Highlights of Northern Ethiopia Tour, 8 Days

Simien Mountains
Simien Mountains

Ethiopia is truly a land of contrasts and extremes. It is a land of remote and wild places. Some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains, one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites - and some of the lowest, such as the hot but fascinating Danakil Depression, with its sulphur fumaroles and lunar-like landscape.

Ethiopia is old beyond all imagination. As Abyssinia, its culture and traditions date back over 3,000 years. And far earlier than that lived "Lucy" or Dinkenesh, meaning 'thou art wonderful’, as she is known to the Ethiopians, whose hominid remains were found in a corner of this country of mystery and contrasts. Many people visit Ethiopia - or hope to do so one day - because of the remarkable manner in which ancient historical traditions have been preserved. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament. In no other country is it possible to find you so dramatically transported back in time or to participate with such freedom in the sacred rituals of an archaic faith. In this Nine Days Tour you will explore Island of Lake Tana in Bahir dar, ancient Castles of Gonder, Simien Mountains and Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela.

Day 1 Addis Ababa Arrive at Addis Ababa & transfer to a hotel for Check-in, then will have a city tour in the afternoon including the Holy Trinity Cathedral & National Museum and a visit of Emperor Haile Selassie’s former palace.
Day 2 Bahir dar Morning flight to Bahir dar and embarks on a private boat trip to ancient Monasteries hidden on the shores and islands of Lake Tana in the late afternoon visit the colorful Bahir dar local Market drive to Bezawit Hill top to look over the top of the Blue Nile River flowing out of the lake and watch the great view of sunset with Lake Tana.
Day 3 Simien Mountains Drive to the UNESCO world heritage site of Simien Mountains National Park and take a short walk in the mountains to see Geladas Monkeys.
Day 4 Simien Mountains Full-Day Park inside visit of Simien mountains to enjoy spectacular landscape & indigenous Wildlife, such as Gelada monkeys, Walia ibex and Ethiopia Wolf.
Day 5 Gonder Drive back to Gonder to visit the UNESCO world heritage of the ancient Gonder Castles and churches in the Gonder town.
Day 6 Lalibela Fly to the world heritage sites of Lalibela. The /site features 11 rock-hewn churches. Afternoon visits the north–west cluster of churches. Including the church of St. George.
Day 7 Lalibela In the morning a short excursion to the church Ashton Mariam or the cave church of Nakutolab. Afternoon visits the south-west cluster of the Church.
Day 8 Addis Ababa Fly to Addis Ababa and Check-in for day use Hotel and latter will have dinner at traditional Ethiopian food and enjoy Folklore music and dance before transfer to International Airport for flight.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa

Arrive at Bole International Airport terminal 02 in Addis Ababa and you will be greeted and met by an Ethiopian Adventure tour representative and transferred to your hotel for Check-in. After some rest and lunch in your hotel, you will have a city tour around the fourth highest capital in the world, Addis Ababa. The tour includes the visit of the National Museum of Ethiopia, one of the most important collections in sub-Saharan museums in Africa, where the 3.2 million years old fossil called Lucy is found and a visit to Emperor Haile Selassie’s former palace – a must-see sight while you are in Ethiopia.

Day 2: Addis Ababa - Bahir Dar

Early morning, transfer to the airport for your domestic flight to Bahir Dar.

Bahir Dar is the resort town located in the north western part of Ethiopia 578 Km from the capital city and at an elevation of 1,840 meters possesses tropical ambience weather and position along the southern shore of Lake Tana, the biggest Lake in Ethiopia and the source of Blue Nile River. It is the first popular stopover for the Northern highland historical circuit tour of Ethiopia.

On your arrival at Bahir Dar airport, you will meet our tour representative and you will transfer to your hotel for check in to refresh and then you will transfer to Lake Tana and embark on a private boat trip for a day of visit to some of the many ancient monasteries hidden on the shores and islands of Lake Tana.

A boat trip will take you to the beautifully decorated Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery, whose painted wall serves as a visual encyclopedia of Ethiopia and you will also visit Azewa Mariam and Intos Eyesus Monastery. Many of the churches have incredible treasures with contents that range from medieval books, crosses and crowns.

Painting inside the monasteries in the island of Lake Tana
Painting inside the monasteries in the island of Lake Tana

Then you will also visit the source of the Blue Nile River, where it departs Lake Tana for its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea. There are hippos that can be seen in the shallow waters. In the late afternoon while back from your visit you may have the chance to see hippos on the lake. When you go back to the city, check in to your hotel and out for a city tour if time permits.

In the late afternoon you will visit the colourful Bahir dar local Market where the traditional life, ethnographic values, customs as well as the bargaining style of the local economic activities can be easily observed. It's an area worth visiting to buy the local craft products of the peasants and the inhabitants of the city. The market is known for its specialization for basket work articles mostly "agelgel" , round-lunch box baskets covered with goatskin of natural colours and you can see cushions made with goatskin.

Then you will drive to Bezawit Hilltop. It is one of the most popular sightseeing places in Bahir Dar. On the very top of the hills, the magnificent palace of the late Emperor Haile Selassie can be found. After driving to Bezawit hilltop, you will look over the Blue Nile River flowing out of the lake, watching birds and the great view of the sunset with Lake Tana, then drive back to your resort.

Girls in traditional Attire in Amhara Region
Girls in traditional Attire in Amhara Region

Day 3: Bahir Dar - Simien Mountains

In the early morning, we will drive to the Simien Mountains. The drive is around 290 km through the ancient historic city of Gondar and Debark where we will stay overnight at Simien Lodge, the highest hotel in Africa.

Simien Mountains National Park is Ethiopia’s most popular hiking destination; its highest peak is Ras Dashen 4543 m (4,900feet) above sea level, making it the fourth highest mountain in Africa. The Simien Mountains were recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site and famous for being home to 22 large, 13 small mammals and the three of which, the Walia Ibex, the Gelada monkeys and Ethiopia Wolves are some indigenous mammals in the mountains.

If you arrive in Simien Mountains in good time, you will drive to the Chekwanit area to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the mountains in selected viewpoints and return to the lodge. In the evening, you will see documentary movies about the mountains in the lodge’s bar while enjoying the fire in the bar.

Gelada baboon
Gelada Monkey in Simien Mountains

Day 4: Simien Mountains

Your picnic lunch will be packed and the car will drop you around Checkwanit and you will start trekking to Sankaber campsite. This is the first campsite which takes around 2 hours. During the walk you will enjoy the views over the escarpments and you are likely to spot large groups of Gelada monkeys. You can get very close to the Gelada and take pictures like a professional whilst and enjoying the Lammergeyer vultures gilding over the escarpment.

The Sankaber area is covered with Afro-montane forest dominated by Juniper, Hagenia Abyssinica, St John’s wort, Giant heather and the like. After passing Sankaber you will walk to the spectacular Jinbar Waterfalls for nearly 1 hour. Around the waterfall area, you will have a picnic lunch and one hour break while enjoying the views then drive further inside the park to the Chennek area (3,620m). Around Chennek there are again excellent views of the mountains and you will see more Gelada monkeys, Walia ibex and if you are lucky the Ethiopian wolf.

Around Chennek area you will do some 1- 2 hours walk to enjoy the most spectacular scenery of the mountains and drive to Bwhait pass after enjoying the scenery at Bwahit and see the Walia Ibex then drive back to the lodge.

Walia Ibex in Simien Mountains
Walia Ibex in Simien Mountains

Optional Trek Route (6 hours trek)

( For those clients who want a full day trek with less driving and who are ready for a little more strenuous activity, we have a very special option where clients can take a 5 or 6-hour hike.)

In the morning the car will drop you at the place called Aynameday located a mid-way between Sanakberand and Chennek you will trek from Aynameday to Chennek (3620m) via ImetGogo. At ImetGogo there are excellent views of the Simien escarpment and on the Gitch plateau, you will see the endemic plant Giant Lobelia in abundance. This is a great day for seeing the magnificent Lammergeyer vultures. It is an ideal spot to trek for 3-4 hour to Imet Gogo summit, one of the known viewpoints in the park. The first hour will take you through the pleasant undulating Afroalpine meadow, the next hours takes you on a more uphill climb until you reach the summit at 3,926m from and then will trek to Chennek where again excellent views and you should see more Gelada monkeys, Walia ibex and lastly the car will pick you to drive back to the lodge.

trekking from Aynameday to Chennek

Day 5: Simien Mountains - Gonder

In the morning after breakfast, you will drive to the ancient town of Gonder and transfer to your hotel for check-in and have some relaxed time followed by lunch at the Four Sisters Restaurant. The ancient city of Gonder, dubbed the ‘African Camelot,’ is famous for its many medieval castles. The City of Gonder was the residence of the emperors of Ethiopia from the 12th to 19th century. It was the first capital of the Abyssinian Empire founded by Emperor Fasilades.

Gonder was the capital of Ethiopia from the rise of Fasilades to the fall of Tewodros (1855-68) which is reflected in the many castles and palaces in the city.

The History of Gonder City begins in 1636, Emperor Fasilides ended the tradition by decreeing Gonder to be the Ethiopian capital and started building a walled enclosure. It became the palace compound for half a dozen different palaces, 3 churches and support buildings built over two centuries by his successors.

In the afternoon, explore the UNESCO world heritage sites which travel back in time by visiting the royal enclose famous for its rare castles. The other place of interest is Fasilides pool, in which pilgrims still take a plunge during the Timket (Epiphany) Celebrations in January. During the day you will have remarkable sights. You can visit the church of Deber Birhan Sillasie near the centre of the city, known for its unique church design ceiling murals.

Fasil Bath, Gonder Castles
Fasil Bath, Gonder Castles

Optional activities in Gonder Cooking Class

We offer a unique cooking class for those who would like to learn a little about Ethiopian food.

Before visiting the Gonder castles, we will visit the market where you will meet the lady who will conduct the cooking classes later in the afternoon. Here you will select the food that you will cook later in the day.

At 4pm, and after visiting the castles, you will go to her home where together you will learn how to cook Ethiopian dishes.

Cooking class in Gonder

Day 6: Gonder - Lalibela

Transfer to the airport for your domestic flights to Lalibela. When you arrive at Lalibela Airport you will be met by our representative at Lalibela and transferred to your hotel. After check-in, have lunch at your and then you will begin to explore the first group of magnificent rock-hewn church Lalibela that are carved out of a living volcanic tuff with super architectural skill. UNESCO registered these churches as world heritage in 1978.

Among churches of this group, Bete Medahine Alem (house of the redeemer) is the largest with 5 aisles, 72 pillars, a vaulted dome and moulding decoration. Bete Mariam (house of st. Marry) is the most decorated among the rock-hewn churches. After the visit of the first group of churches you drive back to the hotel to stay over.


Day 7: Lalibela

After breakfast, you will have an excursion for a short hike to Ashton Mariam monastery, located 10km from the centre of the town. This journey takes you through the lovely countryside of Lalibela, at the top of hills, you will have a commanding view in all directions. At an altitude of nearly 4,000m. Ashton Mariam Monastery is an ancient monastery carved out of stone. The monastery’s construction is believed to span Lalibela’s and Na’akuto La’ab’s reigns, although local tradition claims it as King Lalibela's first attempt at church construction. The monastery harbours a few impressive crosses, illuminated manuscripts and other treasures.

On the way up; you'll pass through farming fields that the villagers use for growing plants and vegetables. When you get there, the priest will welcome you and show you the sacred items held in the monastery, including an illustrated Bible. After a visit to the church on the way back, you will have local community house’s visits and you will be back to the centre of the town for lunch at Ben Abeba restaurant with a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding region.

The rural landscape of Lalibela
The rural landscape of Lalibela

After having lunch and a short break, you will continue to visit the second group of the rock-hewn churches; Bete Emanuel (house of Emanuel) is architecturally the finest. Bete Giorgis (the house of George) is the finest of all the churches in Lalibela for which reason art historians conclude that this church is carved at the end of the cluster after the masons have developed their skill to carve the church in such extraordinary perfection.

Day 8: Lalibela - Addis Ababa

In the morning, after a relaxed breakfast transfer to Lalibela airport for a flight to Addis Ababa and you will transfer to your hotel for day use.

Breathtaking view from Haile Resort
Live folklore Music & dance

In the late afternoon, you may go shopping for souvenirs. Finally, you will be taken to a farewell dinner tradition Ethiopian food and enjoy Folklore music and dance; you will be transferred out to Bole International Airport for the return flight back home.

Download Detailed Itinerary

Day 1:

Golden Tulip Addis Ababa Hotel ,
Addis Ababa


Day 2:

Kuriftu Resort & Spa Bahir dar,
Bahir dar


Day 3 - 4:

Simien Lodge ,
Simien Mountains


Day 5:

Goha Hotel ,


Day 6 - 7:

Mezena Lodge,


Day 7:

Golden Tulip Addis Ababa Hotel ,
Addis Ababa