Forget what you thought you knew about Africa because Ethiopia is unlike any other nation on the continent.

Red-chested monkeys, churches carved out of stone, bones that rewrite the history of human evolution – Ethiopia is a country of endless intrigue. It’s one of the world’s oldest countries, has one of the oldest Christian religions, has one of the fastest-growing economies and is the only African nation to escape European colonialism. During this weeklong itinerary, we’ll unlock a living time capsule, exploring 12th-century rock-hewn churches and an ancient royal palace. Meet one of the world’s earliest humans in Addis Ababa, cavort with gelada monkeys in the magnificent Simien Mountains and get swept up in the excitement of the annual Meskel Festival.

Pre Conference Tour

Extend your experience before joining the main conference group - join the optional pre conference tour.

Day 1

Addis Ababa

Arrive in Addis Ababa and transfer to a hotel close to the airport.

Join your fellow delegates for a welcome dinner.

Day 2

Addis Ababa - Lalibela

Enjoy an early breakfast at the hotel before boarding a morning flight to Lalibela, in northern Ethiopia. Check in to your lovely hotel and freshen up in your private bungalow, set amid trees and savannah grasses with views of the Lalibela hills.

After lunch, explore Lalibela’s World Heritage-listed rock-hewn churches, dubbed “the new Jerusalem”. The 12th century churches were built by order of King Lalibela and hand carved out of solid stone in a tremendous feat of medieval masonry.

Marvel at the religious monoliths from ground level before descending into the subterranean complex to explore the 11 churches on foot, each painstakingly chiselled with geometric precision. Weave through dimly lit passageways, explore hidden crypts and grottoes, admire ancient iconoclastic paintings and see pillars worn smooth by the hands of eight centuries of worshippers.

Afternoon Conference Session


Day 3


Morning conference session

One visit is not enough to do the churches of Lalibela justice, so after lunch we return to explore some of the lesser visited stone cathedrals. Step inside their cool interiors and be greeted by robed monks adorned in colourful brocades bearing silver crosses.

Marvel at the intricate decorative carvings, arches and windows and remember, everything you see was meticulously chiselled by hand. The workers may have had some help though – according to legend, angels descended each night to toil after the men had downed tools for the day.

In the evening, enjoy a magical dinner at a hilltop restaurant, feasting on delicious Western and Ethiopian-flavoured dishes, with magnificent views across Lalibela.

Day 4

Lalibela - Gondar

Morning conference session

In the afternoon, transfer to the airport and fly to Gondar, in far north-east Ethiopia.

Check in to your hotel, an enchanting property perched on a hillside with sweeping views of the city all the way to Lake Tana.

In the afternoon, visit the Royal Enclosure, the once grand regal capital of the Fasiladas Empire, dubbed the Camelot of Africa. Explore the stoned-walled ruins of once magnificent castles, formerly home to chivalrous knights on horseback and theatre of much pomp and pageantry.

See Fasiladas’ Baths, where pilgrims bathe in holy waters each January to renew their faith, hear tales of Machiavellian plots devised by a royal family hell-bent on succession, and marvel at the intricate frescoes inside the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie.

Enjoy dinner accompanied by Ethiopian music and dancing at a local restaurant.

Day 5

Gondar - Simien Mountains

Check out of your hotel and drive to the Simien Mountains. Brace yourself for a panorama of plunging gorges, pinnacles and cliffs, carved out of the volcanic plateau millions of years ago.

The scenery is breathtaking but we’re mostly here for the monkeys – geladas, the world’s only grass-eating primates found nowhere else on Earth. The baboon-sized animals, dubbed bleeding heart monkeys because of the red patches of skin on their chests, are unique to the grassy mountain plateaus in the central Ethiopian Highlands.

Day 6

Simien Mountains - Gondar - Addis Ababa

After breakfast, return to the mountains to indulge in more monkey business with the geladas. See troops of monkeys scampering through the meadows and feasting on fistfuls of grass. Watch as they groom each other in the sun and play, occasionally baring fierce-looking incisors to assert their dominance in the pack, and learn how they sleep huddled together on the side of precipitous cliffs.

Bid ‘behina huni’ (goodbye) to the geladas as we make our way back to Gondar and for lunch.

Afternoon conference session

In the evening, fly to Addis Ababa and check in to your hotel.

Day 7

Addis Ababa

Full day conference.

Day 8

Addis Ababa

Today is dedicated to exploring the Ethiopian capital. Join a morning tour and learn about Africa’s fourth-largest city. Discover how this young metropolis, founded in the late 19th century, came to be: history tells us Empress Taitu implored her husband, Emperor Menilek II, to build her a house away from the cold of the highland capital, Entoto. He obliged and in 1887 Addis Ababa, (meaning ‘new flower’) was born.

The highlight of today’s tour is a visit to the National Museum, where you will meet its most famous exhibit, Lucy – a 3.2 million-year-old early human. Discovered in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia in 1974, the ancient bones rewrote the annals of human evolution.

Local clinic visit.

Enjoy lunch at the hotel before an afternoon visit to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Established by Australian surgeons Catherine and Reg Hamlin more than 40 years ago, the hospital treats women suffering traumatic birthing injuries. Meet the patients whose lives have been transformed by fistula repair surgeries and be inspired by the Hamlins’ mission to restore dignity to women across Africa.

In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner.

Day 9

Addis Ababa

Enjoy a morning of free time to sightsee or relax at the hotel. Visit the Ethnological Museum and learn about Ethiopia’s social and cultural history, or shop for netela (traditional shawls) and habesha kemis (dresses) at the vibrant Shiro Meda market.

After lunch, you’re in for a treat as we join the festivities at the Meskel Festival. The annual event celebrates Empress Helena of Constantinople’s recovery of a cross that orthodox Christians believe was used to crucify Jesus.

See choristers, priests in colourful regalia and daisy-carrying devotees parade through the streets as Meskel Square erupts in singing, dancing and drumming. The event culminates in a massive bonfire.

Day 10

Addis Ababa - Australia

Transfer to the airport for your homeward journey to Australia.

Post Conference Tour

Continue your experience before returning to Australia - join the optional post conference tour.

End of arrangements. Please note this program may be subject to change

Dr Gary Kilov (1:42)
Dr Asha Nair (1:31)
Dr Ralph Audehm (1:11)