Ethiopia with Patrick Syder

This item appears on page 33 of the December 2011 issue.

Along with seven other adventurous souls, I took a 15-day tour of Ethiopia offered by Patrick Syder Travel (Zenobia House, 23 Bowmans Close, Steyning, West Sussex, BN44 3SR, U.K.; phone/fax +44 [0] 1903 879737).

This classic itinerary through northern Ethiopia, April 12-26 2011, cost £1,790 (then, $2,873), including three domestic flights on Ethiopian Airlines, full board, an outstanding guide and the personal services of Patrick Syder, himself.

Ethiopia is one of two countries in Africa that were never colonized (the other is Liberia), although it was occupied briefly in the 1930s by Italy.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, with its many ancient traditions and festivals, has had a significant influence on the country’s way of life for centuries.

In Azum, where the legends of the Queen of Sheba and the lost Arc of the Covenant are famous, Ethiopia’s rich history stretches back over 3,000 years.

We started and ended in Addis Ababa, toured the dramatic and fertile plateaus of the north, then had ample opportunity to trek through the beautiful mountain terrain in Simien National Park. A day was spent cruising Lake Tana, visiting ancient monasteries on several islands.

The remarkable, 12th-century, rock-hewn subterranean churches of Lalibela were the highlight and we spent two days marveling at them. Also covered in depth were the equally extraordinary rock-cut churches of the eastern Tigray region around Mekele plus the 17th-century castles and palaces of Gondar, “Africa’s Camelot.” Everything added to our sense of the mystery of this beautiful country.

Our tour was timed to coincide with colorful processions in Axum celebrating the eve of Palm Sunday, and we were in Lalibela during Easter week.

I have traveled with over 20 different adventure or cultural tour companies, and Syder Travel is one of the best. Accommodations were first rate, and complete meals were provided from varied menus. Syder’s groups each have no more than 15 participants. I plan to travel with them again.

Oceanside, CA