YPT are proud to bring back our East-African classics! So join us in the last part of our Horn of Africa Independence Combo Tour for a truly off the beaten track experience to one of the planet’s least visited destinations – Eritrea.
This fascinating country falls well below most travelers’ radars, which makes it a unique and off the beaten track experience. Eritrea boasts a pristine coastline and untouched Red Sea islands as well as some of the best-kept colonial architecture in Africa. On top of all that we’ll take part in the two-day festival to celebrate Eritrea’s independence!
Having been colonized in part by the Turks and Egyptians, Eritrea took on a European flavor with the arrival of the Italians in 1885 during their belated entry in the “scramble for Africa”. The legacies of successive foreign forces, combined with a rich mix of nine local ethnic groups, have created a diverse cultural landscape that offers the best of African, Middle Eastern and European influences.
The Eritrean capital city of Asmara is like a film set from an early Italian movie, with vintage Italian coffee machines and outstanding examples of Art-Deco architecture. Although the country faces numerous hardships, it paradoxically remains one of Africa’s most peaceful, secure, and welcoming destinations.
This tour can be done as a standalone, or combined with our Djibouti Tour or Somaliland Tour. As always, we offer discounts on group bookings and for returning Pioneers.
If you live in a country with Eritrean representation we assist you with collecting the visa. If not then all you have to do is collect the visa on arrival at Asmara airport with an invitation letter we provide you before the tour. If these dates don’t work for you, no problem – contact us for info on organising your own independent itinerary for any date. We will also facilitate the visa process for you.
Arrival in Eritrea at your own leisure with airport pickup where you will be transferred to our hotel,
Check in our hotel, the Top Five Hotel, and free time to look around the city.
We will meet your at the hotel before heading out for our first group dinner and drinks in Eritrea at Harnassien Restaurant.
Tonight, Harnett street should be busy with the carnival so we will head there to check out the various pre-Independence Day celebrations including modern and folklore dances.
Festival continues into the night culminating in a massive fireworks show at midnight to celebrate independence.
Overnight in Top Five Hotel, Asmara
Tuesday 24th May – Independence Day!
For those brave enough there will be a 6 am 21-gun salute to mark Independence Day.
Free time to walk around the city after breakfast and mingle with locals.
There will be various art exhibitions along the pedestrianized streets of the Main liberation avenue.
After lunch, we join the celebrations at Asmara Stadium. There will be various displays by the Military music band, and the Eritrean Air force will fly over the stadium in a spectacular color show! Multiple dramas will be shown by many artists during the afternoon.
The Eritrean President will deliver a speech on the occasion of the Independence Day. The show will come to an end at about 7 pm.
Dinner and drinks to close out the Independence celebrations at a traditional restaurant, Hed Mona, where you can sample injera and local alcohols… Followed by a dance party!
Overnight at the hotel in Asmara.
Wednesday 25th May – Asmara
After breakfast, we will have a walking tour of the center of town. We will see the spectacular art deco of Asmara built by the Italians at the turn of the last century, such as the Post office built 1916, Albergo Italia built in 1899, the presidential palace built in 1907, and the Hotel Hamasien built in 1916. Great photo opportunities!
We check out the Tank graveyard where we can see out-of-use tanks that were demolished during the war with Ethiopia.
Visit the City Hall to see various photo displays in commemoration of the thirty-years bitter struggle and the post-independence progress. The City Hall was established by the Italians in 1890 and is one of the oldest institutions in Africa. There will also be various inventions on display by young people.
Overnight in Asmara
Thursday 26th May – Asmara
Early start and some breakfast as we have an exciting day. Today we will board a 100-year-old train and ride all the way to Arbaroba or the end of the maintained track.
Along the way, we will go through tunnels and winding roads. This is definitely a trip highlight!
On board the train we will be offered a traditional coffee ceremony.
Arrive back in Asmara.
In the afternoon, we will have some time to walk around and visit more of Asmara, possibly heading to the recycling market.
Head to the incredible bowling alley for a step back in time.
Dinner and overnight at our hotel.
Friday 27th May – Massawa
Hit the road for the 3 hour drive to Massawa
On arrival, we’ll check in at our seaside hotel
We’ll visit Gurgusum Beach, where we can swim and relax with local people.
Walking tour to take in the unique mixture of Turkish and Italian architectural design.
Dinner at the “Salam Restaurant”. Fresh fish prepared in traditional oven. This is a real local experience.
After dinner, we explore the nightlife of Massawa and find some bars.
Overnight in Massawa at an hotel reminiscent of the era of the Italians, the Grand Dahlac Hotel.
Saturday 28th May – Massawa
After breakfast, we visit a local school in Massawa to learn about Eritrea’s education system and meet with the children.
Take a boat to Dahlac Marine National Park, the Red Sea’s largest archipelago of which just four islands are inhabited.
We visit ruins from the early Arabic/Islamic settlers of the 8th century, and also some local Tigranyan villages.
Those who have a diving license can experience a dive in the Red Sea! (additional cost for diving). Don’t dive? No problem – snorkelling equipment is also available.
In the late afternoon/early evening, we will make our way back to Massawa.
Dinner at Almaz Bar & Restaurant, YPT’s favourite meal in Massawa. There, we can try Ja-Ja fish, an incredible stir-fry made up of thick pieces of fish
Drinks and overnight in Massawa
Sunday 29th May – Asmara
After a late breakfast, we will hit the road back to Asmara.
Arrival in Asmara at around 4 pm – we will have free time in Asmara. We may be lucky enough to watch football in the famous Cinema Roma or, if interested, have a chance to briefly talk about your country or profession to young Eritrean students.
Dinner and group drinks in Asmara.
Monday 30th May – Asmara
After breakfast, we head to Keren city.
We take in the shrine of Mariam Dearit. Here happens a real highlight of the religious festival calendar in Eritrea. Thousands of Eritrean come here in pilgrimage to see the statue of the holy virgin hidden in the trunk of a tree.
Lunch in Keren
Free time in this quaint town to check out the local markets and explore the lively streets.
In Keren, we will have the chance to catch some great views from the top of Hotel Keren
We will then visit the old train station of Keren and stop by some architecturally interesting buildings.
Drive back to Asmara and stop by some destroyed Ethiopian tanks along the way!
Last group dinner at the National Union of Eritrean Workers Restaurant (what a YPTesque name!) and overnight in Asmara.
Tuesday 31st May
End of tour.
YPT is able to arrange airport transfers for those who require, depending on flight times.