Addis Ababa -> Awash National Park -> Harar -> Babile Elephant Sanctuary -> Dire Dawa -> Addis Ababa
Awash National Park is the oldest and most developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia. Highlights include the 5,906-foot-high Fantalle Volcano (1,800 m), numerous, blue mineral hot springs surrounded by palm trees, and extraordinary volcanic formations. The wildlife—oryx, fox, caracak, aardvark, monkeys, baboons, hippos, gazelles, leopards, lions, kudu¬—is greatly outnumbered and overwhelmed by the over 450 species of birds that inhabit the area—a special treat for birders and all other observers.
1 Addis Ababa
Arrive in Addis at the Bole International Airport to be met by tour staff for transport to your hotel. Sightseeing in Addis Ababa (e.g., the National Museum, the Ethnological Museum of Ethiopian Studies, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral) is possible, depending on your arrival time.
Overnight in Addis.
2 Addis to Awash National Park
We drive the 135 miles (218 km) to Awash National Park via the Rift Valley, stopping at the Bishoftu Lakes near Debre Zeit. We drive to the Awash gorge (492-feet-deep/150 m) and the beautiful Awash Falls, taking the gorgeous scenery, plentiful wildlife, and rare birds.
Overnight in Awash.
3 Awash National Park to Harar
We rise out of the dusty plains into the verdant heights of the Chercher Mountains. This area is highly cultivated with coffee, sorghum, and chat (the local euphoric) and stops can be made at these plantations for refreshment. This is a full-day (6 hr) drive.
Overnight in Harar.
The city of Harar is the Islamic heart of the nation. It is located in a fertile valley with a pleasant, cool climate—as distinct from the rest of Ethiopia as its unique, tolerant community. Its primary attraction is the sixteenth-century walled city with its five gates and Muslim marketplace and shops. Among the destinations, is the alleged home of nineteenth-century poet, traveler, avant-garde poet, Arthur Rimbaud, now a museum. Next door, and also of interest, is the palace of Ras Mekonnen (father of Haile Selassie). A strange nightly entertainment is the feeding of hyenas by the “Hyena Man,” outside the town walls.
Overnight in Harar.
5 Harar to Babile Elephant Sanctuary to Dire Dawa
A short drive will take you to the Babile Elephant Sanctuary, the most eastern wildlife protectorate in Ethiopia and the last stand of the world’s savanna elephant population. Also protected are other important species, such as the black-maned lion and the endemic Salvadori’s serin.
The road to the sanctuary includes a visit to the “Valley of Marvels,” an area of exotic, suggestive volcanic rock formations that demand at least a few photographs.
Overnight in Dire Dawa.
6 Dire Dawa to Addis (327 mls / 526 kms)
We make a short visit to Dire Dawa, which surprises tourists with its grid-like layout, its wide, tree-lined streets, and colonial buildings. This un-African city lies in contrast to its Muslim, organic, Kafira market, which attract Afar herders, Somali pastoralists, Oromo farmers and, occasionally, camel caravans from the Somali desert.
The drive to Addis takes approximately eight hours so your arrival to the Addis hotel, in which you overnight, is late in the evening.
7 Addis Ababa
Depending on your departure time, you can spend the say visiting the St. George Gallery or go shopping at the Merkato (the largest open-air market in Africa) and the various souvenir shops on Churchill Road.