Northern Ethiopia (13 days)
About this Tour:
This tour is ideal for all travellers who want to explore all the highlights of Northern Ethiopia by road only and without rush.
- 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)
- Famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray Wukro Cherkos and Abraha Azba
- Lalibela, the unofficial 8th Wonder of the World (UNESCO world heritage site)
- Tour code: WET-NE-13B
- Time: September – May
- Next date for seat-in group tour (max. 8 Pax): 12.02. – 24.02. 2018
- Hotel Standard: basic / middle-class
- Number of domestic flights: 0
- 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: Monarch Hotel or similar, Addis Ababa (www.monarchaddis.com)
Day 2: Addis Ababa – Debre Libanos (134 km)
After breakfast we cross the Entoto mountain, with the best views over the capital Addis Ababa. We continue towards North crossing the plains of Sululta until reaching Debre Libanos (approx. 3 hrs.). Debre Libanos hosts one of Ethiopia’s most important monasteries with an interesting adjacent museum exhibiting numerous antique treasures of the Ethiopian-orthodox church.
After lunch, we will take a pleasant walk to the so-called “Portuguese Bridge”, with great views over the canyon. Some historians are of the opinion that the bridge is from the 16th century, when the Portuguese invaded Ethiopia for a short time, others think it was built by emperor Menelik’s uncle in the 19th century. After crossing the bridge, we will have a view of a 60m high waterfall. Moreover, we should encounter here the endemic Gelada Baboons and a variety of bird species (particularly raptors).
Overnight: Ethio-German Park Hotel, Debre Libanos (www.ethiogermanpark.com)
Day 3: Debre Libanos – Bahir Dar (434 km)
Morning / Afternoon:
Today we drive from Debre Libanos to Bahir Dar (approx. 9 hrs.) through the peaceful farmlands of Fogera and Gojam with many beautiful sceneries. We will also cross the Blue Nile Gorge, an impressive canyon. We will reach Bahir Dar in the late afternoon, just in time to enjoy the sunset over lake Tana from the view point on Bezawit Hill, where one of the former palaces of emperor Haile Selassie can be seen.
Hotel: Jacaranada Hotel or similar, Bahir Dar (www.jacarandahotelbahirdar.com)
Day 4: Full Day in Bahir Dar
Morning: Boat trip on Lake Tana
In the morning, 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: Visit to the Blue Nile Falls
After lunch, we will visit to the magnificent Blue Nile Falls. The water plunges here for 45m (148ft). It is about 35km/1hour 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.
Hotel: Jacaranda Hotel or similar, Bahir Dar (www.jacarandahotelbahirdar.com)
Day 5: Bahir Dar – Gondar (170 km)
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.
After lunch, we will 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.
Overnight: Fasil Lodge or similar, Gonder (www.lodgefasil.weebly.com)
Day 6: Gondar – Simien Mountains National Park (120 km)
Early in the morning, we continue our journey to the Simien Mountains National Park. We will reach the highest Lodge of Africa in the park around noon. After lunch, we start exploring 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 drive back to Dabark, where we will spend the night.
Overnight: Walia Lodge, Debark
Day 7: Simien Mountains National Park – Axum (244 km)
After breakfast, we continue our way to Axum (approx. 7hrs.) with once again stunning views. Axum at an altitude of 1637m is considered a holy city in Ethiopia where Ethiopian Christianity is said to have begun, dating back over 2000 years. The Axumite kingdom is considered the cradle of Ethiopian civilization.
Hotel: Sabean Hotel, Axum (www.sabeanhotel.com)
Day 8: Full Day in Axum
The city tour of Axum 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: Sabean Hotel, Axum (www.sabeanhotel.com)
Day 9: Axum – Yeha – Mekele (337 km)
After breakfast, 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.
We drive from Adigrat to Mekelle (approx. 3 hrs.) and visit on the way the famous rock-hewn churches of Wukro Cherkos and Abreha We Azbeha of the 4th century.
Overnight: Axum Hotel, Mekelle (www.axum-hotels.com)
Day 10: Mekelle– Lalibela (432 km)
Morning / Afternoon:
Today we continue our drive through ever changing landscapes to Lalibela (approx. 8 hours). We will reach Lalibela in the late afternoon.
Hotel: Top 12 Hotel, Lalibela (www.toptwelvehotel.com)
Day 11: Full Day in Lalibela
We will visit the 11-renowned rock hewn churches of Lalibela, also known as 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.
After lunch, we will visit to the second group of churches located to the south of the river Jordan. 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: Mountain View Hotel, Lalibela, (www.mountainview-hotel.com)
Day 12: Lalibela – Dessie (289 km)
Early in the morning, we will visit the interesting cave monastery of Ne’akuto Le’ab outside of Lalibela, before we continue our journey to Dessie. Shortly before Dessie we may stop at lake Hayk. Located in lush, green nature, Lake Hayk is not only known for its diverse bird life but also its monastery on the Western shore (accessible for men only).
Overnight: Melbourne Hotel or similar, Dessie
Day 13: Dessie – Addis Ababa (387 km)
We drive from Dessie through the scenic highlands to Addis Ababa and enjoy many fantastic views over the mountains, valleys and vast plains. We will reach Addis Ababa in the afternoon. A day room until departure will be reserved for you.
In the evening, you will be invited for a traditional Ethiopian dinner and dance show at a renowned restaurant of Addis Ababa. Then you will be transferred to the airport for your departure.
Departure or individual Extension