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26 Day Horn Of Africa Tour


26 Days

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Addis Ababa / Khartoum

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Discover the country's true culture with the help of experienced local guides.

  • Small group sizes to help escape the beaten path.
  • Authentic local experiences with lots of inclusions.
Tour Overview
Tour Overview

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Countries Visited: 5 Activity Level: 2 Tour Style: Cultural

This bold and unique new Horn of Africa tour travels the road MUCH less travelled, to five fascinating and friendly neighbours with much to offer the intrepid traveller.

This is definitely an up-and-coming adventure destination, featuring the autonomous and stable, yet politically unrecognized 'country' of Somaliland (not to be confused with greater Somalia); the enigmatic and little-visited Djibouti with some of the continent's most dramatic scenery, and Eritrea, recently emerging from decades of isolation and ready to welcome the world.

Northern Sudan enjoys good roads, security and stability, and some of the most dramatic, yet least-visited archaeological sites in the world - more pyramids than Egypt!



Full Itinerary
Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Welcome to Addis Ababa, the largest city on the 'Horn of Africa.'

The Horn of Africa is the easternmost extension of African land and is usually defined as the region that is home to the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, whose cultures have been linked throughout their long history. Overall, the Horn of Africa is estimated to consist of over 2 million sq kilometers (772,200 square miles), most of which boasts a semi–arid to arid climate. Despite difficult living conditions in many parts of the region, recent estimates put the population of the region at about 90.2 million.

The HOA became a major center for trade and commerce around 500 C.E; a major commodity traded along these routes was ivory. Indeed, the Greeks were so involved with the elephant hunting trade in the Horn of Africa that the Greek language was occasionally used on official state documents. Other important exports of the region included frankincense and myrrh, both luxury goods that were highly valued in classical antiquity. Despite the recent political strides in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Horn of Africa as a whole has faced devastation in the recent years, and many of the religious conflicts in the region continue to remain unsolved, particularly the tensions between Christians and Muslims.

Overnight in Addis Ababa.

Included Meal(s): Dinner

Day 2 Addis Ababa: City Tour
This morning we tour Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, which translates as "New Flower" in the Amharic language. The city shows little sign of losing its youthful, lusty edge and is the pulsing heart of this eclectic nation's resurgence as one of the world's fastest-growing economies. "Addis," as it's often simply known, is the world's third-highest capital city at 2400 meters (7,880 ft), and has worn its heart on its sleeve since it was founded by Ethiopian Emperor Menelik about 1892.

Although not well-known outside the country, the Ethiopian National Museum is a world-class museum; truly a hidden gem! The most famous exhibit is the replica of Lucy, an early hominid, but the museum offers much more. With Ethiopian civilization being one of the oldest in the world, the artifacts within the museum span thousands of years, including some from its earliest days. During our visit, we'll see a wide variety of artifacts, from sculptures to clothing to artwork, both traditional and modern.

Next is the Ethnological Museum, a fascinating place with exhibits relating to the history and culture of Ethiopia. There are many displays of the various ethnic groups with information about each of their lifestyles. A large amount of ethnic outfits, instruments, tools, and other artifacts accompany each ethnic exhibit, making it one of the most interesting museums in the city.

We also visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral, the second most-important place of worship in Ethiopia and the final resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie.

At some point today we should be able to sample Ethiopia's 'Black Gold'. It's impossible to separate Ethiopian culture -- that unparalleled Ethiopian-ness -- from coffee, and this is the land of the finest Arabica coffee. As legend would have it, it was discovered by an Ethiopian shepherd boy and his goats sometime around the sixth century.

Overnight in Addis Ababa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

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Day 3 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Fly to Hargeisa, Somaliland
Today we fly to Hargeisa - welcome to Somaliland!

Somaliland, officially the Republic of Somaliland, is a self-declared state, internationally considered to be an autonomous region of Somalia. The local Somaliland authorities declared the region's independence from the rest of Somalia in May 1991, but neither the Somali federal government nor any other country or international organization has recognized its sovereignty. The area is viewed as much safer than most of its neighbouring East African countries. The local government is very anxious to show its stability and, as a result, foreigners are generally treated with respect and interest. This is a truly unique travel experience, well off the beaten path, and in a "country" that doesn't exist!

We arrive in Hargeisa and transfer to our hotel; we spend the afternoon exploring the city and seeing some of its sights, including the War Memorial, with its unusual monument of a crashed MiG fighter plane, and the gold and camel markets. There is very little tourism (and no tourist industry) here, as almost all visitors are working for an NGO or other organizations.

Overnight in Hargeisa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Hargeisa - Laas Geel Complex - Berbera
Today we depart for Berbera, on a well-secured and trafficked road, with a stop at Laas Geel en route.*

Laas Geel, also spelled Laas Gaal, are cave formations which contain some of the earliest known cave paintings in the Horn of Africa. Laas Geel's rock art is estimated to date to somewhere between 9,000 and 3,000 years BC. The site is placed on a granite outcrop that rises from a plateau at an altitude of 950 meters above sea level, at the confluence of two seasonal rivers, a key fact to explain the existence of rock art in the outcrop. Even today, the name of the site (“the camel’s well” in Somali) makes reference to the availability of water near the surface of the wadis.

The paintings at Laas Geel are spread across 20 shelters split into three levels some of which can be as wide as 10 meters and as deep as 5 meters. All the shelters and paintings are within walking distance from each other. The paintings in Laas Geel depict scenes of daily life of the nomads who inhabited the area and their animals as well as ceremonial scenes. Some of the paintings are monochrome and others polichrome but they are all remarkably well-preserved and vivid for something which is thousands of years old. The colours used are warm, either red, yellow or orange.

After visiting the site we continue to Berbera, with its interesting architecture from both the Ottoman and British periods. Berbera is a coastal city which serves as the biggest seaport for Somaliland, with clean and unspoiled beaches on the Gulf of Aden. This evening you might try some of the seafood for which the town is famous.

* To travel outside of major cities, foreigners are not required by law to take an armed guard with them as these routes are well-patrolled and secure; however, out of an abundance of caution, we choose to use this service for our journeys to/from Berbera, including our time at Laas Geel.

Overnight in Berbera.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Berbera - Hargeisa
We spend the morning exploring Berbera, especially the old quarter of the town.

In antiquity, Berbera was part of a chain of commercial port cities along the Somali seaboard. During the early modern period, Berbera was the most important place of trade in the entire Horn of Africa. It later served as the capital of the British Somaliland protectorate from 1884 to 1941, when it was replaced by Hargeisa. It’s hard to believe when you see it, but Berbera was once a busy town. Lying on the Gulf of Aden opposite Yemen, it has been a centre of maritime trade since ancient times. Today this shady town consists mostly of crumbling buildings and mud-and-thatch houses. Berbera’s potential is immense, though, with superb beaches and a relaxed atmosphere. If, one day, Somaliland appears on tourist brochures, Berbera will probably top the bill.

After a break for lunch we'll return by road to Hargeisa.

Overnight in Hargeisa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Hargeisa, Somaliland - Fly to Djibouti City, Djibouti
Today we fly to Djibouti City (likely via Addis).

Djibouti City is the capital and largest city of Djibouti, located in the coastal region on the Gulf of Tadjoura. Home to around 600,000 inhabitants, the city contains over 60% of the nation's population. The settlement was founded in 1888 by the French on land leased from the ruling Somali and Afar Sultans. During the ensuing period, it served as the capital of French Somaliland and its successor the French Territory of the Afars and Issas. Under its veneer of urban bustle, the city remains a down-to-earth place.

Depending on our arrival time, we may begin our Djibouti City sightseeing upon arrival.

Overnight in Djibouti City.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Djibouti City: City Tour - Tadjoura & Sables Blancs
Djibouti City is the capital and largest city of Djibouti, located in the coastal region on the Gulf of Tadjoura. Home to around 600,000 inhabitants, the city contains over 60% of the nation's population. The settlement was founded in 1888 by the French on land leased from the ruling Somali and Afar Sultans. During the ensuing period, it served as the capital of French Somaliland and its successor the French Territory of the Afars and Issas. Under its veneer of urban bustle, the city remains a down-to-earth place, with jarring cultural and social combinations.

This morning we will enjoy a panoramic tour of the city during which we plan to see the colourful market, the railway station, the main port and the central mosque.
Later we will take a private boat across the Gulf of Tadjoura to Tadjourah, the capital of one of the six regions in Djibouti (+/- 1.5 hours). Upon arrival we will head straight to our hotel which is situated right on the beach at Sable Blancs.

You will have some free time to relax in the afternoon before dinner at our hotel.

Overnight at Tadjoura.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Tadjourah - Lake Assal - Djibouti City
Today we travel by road southwest to Lake Assal, located in the north-central part of Djibouti. Shortly after our departure from the beach area we will make a brief stop in Tadjoura, known as the 'White City.' The Sultanate of Tadjoura has many white buildings and is a historic city. This was where the French colonization started when the sultan granted a piece of land to the French. Soon Djibouti City became the most important city of the country. Nowadays Tadjoura serves as an important port and fishing settlement.

Lake Assal is a saline lake, which lies 155 m (509 ft) below sea level in the Afar Triangle, making it the lowest point on land in Africa and the second-lowest land depression on Earth after the Dead Sea. Situated in the Danakil Desert, the lake is bounded by hills on the western region. No outflow occurs from the lake, and due to high evaporation, the salinity level of its waters is 10 times that of the sea, making it the most saline in the world after Don Juan Pond, Antarctica. Salt extraction by the Afar nomad tribes of camel drivers and Issas from Lake Assal's salt bank established the ancient caravan routes. These linked the lake with the mountains of Ethiopia for barter trading such items as sorghum, coal, and other commodities. Salt was also bartered with South Abyssinia for items like coffee, ivory, musk, and also (historically) slaves. It was a source of wealth for the local tribes.

After a day of scenic stops and short walks we will continue our journey back to Djibouti City.

Overnight in Djibouti City.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 9 Djibouti City, Djibouti - Fly to Asmara, Eritrea
Today we fly from Djibouti City to Asmara (via Addis Ababa). Welcome to Eritrea!

Filtered by Italian artistic sensibility, Asmara has welcomed practically all the styles of the early twentieth century, becoming the Modernist city of Africa par excellence. A sort of white paper where the Italian architects of Italy's fascist era, far from the constraints of the mother country, could design the city of Utopia. This is definitely a place to test yourself with the most different architectural styles in vogue in the first decades of the last century in Europe.

Overnight in Asmara.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Asmara: City Tour
This morning we'll begin our discovery of Asmara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Asmara has the world's highest concentration of architectural styles of the 1930s. Simple geometric shapes of classical proportions are enhanced by slender horizontal curves and soaring stepped towers. We find portholes, loopholes, and elongated windows, circular balconies and jutting wings; cylindrical stairwells and arched canopies, curved shelves and bizarre zig zag chimneys. Originally whitewashed, this beautiful city has been enriched by the colours of Africa with apricot and turquoise, burgundy, lime green and pale gold pastels. Marble vases suspended with geraniums and dahlias, and occasionally we discover a Renaissance villa, with wrought iron gates and turret towers, a French castle tower, or a Palladian villa with Corinthian columns and pink tympanum. Art deco villas, cubist, rationalist, expressionist, futurist and neoclassical architectures decorate the corners of the city with a Western style magnificence that may leave you perplexed.

One of the greatest monuments of the city is the Catholic Cathedral of Santa Maria, in pure Lombard Romanesque style with interior completely frescoed. We'll visit the National Museum, with archaeological finds of ancient civilizations and a rich collection of arts and typical clothing of the nine ethnic groups of the country.

The Coptic church Nda Mariam (E. Gallo, 1920) built over the ancient one, is also worth a visit. The best synthesis about liveliness and colour of ethnic Eritrean groups is the Medeber, a market dated eighteenth century, where artisans in small shops mould objects of all kinds by recycling metal.

The Cemetery of Asmara, located on a hill from the red earth, is a place filled with light, colour, sound and it is one of the most important places to get a historic insight into the Italian adventure in Eritrea.

Overnight at Asmara,

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Asmara: Excursion to Kohaito
After breakfast we have an excursion south to Kohaito.*

At Dekemhare we have a short walk into the center, with the Italian style houses of the early 1900's.

Proceeding to Segheneyti, where we will observe some majestic sycamore trees, the largest in the country. The most beautiful is reproduced on a banknote of the country. Arrival in Senafe and Kohaito, where the ruins of the ancient Axumite cities of Metara and Coloe rise.
Based on the different names in the area that are related to the elephants, Kohaito is believed to have been a center of ivory trade and an agricultural area due to the many remains of stones for grinding. At the beginning there were only 46 sites identified, but now the number has risen to 900.

Particularly interesting is the dam called Safira in Kohaito, 2500 years old, whose construction is attributed to the 6th century before Christ. The style and solidity of the dam shows how the population possessed an advanced construction technology. According to legend, the Queen of Sheba quenched herself with the waters of this dam. Although detailed scientific research has yet to be completed, Kohaito's civilization lasted about 1,000 years and is antecedent to the Axumite civilization. The strategically important position of Kohaito meant that this area served as a "bridge" between Adulis and other civilizations, such as Metara, Keskese and Belew-Kelew.

Another historically important place is Keskese, located in an area of 11 square kilometers distant 125 kilometers from Asmara, near Senafè. Among the many remains in the place, of great interest are some fallen steles (10 meters in length), five stone pillars bearing Sabee writings, remains of large and small walls, and cemeteries. Also scattered throughout the area are various crafts, stone tools, stone and brass ornaments. Although no detailed scientific research has been conducted so far, based on the study of the materials found on the surface and on the findings written in the Sabean language, it is believed that Keskese developed towards the ninth century before Christ.

Return to Asmara.

Overnight in Asmara.

* Please note that this excursion is subject to confirmation of necessary road permits. In the unlikely event that permits are not obtained, our excursion will turn around from the Valley of the Sycamores.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Asmara: Train Excursion - Massawa
After breakfast we enjoy an excursion on board the legendary train pulled by locomotives from Asmara to Nefasit and back.*

You will have the rare opportunity to travel along one of the most daringly-designed railways in the world, whose construction began in 1897, on board trains that go back to the times of the colonies. We will cover the stretch Asmara-Arbaroba, about 18km one of the most striking and scenic part of the entire route.

A century ago, Italians built a futuristic railway in Eritrea. Today, amid the wounds of a recent war, steam locomotives have returned to run on the tracks of the former Italian colony. An extraordinary enterprise commissioned by the Asmara Government and carried out by over seventy-year-old railway workers, the railway line that connects the cities of Asmara and Massawa, exceeding almost 2400 meters in height, is unanimously considered a masterpiece of Italian engineering.

After a break for lunch we'll continue by road to Massawa, losing about 2300m/7,545 ft of elevation in just 100 km of road.

This is the "Road of the Italians", dating to 1936 and considered marvel of civil engineering. It is not the only marvel, however, as the railway still runs in several places parallel to the road. The road climbed from 1,220 meters in Keren to 2,356 in Asmara and then down, in just 115 kilometers, to the harbor city of Massawa. Along the way you will meet the towns of Nefasit, Embatcalla, Ghinda, Dongollo Alto, and lastly Dongollo Basso, famous for its mineral waters.

This is the largest plateau in Africa, which spills down from the heights of Asmara to the sands of a wonderful sea coast. Along the road, about twenty kilometers from Massawa, we will make a brief stop at the monument of Dogali, where in January 1887 the five hundred men commanded by Col. De Cristoforis were massacred by the Abyssinian warriors of Ras Alula.

Finally we arrive at the sea! The two attractive islands that make up Massawa are called Taulud and Massawa, and both are connected to the mainland by causeways.

* Occasionally, usually due to mechanical problems (the railway and rolling stock sometime show their age, despite being lovingly maintained), the rail excursion may not be available. If this happens, we will continue with Asmara city touring with content at the discretion of your Tour Leader and local guide.

Overnight at Massawa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Massawa Area Touring - Asmara
In the morning we have an excursion to Green Island, in front of Massawa city, possibly for a little time to swim and just enjoy the beach.

Sturdy and tenacious, like Eritreans themselves, Massawa City has survived throughout the centuries. This old port city preserves an ensemble of wonderful Ottoman architecture. The beginnings of Massawa are shrouded by a long past. It is known that in the times of Axumite Empire (first centuries AD) this was small village, which was overshadowed by Adulis port which was located some 50 km to the south. Massawa has two historical districts, each on its own island. The oldest and most valuable is the Old City on Batz’ (Massawa) Island: a coral island without fresh water sources, covered with valuable Arabic and Ottoman architecture.

A 440m long causeway leads to the other part of historical city – Taulud Island. This island was uninhabited until the late 19th century, when Italians started construction here. This island is connected to the mainland with 1030 m long causeway. We will see the most interesting buildings in Massawa--the Shrine of Sahaba, a small shrine in the site, where, according to legend, the followers of prophet landed in 615 AD. The Sheikh Hanafi Mosque is the oldest mosque in Eritrea, built in the 15th century AD. Imperial Palace on Taulud is an ornate building constructed for French consul Werner Munzinger in 1872-1874. The Banco d’Italia is a gorgeous building, constructed in the 1920s.

This afternoon we return to Asmara along the traditional road, always with stops along the way at the most interesting view and places. Later we have some leisure time for a walk to discover Asmara by night, maybe enjoying an excellent coffee and the quiet and cheerful coming and going of young people and tourists. The bars of Asmara are part of the history of the bright African city, from the early twentieth century to today, some unaltered in a time
that seems suspended. On the main avenue, Harnet Street, the most popular bars, such as the historic bar Empire, have outdoor tables, sit down, drink coffee, "espresso", tea or the excellent cappuccino, you can taste the brioche or pastries, and you watch the passing people.

Overnight at Asmara.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Asmara - Keren: Town Tour
Early this morning we depart for Keren, (1392m/4,567 ft), the crossroads between the highland and the lowland and well-known for its silver filigree works. With a few stops along the way, we arrive in the afternoon.

On arrival we'll explore the city and its market. Other worthwhile places include: the Italian and British war cemeteries, the mosque and the little Greek church near the market, the governor country-seat, the Romanesque Saint-Michael church, and the old Fortress. Last but not least, we visit "Mariam Dearit", a chapel built inside as tree! The "Madonna of the Baobab" is also highly venerated by Muslims and often there are ecumenical and inter-religious pilgrimages; the pilgrims who reach this sanctuary each year are about forty thousand. The sanctuary is managed by the Cistercian monks who have resided in the sanctuary since 1960. There are several versions and legends about the origin of this sanctuary.

The city of Keren, home of the Bilen people, sprawls on a wide basin surrounded by granitic mountains on all sides; this remains a still authentic slice of Africa and the nostalgic atmosphere makes it fascinating. The most vivid and colourful attraction of Keren is its market, focus of industrious life and meeting point of all the tribes of the vast area. Through the covered food market, the streets of the tailors, the silversmith’s streets, and the market dedicated to women (housewares and cosmetics) you reach the riverbed where the wood and coal market is held. As our visit coincides with the weekly Monday market, this should be an interesting and highly colourful insight into local life.

Finally we visit to the war cemeteries in which Italian soldiers and Askari are buried (the Eritreans who fought alongside the Italian troops) and the British cemetery.

Overnight in Keren.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 15 Keren - Asmara
Today we finish off any sightseeing not accomplished yesterday and make our way back to the capital, arriving in the afternoon with time to prepare for our last dinner in Eritrea.

Overnight in Asmara.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 16 Asmara, Eritrea - Fly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Today we fly back to Addis Ababa.

Depending on our flight time, we may do some informal sightseeing upon arrival or enjoy some well-deserved rest time. It is also possible that we may choose/be able to connect straight through to Khartoum today without overnighting in Addis. This situation wil become clearer close to trip date.

Overnight in Addis Ababa.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 17 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Fly to Khartoum, Sudan
Today (or yesterday) we fly to Khartoum -- Welcome to Sudan!

Due to uncertainties related to ever-changing air schedules, we don't have any activities officially scheduled for today but, depending on timing, your Tour Leader will determine the group's energy and interest levels and possibly suggest something to do today. Admittedly, there are not a lot of "attractions" in Khartoum in a touristic sense, so our time here may be somewhat free-form and unstructured.

Overnight in Khartoum.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 18 Khartoum: City Tour & Dervish Ceremony
This morning we start our Khartoum city tour.

First will be a visit to the Archaeological Museum, which features, among other things, two beautiful temples rescued by UNESCO and moved from the Lake Nasser area when it was flooded in the 1970's. We then cross the confluence between the Blue Nile and the White Nile near the Presidential Palace where, in 1885, General Gordon was beheaded by the Mahdi's troops. Later we reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan, where we see the Mahdi's Tomb from outside.

In the afternoon we will visit the interesting Khalifa's House (possibly closed for renovation) which holds a small museum about the Mahdyia. We then visit the colourful souk of Omdurman where we experience a large, colourful and lively local market and interact with the friendly locals.

Just prior to sunset we will head to the tomb of the Sufi leader, Ahmed al Nil, in order to observe the Sufi Dervish Ceremony, held only on Fridays. This is not the 'formal' kind of ceremony that one may have seen in Turkey with actual whirling as such, but rather a very casual and informal "dancing" and moving to beat-driven music. The atmosphere is celebratory and the locals get involved and vistors are made to feel very welcome.

After sunset we will return back to the center of Khartoum for dinner and overnight.

Overnight in Khartoum.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 19 Khartoum - Karima
This morning we begin the journey northward through the Western Desert. We travel in a flat desert where the view can span 360° around and we reach Wadi Muqaddam with its many acacia trees.

En route we'll make rest stop at the "chai houses," literally tea houses, a Sudanese version of a truck stop in the desert where local truck drivers usually stop for a quick meal and some rest. In the afternoon we arrive in Karima, where we check in at the charming Nubian Rest House at the foot of Jebel Barkal, the holy mountain of the old Egyptian and Nubian Pharaohs

The Nubian Rest House: Karima is a small town located on the right bank of the Nile, close to the famous archaeological site at Jebel Barkal, south of the 4th Cataract. The town is a small, dusty, and quiet village where a big market takes place in the morning. The Nubian Rest House is a charming small hotel built in the typical Nubian style, surrounded by a large private enclosure, a nice garden, and leisure area. Each of the 22 A/C rooms is characterized by a typical Nubian door with its own private bathroom and a pleasant veranda. A reception area, restaurant, and lounge with decorated walls complete the wonderful setting. All the buildings are made with local bricks covered by hand-spread clay plaster as used in the area. The hotel is Italian-managed with the help of well-trained Sudanese staff.

Overnight in Karima.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 20 Karima: Jebel Barkal & the Necropolis of El Kurru
A landmark in the Nubian Desert, Jebel Barkal ("Jebel" means mountain in Arabic) can be seen from several kilometres away. At the foot of this wonderful and isolated red sandstone mountain, considered holy since the ancient times, stands a large temple dedicated to the Pharaohs of the New Reign and to their patron, Amon. Amon's ancient "Pure Mountain", the Olympus of the Nubians, was the religious Nubian heart for more than 1,000 years. Besides the ruins of the big temple, there are still several sculpted granite rams that were supposed to border a long avenue that probably led to the pier on the Nile. In the mountain wall there is a large room decorated with bas-relief.

The Jebel Barkal archaeological sites are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The royal necropolis of the ancient city of Napata, the Nubian capital (from 800 to 400 BC) before the Meroitic period, had a large number of pyramids located in three different places: a few hundred metres north of Jebel Barkal; a dozen kilometres southwards from the holy mountain, in El Kurru; in Nuri, located on the other bank of the Nile.

After lunch we will travel southwards to the village of El Kurru where we find one of the necropolises of the ancient capital, Napata. Here we can visit one tomb, which is excavated in the rock under pyramids -- partially collapsed -- and totally decorated with images of the Pharaoh, the gods, and multicolour hieroglyphic inscriptions. Not far from here there is an interesting site of petrified wood, an ancient forest with hundreds of huge trunks.

In the late afternoon we return back to Karima.

Overnight at Nubian Rest House.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 21 Karima: Cruise on the Nile & the Necropolis of Nuri
After breakfast we will visit the market in Karima, where we have the chance to witness and experience the real life of Sudanese people. We then board a small covered motorboat for a relaxing cruise along the Nile where we enjoy the beautiful sand stretches and cultivated islands along the river. A little further northward there used to be the beautiful granite rocky formations of the 4th Cataract, which prevented the Nile from flowing slowly and formed many rapids that obstructed navigation. In 2008 the Dam of Merowee was completed and the flooding of the artificial lake started. We may enjoy a picnic lunch in the area, or we may return to the Nubian Rest House for lunch.

After lunch we will visit the archaeological site of Nuri where we will see many pyramids, including the pyramid of the great Taharqa.

Return to the Nubian Rest House for dinner and overnight stay.

Overnight in Karima.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 22 Karima & Old Dongola
Today is a full day full of interesting encounters and visits. Early in the morning we will follow the Nile until we reach the archaeological site of Old Dongola. Here we discover the ruins of a Christian Coptic temple with marble columns as well as the ruins of several churches situated on the banks of the Nile.

This area is the central part of the Nubian region. Here the population lives in small villages amongst yellow sand dunes and palm trees, and they speak a different language from the Arabs. Here Islam is not as "strict" as in other regions of Sudan; many women don't cover their faces, and they are often more willing to speak with foreigners. Some houses in the Nubian villages are painted with patterns of flowers, but most of them are completely white.

Return to Karima.

Overnight in Karima.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 23 Karima - Bayuda Desert - Meroe
Today we depart Karima and continue our journey south to Meroe via the Bayuda Desert.

The Bayuda Desert is an area bounded by the loop formed by the Nile between the 4th and the 6th Cataract and characterised by sharp black basalt mountains, most of them volcanic and typically cone-shaped. They alternate with level pebble stretches and large valleys crossed by dry wadis where only little vegetation survives and gazelles can sometimes be seen. We are likely to meet isolated groups of Bisharin nomads, who live in family groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to the rare water wells, with their caravans and herds of camels and donkeys.

In the first part of the crossing we drive among sand dunes. After a few kilometres on the asphalt road, the adventure continues as we follow the Wadi Abu Dom, driving on a sandy track among many acacia trees and some wells where it is possible to meet nomads.

Suddenly more than 40 pyramids located on top of a hill come into view, some of them perfectly-preserved. This is the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. We'll stop a distance away to enjoy the view and for photos before arrival at the Meroe Camp, also with a beautiful view of the pyramids.

Meroe Tented Camp is located in Bagarwyia, (about 230 km north of Khartoum) overlooking the beautiful pyramids of Meroe. Accommodation consists of 22 twin-bedded tents (4x4m), tastefully-furnished. Each one has its own private separate bathroom hut with shower and toilet (located a short walk from your tent). The camp is located 2 km from the Royal Necropolis. Each tent is equipped with a veranda with two comfortable chairs to relax in front of the astonishing view of more than forty pyramids. The electricity in the tents is supplied by a generator working till 11:00 pm. The camp is managed by an Italian manager with the help of well-trained Sudanese staff.

Overnight at Meroe Camp.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 24 Meroe: the Necropolis & Royal City of Meroe
This morning will be dedicated to visiting the pyramids of Meroe. The Royal Necropolis of Meroe is located at about 3 km from the Nile on some hills covered by yellow sand dunes. Several pyramids stand out with their sharp shapes against the clear sky. Each one has its own funerary chapel with the walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs that show the king's life and offerings to the gods.

In the afternoon we move along the Nile in order to visit the ruins of the royal city. Excavations that have taken place here confirm that the town of Meroe once covered a large area, and the royal city was located in a central position surrounded by suburbs and a boundary wall. Most of the area where the city is located, formed by many small hills covered by red clay fragments, has yet to be excavated.

Overnight at Meroe.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 25 Meroe - Temples of Naga & Mussawara - Khartoum
This morning we continue backward Khartoum with two important stops along the way.

We stop at Mussawarat, not far away from Naga. This settlement is located in a beautiful valley crowned by hills. Here the ruins of a very large temple are visible; it once played an exceptional important role. Its main characteristic, the "Great Enclosure" is made by many constructions and boundary walls which surround a temple built in the 1st century A.D. The large number of elephants represented on these walls makes you think that this animal used to have an important role in this area. Beyond the big wadi there is another temple -- restored by a German archaeological mission -- dedicated to the god Apedemak. Picnic in the area and then visit the site of Naga.

Naga is one of the two centres that developed during the Meroitic period. In Naga, in a typical Saharan environment with rocks and sand, we find a temple dedicated to Apedemak (1st century A.D.): a wonderful building with bas-relief decorations depicting the god with a lion's head, the Pharaoh, noblemen, and several ritual images.

A few metres away there is a small and odd construction with arches and columns, named "kiosk", in which we can notice Egyptian, Roman, and Greek styles all at the same time. Not far away we reach another temple dedicated to Amon with many statues of rams and beautiful gates decorated with bas-reliefs.

We arrive back in Khartoum in the late afternoon.

PLEASE NOTE: As most international flights from Khartoum depart late in the night, ie around of after midnight, you may not have a full night in Khartoum. We will, of course, have rooms in which you can freshen up, pack, and rest before departing for the airport.

"Day rooms" in Khartoum.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 26 Departure from Khartoum
Departure from Khartoum.


Included Meal(s): Breakfast



Trip Info
Trip Info

Breakfast and dinner daily; some lunches (picnic lunches - as per tour itinerary). All transport (including internal flights), accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Tour Leader and guide services.

Gratuities for drivers, restaurant staff, porters (where available), local guides.

Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arrivals/late departures if both air & extra accommodation are booked through us.

International airfare to/from the tour. Tour Leader gratuities, some lunches, drinks (other than tea/coffee), personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international (if applicable) air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'.

Airport transfers for Land Only customers.

Optional trip cancellation insurance (you are required to be medically insured)**. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, visas and locally-paid departure taxes.

You should budget $300-350 for visa fees:

Djibouti visa: Available on arrival

Ethiopia visa: Available on arrival

Somaliland (NOT Somalia) visa: Available on arrival

Eritrea visa: Visa in advance

Sudan visa: US$135 in advance (we bill you). Canadians pay US$100 cash on arrival in Khartoum; USA passport holders pay $150 per person cash on arrival (rares subject to change at any time).

More details on visas provided upon reservation.

Insurance: Medical insurance is mandatory for this tour. When considering travel insurance for this trip, please be especially mindful of possible exclusions of coverage for destinations that currently have government travel advisories in place. It is incumbent on you, the traveller, to ensure that you are comfortable with what your chosen policy will and will not cover.

Seasonality and Weather
This tour is planned for the coolest and most comfortable time of the year in the entire region. That said, we will still encounter dry heat with humidity near water and at lower elevations. In and around Asmara and Addis we will enjoy spring-like temperatures due to elevation. Rainfall is unlikely, though possible at some locations.

Transport and Travel Conditions
City tours in Khartoum, Djibouti City and Addis Ababa are conducted via a single touring coach/bus; elsewhere, our ground transport will be provided by multiple, modern and spacious, air-conditioned Toyota Landcruiser 4x4 vehicles (or similar). While in Somaliland we will be accompanied by an armed escort.

This tour visits the safe areas of Northern Sudan which enjoys good security and stability (we do not visit South Sudan). Our local partners at destination own and operate our accommodations and vehicles outside of Khartoum and take security very seriously.

Most roads travelled are paved, though some are in rough shape and there will be some unpaved stretches that are rough and dusty.

Internal flights will be via Ethiopian Airlines.

We have rated this tour a "Level 2" largely because the length of some travel days, the rough roads, the heat and dust, the basic nature of some accommodation (baggage handling not available), the remoteness of locales visited, and the attendant lack of easily accessible modern medical care. If you have difficulty walking, even over short distances, or require the assistance of a cane, we regret that this tour is not suitable for you. This is an ambitious adventure that requires a sturdy constitution, flexibility, and a spirit of adventure.

Government travel advisories currently apply to this tour, specifically to Somaliland (Somalia) and Eritrea (Djibouti, Ethiopia & Sudan carry no such advisories). Though all countries included have enjoyed a prolonged period of stability and we expect our tours to operate on a "business as usual" basis, we encourage all travellers (as we do for any destination) to review online government advisories that provide guidance on, among other things, issues concerning security.

We are presently very confident that your journey will be problem-free, and want to ensure that you feel likewise before choosing to join this trip. By advancing a deposit to Adventures Abroad, you acknowledge your full awareness that visited country(ies) carry a travel advisory issued by DFAIT Canada and/or the US State Dept (please also refer to our general Booking Terms & Conditions under the "resources" tab on this page). Please note that DFAIT and the US Dept of State tend to lump Somaliland (not an internationally recognized "country") in with their information pertaining to greater Somalia, where conditions are markedly different. For a more complete and detailed report, please refer to the foreign travel advice section of www.gov.uk, which does treat Somaliland separately.

Am I suitable for this tour? Please refer to our self-assessment form.

Activity Level: 2
These are particularly busy tours that feature a lot of moving around, sometimes by train and short journeys on local transport. Walking tours of towns and cities are leisurely but you should be prepared to be on your feet for several hours. Some of our cultural trips that occur at high altitude and/or require greater independence with baggage handling (at hotels, airports, train stations) also fall into this category.

To learn more about the Activity levels, please visit our tour styles page.

Our hotels in all four capital cities are clean and comfortable, Western-style properties. Elsewhere, our accommodation is surprisingly comfortable but of a simpler standard with a few rough edges and service that is perhaps spotty yet friendly.

Please note that, due to the high cost of single accommodation in the region, this tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge if you join our share program and we are unable to pair you (please see 'Dates & Prices' page for rate).

All rooms are air-conditioned with private bath, with the exception of Meroe Camp (Sudan) where you will have your own bath/toilet in an adjacent building. - click on 'Map & Hotels' tab for more information.

Staff and Support
Tour Leader throughout; local guides will also accompany in each country at various locations. Local expert and highly experienced drivers in all locations.

Group Size
Maximum 18 plus Tour Leader



Map & Hotels
Map & Hotels

Regions visited: East Africa
Countries visited: Ethiopia; Somaliland; Djibouti; Eritrea and Sudan

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.

Jupiter International Hotel Cazanchise
4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation
Location: Addis Ababa
Country: Ethiopia
Jupiter International Hotel, Cazanchise offer 102 comfortable guests rooms. This property is located next to United Nations Economic Commission of Africa and many UN offices as well us international Organization within a ... distance .

This property is the best hotel for visitors coming to Addis Ababa as tourists based on the numerous attractions near by. Tourists can visit The National Ethiopian Palace, Friendship Park, Unity park and Holy Trinity Cathedral by walk or short vehicle ride.
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Sugaal Hotel
Location: Hargeisa
Country: Somaliland
This is a relatively new hotel with clean rooms and a great restaurant by foreign chefs. It's located right in the centre of the city with close proximity to all the central ... and amenities. Hotel features free wifi and full air-conditioning. This hotel has no official star rating or website.
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Maan-soor Hotel
Location: Berbera
Country: Somaliland
It is a natural choice for many visitors that come to stay in our luxurious hotel. Besides, Maan-Soor Hotel has earned a distinct reputation due to its reliable, trustworthy, efficient and cost-effective ... welcoming service atmosphere. Since its foundation, the magnificent hotel has been improving its customer-oriented services in many ways. And these improvements have always been appealing to a number of foreign guests.
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Sheraton Djibouti
4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation
Location: Djibouti City
Country: Djibouti
The Sheraton Djibouti is located on Plateau du Serpent nestled within the Gulf of Tadjourah. Situated alongside the old Diplomatic Quarter and within walking distance from downtown Djibouti, the hotel offers a ... location. Boasting 175 comfortable guest rooms and elegantly designed suites, guests can enjoy magnificent views of the surrounding waters, making it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The talented culinary team oversees multiple Sheraton Djibouti restaurants which includes our Le Mosaic, Khamsin Pool Bar, &More by Sheraton and Crystal Lounge, each offering something unique to tantalize your taste buds. Embrace serenity and privacy whilst enjoying a picnic with your loved ones on the Moucha Island beach. The Sheraton Djibouti, being the first international hotel with true Djiboutian hospitality, is also the ideal venue for any even
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Les Sables Blancs Hotel
3 Star Accommodation 3 Star Accommodation 3 Star Accommodation
Location: Tadjoura
Country: Djibouti
Les Sables Blancs is above all a family business that has been working for 25 years to promote its country and make people discover unique places by mixing adventure with local life. ... will have the opportunity in just a few days to travel through extraordinary and diversified landscapes. Between desert, lakes, mountains and seabed, your discoveries will be enhanced by an unforgettable welcome worthy of the nomadic tradition.
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Grand Hotel Dahlak
2 Star Accommodation 2 Star Accommodation
Location: Massawa
Country: Eritrea
The traveler who arrives in front of the reception of the new Dahlak Palace Hotel presents a wide staircase topped by a crenellated building and porch, immediate reference to the palaces of ... old Massawa compositional style with Venetian-turkish-arabic.
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Sarina Hotel
Location: Keren
Country: Eritrea
The rooms are spacious, comfortable and clean, the food is good and the bar area is great to relax and have a drink. This is largely regarded as the best hotel in ... - friendly but with a few rough edges that are more charming than frustrating. The hotel does have wifi or a website.
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Grand Hotel
5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation
Location: Khartoum
Country: Sudan
A family-run hotel offers comfortable rooms and great rates. Great location, affordable rates, comfortable rooms, and friendly and helpful staff, Grand Hotel has it all! The hotel is located in the center ... Khartoum on the well-known Nile Avenue about 6 Kilometers from Khartoum International Airport.
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Nubian Rest House
Location: Karima
Country: Sudan
Our Nubian Rest House, located at the foot of Jebel Barkal, is a charming boutique hotel with 22 A/C twin rooms, all with private facilities and a pleasant veranda where to sit ... the cool starry nights.

The rest house is tastefully decorated, starting from the original Nubian door where the guests enter the property, to the open-air lobby, to the living room where to rest or read a book. Care for details is our passion, and it is easy to understand this when you see the Rest House.
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Meroe Camp
Location: Meroe
Country: Sudan
The Meroe Camp, overlooking the renowned pyramids of Meroe, features 22 twin-bedded tents. Room size is 4 x 4 m and just outside there is a shady veranda with 2 chairs for ... or simply relaxing overlooking the open desert before the pyramids. Every tent has its own private restroom and shower which is located in a separate hut at the back of the tent.
Read More






Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
01. What is the maximum number of participants on a trip?
Most of our tours carry a maximum of 18 participants; some tours (ie hiking tours) top out at 16. In the event that we do not achieve our minimum complement by our 90-day deadline, we may offer group members the option of paying a "small-group surcharge" as an alternative to cancellation. If all group members agree, we will confirm the trip at existing numbers; this surcharge is refundable in the event that we ultimately achieve our regular minimum. If the small group surcharge is not accepted, we will offer a refund of your deposit or a different trip of your choice.
02. Can I extend my tour either at the beginning or end? What about stopovers?
Yes, you can extend your tour either at the beginning or the end and we can book accommodation in our tour hotel. Stopovers are often permitted, depending on air routing. Stopovers usually carry a "stopover" fee levied by the airline.
03. How do I make a reservation? How and when do I pay?
The easiest way to make a reservation is via our website; during office hours, you are also more than welcome to contact us by telephone. A non-refundable deposit is payable at the time of booking; if a reservation is made within 90 days, full payment is required. Some trips require a larger deposit. If international airline bookings require a non-refundable payment in order to secure space or the lowest available fare, we will require an increase in deposit equal to the cost of the ticket(s). Early enrolment is always encouraged as group size is limited and some trips require greater preparation time. Once we have received your deposit, we will confirm your space and send you a confirmation package containing your trip itinerary, any visa/travel permit related documents, invoice, clothing and equipment recommendations, general information on your destination(s), and forms for you to complete, sign and return to us. Your air e-tickets (if applicable), final hotel list, final trip itinerary, and instructions on how to join your tour, will be sent approximately 2-3 weeks prior to departure.
04. What about cancellations, refunds, and transfers?
Please review our cancellation policy page for details.
05. I am a single who prefers my own room. What is a single supplement?
All of our tours have a single supplement for those who want to be guaranteed their own room at each location. This supplement is a reflection of the fact that most hotels around the world do not discount the regular twin-share rate for a room by 50% for only one person occupying a room. Most hotels will give a break on the price, but usually in the range of 25-30% of the twin-share rate. This difference, multiplied by each night, amounts to the single supplement. The conventional amount can also vary from country to country and some destinations are more expensive than others for single occupancy. In order to be "single friendly," the supplements we apply are not a profit centre for us and we do our best to keep them as reasonable as possible. On most tours we limit the number of singles available, not to be punitive, but rather because many hotels allow for only a limited number of singles; some smaller hotels at remote locations also have a limited number of single rooms available. Please note that most single rooms around the world are smaller than twin-share rooms and will likely have only one bed.
06. Do you have a shared accommodation program?
Yes! If you are single traveller and are willing to share, we will do our best to pair you with a same-gender roommate. On most of our tours, if we fail to pair you, we will absorb the single supplement fee and you will default to a single room at no extra charge. At some destinations, however, where single rooms are not significantly discounted, or not at all, we may apply a "mandatory" single in the event that we cannot find you a share partner. This is usually 50% of the usual supplement, but can be as much as 100%. If applicable, this proviso will be noted on each tour page on this website, on your invoice, and in our tour date/price book (available for download under "Resources").


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Countries Visited: 5

Ethiopia; Somaliland; Djibouti; Eritrea; Sudan.
Activity Level: 2

These are particularly busy tours that feature a lot of moving around, sometimes by train and short journeys on local transport. Walking tours of towns and cities are leisurely but you should be prepared to be on your feet for several hours. Some of our cultural trips that occur at high altitude and/or require greater independence with baggage handling (at hotels, airports, train stations) also fall into this category.

To learn more about the Activity levels, please visit our tour styles page.
Tour Style: Cultural

These three- and four-star hotel-based, "soft adventure" trips concentrate on the culture, history, and natural attributes of our destination. Though there are no strenuous activities built into these tours, you need to be prepared for some full days with some early starts, plenty of walking on uneven surfaces through villages, cities and archaeological sites, and not a lot of "down time." Independence, reasonable fitness, and an ability to be steady on one's feet are critical in order for you to get the most out of these programs.

To learn more about the Tour Styles, please visit our tour styles page.
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