- See the spectacular "Smoking Water" of the Blue Nile Falls
- Take a boat trip to the famous island monasteries of Lake Tana
- Enjoy the breath-taking scenery of the Simien Mountains National Park
- Spot endemic Gelada baboons and other wildlife
- Visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, carved over 800 years ago
- Admire the mediaeval castles of Gondar, described as Ethiopia's "Camelot"
Northern Ethiopia boasts a wealth of historical and cultural treasures unlike anything else on Earth. This 'Northern Circuit' starts out with a trip to Bahir Dar, where you'll visit the Blue Nile Falls and take a cruise on Lake Tana. From Bahir Dar, the tour continues Gondar, where you can explore the Royal Enclosure, and the ruined fairy-tale castles which have earned it the name 'African Camelot'. Heading north-east, you'll then visit the Simien Mountains National Park, famous for far-reaching views and rare wildlife species. The tour continues south to Lalibela. Here, you can explore the complex of 12th century rock hewn churches, described as "the eighth wonder of the World". Finally, you'll travel back to Addis Ababa to complete the circuit.
Day 1: Addis Ababa
Day 1 starts with a half-day city tour of Addis Ababa, including its museums, churches and the 'mercato', reputedly the largest market in Africa.
Day 2: Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar
The journey to Bahir Dar will take most of the day, but it's a good chance to view the changing landscapes of the highlands and to see day-to-day life in rural Ethiopia.
Day 3: Bahir Dar
In the morning, you'll take a boat cruise on Lake Tana, stopping to explore some of the island churches and monasteries containing relics and frescos dating from the 16th century. In the afternoon, you'll take a trip to the Blue Nile Falls at Tisisat, meaning "smoking water" in Amharic. The spectacular falls are 100m wide and plunge 45m, sending spray high in the air. A short walk and a trip across a 17th century bridge gives a great close-up view of the falls.
Day 4: Bahir Dar to Gondar
From Bahir Dar, it's about a 3 hour drive to Gondar, after which you'll take a sightseeing tour of the city. Gondar is a historic settlement with an atmosphere of mystery and there are views from the city which extend across the surrounding farmland back to Lake Tana. Founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635, Gondar has become one of Ethiopia's largest and most impressive cities. It is most famed for its walled Royal Enclosure which contains several well-preserved and very medieval-looking castles, dating from as early as 1650. The castles are unusual for the Horn Of Africa, deriving their architectural style from the Moors and the Portuguese. Additionally, Gondar has dozens of churches, the most important being Debre Berhan Selassie (Trinity Church of the Mountain of Light), which has an impressive hilltop location. The priest there will explain the story of the many paintings and carvings inside the church.
Day 5: Gondar to the Simien Mountains
Leaving Gondar, you'll have a scenic 2 to 3-hour drive to Debark, a small market town at an altitude of 2,700 metres, on the edge of the Simien Mountains National Park. After lunch, there's a trip into the park to see the spectacular landscapes which led to it being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There'll be a chance to stretch your legs, appreciate the views and possibly even spot some endemic wildlife before returning to Debark for the night.
Day 6: Simien Mountains to Lalibela
Early in the morning, you'll leave Debark for a scenic day of driving to the city of Lalibela.
Day 7: Lalibela
A full day of sightseeing in and around Lalibela. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities and a centre of pilgrimage for much of the country. It was built in the 12th century to be the ‘New Jerusalem’ following the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin, and was laid out to resemble that city. Lalibela is most famous for its rock-hewn churches which, like those of Tigray, are literally carved out of the surrounding rock. In all there are 11 ‘rock churches’. Bete Giyorgis (the Church of Saint George) in the Western group is the best known and most impressive. Described as the eighth wonder of the world, the church is carved in the shape of the cross and stands 12m high in a square cut ‘hole’ in the rock outcrop from which it is carved.
Day 8: Lalibela to Kombolcha
From Lalibela, you'll start the journey back towards Addis. On the way, you'll visit Genete Maryam, a monolithic rock-hewn church with interesting architectural representations. According to local tradition, the church was established by Yekuno Amlak, the king who 'restored' the Solomonic Dynasty in the late 13th century. The church resembles Bete-medhane Alem, the house of the redeemer of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. You'll stay overnight at the town of Kombolcha.
Day 9: Kombolcha to Addis Ababa
From Kombolcha, you'll complete the journey back to Addis, stopping on the way to see the historically important town of Ankober. The tour ends with dinner at a cultural restaurant in Addis Ababa, where you can sample local dishes and watch energetic traditional dances from across the country.
An experienced professional English-speaking guide
All meals from lunch on day 1 to the cultural dinner on day 9
All land transport involved in the itinerary
8 nights hotel accommodation
Entrance fees and local guides for all excursions described
Services Not Included
Tips for staff
Miscellaneous expenses – alcoholic drinks, souvenirs etc.
Is this holiday for me?
During this holiday, you'll explore the natural, cultural and historical highlights of northern Ethiopia. You should be prepared to be on your feet for long periods of time as we tour the historic sites. In the Simien Mountains, the best viewpoints are reached via a hike of around 3 hours. In order to see as much as possible in 9 days, there will be some long drives.
This trip includes 8 nights' accommodation in tourist class hotels. The exact hotels used will be dependant on availability but please remember that Ethiopia is a developing country and that accommodation can be basic in comparison to European standards. All accommodation is based on two people sharing a room. If you are travelling by yourself you will be paired up with another single client of the same gender. Depending on availability, it may be possible to book a single room, although an additional charge may apply.
Group Leader & Support Staff
The group will be accompanied by an experienced English-speaking guide plus a driver and local support staff, as required.
Guidance On Tipping
Tipping should not be seen as something you have to do but in Ethiopia, as in many parts of the world, it is an appropriate way of saying thank you for a service well done. For each of your drivers on this trip we would recommend around £5 per day from the group, and for each of your guides around £10 per day from the group.
Upcoming tour dates:
If you are interested in this tour, we can arrange dates to suit you so please contact us.
The cost of this itinerary depends on your group size.
A tour for 1 person costs 166,085 ETB (3,081 USD / 2,835 EUR / 2,497 GBP).
A tour for 2 people costs 98,670 ETB (1,831 USD / 1,684 EUR / 1,483 GBP) per person.
A tour for 3 or more people costs 76,198 ETB (1,414 USD / 1,300 EUR / 1,146 GBP) per person.
Please see the further details tab for information about services included.