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Title: Ethiopian Timket festival in LalibelaTimket-Epiphany

Tour code: VET700

Tour Duration: 11Days/12Nights

Travel dates: 14 January -24 January

Transportation: Surface/Air

Type of Vehicle:  2009/10 Nissan Patrol or 2009/10 Toyota Land cruiser

Tour Customizable: Yes

Tour Highlights: Ancient colorful TIMKET festivals around the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, ancient history, age-old culture, breathtaking highland scenery, waterfalls, castles, rock churches, and so much more.

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 >>Fixed Group Tour

This tour provides a practical image of the 3000 yeas historical mysteries and living historical facts and monuments of Ethiopia including the steles of Axum, the temple of Yeha, Palace of Queen of Sheba, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and many more.

Observe Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany) at Lalibela, one of the nine most colorful celebrations in Ethiopia, the remarkable manner in which ancient historical traditions have been preserved. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox church open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament.Timket_Epiphany

The natural contrasts and extremes of Ethiopia, some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent at the Semien Mountains National Park, one of UNESCO’S world heritage sites. In addition, the endemic mammal Gelada Baboon ‘the bleeding heart baboon’.

Timket, or Timkat, is Ethiopian language for Epiphany. Although the holiday commemorating Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan is observed by Christians all over the world, Timket is of special significance in Ethiopia. It is the most important and colourful event of the year.Timket_Epiphany_1

The festival starts at Timket Eve, eleven days after the orthodox Christmas. According to the Ethiopian epic Kebra Negast, the Ark of the Covenant was abducted from Jerusalem to Ethiopia during the first millennium BC. Since then, it has become the most sacred element of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Early afternoon in the Timket Eve, the replicas of the Ark, covered by silks, are carried solemnly by priests from each church to the nearby body of water. Accompanying the procession are tens of thousands of church members and believers, chanting, dancing, drum-beating, horn-blowing, prayer-stick-waving and sistra (a simple musical instrument)- rattling. All in all, it resembles the scene described in the Old Testament.

As evening falls, the priests and the pious believers participate in overnight vigil around the Arks until dawn. Then huge crowds gather around the water. After the chief priest blesses the water, the celebration reaches its climax. Many jump into the water, the rest are eager to get a splash. After the religious vows are renewed, some of the Arks are paraded back with the same celebrating fashion.

The festival does not end until the third day, dedicated to the Archangel Mikael. With parade no less magnificent than the previous two days, the rest of the Arks are carried back to their respective churches.

Best place to witness this festival: Gonder, Lalibela and Addis Ababa

Day-to-day program

Day 1: Wednesday, 14 Jan: Arrive Addis Ababa

Arrive in Addis Ababa, the modern capital of Ethiopia where you will be met by your guide who will accompany you throughout the trip. This is a lively, cosmopolitan city with plenty to do and see. A city tour will introduce you to some of the many museums and churches, in particular the Archaeological Museum, as well as visiting the Mercato, the largest market in Africa.

Overnight in Addis

Day 2: Thursday, 15 Jan: Addis Ababa-Axum
In the morning, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for your flight to Axum. After check in to Hotel, you will start to visit the ancient city of Axum.

This is the birthplace of Ethiopian civilization, and by the first century Axum was a major trading center for exotic goods from Egypt, Rome, Nubia, Greece, Syria, and India.  The Holy Ark of the Covenant was brought here before the destruction of the Temple, and Axum is reputed to be the second Jerusalem. Your today’s visit in Axum include: the Stele field, Kaleba Tombs, the 4th century Christian inscription of King Ezana, Queen of Sheba’s Palace, Archeological Museum, and Tsion Mariam Church where the original Ark of the Covenant is housed.

Overnight Hotel in Axum

Day 3: Friday, 16 Jan:  Axum-Yeha-Debre Damo
After breakfast, drive out of town to the pre-Christian temple of Yeha and to the most ancient monastery of Debre Damo, en-route enjoying the stunning view of historical Adwa Mountains and the dramatic mountainous country side scenery of Tigray. The rest of the day, walk around to explore the ancient city and interact with the local people.

Overnight Hotel in Axum

Day 4: Saturday, 17 Jan: Axum-Lalibela
After breakfast, transfer to Axum airport for the flight to Lalibela. After check in to Hotel, drive to the site where you will  find a concentration of some of Ethiopia’s most famous rock-hewn churches, mostly referred by many as “the living wonders of the world”  These churches are, and they have been for at least 800 years, an active Christian shrine, the spiritual center of the country’s  religious life. The monolithic churches were carved out of 2,600-sq meter natural rock terrace in the 12-century AD by king Lalibela.

Bete Medhani Alem, the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world, measures 37.7 ft in height, covers an area of almost 2625 square ft and has walls that are up to six feet thick. A plain building supported by 36 pillars on the inside and another 36 pillars around the  outside, Bete Medhani Alem was modeled on the original St. Mary Zion Church built by King Ezana in the 4th century at Axum.

The rock-hewn churches that you will visit today include: Bete Medhani Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil, Bete Golgotha Michael and Bete Giorgis. What makes this tour of Lalibela different from any other time is that, you will be visiting the churches with pilgrims from all over Ethiopia. most of them have come here from far off hamlets and inaccessible valleys walking for days, weeks and sometimes for months on their bare foot to share the blessing at this holy place. They will be chanting, singing and dancing with joy, for these people coming to Lalibela and going to Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was borne is the same, as Lalibela is considered to be the second Jerusalem.

Overnight Hotel in Lalibela

Day 5: Sunday, 18 Jan: Lalibela-Asheten Mariam-Timket Eve
In the morning, mule ride, and walk to the top of Asheten Mariam Monastery. This is very famous for its 12-century monastery church and beautiful view at 10,298 ft above sea level. We will walk/mule ride through dramatic highland scenery and which eventually ends in a beautiful serene agricultural hamlet.

The rock-hewn churches that you will visit today include: Bete Medhani Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil, Bete Golgotha Michael and Bete Giorgis.
In the afternoon, witness one of the most colorful and highly celebrated festivals in Ethiopia, the Timket eve ceremony, Ketera. During Ketera, priests take out the Tabots- replicas of the original Ark of the Covenant, from each church and bless the water of the pool where the next day' celebration will take place.  At Lalibela all the Taboats are taken to the ‘Taboat Maderia’, accompanied by priests bearing prayer sticks and sistra, ringing bells, blowing trumpets, and swinging bronze censors from which wisps of incense smoke escape into the evening air. The Tabots are kept in their special tent in the meadow, each hoisting a proud banner depicting the church's saint in front.  The dancing and chanting by the priest and the faithful continue all night long.

After having dinner and rest at the hotel, we will return to the ‘Taboat Maderia’ to attend the night celebrations.

Overnight Hotel in Lalibela

Day 6: Monday, 19 Jan: Timket Festival at Lalibela
Early in the morning, drive from your hotel to the ‘Taboat Maderia’ to join the celebration and the crowd waiting to be baptized by the holy water. Early in the morning, the water which symbolizes the Jordan River is blessed by the priest and the patriarch then dip a golden cross and extinguish a burning consecrated candle in the alter. Then he sprinkles water on the assembled congregation in commemoration of Christ's baptism in the Jordan River.

Following the baptism, the Tabots start their way back to their respective churches, while feasting, singing and dancing continue all the way to the churches. Every year on Timkat, everyone-men, women, and children-appears splendid for the celebration. Dressed in the dazzling white of the traditional dress, the locals provide a dramatic contrast to the jewel colors of the ceremonial velvets and satins of the priests' robes and sequined velvet umbrellas. The elders march solemnly, accompanied by singing, leaping priest and young men. All these activities of the priest and the deacon recall the ancient rites of the Old Testament; a culture which remained unchanged centuries for centuries.

After having lunch and rest at the hotel, you will continue your journey into Ethiopia’s long and marvelous history with a visit to other St. Lalibela’s remarkable churches-their architecture and artistry must be seen to be believed. Ones we finished visiting the second group of churches we will walk to the village through the complex bewildering labyrinth of underground tunnels to the monastery were the monks and nuns live.

Overnight Hotel in Lalibela

Day 7: Tuesday, 20 Jan: Lalibela-Gondar
After breakfast, transfer to Lalibela airport for the flight to Gondar. Thirty minutes flight takes you to Gondar. After check in to Hotel, located on a hill overlooking the city, and having lunch there, you will start your tour of Gondar.

Gondar, founded by Emperor Fasiledas around 1635 is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches-in particular, Debre Birhan Selassie represents a masterpiece of unique Ethiopian School of traditional art.

This afternoon, you will explore the ancient city and its famous sites including: The Royal Enclosure, a walled compound having 6 different castles built from 17th century by different kings who ruled in different times, the pool of King Fasilidas which still serves as a baptismal pool during Ethiopian Epiphany and you will also visit the famous Deberberhan Sillassie which is adorned with brilliant frescos from inside. 

Overnight Hotel in Gondar

Day 8: Wednesday, 21 Jan: Gondar-Simien Mountains-Gondar
After an early breakfast, start driving to Sankaber for your full day excursion to the Simien Mountains National Park en-route visiting the “Felasha” or the Black Jewish village. It is believed that the "Felashas" settled at this village during the time of King Minlik I, the son of Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.

Driving from Gondar up to Simien Mountains National Park, nothing prepares you for the spectacular scenery that awaits at the top of the massif. The rolling grassy plateau comes to an abrupt stop, and sheer cliffs plunge almost vertically for 1,000m (3280 ft) to the plains below. The massif itself has been sculpted by 30 million years of up thrust and erosion into a wonderland of jagged ridges, pinnacles and strangely cropped conical mountains, so that looking out over the heart-stopping precipice; you feel you might just be at the edge of the world.

At Sankaber, group will certainly have a chance to make relaxing trek and see troops of ‘bleeding heart baboon’ the Endemic Gelada Baboon, in the most dramatic sceneries of the park including Ginbar River Falls and Wolkafit mountain chain. You will have your picnic lunch at Sankaber while enjoying the stunning landscape across.

Overnight Hotel in Gondar

Day 9: Thursday, 22 Jan. Gondar-Bahirdar
After breakfast, drive to Bahirdar through the beautiful countryside scenery of Fogera and Gojam to arrive at Bahirdar around lunchtime.

In the afternoon, you will have a boat cruise over Lake Tana to visit the ancient island monasteries of Lake Tana. The 37 islands of Lake Tana shelter twenty monasteries-surviving remnants of an old, contemplative tradition. Because of their isolation, these monasteries were used to store treasures and religious relics from all the part of the country.  The monasteries are famous for their typical Ethiopian religious paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and other ancient church treasures. The monasteries that you are going to visit this afternoon include Kibran Gebriel, Ura Kidanemihret and Azua Mariam.

Overnight Hotel in Bahirdar

Day 10: Friday, 23 Jan. Bahirdar-Lake Tana-Blue Nile Falls
After breakfast, drive 35 KM to visit the majestic Blue Nile Falls. 30 KM after it exits Lake Tana, the Blue Nile plunges over a 45m-high face to form one of the most spectacular waterfall in Africa. Walking to the fall through the beautiful river gorge on the ancient bridge from the 17th century, and meeting the local people at the small villages on the way to the fall is also a great experience.

After having lunch at the hotel and taking little  rest, drive to Bezawit Hill where you can see the summer residence  of Emperor Hailesillasie I,  from outside. This  is also the best viewpoint to wander the sunset on Lake Tana and to see the outlet of  the Blue Nile River; where  the Blue Nile begins its long journey nourishing millions of lives all the way to Egypt and finally to Mediterranean Sea.

Overnight Hotel in Bahirdar

Day 11: Saturday, 24 Jan.  Bahirdar-Addis Ababa-Departure
After breakfast, transfer to Bahirdar airport for the flight back to Addis Ababa.

On this day we will see more of Addis and you will also have time for shopping and leisure on your own. In the evening, there will be Viva Ethiopias’ complimentary farewell dinner party with traditional special buffet and local drinks. There will also be live cultural dance show of the different ethnic groups living in the country. There will not be any better way of ending a trip. At the end of the farewell dinner, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for the flight back departing.

End of tour!


  1. Activities for the first and last days will depend on visitors’ times of arrivals and departures and airline used.
  2. Note that this program can be arranged in way to celebrate TIMKET in Gondar, Addis Ababa, Axum or a place of your choice.
  3. This program can also be arranged for all surface transportation, all air and combination
  4. Upon request the above tour program can be, modified, differently rearranged, combined with other programs, or extended to suit the clients’ interest, time, and budget.

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