My partner and I are just beginning to plan a weeks-long trip to Ethiopia in January of 2019. I have been perusing this forum, and have gleaned a lot of good information. I do have a few questions for now(and will probably have more later). I would appreciate any information any of you can provide.
1) We are interested in observing the celebration of Ethiopian Christmas in Lalibela, though I know that thousands of pilgrims descend upon the city at that time. Does anyone know whether it is likely that we'd be able to get in/out of Lalibela reasonably expeditiously, and what lodging might be the best bet to pursue for this? Or, is there another city where the celebration is traditional where the experience of seeing Genna is just as good, and less likely to be crowded?
2) I know that Ethio Air provides significant discounts to persons who present an international travel ticket, but I have read on one of these threads a post that suggested that, since Ethiopian Air is a member of the OneWorld Alliance of air carriers that a ticket from a partner airline will do. However, I have not seen that advice repeated elsewhere. Does anyone know whether this is true? Otherwise, if my Chase miles don't cover Ethio Air, we may fly into Djibouti and purchase Ethio Air tickets from there--would this be a good solution, if necessary?
3) We plan to be in Ethio for approximately three weeks and hope to hit Lalibela, Gonder, Axum, Danakil, Dire Dawa/Harrar, Simien, and Bahir Dar. This sounds ambitious, and I wonder whether we should remove one or two of these destinations from our list. Danakil, Omo Valley are must-sees, as they are such unique experiences. We, also, definitely want to get the richest, non-touristy history experience possible--Muslim, Christian, etc.: I would appreciate any comments about any of the above that are duplicative experiences essentially, or that are less interesting. Should we add Bale Mountains?
4)I would appreciate any recommendations of guides for the above areas. We are not wealthy, but we are happy to pay for a solid, professional, experience, preferably employing local guides.
5) Lastly, for now, we thought about flying up to Cairo from AA for a three day stay, to diversify our experience, and take advantage of being in the region. Has anyone done this who may provide any insight into the logistics of it? or is there another regional gem that you might suggest?
Thank you very much for reading this post and for the time you might give to responding!
Lalibela will be VERY crowded during the Christmas season, so I'd recommend booking your transport and lodging as soon as possible. Ethiopian Airlines' website has a link to a tourist info page with suggestions for hotels. The best way in and out of Lalibela is by air - Ethiopian Airlines flies a few times per day from Addis.
Re Cairo, I wouldn't recommend it. Egypt is simply not a safe destination these days. If you want to diversify your experience, I'd consider perhaps Zanzibar, Israel or Jordan, all of which can be easily reached via Ethiopian Airlines (which is one of the largest and best airlines in Africa), El Al, Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways.