Somaliland and Eritrea – Horn of Africa Independence Combo
YPT are proud to bring back to the Horn of Africa this year again! So join us for a truly off the beaten track experience to two of the planet’s least visited destinations – Somaliland and Eritrea.
We begin in the former British protectorate and self-declared republic of Somaliland. This de-facto state declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991; however, no international organization has recognized its sovereignty.
Still recovering from a brutal civil war, today the area is very safe and the local people are extremely welcoming and interested in foreign visitors. Somaliland is fundamentally different from the other countries in the region — and almost anywhere else on the planet. We’ll take you to smoke shisha with the locals, swim in untouched waters and visit ancient cave art!
Next we move onto Eritrea. This fascinating country falls well below most travelers radars which makes it a unique off the beaten track experience. Eritrea boasts 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 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 flavour 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.
Still not enough? Why not also visit Ethiopia with us as part of our Mega-Combo?
Please note that the itinerary may change depending on the Somaliland government. Your safety is our top priority. Safety and security are the first questions in many people’s mind when travelling to a foreign country. If you are considering joining us on this exciting adventure, please note that Somaliland is NOT Somalia; and the country has been free from terrorist attacks since 2008. The Somaliland government does everything to ensure the security of their country, especially foreign visitors. We have a strong network in the country to provide us with the most up-to-date security information, including a leading international travel security consultant firm and the local government. We only lead our tours to protected regions. We will travel with 2-3 SPU (Special Protection Unit) soldiers when outside of Hargeisa. They are trained specially to protect foreign visitors. We also have several backup itineraries – i.e., in the unlikely event that an alert occurs in our destination, we will immediately change our itinerary.
In order to give you maximum flexibility in your trip as well as control over mileage programs, we chose not to include the flights between countries but have put recommendations in the itinerary. If you wish us to include the international flight (Hargeisa to Asmara) in your tour price this can be done for an extra €300. This price is valid until two months before tour, after which individual quotes will have to be given due to the fluctuation in flight ticket prices.
Transfer to the Airport in the morning for our 9:20 am flight to Somaliland.
Arrival in Hargeisa.
Dinner at a newly opened and popular Syrian restaurant run by refugees from Damascus. We’ll have a chance to chat with them and hear how they find life in Somaliland.
After dinner, you can walk around the bustling city center in Hargeisa, and have some chai with the friendly locals or do some shopping for t-shirts and flags for Independence Day.
Saturday 16th May – Hargeisa
Visit the two hills called Naaso Hablood (“Girl’s Breasts”), also known as Hargeisa’s landmark. On the way, we visit the cemetery for British Soldiers who died here battling against the Italians during the Second World War. Hargeisa is the former capital of British Somaliland, while Italy controlled what is now Somalia.
We will have lunch at a Somali-Yemeni restaurant with some Somalilander intellectual icons who will give us the political, social, historical and cultural introduction of the country.
We will then take a walking tour around the city center of Hargeisa to get a sense of the people and the city. Here you will see street money exchangers and their “chunk” of bills, the central market, and the MiG Jet fighter War Memorial which stands for the atrocities committed by the dictator during the Civil War. The War Memorial is in the middle of the buzzing centrum and an excellent place for a coffee and chats with Somalilanders about politics and history.
Visit to the busy market in downtown Hargeisa for some evening shopping and people watching.
Dinner and overnight in Hargeisa.
Sunday 17th May – Laas Geel/Hargeisa
After breakfast, we will take a visit to the livestock market where you can purchase your own camel or goat! For those who can’t fit a camel in their luggage, this market will provide excellent photo opportunity and a chance to see how the locals do business.
Afternoon visit to Laas Geel, the most important rock art site in Africa. These caves contain some of the oldest cave paintings on the horn of Africa; the vibrant colours and well-preserved paintings are estimated to be around ten thousand years old.
Make the 60km drive back to Hargeisa and spend the evening at your leisure.
Monday 18th May – Independence Day!
We’ll get up nice and early for a quick breakfast before hitting the streets to observe the military and civilian parades. Everyone will be dressed in the national colours on the street, and this is one of the only places on earth to take part in an Independence Day celebration in an unrecognized country!
After lunch and a short break from the heat, we’ll visit the Somaliland national museum and cultural center. A great place to chat with some local young people.
We will have a traditional dinner that evening and toast to this small nation!
Overnight in Hargeisa
Tuesday 19th May – Berbera
We will head to the most important port of Somaliland, Berbera. Upon our arrival, we will visit the historical Ottoman Mosque and Ottoman houses.
Late lunch will be served at the Ottoman houses, and we will relax a bit (it will be sweltering).
We’ll take a short boat trip to go hunt for shipwrecks in the Gulf of Aden.
We will relax and swim at the untouched beach, where local youth and families come and enjoy their down time. (Due to local culture, ladies will need to cover their body while in water.)
Tour the historic town of Berbera in the early evening, where you will find more Ottoman, Persian, and British architecture of historic interest. This will be an excellent chance for some fantastic photographs.
We will have fresh seafood on the waterfront for dinner.
Wednesday 20th May – Hargeisa
After breakfast, we will have short free time in Berbera.
We’ll drive to the small town of Sheikh in the mountains, stop for some afternoon tea, walk around and enjoy the pleasant climate.
We’ll make the drive back to Hargeisa for our last dinner in Somaliland.
Thursday 21st May – Asmara
End of Somaliland tour – continue onwards to Eritrea!
Airport transfer to the airport to catch the noon flight to Addis Ababa and transfer to Asmara, arriving at 5:25pm.
Check in our hotel and free time to look around the city.
Our local guide will meet our flight at the airport and we will be transferred to our hotel, the “Ambassador Hotel”.
We will meet our new group members at the hotel before heading out for our first group dinner and drinks in Eritrea
Friday 22nd May – Asmara
Waking up in Asmara
We will meet our new group members at the hotel before heading out in Asmara.
Free day to explore Asmara slowly and do some shopping, according to your interests.
Saturday 23rd 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.
Continue our tour of Asmara where we check out the various pre-Independence Day celebrations including modern and folklore dances.
Walk up and down Harnett street where we will watch various cinematographic dramas and performances.
Festival continues into the night culminating in a massive fireworks show at midnight to celebrate independence. Great vantage point from the roof of our hotel!
Sunday 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 Silver Jubilee. The show will come to an end at about 7 pm.
Dinner and drinks to close out the Independence celebrations at a traditional restaurant, where you can sample injera and local alcohols… Followed by a dance party!
Overnight at the hotel in Asmara.
Monday 25th May – Asmara
After a mini sleep in and some breakfast, we will board a 100-year-old train and ride all the way to Nefasit.
Along the way, we will go through thirty tunnels. This is definitely a trip highlight!
On board the train we will be offered a traditional coffee ceremony.
Arrive back in Asmara
Head to the incredible bowling alley for a step back in time.
Dinner and overnight at our hotel.
Tuesday 26th May – Massaw
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.
Wednesday 27th 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, drinks, and overnight in Massawa
Thursday 28th 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.
Friday 29th May – Asmara
After breakfast, we head to Keren city.
We take in the festival of Mariam Dearit. This is the real highlight of the religious festival calendar in Eritrea. Simply watch or join in on the thousands of people dancing and sharing coffee with each other
Lunch in Keren
Free time in this quaint town to check out the local markets and explore the lively streets.
Drive back to Asmara and stop by some destroyed Ethiopian tanks along the way!
Last group dinner and overnight in Asmara!
Saturday 30th May
End of tour.
YPT is able to arrange airport transfers for those who require, depending on flight times.