- See the spectacular "Smoking Water" of the Blue Nile Falls
- Take a boat trip to the famous island monasteries of Lake Tana
- Enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Simien Mountains National Park
- Spot endemic Gelada baboons and other wildlife
- Explore Axum, the rumoured resting place of the Ark of the Covenant
- 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 to Axum, home to giant engraved obelisks, the Queen of Sheba's palace and the Saint Mary of Zion Church, rumored to contain the original Ark of the Covenant. From Axum, you'll continue through the region of Tigray, visiting some of its famous rock churches before heading 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 to Bahir Dar
In the morning, you will take a flight from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar. From Bahir Dar, you'll take a boat cruise on Lake Tana, stopping to explore some of the island churches and monasteries. 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. A short walk and a trip across a 17th century bridge gives a great close-up view.
Day 2: 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 founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635. It is most famed for its walled Royal Enclosure which contains several well-preserved medieval-looking castles, dating from as early as 1650. Additionally, Gondar has dozens of churches, the most important being Debre Berhan Selassie (Trinity Church of the Mountain of Light). The priest there will explain the story of the many paintings and carvings inside the church.
Day 3: Gondar to the Simien Mountains
Leaving Gondar, you'll have a scenic 2 to 3-hour drive to Debark, a small market town 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.
Day 4: Simien Mountains to Axum
Leaving Debark, the road snakes down through the Simien foothills. The descent will take you into to the Tigray region, the most northerly of the nine ethnic regions of Ethiopia and famous for its rock-hewn churches. After arriving in Axum, the rest of the day will be spent sightseeing. Axum was once the capital of a mighty empire that ruled the region from 400 BC to the 10th century. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Axum is believed to date back over 2,000 years. You will visit the Stelae Park, a collection of giant columns each carved from a single piece of granite. You'll also visit the 17th century church of saint Mary of Zion where the original Ark of the Covenant is said to reside.
Day 5: Axum to Mekelle
From Axum, it's a 3-4 hour drive across an arid landscape to Gera Alta. From here, you'll walk for about one hour to the remote rock-hewn church of Abune Yemate. After visiting, you'll return to Gera Alta, and then on to the bustling city of Mekelle, where you'll spend the night.
Day 6: Mekele to Lalibela
A scenic day of driving to the city of Lalibela with the spectacular Ambalage mountains as a backdrop.
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. It was built in the 12th century to be the ‘New Jerusalem’, 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) 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.
Day 8: Lalibela to Addis Ababa
In the morning, you'll take a flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa. In the afternoon, you'll have a city tour of Addis Ababa, including its museums, churches and the 'mercato', reputedly the largest market in Africa. Finally, 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 8
All land transport involved in the itinerary
7 nights hotel accommodation
Entrance fees and local guides for all excursions described
Services Not Included
- International or internal flights
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 8 days, there will be some long drives.
This trip includes 7 nights' accommodation in tourist class hotels. The exact hotels used will be dependent 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 group tour dates:
- Saturday 5th - Saturday 12th October 2019 (open for bookings)
- Saturday 29th February - Saturday 7th March 2020 (open for bookings)
Interested in this tour but can't make those dates? We can arrange dates to suit you so please contact us.
The cost of this tour is 41,398 ETB (1,505 USD / 1,278 EUR / 1,118 GBP) per person for groups of 3 or more people.
It is possible to arrange this tour for 1 or 2 people, but a surcharge may apply. Please contact us to find out more.
Please see the further details tab for information about services included.