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Northern Ethiopia (14 days)

About this Tour:

This tour is ideal for travelers who want to explore the highlights of Northern Ethiopia with sufficient time and partly “off the beaten track”.

Highlights:

  • Spectacular landscape around Ankober, where emperor Menelik once had his palace, with breath-taking views over the Rift Valley.
  • Visits to the markets of Senbete and Bati, the biggest and most colourful markets in Northern Ethiopia.
  • Blue Nile Falls, Bahir Dar
  • Boat trip on lake Tana with unique island monasteries and nature (animal viewing- and excellent birding)
  • Former imperial town of Gondar (UNESCO world heritage site)
  • Breath-taking landscapes of the Simien Mountains with numerous endemic animals (UNESCO world natural site)
  • Former imperial town of Axum with many relics of a several thousand-year-old civilizations (UNESCO world heritage site)
  • Trekking to the famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray in the Gheralta Mountains
  • Lalibela, the unofficial 8th wonder of the world (UNESCO world heritage site)

Short Info:

  • Tour code: WET-NE-14
  • Time: September – May
  •  Next date for seat-in group tour (max. 8 Pax): 02.11. – 15.11. 2018
  •  Hotel standard: basic / middle-class
  •  Number of domestic flights: 1
  • Required fitness level: no requirements

Day 1: Arrival in Addis Ababa and City Tour

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport you will be met by a Welcome Ethiopia Tours representative and be taken to your reserved hotel. Depending on your arrival time, we have various sightseeing options:

  • Mount Entotowith the best views over the capital.
  • Institute of Ethiopian Studies, where you can see a variety of artifacts from all the different regions reflecting the history and culture of the country
  • National Museum which among other exhibits the 3.5-million-year-old bones of Lucy.
  • George Cathedral, where paintings by the famous Ethiopian artist Afework Tekele and other ecclesiastical wealth and cultural heritage of the past are displayed.
  • Trinity Cathedral: this is the burial place of members of the imperial family and noted patriots; the cathedral is the most magnificent of its kind in the country, ornamented with carvings, mosaics and other artistic works.
  • The Mercato, the largest open-air market in Africa

Accommodation: Lobelia Hotel or similar, Addis Abeba (www.hotellobeliaaddis.com)

Day 2: Addis Ababa – Ankober (173 km)

Morning:
Today we start our journey northwards via Debre Birhan to Ankober. In Debre Birhan we leave the paved road and enter Ethiopia’s lush green Shoa mountains, one of the country’s most fertile regions. The landscape is marvellous and shortly before arriving at Ankober, we enjoy Ankober breath-taking views over the Great Rift Valley below.

Afternoon:
We reach the Ankober, which has been built exactly in the place where emperor Menelik once had his palace. From here we enjoy panoramic views over, over the surrounding lush, green hills. The rest of the day is meant to relax and enjoy this peaceful location.

Overnight: Ankober Palace Lodge, Ankober (www.ankoberpalacelodge.com)

Day 3: Ankober – Senbete Market – Dessie (400 km)

Morning/ Afternoon:
After breakfast, we start our drive to Dessie (approx. 8h). We will make a stop at the Senbete market (Sundays only). The market is frequented by different ethnic groups such as Oromo, Afar and Amhara and is one of the most authentic and colourful markets in Ethiopia. It also has a dedicated area for the trade of livestock, particularly camels, cattle and donkeys. In the late afternoon, we will arrive in Dessie, where we will spend the night.

Hotel: Melbourne Hotel or similar

Day 4: Dessie – Bati Market– Woldyia (250 km)

Morning:
After breakfast, we drive to Bati and visit the second largest market in Ethiopia (after the Mercato in Addis Ababa). Like Senbete market Bati is frequented by several ethnic groups, turning it into an extremely colourful place. The market is huge and chaotic and covers a hillside. Bati is with no doubt among the most interesting markets in whole Africa.

Afternoon:
We continue to northward to Woldyia. On the way, we have an option to stop at Lake Hayk. The lake is not only well known for its rich bird life, but also for its monastery on the Western shore (accessible for men only).

Overnight: Lal Hotel, Woldyia (www.lalhotelsandspa.com)

Day 5: Woldyia – Lalibela (180 km)

Morning: We have another 3 hrs. drive until reaching Lalibela. Afternoon: We will visit the 11-renowned rock hewn churches of Lalibela, often called the 8th Wonder of the World. The Lalibela rock hewn churches are physically carved from the rock on which they stand. These towering edifices seem to be a superhuman creation in scale, workmanship and concept. Some are sculptured out of a solid volcanic rock, others are connected by long underground tunnel and mazes. Some are quarried enlargements of caves. The first group of six churches lies in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikeal, Bet Mariam, Bet Maskel, Bet Dangal and Bet Medhanealem. Bet Medhanealem, the largest rock hewn church in the world is built like a Greek temple. The second group comprises Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant of all the Lalibela churches. Bet Giyorgis lies somewhat isolated to the southwestern part of the village on a slopping rock terrace and can only be reached through a tunnel. The group of four churches, south of the river, comprises Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercurios, Bet Aba Libanos and Bet Gabriel and Rufeal. Bet Emanuel’s elaborated exterior has been much praised by international art historians.

Hotel: Top 12 Hotel oder ähnlich, Lalibela (www.toptwelvehotel.com)

Day 6: Full Day in Lalibela

Morning:
If you wish we can spend some more time exploring the rock-hewn churches. Alternatively, we may take an excursion to the Ashaton Maryam Monastery (3200 m above sea level) from where you will enjoy spectacular panoramic views over the beautiful surroundings.

Afternoon:
After lunch we will visit the fascinating cave church of Yirmahne Kristos dating from the 11th century. Driving through the local villages located in scenic landscape will take us 2 hours each way.

Overnight: Top 12 Hotel or similar, Lalibela (www.toptwelvehotel.com)

Day 7: Lalibela – Mekelle (432 km)

Morning / Afternoon:
Today we continue our drive through ever changing landscapes to Mekelle (approx. 8 hours). We will reach Mekelle in the late afternoon.

Hotel:  Axum Hotel or similar, Mekelle (www.axum-hotels.com)

Day 8: Mekelle – Gheralta Mountains (105 km)

Morning:
After breakfast, we drive to Hawzen in the Gheralta Mountains. On the way, we will visit the historic rock-hewn churches of Wukro Cherkos and Abreha We Atsbeha.

Afternoon:
In Hawsen we have the option of a spectacular half-day trekking in the Gheralta Mountains to explore the churches of Maryam and Daniel Korkor built on top of several hundred-meter-high cliffs. The views from the cliff top over the plains of Hawzen are truly magic.

Overnight: Gheralta Lodge, Hawzen (www.gheraltalodgetigrai.com)

Day 9: Hawzen – Yeha – Axum (123 km)

Morning:
After breakfast, we continue our journey to Axum. On the way, we will visit the temple of Yeha (approx. 50km / 1 hour.). The way passes through Adwa, where in 1896 the famous battle between the Ethiopians and Italians tool place. Yeha was a pre-axumite settlement and is famous for its well-preserved stone temple with 12 m high walls estimated to be 2‘500 years old.

Afternoon:
After lunch we start our sight-seeing tour of Axum. The tour includes: Axum stelae or obelisks, the largest single piece of stone erected by human beings anywhere in the world, castles of former monarchs, Mariam Tsion Church which is built on the site of Ethiopia’s first church, the Palace of Queen Sheba, the inscriptions King Ezana’s and the tombs of the kings Kaleb and Gabre Meskel.

Hotel: Yared Zema International Hotel, Axum (www.yaredzemainternationalhotelaxum.com)

Day 10: Axum – Simien Mountains (254 km)

Morning /Afternoon:
We have enough time to see the all the attractions of Axum in case that we couldn’t cover everything on the day before. Afterwards we continue our trip to Debark, where the headquarters of the Simien Mountains National Park are located.

Overnight: Walyia Lodge or similar, Debark

Simien Mountains National Park

Day 11: Full Day in the Simien Mountains National Park

Morning /Afternoon:
Today we explore the Simien Mountains National Park. Due to its unique landscape and its endemic fauna the park has been declared a UNESCO world nature heritage site in 1996. In the park, you may experience the very close interaction with the friendly Gelada Baboons. We drive up to Sankaber (3’220m) and admire the impressive scenery with its deep gorges and valleys and the highest waterfall in Ethiopia. Here a gentle walk would take us about 2 hours. We hope to encounter further endemic animals, such as the Walia Ibex and the Simien fox. In the late afternoon, we will return to Debark, where we will spend the night.

Overnight: Walia lodge or similar, Debark

Gelada Baboons, Simien Mountains

Day 12: Simien Mountains – Gonder (103 km)

Morning: 
After breakfast we drive to Gondar, a 17th century royal city of Ethiopia, affluent in the imperial structure of a Castle Compound and the spectacularly painted Debre Birhan Selassie Church.

Afternoon:
After lunch, we visit to the royal enclosures of Fassil Ghibe and all the castles of the Gonderian emperors as well as the famous Debre Berhan Selassie Church, which is completely covered in murals, with the angels’ faces on the wooden ceiling that have become a trademark of Ethiopian art and design.

 Hotel: Fasil Lodge or similar, Gonder (www.lodgefasil.weebly.com)

Day 13 Gonder – Bahir Dar (175 km)

Morning:
We drive to Bahir Dar (approx. 3 hrs.). We will go on a boat trip on lake Tana to explore the nearby monastery of Ura Kidane Mihret on the Zege peninsula, known for its 14th century, round, grass-roofed churches and their magnificent wall murals, the Azoa Mariam and Ura Kidane Mihret churches. Its architectural styles with mud plastered round wall and a conical thatched roof are typical examples of ancient Ethiopian orthodox churches. The monastery is found hidden in the mangroves forest of the Zege peninsula. Ura is especially well known for its fine frescoes, manuscripts, ecclesial objects, such as the crown of various emperors dating from the 14th century, gold and silver processional crosses, silver drums and royal vestments. On our walk through the densely-forested area we hope to encounter monkeys and abundant bird life. On the lake, you will also have a chance to see hippos and more wildlife.

Afternoon:
In the afternoon, we discover the market, where you may purchase handicrafts like jewellery, woven and embroidered garments, ox-horn cups or grass baskets (Agelgil), for which Bahir Dar is well known, or simply watch the indigenous culture of the local community

Hotel: Jacaranda Hotel or similar, Bahir Dar (www.jacarandahotelbahirdar.com)

Day 14: Bahir Dar – Blue Nile Falls – Addis Ababa (flight)

Morning: Visit to the Blue Nile Falls
After lunch we will visit to the magnificent Blue Nile Falls. The water plunges here for 45m It is about 35km drive from town. In the later afternoon, we drive back to Bahir Dar and discover the market, where you may purchase handicrafts like jewellery, woven and embroidered garments, ox-horn cups or grass baskets (Agelgil), for which Bahir Dar is well known, or simply watch the indigenous culture of the local community.

Afternoon:
We fly back Addis Ababa. You will be picked up at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa and taken to your hotel. According to your interests, there are various sightseeing and shopping opportunities.

Evening:
In the evening you will be invited to a memorable farewell dinner in one of Addis Ababa’s traditional restaurants with cultural songs, dances and traditional food and drinks. You will then be transferred to either Bole International Airport or, if you continue your stay in Ethiopia, to your reserved hotel.

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