Enjoy delicious vegan cuisine of Ethiopia with its wonderful diverse attractions
Ethiopia is a vegan nation. Visitors never cease to wonder at seeing things in Ethiopia that are unusual. Among the varied food and dishes served are many notable for their uniqueness and delicacy, tempting anyone whether hungry or not.
In Ethiopia veganism is a natural thing not only for its health benefits but also as a spiritual experience tied to the Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Every week Wednesdays and Fridays are considered as fasting days with few exceptions. All in all more than seven months of the year are strictly vegan as it is a period of reflection, where one would distance from things that he/she has become accustomed to. It’s a great time to test your character and will, like surrendering the flesh to the soul.
During the fasting seasons, most of the restaurants only serve veggie dishes. Some who are not part of the whole thing find this difficult. However one can bet that Ethiopia will offer the best variety on these days.
You will be welcomed at the airport and transfered to your hotel. Addis Ababa is the third largest city in Africa with an estimated population of five million and the third highest capital in the world. Addis is a colourful and vibrant city regarded by many as 'The African Diplomatic Capital'. The city tour of Addis includes among others, museums - the national and the ethnographic, market - Merkato (the largest open air market), Churches - St George Cathedral also houses a museum of various religious icons. Wander around the Merkato, one of the largest outdoor markets on the continent.
You will take a brief cooking class of Ethiopian cuisine that involves a wide selection of fresh herbs and spice mixtures that give the dishes flavoursome and rich tastes. Cuisines are composed of various vegetable, grain and meat dishes, mostly accompanied by “injera”, a flat and circle like pancake with a much bigger radius, made of fermented grain powder called ‘teff’. It comes with different dishes where the most common ones are sauces similar to stews or broths called ‘wot’.
Different kinds of lip smacking, finger licking wots can be prepared depending on the content and ingredients used. This is done using your hands which is an ideal choice and the way to get a bursting taste of every flavor. Although nowadays people eat on separate plates, the traditional way is for the whole family or group to eat from one giant round plate (tray) creating a much more social environment for family or friends to interact.
It is an hour flight to Bahirdar town which is as pleasant as you'll find for relaxing and viewing the lake, where the weather is probably the best in Ethiopia. You will have a boat trip on Lake Tana to the island monasteries where you can experience a great calmness. You will visit Azwa, Ura or Mehal Zege, Kibran Gabriel and Entos Eyesus to get an impression of just how far back Christianity goes in this region. Among others Ura-Kidane Mihret is the largest and most impressive monastery on the peninsula, situated near one of the prettiest and most secluded inlets in the area. Mango Park at Lake Tana is the best place to view Pelicans and enjoy sitting by the shores.
A three hour drive to visit Ethiopian medieval capital Gonder that contained large royal enclosure containing castles, palaces, houses and outbuildings among them Fasiladas's palace is the oldest and perhaps most impressive. You will visit the various ruined buildings including the remains of a bathing pool, a chancellery and a library of Fasiladas's son. There are also peaceful, and shady spots just to relax and watch the world go by. Next continue to Birhan Selassie one of the country's famous churches hosting beautiful 17 century paintings.
A three day medium level trekking tour for 5 to 6 hours/day in the Simien Mountains, where the initial stage of the path leads through extensive areas of highland grasslands and heather forests. Every path offers some of the most impressive views of the entire escarpment characterized by Giant Lobelia trees. Chenek view point is spectacularly located in a beautiful valley at the foot of the Bwahit peak, one of the top summits.
At each view point the strategically placed benches allow for the opportunity to take in the expansive views especially beautiful in both dawn and dusk light. We have wonderful cooks that will happily be at your service throughout. They are experts in making mouthwatering cuisines that you will love to have more and more of.
Visit Lalibela where you will get an impression of landing in a kingdom at least seven centuries behind your own. Alvares, the early 16th century Portuguese writer, described them as 'edifices the like of which and so many cannot be found anywhere else in the world.' In Lalibela you will marvel and be immensely impressed by the remarkable rock hewn, monolithic, semi monolithic and cave churches built at least seven centuries ago.
After check in you will visit the northern clusters known as the earthly Jerusalem, Bete Medhani Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil and Bete Golgotha Michael. In the afternoon visit the heavenly Jerusalem part, Bete Gebriel and Rufael, Bete Mercurious, Bete Amanuel, Bete Aba Libanos and lastly Bete Giorgis.
Marvel at the amazing Werkaye Mariam, Mequat Mariam and Atrow among others. The trekking project also benefits the local communities with the trekking and accommodation facilities. Visitors typically do three to five days trekking staying three or four nights in the community run accommodations having tasty meals cooked by the local villagers. Watching the sun set over the mountains will be the highlight of your trip.
Enjoy the coffee ceremony and chatting with the local people, a drink at sunset watching the world from a cliff. Simple but tasty food is served for breakfast and dinner in a cosy restaurant tukul, a picnic lunch is also provided for the trail. You will walk 5-6 hours each day and stay in huts built and maintained by local villagers who also prepare your meals…injera with wat (stew), lentils or chick peas.
The terrain is largely level and follows the escarpment. At first the altitude might slow you but after a while you will become acclimatized. Good walking shoes or boots are safer and more comfortable for the uneven rocky ground, particularly the descent to Yadukulay Tukul camp.
You will join and learn how to make coffee the Ethiopian way. If you really want to treat yourself with an exotic experience of Ethiopia, you should not miss the coffee ceremony. For the visitor a real and exotic experience will be to take part in this traditional coffee ceremony accompanied by freshly cut grass being scattered on the ground, burning incense and roasting coffee beans in a pan. As the smoke rises you’ll be offered the delicious aroma to draw toward you and inhale.
Once roasted the coffee has to cool off. You must preferably blow out all the feather light skins as the next step. The beans are then ground with a pestle and mortar and brewed with water in a pan. When it is finally ready the coffee is served in tiny cups in three turns served with ‘Buna-kurse’, a small snack which is usually popcorn and is the other part of what is a beautiful ceremony.
How do you know when it’s ready? Well roasted coffee is a chocolate brown colour and it’s aroma will fill up the house, not to mention the fact that it tends to invite neighbors in because coffee roasting at home is a social event.
In the evening a farewell dinner at a cultural restaurant awaits you where you can enjoy delicious Ethiopian cuisine accompanied by traditional music and dances. Learn Iskista, the shoulder dancing. Iskista is one of the popular traditional dances in Ethiopia. It is an interesting sight where dancers involve mainly their shoulders, chest and whole body, shaking, jerking and bending rhythmically.
Day in Addis Ababa then transfer to the airport for your departure flight back home.
All accommodations in and out of Addis Ababa as indicated on the itinerary double or twin room (Accommodation depends on availability)
All breakfasts and dinners
All ground transportation; 4WD drive
All fuel, drivers’ allowance and insurance
All local guides and all entrance fees
Boat trip on Lake Tana
All government taxes
International and domestic flight tickets
We are not new to Africa, having many years ago lived in Libya and travelled in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt and also South Africa, nor are we new to mountain trekking and remote village life. Ethiopia, however, gave us a very different and quite inspiring experience.
It was expertly organised by Eskinder, who listened to our requirements and tailored a trip to meet them. As well as visiting the castles of Gonder and the ancient churches of Lalibela, and seeing something of Addis Ababa , we wanted to incorporate two treks, one in the Janamora region of the Simiens and one in the West Meket area. And we wanted to stay in the tukul guesthouses provided in the villages; we wanted our visit to directly benefit the remote villages.
We were also keen to stay in Harar and to experience a little of the Bale mountains and the southern lakes. Ethiopia is a vast country and we knew we couldn’t do everything, so chose this time to miss out the splendours of Tigray, the tribes of South Omo and the wonders of the Danakil Depression (maybe next time...); all the same we had just over three weeks and we wondered if we had been over ambitious.
In a sense we had. The long drive from Addis down to Langano, the Bale mountains and Hawassa, which constituted the last week of our trip, felt somewhat rushed. The long drives were fascinating, giving us time to observe and think about the beauty of this vast area, its history and the rhythm of daily life. The guided walk from Dinsho into the Bale Mountains National Park was fascinating, with expert commentary from our guide, Awol. The views from 4000m up on the Senetti Plateau were awe inspiring. And our brief taste of hotels in this area was interesting.
But it was the earlier part of our trip which held so many truly unforgettable moments. Gonder and Lalibela, both steeped in the most fascinating history, enthralled us at every turn. The beautiful Lake Tana with its monasteries entranced us on our first day.
We had the benefit of very knowledgeable and friendly guides, who readily answered our questions, not just about the history, but also about present day life. Our 24 hours in Harar was worth every minute, from the sensory assault of the markets and the narrow, winding mosque-full streets to the museums, coffee factory and hyena feeding at sunset.
The true highlight of our trip was the time spent on the treks in the mountains, staying in the village guesthouses. Never (not even in the Indian Himalayas) had we walked in such breathtakingly dramatic, vast and beautiful landscapes. Never had we experienced such utter peace and silence, nor such star studded darkness at night. The experience was enhanced by the lack of electricity (the guides and villagers had solar gadgets to charge their phones) and running water (water was boiled for us to wash and shower).
The food, locally grown and cooked over wood fires, was delicious. The villages provided our guides and cooks, who were all very friendly and happy to have us. The walks themselves were sometimes long and hard (we are in our seventies) as well as being hot and at a high altitude, but were without exception exhilarating, fascinating and worth every step. Our guides (Suleiman in the Janamora region, Addisu in the Meket) were excellent – understanding, patient, helpful and very informative.
So we are full of praise for Eskinder and his well organised team. The drivers were excellent – safe, knowledgeable and friendly. We learned so much from them about this amazing country, which belies all expectations. Guides and drivers were entirely dependable, always in the right place at the right time. And the logistics worked without a hitch, including the 5 internal flights. The music and coffee of Ethiopia, too, are still with us!
Thank you Eskinder, and Ethiopia!
Call us on: +251911405533
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org