibela | optional: mule journey and hike to Ashetan Maryam (St Mary)
Responsible Travel, Travel Team

Travel Team

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26 Sep 2019
US $3099
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06 Oct 2019
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Vacation type

Small group vacation

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Ethiopia vacation, Ethiopia in Depth

Environment

Activity:
We aim to benefit Ethiopian communities as much as possible by stopping to use local restaurants, Tej cafes and services as much as possible. For example, we encourage clients to take the optional mule trip to Ashatan Maryam as local people who run these excursions rely on tourism for income. We operate on a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy and local guides enforce this through responsible tourism briefings. These should help clients better understand the living situation for many and the environmental issues in the area.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Accommodation and Meals:
You will spend 11 nights in comfortable hotels and 2 nights in more basic hotels. Accommodation will be locally staffed as per law in Ethiopia, which is a benefit to local communities. Hotels provide plentiful, locally sourced breakfasts and where meals are not provided, your local guide will be able to recommend the best restaurants and cafes wherever you are. This is a wonderful opportunity to support businesses in the area and to explore Ethiopia’s delicious cuisine. At the marketplace in Bahar Dar, clients can buy fresh produce and even see the local specialty ‘enjera’ being made. This is sour dough made from a grain called ‘teff’ and is used as a scoop to eat from warm, and often spicy, casserole dishes known as ‘wat.’

Local Craft and Culture:
There is plenty of culture to discover in Ethiopia and we include several cultural and historical sites on this itinerary. We start at Addis Ababa and visit the National Museum, Menelik’s Mausoleum and Holy Trinity Church- Ethiopia’s main cathedral. We also visit some of the monasteries and churches around the thirty or so islands of Lake Tana, 17th and 18th century castles in Gondar, the tombs and stelae of Axum and the rock-hewn churches of Abreha Wo Atsebeha, Wukro Cherkos and Labilela. Our entry fees contribute to the preservation of many of these important places, whilst we can also support locals by purchasing souvenirs in and around these monuments. There are handmade religious crafts such as traditional paintings, icons and wooden crosses on our trip to Bahirddar, Gondar, Axum and Labilela.

Charity:
Arriving in Gondar we will stop by the Kindu Trust, a local organisation which works with disadvantaged children, their families and communities. We receive a briefing on their projects and are shown their small handicrafts shop where clients can purchase souvenirs including baskets, textiles, prayer beads and jewellery. These are all made by the beneficiaries of the Trust and profits fund their activities. Occasionally we stop at villages or schools where clients can also leave behind much needed educational supplies such as pens and notebooks.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 18 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

3 Reviews of Ethiopia vacation, Ethiopia in Depth

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 02 Mar 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Getting up close to the Geladas.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Get some altitude pills to help with the breathing or aclimatise somewhere over 2500ft. Take walking sticks and practice with them. Get used to eating
spaghetti or macaroni for most of your meals since the local fare is not to western tastes. Unless you like INDJERA try it once and then relegate the
experience to history, this is made from the teff grain and its consistency is sponge and rubber like, while its taste is slightly sour probably from the
fermentation process, it takes on the flavours of the food and sauces it is used to envelope as a wrap on their way to your mouth. Cooked meat is going to be
overdone and the fish will be a good standby, the menu will promise lots but is likely to be limited. The tomato soup will come out of a packet and they will
make it thick by not using enough water. I did not try the garlic soup but those who did could not taste the garlic, try to avoid western style meals like
French onion soup you will be disappointed, stick with the Italian basics, these invaders have left their influences throughout the country not just in the
local cuisine. Harden your heart to the treatment of the beasts of burden. Buy pens or other give-away items locally, they will be cheaper and the money goes into the local economy faster, a single bic pen costs about 30 pence each here and the equivalent of just over 10 pence there in country, buy a box of 50 and it will cost less than £10.00. Shoes are big items in country, if you can live without your old scuffed castoff footwear its likely that your shoes will be in better condition than those that locals can afford which tend to be made of plastic. Ask about the local charity that the tour company supports and see what it is they
need then purchase those items locally it will cost you less and benefit the local economy directly.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Mostly NO. The poor are everywhere, our transit benefits the local businesses and not the majority of the population. Education is not compulsory and the wide boys are those who try to get handouts from the tourists by spinning elaborate lies which are easy to spot as lies. The first contact is often a request for money or candy or third in line pens not of much use where the kids do not go to school but a commodity they can sell/trade to those who do go to school. The big schools in the major towns are relatively well funded, the smaller schools are where your largesse can most benefit the kids and supplement the wages of the teachers by your donations. Do not create a riot by giving out pens where other kids can see that gifts are being made, they will congregate quickly and descend en-masse and you will not know where so many came from, in which case some will lose out if you do not have enough to give, the adults also like to be given pens.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


The arrival at Addis Ababa airport was a shambles. The guide does not have permission to enter the airport and waits in one of two places outside the arrivals area at the bottom of the steps and at the bottom of the ramp a distance of several hundred feet separating the two collection points. When I exited the arrivals building it was just after 07:00 in the morning and the aircraft had been on the ground for about 30 mins. The guide had not arrived to collect us, I contacted the local office and they said the guide was on the way. I waited at the bottom of the steps sitting next to the guard for 10 mins then tried the bottom of the ramp area to see if he was there he was not another local asked if I needed help and he phoned the hotel and they told me to join their bus that was waiting for two Italians. By 08:35 the driver of the bus was fed up with waiting and drove me to the hotel where it took a quarter of an hour to get a room, they were not yet ready for the group arrival, but eventually I was shown to a room and after a further 10 mins I went down to the lobby at 09:15 to change money and found the rest off the group had arrived and were trying to check-in. I asked when/where the greet & meet was to be held, at which I asked a few questions but the answers I got were not cast in stone as the information provided changed throughout the trip mostly to our benefit. Overall the trip was a success despite falling and hurting my shoulder muscles on stepping out of the shower at the hotel, lucky for me I had a couple of strong painkillers in my emergency first aid kit or I would have been in trouble.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Baron-Vahl for his feedback regarding his recent vacation in Ethiopia. Whilst we were pleased to read he enjoyed his vacation overall, we felt that it was important to highlight some ways in which this vacation supports the local community. This vacation is run on small numbers which allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes; in Ethiopia, it is also by the law that tourist accommodations have to employ local staff. Whenever food is provided ingredients are locally sourced, otherwise, we try to eat at local restaurants and Tej cafes; all of this ensures that we support local production and the community.

When in Gondor, the trip to the Kindu Trust that works with disadvantaged children, their families and communities is a good way to provide some monetary support by purchasing some of their handicraft. Occasionally, we will stop by schools or villages to donate some educational supplies but we will try to make sure that our operator manages these visits well and not to disrupt any classes or cause even more problems in the area.

Reviewed on 03 Oct 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The walks and informative guides.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared for basic level accommodation, lengthy delays at restaurants and variable road conditions.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Not really even though I was of the impression that was the intention of
Responsible Travel to do so/

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


The Guide Gabre was very good and the schedule followed was as intended with
mostly full days and a variety of experiences provided.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank you for your feedback, although we are sorry that you were left feeling unsure about whether your trip was run in a manner that benefited the local communities and environment. On this trip, for example, we stay in family-run hotels, contributing to communities that otherwise would not be visited by tourism. There are a number of activities where the local people rely heavily on tourism for income, and when we pay park fees it contributes to the funding of conservation initiatives and community projects.

Reviewed on 02 Oct 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Simien mountains and Lalibela

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Make sure you are fit enough. Some of it is hard work!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


A great experience.

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