Historical Route by Surface, 20 days
This extended ‘Historical Route’ takes you to all the important historical sites of northern and includes a visit to Harar and Awash National Park in eastern Ethiopia. Although it is still possible to add days, it is one the most complete tours in this region.
Day 1 Addis Ababa
We will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel for check-in. The first day we spent 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 visiting some sites of your choice like the Ethnographic Museum, National Museum, Trinity Cathedral, Mercato (the largest market of Africa) or the Entoto Hills just outside Addis Ababa.
Day 2 Addis Ababa – Debre Markos, 298 km/ ~6 hr
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.
Day 3 Debre Markos – Bahir Dar, 255 km/ ~4,5 hr
It is a half day drive to reach Bahirdar. After lunch we visit the pleasant town and its vibrant market. At the end of the day we enjoy the panoramic view and the sunset from Bezawit Hill.
Day 4 Bahir Dar
Today we have a full day boat trip on Lake Tana to explore some of the beautiful churches. Before we are heading 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.
(It is possible to visit churches further afield like on Dek Island)
Day 5 Bahir Dar – Gondar, 174 km/ ~3 hr
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 proceed to our next destination Gondar.
Day 6 Gondar – Simien Mountains, 122 km/ ~3 hr
We will spent the morning to visit 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 towards to Simien Mountains encountering spectacular scenery on the way as 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 minutes drive outside the park)
Day 7 Simien Mountains
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 you 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)
Day 8 Simien Mountains – Axum, 274 km/ ~10 hr
A long but spectacular day takes us to Axum. Just outside Debark we start our first decent down the Italian build 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.
Day 9 Axum
Axum is the place where facts and legends meet. Is the Ark of the Covenant found 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 woman). Many more sites are available to visit or you might take a couple of hours at leisure to digest your overwhelming experiences of Ethiopia.
Day 10 Axum – Tigray, 193 km/ ~4,5 hr
Today we continue our journey through breathtaking scenery of Tigray. On the way we visit the Yeha Temple, the oldest structure found in Ethiopia in the morning. In the afternoon it is possible to visit Debre Damo, the monastery on the top of a cliff. Only accessible by a 15 meter long rope and unfortunately for men only. 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)
Day 11 Tigray – Mekele, 95 km/ ~2 hr
En route to Mekele we explore some of the little known rock-hewn churches of Tigray. Some are easy 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)
Day 12 Mekele – Lalibela, 335 km/ ~7,5 hr
A long but beautiful drive takes us to the highlight of your visit to Ethiopia: Lalibella.If the day goes smoothly and you feel energetic we might have time to visit Yemrehane Kristos church en route.
Day 13/ 14 Lalibela
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 to spent the rest of our time. For example a visit to the Yemrehane Kristos church or a hike to the Asheton Maryam church. On Saturday there is the weekly market in town. 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)
Day 15 Lalibela – Kombolcha, 316 km/ ~7 hr
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.
(when you arrive in Kombolcha on a Sunday it is recommended to add one day to you tour to visit the Bati market on Monday and spent one extra day in Kombolcha)
Day 16 Kombolcha – Awash NP, 450 km / ~10 hr
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 some game while traversing the Yangudi Rassa NP which holds the last population of the African wild ass.
Day 17 Awash NP
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.
(if you want to explore more of the park you might add another day)
Day 18 Awash NP – Harar, 315 km/ ~7 hr
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.
Day 19 Harar
The walled city of Harar is a fascinating town to explore. We take you around through the maze like layout of this 4th holiest town of Islam. There are many mosques and shrines to discover and it is a lively town too. The Harari market is famous. In the evening we are going to see the Hyena man, feeding the hyena by hand. You dare to give it a try?
Day 20 Harar – Addis Ababa, 512 km/ ~10 hr
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 diner we take you to the airport for your flight back home.