2020 Ethiopia Annular Solar Eclipse Tour - TravelQuest International
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June 7 - 23, 2020

Wonders of Ethiopia Annular Solar Eclipse Tour

Annular Eclipse Tour Destination: Ethiopia

Annular Eclipse Tour Destination: EthiopiaMany of us first discovered the rich culture and haunting landscapes of Ethiopia long ago, through the pages of National Geographic magazine, when it remained a uniquely mysterious corner of the modern world. Even today, this vast land in northeast Africa is the only nation on the continent never colonized by Europeans and is still largely unexplored by travelers.

In June 2020 TravelQuest is changing that with a one-of-a-kind trip deep into the heart ...Show more


  • An all-inclusive adventure – with expert local guides, all accommodations, virtually all meals, private ground transportation and all flights within Ethiopia.
  • Discover East African tribal cultures never subject to European colonial rule, including the Mursi people, with their distinctive lip plates.
  • Explore the Great Rift Valley, visiting numerous UNESCO-protected sites and cultural communities.
  • Experience a true celestial wonder – a one-minute total annular solar eclipse – from our carefully chosen viewing site in the Ethiopian Highlands.

 After your early-morning arrival in Addis Ababa (airport code: ADD), you’re met by your TravelQuest representative for the quick transfer to our central hotel, where breakfast awaits you. Enjoy a driving tour of the city, including a visit to the National Museum of Ethiopia and a stroll through the Merkato, East Africa’s largest open-air market. After lunch we return to the hotel to check in; then you can relax for the rest of the afternoon and enjoy dinner on your own or with others in our group.

DATE(S): Sunday, June 7, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch

ACCOMMODATION: Sheraton Addis Hotel or similar

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for our flight to Dire Dawa, where we arrive in time for a lunch of authentic regional fare. In the afternoon we visit the Ethio-Djibouti Railway station, which dates from the late 1800s.  Next, we journey to the colorful spice market at Kefira, a traditional open-air venue with camels, donkeys and two-wheeled horse carts. Then it’s on to the old walled town of Harar, our home for the night, where you can stroll the bustling marketplace with the region’s Amhara, Oromo and Adere (Harari) peoples.

DATE(S): Monday, June 8, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Wonderland Hotel or similar

Today is devoted to exploring Harar, Ethiopia’s medieval capital, regarded by many as the fourth holy city of Islam, next to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Set on a plateau cut with deep gorges and surrounded by both desert and savannah, the city is protected by an encircling wall built in the 16th century by the Emir Nur ibn Mujahid. In addition to the fortifications and gates (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), we visit the former palace of Emperor Haile Selassie, as well as a traditional Harari village and the house of the renowned 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who worked here as a coffee trader after giving up writing at age 21. In the evening we pay a visit to the Hyena Men, who make their living by collecting offal and bones from around the city, then inviting visitors to watch them feed wild hyenas – from their mouths. It’s an experience not soon forgotten!

DATE(S): Tuesday, June 9, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Wonderland Hotel or similar

In the morning, we drive from Harar back to Dire Dawa for our return flight to Addis. Then, after lunch, we head overland through Ethiopia’s famed Great Rift Valley – one segment in a line of deep fissures in the Earth that extends 6,000 km (3,800 miles) from the Middle East through the heart of Africa to Mozambique. As a result of massive shifts in the Earth’s tectonic plates, the rift is punctuated by a series of lakes, each teeming with fish and supporting hundreds of species of birds. We stop along our route to view two of the most beautiful, Lake Ziway and Lake Langano, with chances to spot a diverse array of wildlife, including hippos, monkeys, baboons and warthogs. Our final destination is the lakeside town of Awassa.

DATE(S): Wednesday, June 10, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Haile Resort Awassa or similar

In the morning we visit Awassa’s famed fish market, the largest in Ethiopia, and then head southwest along the shores of Lake Abaya to the community of Chencha. Here you meet the Dorze people, once feared as warriors, and now renowned as weavers of fine cotton textiles – including their colorful robes, or shammas, which are popular throughout Ethiopia. The Dorze are also famous for their two-story “beehive” huts, which are constructed so skillfully from woven bamboo and enset (Ethiopian banana) that they last up to 80 years.  Getting to know our Dorze hosts is a fascinating cultural experience, and the warmth of their welcome will stay with you as we carry on to our destination for tonight, the town of Arba Minch.

DATE(S): Thursday, June 11, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Haile Resort Arba Minch or similar

Your morning begins with a boat ride on Lake Chamo, where you will likely spot hippos, great white pelicans and other species of water birds. Chamo also boasts one of the world’s most spectacular concentrations of giant crocodiles – to the point where locals call it “The Crocodile Market.” Driving southward, we stop at a remote village of the Konso people, set on a hillside among outcrops of basalt and protected by a network of stone-walled alleys. Then, further along the Omo Valley, we visit a Bena community, gaining a firsthand look at their unique way of life: most adults color their bodies with white chalk, and women string beads through their buttered hair while men wear colorful clay caps decorated with feathers. When we reach our final destination, an eco-lodge near the market town of Turmi, you can count on having plenty of vivid memories (with a camera full of images to match).

DATE(S): Friday, June 12, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Buska Lodge or similar


Today we meet another of the ancient tribes of southern Ethiopia: the Hamer, who tend their cattle herds among remote villages east of the Omo River. Decorating themselves with chalk paint and natural ornaments similar to those of the Bena, the Hamer are also known for their extraordinary cattle-leaping ritual: to mark their passage into manhood, young men must jump naked over a line of up to 30 bulls without falling. While the ceremony lasts several days, it’s not a scheduled event, so we can’t guarantee it will coincide with our visit – but if you’re lucky enough to witness one, it’s a sight you won't soon forget. After a very full day, we drive on to the small market town of Jinka and our next lodge.

DATE(S): Saturday, June 13, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Eco Omo Lodge or similar


Today’s explorations take us deeper into the Omo Valley, where we get to experience two more fascinating cultures. The Mursi people, like their neighbors, express their unique beliefs through body painting and ornamentation. They’re perhaps best known for their tradition of having women, when they reach maturity, insert large clay plates into their lower lips. Possibly originating as a way to thwart slave traders, it’s a practice that you won't see carried on anywhere else in the world in quite this way. Our other cultural encounter is with the Bodi people, who herd cattle in remote corners of the valley. Among their culture’s many interesting facets is its celebration of girth as a sign of prosperity – to the point where young men regularly gorge on cow's blood and milk in a bid to be honored as the community’s fattest man.

DATE(S): Sunday, June 14, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Eco Omo Lodge or similar

Today we conclude our journey through the Omo Valley with a visit to a village of the Ari people, who traditionally make their livelihoods growing grains, coffee, fruits and honey. If you’re interested in taking home a piece of pottery, there are many women artisans in the village – beautifully decked out in beads, bracelets and other jewelry, and wearing hand-woven enset (banana leaf) skirts. In the afternoon, we catch our return flight to Addis Ababa.

DATE(S): Monday, June 15, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Sheraton Addis Hotel or similar

After a morning flight to Bahir Dar, we head to Lake Tana, the largest in Ethiopia, whose many islands shelter churches of significant historical and cultural interest. Traveling by boat, we visit the monasteries of Ura-Kidane Mihret and Azwa-Mariam for a closer look at treasures of the Ethiopian Coptic Christians. And on the Zege Peninsula, you can stroll among coffee shrubs that were likely planted by early monks. The other highlight today is our visit to the Blue Nile Falls, one of the most spectacular in Africa, cascading 45 m (148 ft) across a 400 m (1,300 ft) span when the river is in full flood.  It’s an easy half-hour walk to an outlook with spectacular views – and great bird watching. The gravel road in and out can be a bit rough, but the reward of viewing the falls is irreplaceable.

DATE(S): Tuesday, June 16, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Kuriftu Resort or similar

Today we journey overland to Gondar, Ethiopia’s capital from the 16th to the 18th century – often called the “the Camelot of Africa” by admirers of its six castles. The oldest and most magnificent is Fasiledes, named for the king who founded Gondar in 1632. Also remarkable is the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie, an imposing structure with brightly colored ceilings covered in intricately painted angels.

DATE(S): Wednesday, June 17, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Mayleko Lodge or similar

This morning, we fly to the northern Ethiopian city of Axum. After an introduction to the region’s rich history at the archeological museum, we visit the famed Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion. Built from 1665 on foundations that likely date back a thousand years earlier, this is the oldest Christian site in Africa – with a guarded chapel that is said to house the Ark of the Covenant. The modern cathedral, built in the 1960s by Emperor Haile Selassie, presents a striking contrast to its ancient setting. Of course, the other focal point of our visit is Axum’s renowned stelae – more than 120 stone monuments dating from the 4th century and now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also walk among the ruins of various palaces and tombs, including the residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba, who may have lived here some 3,000 years ago.

DATE(S): Thursday, June 18, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Sabean Hotel or similar

Our morning flight takes us to Lalibela, situated high in the Lasta Mountains at more than 2,500 m (8,500 ft) above sea level. This is arguably one of the most important religious sites in all of Africa, and indeed the entire Christian world. While there are at least 200 churches across the region, some of them hidden in enormous caves, Lalibela boasts 11 structures whose engineering and craftsmanship have rightly earned renown as true architectural wonders. Perhaps the most impressive is MedhaneAlem, the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world, with 72 carved pillars. Everywhere you explore among these magnificent buildings, you find a wealth of cultural treasures, from faded frescoes gracing the stone walls to elaborately carved details on the piers, capitals and arches.

DATE(S): Friday, June 19, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Zagwe hotel or similar


This morning we make an excursion to Yimerhane Kirstos, named for the12th-century ruler who built this beautiful monastery with its olivewood panels and exterior of whitewashed marble. Next, we discover a cluster of churches built to represent the heavenly Jerusalem, followed by the centerpiece of the compound: cross-shaped Bete Giorgis, with a breathtaking interior dominated by depictions of its namesake, Saint George, slaying the dragon.

DATE(S): Saturday, June 20, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Zagwe hotel or similar

Eclipse day has finally arrived. Rising early, we make our way to TravelQuest’s expertly selected viewing site, ready to take in the full spectacle (see box).  Afterward, you can reflect on the experience over lunch and traditional coffee with our local friends – and then enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure.  

Annular Eclipses 101

By eclipse meteorologist Jay Anderson

What is an Annular Eclipse?

Solar eclipses come in three flavors. The first is a partial eclipse in which the Moon covers only a segment of the Sun; it’s visible over a large area of the Earth and is not particularly remarkable. The other two flavors are both “central eclipses” in which the Moon passes directly across the Sun. To see these very special eclipses at their best, you need to place yourself within their narrow shadow tracks across the Earth’s surface. Each type of central eclipse has its own set of attractions. In one case, the Moon is relatively close to the Earth; it covers the Sun completely, giving us the spectacle of a total eclipse in which all of the normally hidden features of the Sun are revealed to viewers for a few precious minutes. In the other type, the Moon is at a more distant part of its orbit and cannot completely cover the solar disk. Instead it forms a ring of light in the sky – an annulus – that is captivating for the watchers below. Although annular eclipses are slightly more common than total eclipses, they are still elusive – unless you’re willing to travel to experience them. The 2020 annular eclipse is especially intriguing. The Moon will be nearly the same size as the Sun in the sky, and so the annulus will be very narrow – just shy of a total eclipse. Phenomena that are only fleetingly visible during a total eclipse will linger and wrap themselves around the edge of the dark Moon. Beads of sunlight, shining through valleys on the limb of the Moon, will form an extended necklace, as brilliant as diamonds against the darkening sky. The impossibly red hues of the chromosphere, the Sun’s shallowest atmospheric layer, will form a ruby ribbon that unites the sunlight beads along the lunar edge. The Sun’s extended atmosphere, the corona, will briefly come into view when the Moon begins to cover and then uncovers the solar disk. On the ground, if atmospheric conditions are just right, the narrow crescent will reveal dramatic displays of shadow bands.

Because some portion of the solar disk is visible throughout an annular eclipse, your eyes must be protected at all times. When you use special viewing glasses, the dim corona and chromosphere are not visible; we’ll leave that to our cameras, checking the results when the eclipse is over. On the other hand, the dynamic performance of the beads and the play of light through the lunar valleys is readily apparent throughout the event and easy to follow. An annular eclipse may not quite equal the drama of totality, but it nevertheless creates its own excitement as one of nature’s true spectacles.  

Annular eclipse viewing prospects at Lalibela, Ethiopia

The 2020 annular solar eclipse is special: a one-minute event so close to total (99.2% to be exact) that it will be possible to capture prominences, the chromosphere and some corona with a camera, while viewers with eye protection will see a profusion of beads rotating around the lunar limb. The path of the eclipse stretches from Central Africa to Guam – a significant swathe of the Earth, but one plagued by oppressive humidity, searing heat, hazy and dusty skies, and the thin air of high-altitude plateaus. Only one location stands out for a comfortable, convenient eclipse view: the Ethiopian Highlands and, in particular, the city of Lalibela.  Ideally situated on the central line of the eclipse path, Lalibela has an elevation of 2,590 m (8,500 ft), well above the heat and humidity of the tropics. And while sunshine is not as abundant on the Ethiopian Highlands plateau as it is over the deserts of Arabia and Pakistan, it is nonetheless generous. Most clouds are convective in nature and tend to dissipate as the temperature falls ahead of the eclipse; but because the eclipse comes during the morning hours, around 8:00 a.m. local time, the clouds will be in the early stages of their growth. Satellite photos from the past 18 years show that such an eclipse would have been visible in 14 of them.

DATE(S): Sunday, June 21, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Zagwe hotel or similar

This morning we fly back to Addis Ababa, where you can spend the rest of the day relaxing on the grounds of our luxurious hotel.

DATE(S): Monday, June 22, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

ACCOMMODATION: Sheraton Addis Hotel or similar

After a late checkout, enjoy an expert-guided tour of Addis Ababa – including a visit to Holy Trinity Cathedral, a baroque-style Orthodox church that is the burial site of Emperor Haile Selassie, as well as many Ethiopians who resisted the Italian occupation during the 1930s. In the evening, join us for a farewell dinner at one of the best traditional restaurants in Addis, where we sample cuisine from around the country while enjoying folkloric dances and the music of various Ethiopian peoples. After dinner, it’s time to part ways following an amazing adventure together as we transfer you to the airport for your evening flight onward.

DATE(S): Tuesday, June 23, 2020

MEALS: Breakfast / Dinner

Optional Add-ons

For those wishing to arrive in Addis Ababa a night or two early, TravelQuest has reserved a limited number of rooms at the Sheraton Addis Hotel. 


The cost per night, including the transfer from Addis airport, breakfast and tax: $340 USD per person based on two people sharing one room. $614 USD for single occupancy.


Level 3 – Moderate – Some demanding walks and hikes over uneven and sometimes hilly terrain, with rugged travel conditions or long drives, at varying elevations up to 2,590 m (8,500 ft).

At TravelQuest, we want to be sure you find the trip that best suits your interests and level of fitness. Please email or call if you have any questions regarding the itinerary.


  • TravelQuest, working with our partners, makes every effort to follow the published itinerary. However, please keep in mind that it is subject to change depending on weather and other local conditions.
  • Viewing an annular eclipse is particularly weather-dependent, and as such, we can offer no guarantee that local conditions will cooperate.

Prices are per person in US Dollars based on the number of people in a room.







  • TravelQuest, working with our partners, makes every effort to follow the published itinerary. However, please keep in mind that it is subject to change depending on weather and other local conditions.
  • Please note that viewing a solar eclipse is particularly weather-dependent, and therefore we can offer no guarantee that local conditions will cooperate.
  • All tour prices, taxes and airfares quoted in this brochure are based on tariffs, costs and United States dollar exchange rates that were in effect at the time of publication. Consequently, prices herein are subject to change. Due to fluctuations in global oil prices, a fuel surcharge may be added to your tour fee. You will be advised of details and costs prior to departure.



  • 16 nights' accommodation at select hotels
  • All ground transportation
  • All flights within Ethiopia, using Ethiopian Airlines
  • Expert, English-speaking local guide throughout your journey
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary, including coffee, tea and water
  • Sightseeing admissions as noted in itinerary
  • Services of a TravelQuest Trip Leader and Astronomer

Not Included

  • International air transportation to and from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD). Travelers flying internationally into and out of Addis Ababa using Ethiopian Airlines (ET) will receive a domestic flight credit of US$640 off the cost of this tour.
  • Luggage handling
  • Gratuities to driver and local guide
  • Unspecified meals and activities
  • Items of a personal nature, including spa and laundry services, beverages at meals other than coffee/tea/water, souvenirs, etc.
  • Passport & visa fees, along with any required immunizations
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance

Payments & Terms

  • An advance payment of $2,000 USD per person, along with the completed reservation form, are required to secure your reservation.
  • Final payment is due by March 6, 2020.

Cancellation Terms

  • Cancellations must be made in writing via email, fax or mail.
  • All advance payments, less a $700 USD per person cancellation fee, are refundable until January 6, 2020.
  • From January 7 to March 6, 2020, all advance payments, less a $1,400 USD per person service fee, are refundable.
  • There are no refunds after March 6, 2020.
  • International air cancellation terms are additional.

Traveler Health

We at TQ want to be sure you find the trip that best suits your interests and level of fitness. Prior to submitting their booking, it is the responsibility of each traveler on the booking to thoroughly read the itinerary, acquire and understand all pertinent medical advice to determine whether or not they are of an appropriate physical and healthy state to undertake the trip. At minimum, participants must be able to climb into and out of buses, vans and trains without assistance, keep up with the pace of the trip, and carry their own luggage. If you have any questions about your trip’s itinerary or its level of difficulty, please contact us prior to booking.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance protects you from unexpected “what ifs” on your travels: What if your bags go missing? What if you have to cancel? What if you need medical assistance? At TravelQuest International, we highly recommend that you purchase a travel protection plan to help secure you and your trip investment against the unexpected. You can purchase this insurance on your own or contact our friends at Travelex, who are familiar with our trips and offer a selection of coverage options to suit your needs. To be eligible for the waiver of pre-existing medical condition exclusion, Travelex plans must be purchased within 21 days from the time you make your initial deposit to TravelQuest. Otherwise, you may purchase a plan anytime prior to departure.

For more information on these plans or to enroll, click on the link below or contact Travelex Insurance Services direct at 1-800-228-9792, and reference location number 03-6043.

TravelEx Insurance

A Note About Fuel

In the uncertain, often volatile global oil market, it is difficult to predict long-term fuel costs and, more specifically, costs at the time of the trip. Our prices are based on the prevailing fuel rates at the time of brochure publication, which is well in advance of departure. While we will do everything possible to maintain our prices, if fuel costs increase significantly at or before the time of the trip, it may be necessary to institute a fuel surcharge.

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