Northern Historic/National Park—20 day Itinerary
We will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel for check-in. The first day we spend in the fascinating capital of the country: Addis Ababa. Depending on your time of arrival, we take you on a half-day or full-day city tour. We can visit the Ethnographic Museum, National Museum, Trinity Cathedral, Mercato (the largest market of Africa), the Red Terror Museum, the Entoto Hills just outside Addis Ababa or other places you want to visit.
Addis Ababa – Debre Markos, 298 km—6 hours
After a relaxing breakfast we leave Addis Ababa to the north. Our first stop will be at Debre Libanos and Ras Darge’s bridge. After lunch we continue towards Debre Markos, enjoying the natural beauty of the Blue Nile Gorge on the way. Late afternoon we arrive at our destination.
Debre Markos – Bahir Dar, 255 km—4.5 hours
After lunch we visit the pleasant lake-side town and its vibrant market. At the end of the day we enjoy the panoramic view and the sunset from Bezawit Hill.
Today we have a full-day boat trip on Lake Tana to explore some of the beautiful churches. Before we head to the churches, the boat takes us to the the source of the Blue Nile where we find many water birds and maybe a hippo. It is about one hour by boat to reach Zeghe Peninsula where we visit the most famous church Uhre Kidane Mehret. We enjoy a walk on the forested peninsula to the other churches and might meet monkeys and beautiful birds on the way. At the other side of the peninsula, the boat is waiting and takes us to Kibran Gabriel Island (unfortunately women are not allowed) and finally back to Bahir Dar late afternoon. (If you choose, it is possible to visit churches further afield on Dek Island.)
Bahir Dar – Gondar, 174 km—3 hours
After an early breakfast, we drive for about one hour to reach the small village of Tissisat. Here we enjoy a lovely walk in the cooler morning hours. We cross the Nile by the 17th century Portuguese Bridge and continue the walk to the falls, meeting local people on the way. After admiring the falls we cross the Nile by small boat to find our car waiting for us. We are heading back to Bahir Dar for lunch and then proceed to our next destination Gondar.
Gondar – Simien Mountains, 122 km—3 hours
We will spend the morning visiting the highlights of Gondar: the Royal Enclosure, Fasilidas Bath and Debre Birhan Selassie (the church with the angel faces painted on the ceiling). After lunch we proceed to Simien Mountains National Park encountering spectacular scenery on the way. It is a good preparation for tomorrow. We enjoy the sunset at our destination the Simien Lodge. (Budget/tourist class accommodation is available in Debark, a 45-minute drive outside the park.)
Simien Mountains National Park
This is a full day visit to enjoy the natural beauty of the Simien Mountains. There are several opportunities to explore the park, on foot or by car. Depending on your interest and fitness, we choose where to go. It is almost guaranteed that you will see the gelada baboon. The walia ibex and Ethiopian wolf are much more difficult to find. (It is possible to add any number of days for additional hiking in the Simien Mountains.)
Simien Mountains – Axum, 274 km—10 hours
A long but spectacular day takes us to Axum. Just outside Debark we start our first descent down the Italian-built Lima Limo road and the rest of the day goes up and down until we finally cross the Tekeze River gorge. The scenery is awesome.
Axum is the place where facts and legends meet. Is the Ark of the Covenant really in Axum? We take you in the footsteps of the famous Queen of Sheba and Ezana, the emperor who converted to Christianity. You will see the spectacular stelae of Axum and visit the Maryam of Tsion churches. (Unfortunately, the old church is not open for women). Many more sites are available to visit or you might take a couple of hours at leisure to digest your overwhelming experiences of Ethiopia.
Axum – Tigray, 193 km—4.5 hours
Today we continue our journey through the breathtaking scenery of Tigray. On the way, we visit the Yeha Temple, the oldest structure found in Ethiopia. In the afternoon, it is possible to visit Debre Damo, the monastery on the top of a cliff. It is only accessible by a 15-meter-long rope. Unfortunately, only men are allowed. When time is available, we visit the Teka Tesfai cluster of churches. Our final destination is the beautiful Gheralta Lodge near Hawzien. (Budget/tourist class accommodation is available in Adigrat.)
Tigray – Mekele, 95 km—2 hours
En route to Mekele we explore some of the little known rock-hewn churches of Tigray. Some are easily accessible while others require a strenuous hike. Based on your fitness and interest we choose where to go. (It is possible to add additional days to explore more of Tigray.)
Mekele – Lalibela, 335 km—7.5 hours
A long but beautiful drive takes us to the highlight of your visit to Ethiopia: Lalibela. If the day goes smoothly and you feel energetic we might have time to visit Yemrehane Kristos church en route.
Day 13/ 14
The 12th century rock-hewn churches are the legacy of King Lalibela. It is said his visit to Jerusalem inspired him to build the 11 churches. A full day is necessary to get a good impression of these truly amazing places of worship.
There are quite a few options as to how to spend the rest of our time. We could visit the Yemrehane Kristos church or hike to the Asheton Maryam church. On Saturdays, there is the weekly market in town. Or, maybe you want to have some time at leisure too. (It is possible to add additional days to explore more of Lalibela and the surrounding area. Excellent hiking opportunities are available.)
Lalibela – Kombolcha, 316 km—7 hours
After a remarkable visit to Lalibela, we are on the road again. It is a full day drive to Kombolcha through mountainous area with wonderful vistas.(If you arrive in Kombolcha on a Sunday, it is recommended to add one day to you tour to visit the Bati market on Monday.)
Kombolcha – Awash National Park, 450 km—10 hours
The long drive of today leads us through the Afar region and we are going to meet the brave Afar people. When you are lucky, you might see animals while traversing the Yangudi Rassa National Park. It holds the last population of the African wild ass.
Awash National Park
This is a day to explore Awash National Park. Game drives and walks are available to encounter the wildlife and enjoy the scenery. You are likely to see beisa oryx, kudu, defassa waterbuck, Soemmering’s gazelle, warthog and baboon. The park is also a great place for birdwatchers. (It is possible to add extra days to explore the park.)
Awash National Park- Harar, 315 km—7 hours
We are leaving the plains of the Rift Valley behind and traveling through mountainous and fertile area famous for its coffee and qat to Harar.
The walled city of Harar is a fascinating town to explore. We take you around through the maze-like layout of this fourth holiest town of Islam. There are many mosques and shrines to discover and it is a lively town too. The Harar market is famous. In the evening we are going to see the Hyena man, feeding the hyena by hand. Do you dare to give it a try?
Harar – Addis Ababa, 512 km—10 hours
The last day of your unforgettable visit to Ethiopia brings us back to Addis Ababa. A hotel room for day-use is available. We say goodbye to dear friends with a visit to a cultural restaurant, enjoying the great Ethiopian food together with traditional music and dance from all over this fascinating country. After dinner we take you to the airport for your flight back home.