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This 14 day tour of the northern part of Ethiopia is an excellent itinerary for those travelers who are not in a hurry and really want to explore the Christian history and traditions of northern Ethiopia.
This main focus of the route will be on on the ancient churches of North Ethiopia. Starting off from Addis Ababa, we drive to north to Lalibela – famous for it’s rock-hewn churches. After Lalibela, we continue farther north to Mekele and take our time to visit rock churches of Eastern Tigrai (Gheralta). Then we drive right to the top of Ethiopia, to visit Axum, stopping off at Debre Damo monastery along the way. From Axum we turn to the southwest, to spend one night camping in the Simien Mountain National Park. After visiting the national park, we head south to the town of Gondar; famed for it’s castles. From Gondar we head future south, to the lakeside modern town of Bahir Dar. From here we can visit the isolated island monasteries on Lake Tana. After Bahir Dar, we complete our loop by heading back to Addis Ababa, stopping off at Debre Libanos monastery along the way.
Early 5.00 am local time
The tour will depart very early (5.00 am ) from Addis Ababa and head north in the direction of Lalibela. This will be a very longs days drive and we will stop for lunch in the town of Kombolcha.
Arrive Lalibela around 5.00 pm. Rest for the evening.
On this day, we’ll forget about the car and use our feet to do a walking tour around the town of Lalibela. The tour will visit all the rock-hewn churches in this small historic town. In the morning, visit 6 churches then take a break for lunch. In the afternoon, continue visiting the remaining churches.
On our second day in Lalibela, we will visit a church on the outskirts of the town called Yemrehanna Kristos Church.
If time permits us, we can also do a hike to visit Asheton Maryam Monastery which affords a great panoramic view of the surrounding regions.
After breakfast, depart Lalibela and head further north to the town of Mek’ele. The distance is around 300km and will take 5 – 6 hours.
After breakfast, depart Mek’ele in the direction of Gheralta. The Gheralta area will give us a chance to explore some of the rock churches of the Tigray region. Two specific churches that we will visit will be Maryam Korkor and Daniel Koror.
After the days exploring, relax at the Gheralta Lodge.
After breakfast, depart Gheralta and head right to the top of Ethiopia to the famous and historic town of Axum. On route, there will be a stop off at the Debre Damo monastery.
Today will be a full day dedicated to sightseeing in Axum. The town of Axum has a fascinating history. From the 10th to the 1st centuries BC, it was the capital of the great Axumite Empire. It is also the place where Christianity arrived to Ethiopia in the fourth century and as a result it is considered the holiest city of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith. The town also boasts a number of archaeological artifacts of major significance.
Early morning, depart Axum heading east towards the Simien Mountain National Park. That night we will camp in the national park. The journey is around 300 km and will take approximately 5 – 6 hours. We should arrive in the park by early afternoon after which you will have a chance to explore the areas around the campsite.
Rise early and after breakfast, there will be a 3 – 4 hour hike in the national park. The hike will take us to a spectactular viewpoint overlooking the Jinbar Waterfall. The Jinbar Waterfall, at more than 500 m high, is one of the tallest waterfalls in Africa.
After lunch, there will be the option to hike another 4 hours to Chenek campsite. If you don’t feel like hiking, a car can take you there instead. The views from Chenek campsite are spectacular and there is a good chance to see the Walia Ibex as well.
After breakfast, explore the area around the campsite. Early mornng is good opportunity to photography the Gelada monkeys coming up from the cliff face.
Mid morning, depart the campsite for Gondar.
After breakfast, sightseeing in the town of Gondar. Gondar is known as the “Camelot of Africa” due to the existence of a number of castles in the heart of the city. Other sightseeing destinations on this day will be the Debre Berhan Selassie Church and Fasilides’ Bath.
After sightseeing, depart Gondar and drive 3 hours south to the lakeside town of Bahir Dar.
Today will be a full days sightseeing in Bahir Dar. In the morning, there will be boat trip on Lake Tana (Ethiopia’s largest lake also the source of the Blue Nile river) to visit the monastery of Ura Kidane Mihiret. After lunch, we’ll visit the Blue Nile Falls.
After breakfast, depart Bahir Dar and drive south in the direction of Addis Ababa. To do the drive to Addis Ababa in one day is too much so we’ll break the trip up with a stop off at Debre Markos.
After breakfast, continue our drive south to Addis Ababa. At one point the road snakes through the Blue Nile Gorge offering spectacular views.
Around one and a half hours from Addis Ababa, there will be a stop off at the Debre Libanos Monastery and Portuguese Bridge for some sightseeing.
Once we arrive back in Addis Ababa, the program will end.