Ancient Ethiopia 2021

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

11 day tour
Price from £3,995

Departing 15/16 September 2021 (with/without flight dates)

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 one of the 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 Addis Ababa
Day 2:    Fly to Bahir Dar | Travel by boat to Zeghie Peninsula | Overnight Bahir Dar
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 Simien Mountains and Park | Drive back to Gondar | Overnight Gondar
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:    Drive to Gheralta via Yeha | Overnight Gheralta
Day 10:  Fly to Addis Ababa via Mekelle | Al Negash Mosque, Quqro Church & Museum | Overnight Addis Ababa
Day 11:  Visit Adadi Maryam and Tiya | Meskel Festival in Meskel Square  |  Farewell dinner and overnight Addis Ababa
Day 12:  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

15/16-26/27 September 2021
Room TypePriceSingle SupplementOptional Flight from LondonAvailability
Standard£3,995*£610£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 are able to put together a variety of additional touring options to extend your trip, on request.

Most popular is our 5 night Omo Anthropological extension but we can also arrange birdwatching/wildlife extensions and a range of smaller side-trips such as 2-3 nights visiting the Walled City of Harar, depending on your interests.  Please enquire for itinerary ideas and prices.

For those with more time, Ethiopian Airlines has an extensive network of flights across Africa and it’s possible to make Addis Ababa and our tour a ‘stop’ on a longer journey to Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa or similar, without adding a huge amount to the flight cost. The current supplement to add flights to Johannesburg and back to the London-Addis Ababa ticket is just £300 in economy. Nairobi and back is £450, Dubai and back is £250 and Cairo and back is just £110 extra when booking it as part of the Addis Ababa ticket.  Please note that prices are correct at time of writing, but are dynamic fares based on current availability – we will give an accurate quote based on your own specifications.

Either before or after the tour, we can therefore arrange almost any regional extension, whether you wish to add a safari in Masai Mara National Park, a visit to the cities or game reserves of South Africa, a cultural exploration of Egypt or even a beach stay in Dubai.   From flights, hotels and transfers to a fully guided local tour, we have arranged tours and private holidays across Africa and the Middle East for nearly 30 years and would be delighted to assist with any and all extension ideas.

Keeping your plans all in one place means that should there be any travel disruption your whole itinerary will be treated as connected in terms of your rights under the Package Travel Regulations and also protected by ATOL. Just one point of contact also keeps things simple (there are no call-centres or queues to get through to us either), and we price-match on hotels (even against online retailers) so you’ll never pay more when booking with us.

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We just wanted to say, without any delay, that we had the most amazing journey which we will always remember. We could never have done anything like this without you. The organisation and logistics were 100% perfect. Anthony & Dalila

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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