Ready for a unique trip on the mountain bike through the Simien National Park and some scenic hiking in Ethiopia’s yet undiscovered landscapes? This tour is a great multi-active adventure where you discover the natural beauty of Northern Ethiopia from the Ethiopian highlands down to Danakil depression in the Great African Rift Valley. And don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritages in the ancient city of Axum and the 17th century castles of Gondar. Discover Simien National Park in the saddle through trails and gravel roads with stunning views and breathtaking downhill rides. Move on to the picturesque Gheralta province, the Arizona of Ethiopia, where sandstone pillars rise towards the skies and do some off the beaten trek hiking along green valleys and lofty mountain ridges. Last but not least, the hottest place on earth is awaiting you. Go on a trip to Danakil depression, visit the Karum salt lake, the turquoise sulphur lakes of Dalol volcano and do a desert trek along Saba Canyon. Overnights are spent in wisely selected and mainly beautifully located mid-range to high-range hotels/lodges and also in campsites. Maybe you don’t want do it too basic? Lodge upgrades are available in some destinations and highlighted in the itinerary.See more
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After your arrival & immigration you will meet with your guide at the airport and you will be transferred to your hotel/lodge for some refreshment. Depending on your arrival time your guide will go on a city tour through Ethiopia’s vibrant and lively capital. In the National Museum, you can discover the cradle of mankind where the skeleton of “Lucy” is kept. Entoto Mountain with its Eucalyptus forest is a nice short escape out of town to see Mariyam Church and Menelik Palace, the place where the Emperors resided. Others might enjoy one of the city’s weekly markets. You can choose your itinerary with your guide.
Today you will fly to the ancient capital of Gondar. Gondar’s 17th-century castles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. You will visit the Royal enclosure with its 5 palaces and the Debre Birhan Selassie Church (Church of the Holy Trinity) which interior is beautifully decorated with 17th-century religious paintings. Truly one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful churches. In the evening you will have a good traditional dinner in one of the local restaurants. Who feels like dancing is welcome to visit one of the bars around town where the Ethiopian shoulder dance (‘eskista’) is pretty famous
In the morning you continue through the Ethiopian highlands to the gate of the Simien National Park. In Debark, a small town with about 30,000 inhabitants at 2,800m altitude, some formalities need to be done in the administration offices of the park (SimienEcoTours will do this) and you will find your mountain bikes for your first ride in the national park. The next 3 days you will discover the park from the saddle.
During the entire biking trip, a kitchen team provides for your physical well-being and we are accompanied by a local guide and park ranger, while donkeys and mules carry your heavy luggage. During most of the biking, a study-by vehicle will be available to give you lifts in case of exhaustion. Tonight you will be in your first camp but an upgrade to a lodge stay would be possible.
The National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site was established to protect endemic animals such as the Walia Ibex Capricorn, Ethiopian Wolf, Blood-breasted Baboons and several bird species such as the Thick billed Raven and the Bearded Vulture. The roof of Africa is also home to the highest mountain in Ethiopia - Ras Dashen, at 4,550 metres. On easy walks you will discover changing and overwhelming landscapes, endless views and rugged cliffs at striking vantage points. You will also get to know the already rare afro-alpine flora with juniper, St. John's wort and heather, Kniepofia, tree heather species and the Kosso tree.
Today you cycle from Sankaber camp (3,250m) to Chennek (3.650m). You get a first impressive view over the dramatic mountain range. From Sankaber the gravel road leads through an area with vegetation such as bushes and giant heather trees. Like on a cliff, we look down on a gigantic waterfall, while various birds are circling in the thermic of the gorge, including vultures and buzzards. Finally, you have a nice downhill ride to today’s campsite.
- Biking: 3-4h, 45km (difficulty: medium)
- Accommodation: Chennek Campsite
Today we may see the endangered Walia Ibex. We cycle up to the Bwahit Pass (4,200m) and enjoy our ride down again. Slowly, you make your way out of the park again to find our last rest camp in Limalimo forest.
The Limalimo escarpment drops almost 1,500m into the depth and one of the most spectacular roads of Ethiopia is winding downhill to the Tekeze river. You grab the bikes one last time to do a breathtaking 2 hours downhill ride to the lowlands through dense and fertile forests and farmlands. You will meet your car to head further north towards the ancient capital of Axum.
Today you will visit the ancient capital of the legendary Axumite Empire (1st century BC to 9th century AD). Axum was once a very rich and powerful city at the crossroads of important ancient trade routes in a fertile and forested region. Today it conveys a rather rural image, it is dry, hot and dusty. However, its sights are listed as UNESCO World Heritage and among the main attractions of Ethiopia, with many archaeological secrets still waiting to be explored. You will visit the ruins and monuments of the Axumite Empire with its stelae which served as graves of the ancient kings. The adjoining archaeological museum displays an extensive collection of artefacts from the graves under the stelae.
In the afternoon, you leave Axum eastwards and pass the Adua Mountains. The journey continues along narrow serpentines with deep valleys. The typical rectangular stone houses of the Tigray are omnipresent along the way. In the afternoon, you will reach the picturesque Gheralta region near the village of Hawzen, with fantastic views of the sandstone massifs rising out of the flat landscape. It is the perfect relaxing closing of your trip in one of the best lodges of the country.
After your breakfast you will start a steep hike up the Gheralta Mountain to enjoy panoramic views from its top and the colourfully painted Mariam Korkor Church. You are flexible to choose easier hikes as well: Discuss with your guide if a hike though the flat Papaseti Valley with its nice Mariam Papaseti Church might be the better alternative for the less fit among you.
You leave the fertile Ethiopian highlands to travel to one of the most inhospitable landscapes on our planet. Temperatures can easily reach 50 degrees and hot winds blow across the flat desert plain at night. Millions of years ago parts of the desert were flooded by the sea, huge salt crusts formed. In the afternoon you visit the Assale salt lake with its endless white salt pan enjoying the sunset.
Today you will visit the “Yellowstone of Ethiopia” – Dalol volcano. Dalol means "dissolution" in the Afar language and so its appearance is constantly changing. Over the Assale salt lake you approach this flat volcano, which pushes through the salt crust. Everywhere, bright colours shimmer, which seem to come from another planet. Turquoise green acid lakes form everywhere in its crater. Everything is harmonious and peaceful but you are dancing on an active volcano. The forces of the earth show themselves to you at a flank of the Dalol, where an eruption formed a gigantic salt canyon. In the afternoon you will return to the Saba Campsite where you can have a refreshing bath in a small river bed and your cook awaits you with some food.
The salt caravans use the same resting place tonight and stay among us. Still in the darkness to advance the heat of the day, you set off and head with the dromedary caravans towards Berale. Slowly the steep and barren cliff walls light up in the first sunlight. Finally the valley widens and you meet a dirt road where you will be picked up by your vehicles. Finally the journey continues to Mekelle.
Depending on your international flight there is still time to stroll around the city of Mekelle and visit its Regional Museum. Then, you will be transferred to the airport in Mekelle. A domestic flight will take you then back to the capital of Addis Ababa to be transferred on your flight back home.
The price reflects this specific itinerary and is designed to give you an idea of the budget required for this destination. Throughout the trip-planning process, our local agency will tailor your itinerary around your budget.