Ancient Ethiopia 2019

The Empire of Aksum and the Rock-cut Churches of Lalibela

Trip Scholar: Dr Jacke Phillips

Fellow in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, SOAS University of London
Available to Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, family and friends

13 day tour
Price from £3,295

Join Dr Jacke Phillips on an exploration of the monasteries, churches and dramatic mountain scenery of Ethiopia. Witness the colourful orthodox festival of Meskel, and learn about the incredible empire of Aksum, once the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. Venture on to the holy city of Lalibela and over the spectacular Simien Mountains, where there is a chance to see gelada baboons. Also see the Blue Nile Falls and Lake Tana, the famed source of the Blue Nile, dotted with island churches.

Tour highlights

  • Explore Lalibela, with its wondrous UNESCO-listed rock-hewn churches – a testimony to Ethiopia’s place at the very heart of early Christianity, and still a place of inspiring pilgrimage today
  • Visit Blue Nile Falls, a waterfall on the Blue Nile river. It is known as Tis Abay in Amharic, meaning “great smoke”
  • Enjoy Askum and its monolithic obelisks, royal tombs and ruined royal castles
  • Learn about the Empire of Gondar, once known as the ‘Camelot of Africa’, with medieval castles and palaces to explore
  • Discover the little-known cave churches of Tigray, set high up in the rugged Geralta mountains, with many still in use today

Itinerary at a glance

Day 0:   Those flying on Temple World booked flights will fly from the UK to Addis Ababa today overnight
Day 1:    Tour starts in in Addis Ababa with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum | Overnight Bahir Da
Day 2:    Fly to Bahir Dar | Travel by boat to Zeghie Peninsula | Overnight Abay Minch Lodge
Day 3:    See the Blue Nile Falls then travel to Gondar | Overnight Gondar
Day 4:    Debre Selassie Church | Gondar Limestone Castle | Drive to Simien Mountains | Overnight Simien Mtns
Day 5:    Explore Siemien Mountains and Park | Drive back to Gondar | Overnight Kossoye Lodge
Day 6:    Fly to Lalibela | Visit New Jerusalem and cave church of Nakto Laab | Overnight Lalibela
Day 7:    Explore Lalibela’s churches including Bet Medhane Alem | Overnight Lalibela
Day 8:    Fly to Axum | Visit Stelae Park and Cathedral of Saint Maryam Tsion | Overnight Axum
Day 9:    Morning visit to Dungur | Drive to Hawzen via Yeha | Overnight Hawzen
Day 10:  Full day exploring the ancient churches of Tigray | Overnight Hawzen
Day 11:  Fly to Addis Ababa via Mekelle | Al Negash Mosque, Quqro Church & Museum | Overnight Addis Ababa
Day 12:  Visit Adadi Maryam and Tiya | Farewell dinner and overnight Addis Ababa
Day 13:  Those on recommended flights are transferred to the airport for flight at 01.05am | Arrive home

Dates and Prices
Prices are in UK£, per person, based on double occupancy

12-25 September 2019
Room TypePriceSingle SupplementOptional Flight from LondonAvailability
Standard£3,295*£480£650 return approxAvailable

*Supplement of £240 applies if not flying internationally with Ethiopian Airlines

Domestic flights in Ethiopia as mentioned in the itinerary (note, supplement of £240 applies if not flying internationally with Ethiopian Airlines), hotel accommodation in a twin or double bedded rooms with ensuite bathroom throughout, all excursions with local guides including entrance fees, full board (except Day 1 which includes lunch and dinner, and Day 13 which has no meals), expert leader.

International flights, meals other than those provided by the airline on Day 0 and Day 13 (flying days), travel insurance, drinks, tips to drivers & local guides, personal items.

Optional flights
Temple World can arrange group flights for approximately £650 inc. taxes return from London.

Booking your own travel
You are most welcome to book your own flights to coordinate with this tour. The start point and end point is Addis Ababa. We can arrange private transfers to meet any flight (supplement applies). Please note, if not flying internationally with Ethiopian Airlines, a supplement of £240 per person will apply to the cost of the tour. This is because the domestic flight price (included in the tour cost) is higher when flying in with a different carrier.

*Very important! Those who plan to book their own flights should not make any binding or non-refundable arrangements until their place has been confirmed in writing on the tour and Temple World has confirmed that it is a guaranteed departure.



Check the latest country-specific information and advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Vaccines commonly recommended for Ethiopia: Diphtheria; Hepatitis A; Tetanus. Malaria tablets are required for the majority of the tour as Malaria is present almost everywhere except Addis Ababa. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is mandatory if arriving from a country with a risk of Yellow Fever.


Entry Regulations
You will need a visa to enter Ethiopia. E-visas can be purchased in advance from the Ethiopian Immigration website. Visas on arrival are also available for tourists at Addis Ababa (Bole) International airport, at a cost of approximately $US50 for 1 month and $US75 for 3 months. It’s recommended that you bring US$ cash to pay for this.

Fitness Guideline

We have graded the fitness level required for participation in this tour as Moderate. We shall be at altitude for the majority of this tour so some people may experience altitude sickness as this can start at 2,500. This is quite a full itinerary, with some long days and a reasonable amount of travelling by road requiring multiple hotel stays. There are no strenuous hikes but whilst sightseeing we might be ‘on the go’ for several hours at a time, without breaks to sit down and rest. It is important that everyone is able to keep up with the group.
Full fitness profile of the tour

Trip Scholar
Dr Jacke Phillips
Jacke Phillips is Research and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  Her fieldwork in Ethiopia includes five seasons as Assistant Director of the Aksum Archaeological Research Project for the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge.  A Research Fellow at the Institute for a further decade, she is now also a Visiting Scholar there.  Her current Ethiopian projects focus on the 13th c. transition from the Zagwe to Solomonic dynasties in the Lalibela region, and the Eastern Tigray region in the 4th-5th c.  Dr. Phillips also has worked with the Ethiopian Heritage Conservation Project in order to plan and execute the new Aksum museum.  Her other interests include the material typologies and cross-acculturations within the East Mediterranean, Northeast Africa and over the Red Sea, and she has extensive fieldwork experience in Sudan, Egypt, Greece and Qatar.  She has published extensively on these subjects in national and international scholarly journals.  Dr. Phillips is a frequent lecturer at conferences, universities and museums in Europe and North America.

Lectures during our tours
All our tours are accompanied by an academic ‘trip scholar’ as well as local guides. The local guide or guides provide the day-to-day guiding on our tours, whilst the trip lecturer will give regular lectures on his/her specialist subject throughout to provide an academic overview. Lectures/talks usually last 30-40 minutes including questions and answers (if applicable). These are generally held in the evenings before dinner and attendance is optional. We don’t usually specify before travel which days the lectures will be given (for operational reasons) but guests can expect them roughly every other day as a minimum, with some lecturers giving some kind of talk or presentation more frequently.


We have designed two post-tour extensions to coordinate with this tour, allowing guests to stay on afterwards to witness the Meskel celebrations on 27 September. Fully guided, choose from one of these optional extensions, which will operate with a minimum of two participants.

A host of bespoke private extensions can also be added to any specification, please ask to speak to our tailor-made team for more details.

Meskel & Awash National Park 2 nights/3 days

This extension accompanied by local guides spends two nights in Awash National Park, returning to Addis Ababa to witness the annual Meskel festival on 27 September. The 1,600 year old festival of Meskel is celebrated with huge bonfires topped with yellow Meskel daisies, with magnificently robed priests carrying Coptic crosses dancing around them with their followers. Awash National Park in the Great Rift Valley is easily reached by road from Addis Ababa, and is a haven for bird lovers, with more than 350 natives species to be found. Also boasting a wide variety of grassland and woodland wildlife which can be seen on game drives and walks, Awash National Park makes an easy wildlife-based side trip to round off the main tour and get you back to Addis in time for Meskel. Full itinerary here.

Price: £1052 per person (based on minimum two participants. Single supplement £95.

Meskel & Arba Minch 2 nights/3 days

This extension accompanied by local guides visits the lakes and tribes around Arba Minch, returning to Addis Ababa to witness the annual Meskel festival on 27 September. The 1,600 year old festival of Meskel is celebrated with huge bonfires topped with yellow Meskel daisies, with magnificently robed priests carrying Coptic crosses dancing around them with their followers. Arba Minch is nestled in the foothills of the Rift Valley escarpment and makes an excellent base from which to explore Nechisar National Park and the nearby highland Dorze villages. Located on two of Ethiopia’s largest Rift Valley lakes, this scenic area is often overlooked but makes an excellent short trip to round off the main tour whilst still getting you back to Addis in time for Meskel.  Full itinerary here.

Price: £1310 per person (based on minimum of two participants).  Single supplement £95.

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A fantastic holiday, one of my best ever. Our lecturer was excellent. He pitched his frequent impromptu and organised speeches at just the right level for those of us, the majority, who had no previous experience of Geology. Rosemary

Congenial Companions

Our small group tours are exclusively available to alumni of Oxford and Cambridge universities and their friends and family, making for a wonderful atmosphere amongst like-minded individuals.

Expert Lecturer

All our small group alumni tours are accompanied by a university lecturer as well as local guides, with illuminating lectures given throughout the tour to enrich understanding of the destination.

To reserve a place on one of our small group alumni tours, contact us for availability then send us a signed booking form and deposit.

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