Ethiopia is historic. It is one of the few African countries mentioned in the holy books, and quite interestingly, it is believed to be the home of the Ark of Covenant God made with the children of Israel. A visit to this country takes you down historical lane to the roots of some faith. Ancient sites, artefacts, relics and ruins of ancient feats that testify to Africa’s golden era are still visible today in Ethiopia and continue to intrigue tourists. If you intend to visit, here is a brief itinerary that should help you tour this East African nation.
Day 1: Arrive and Explore Addis Ababa
If you arrive early enough—i.e. in the morning, there will be enough time to rest briefly, freshen up and tour the Ethiopian capital. If you come in by air, you’ll arrive in Addis Ababa via the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. From there, get to a hotel to freshen up, rest and set out for a city tour of Addis Ababa. Going with a tour operator will reduce the cost actually, but if you are a lone traveller, find your way to Entoto Mountain for a panoramic view of Addis—a few photo-shoot here won’t be a bad idea. Visit the Entoto Museum and explore its historical and royal exhibit. You can also visit the 1885 built, Church of St. Mary and extend your tour to the palace of emperor Menelik II. Return to Addis and visit the Ethnological Museum to see the material culture and handicrafts of various Ethiopian ethnic groups. Also visit the Trinity Cathedral, Mausoleum of emperor Menelik II at Bààta Church and complete the tour by visiting Merkato – the largest open market in Africa, before returning to your hotel for a good night rest.
Day 2: Explore Rock Hewn Church of Lalibela
Today you will fly from Addis to Lalibela after breakfast. Lalibela is a religious centre that is home to 11 famous rock-hewn churches. The 11 spectacular chiseled churches, carved both inside and out from a single rock some centuries ago, are Lalibela’s pride and tourists (and pilgrims) visit here in thousands. Visit the site to see the incredible architectural spectacle. Of the 11, Bet Medhane Alem is the largest monolithic rock hewn church in the world. It was built like a Greek temple. In a corner, there are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Bet Giyorgis is deemed the most elegant of all Lalibela churches, it lies somewhat isolated in the southwest part of the town on a sloping rock terrace.
Day 3: Visit Axum, the home of the Ark of Covenant
Axum has some of the world’s most mysterious monuments. This ancient city is the location of the Church of St Mary of Zion where the Ark of Covenant is believed to be hidden. The ark is said to have been placed there by Menelik, son of King Solomon, 3000 years ago. You can link Solomon and Menelik via the legendary Queen of Sheba. The famous sites to visit here include the archaeological museum, monolithic steles, the tombs of King Kaleb, and the legendary Bath and the ruins of ancient palace of the Queen of Sheba (Dengur palace), St Mary of Zion and the sanctuary that houses the original Ark of the Covenant. You should also visit the monastery of Abba Pantelion at the hillside of Axum.
Note: some sites in Axum have restrictions so your visitation may be limited to some places.
Day 4:Return Trip: Axum – Addis – Departure
Today you’ll return to Addis Ababa preparatory to your departure. If your departure time still allows you some time for leisure, visit one of the ethnic live dance clubs in Addis to observe different cultural dances before leaving Ethiopia.