Enjoy Ethiopia’s highlights with time. This trip is and extended version of our short itinerary for those who have more time for a more in depth view on Ethiopia’s people and culture. The North is rich in historical sites within a setting of the highest mountain ranges in Africa. This tour combines the highlights of Northern Ethiopia including the UNESCO World Heritages at Gondar, Axum and Lalibela and the naturally spectacular Simien Mountains National Park. After visiting Ethiopia’s historic capital of Gondar with its 17th century castles, you will go for walks in Ethiopia’s highest mountain range and discover on a day trip its eastern steep cliffs, mountains and wildlife. Move on to see mythical rock-hewn churches in Lalibela carved out solid rock and set off for a hiking day in the stunning surrounding Lasta Mountains. Discover the ruins of the first great civilisation in East Africa in the city of Axum. And finally, in Gheralta region you will be blown away by the “Arizona” of Ethiopia with its towering red sandstone mountains where rock-hewn churches are hidden in the ostensively unreachable hilltops and your second day there will bring you to some of the hidden treasures of Ethiopian Christianity. Overnights are spent in wisely selected and mainly beautifully located mid-range to high-range hotels and lodges. Upgrades to more atmospheric lodges in some destinations are possible 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.
A domestic flight will bring you to the lake town of Bahir Dar. Lake Tana is the biggest lake of the country and its tropical setting is the perfect escape to start your boat cruise, do some birdwatching to finally reach the Zeghe Peninsula, where 700 years old monasteries are hidden in the thickets of a coffee forest. Discover this nature’s beauty and its cultural heritage before you return back by boat to town to your lodge.
This morning you will drive to the ancient capital of Gondar with a stopover in the Awura Amba Community Project. About 500 people live here in a community that has renounced their faith in order to be happy together. You will get to know Zumra Nuru, the founder of the community, and visit the old people's home, the weaving mill, the library and the school of the village. Awura Amba is a cooperative project with a moving and poor past, which has now worked its way up to a certain level of prosperity. A prosperity that is not always viewed kindly by the neighboring villages. An exciting stopover that will raise many questions. Along the eastern shore of Lake Tana, you will travel through the Tara Gedam Mountains and their forests, then continue in the afternoon towards Gondar, often referred to as the Camelot of Ethiopia.
Gondar’s 17th century castles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. You will visit the Royal enclosure with its 5 palaces and then move on to 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.
This morning we will continue our journey into the impressive Simien Mountains. 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. Overnight in a lodge inside the National Park.
Today you have the time to drive deeper into the National Nark. Along the track there are always beautiful viewpoints as well as the Jinbar Waterfall, which plunges over 400 meters into the depth. You will also take a hike off the road to the 4.200 meter high Bwahit viewpoint. If you are lucky, you will also be able to observe the park's wildlife more closely today. At the resting place in Chenek you often meet the rare Walia Ibex, the Ethiopian Capricorn.
You will return back to Gondar for you domestic flight to the holy city of Lalibela (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Its 12th century eleven rock-hewn churches are truly mysterious as they are chiselled out of solid rock. Legends claim this miracle as the work of angels. You arrive at Lalibela town in the late afternoon for your check in at the hotel. On the way from the airport to town you will have the chance to enjoy views of the Lasta mountains and your guide will show you the Neakto Laab Church out of town which was build inside a cave where holy water drops down from the cliff. Its forest is also a beautiful spot to rest and do some birdwatching.
Today you are entering the heart of the holy city. On your guided personal tour you walk though the labyrinths of trenches and tunnels to discover the eleven rock churches of Lalibela. Beta Medane Alem (“Church of the World Saviour”) and Beta Gyorgis (“St. Geogre Church”) are architectural masterpieces counting among the biggest rock churches in Ethiopia. Beta Mariam (“Church of St. Mary”) with its beautifull painted interior and its frescoes is not less impressive as the churches of the southern cluster which used to be an old fortress with narrow confusing pathways. You will have a full day to discover these churches in its details before your sunset dinner will be with splendid views in the Lasta Mountains.
Mount Asheton (3.300 masl) has been towering over the city of Lalibela during the last days of your stay. Today it is time to get closer to this beautiful mountain and depart for a panoramic hike along its base and visit the close by rock church of Asheton Mariam and its parchments, old bibles written on goat skin.
Today's domestic flight takes you to 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 picture, 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 archeological museum displays an extensive collection of artefacts from the graves under the stelae.
You leave Axum eastwards and pass the Adua Mountains before you reach your next stop - the picturesque village of Yeha, situated at the foot of the Adua Mountains. This pre-Christian settlement was founded around 700 BC by immigrants from southern Arabia. The Temple of the Moon - the oldest preserved monument from the pre-Axumite period - was built without mortar. 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.
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.
On a short drive through epic landscapes you will be transferred to the airport in Mekelle. On your way lies the well sorted archeological museum of Wukro which will give you an overview of the pre-axumite times in Ethiopia (7th century to 1st century BC). One of its spectacular artefacts is an almost completely preserved 2.500 years old sacrificial altar. A domestic flight will take you then back to the capital of Addis Ababa. After a nice traditional farewell diner you will either spend another night at your hotel/lodge in Addis for tomorrows return flight or if your flight leaves already in the night you can enjoy the comfort of a day use room until your driver will transfer you to the airport.
Transfer from your accommodation to the airport.
See you next time!
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.