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Go Green and Off the Beaten Track

Enjoy Ethiopia’s highlights and some hidden gems with time and responsibly. A tour designed to support local communities by staying in community lodges and visits of other community projects.
This trip is for those who want to get an in depth view on Ethiopia’s people and culture and combines it with the highlights of Northern Ethiopia including the UNESCO World Heritages at Gondar, Axum and Lalibela and the naturally spectacular Simien Mountains National Park & the Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve.

UNDERSTAND OUR ICONS

Accompanied by one of our experienced SimienEcoTours guides (English, Italian, Spanish, French & German available) the first days of the tour start slowly in the unique Mulu Eco Lodge with close encounters of the rural Ethiopia. After visiting Lake Tana and Ethiopia’s historic capital of Gondar with its 17th century castles, you will go for walks in Ethiopia’s highest mountain range - the Simien Mountains - and discover on a day trip its eastern steep cliffs, mountains and wildlife. Move on to see mythical rock-hewn churches in Lalibela carved out solid rock. Discover the ruins of the first great civilisation in East Africa in the city of Axum. And finally, in Gheralta region you will be blown away by the “Arizona” of Ethiopia with its towering red sandstone mountains where rock-hewn churches are hidden in the ostensibly unreachable hilltops and your second day there will bring you to some of the hidden treasures of Ethiopian Christianity.

Tour code: CU02

Operator: SimienEcoTours

Gallery

Itinerary & In/Exclusions

Day 1

Welcome to Ethiopia - discover Addis Ababa

Travel: 2 h, 60 km

After your arrival and immigration you will meet with your guide at the airport and you will be transferred to your hotel for some refreshment. Depending on your arrival time your guide will go on a city tour through Ethiopia’s vibrant and lively capital with you. In the National Museum you can discover the cradle of mankind where the skeleton of “Lucy” is kept. Entoto Mountain with its Eucalyptus forest is a nice short escape out of town to see Mariyam Church and Menelik Palace, the place where the Emperors resided. For arrivals on weekdays your guide will bring you to see how silk and cotton turn into beautiful Ethiopian scarves. Sabahar textiles is one of the first fair trade companies in Ethiopia that started producing high-quality fabrics focusing on fair working conditions for the weavers. You will visit their production site.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Heyday Hotel or similar (check-in after 12pm), Addis Ababa

Days 2 to 4

Visiting the incredible Choke Mountains

Travel: 5-6 h, 300 km

Hiking (per day): 2 h, 3 km (difficulty: easy/moderate, altitude gain: ↑200m, ↓200m)

Your driver picks you at your accommodation in Addis Ababa. You will drive to Choke Mountains for a three nights stay in Mulu Eco Lodge. Imagine living for a week in a little Ethiopian cottage in the green highlands above 3,000 m a.s.l. 

You will buy fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market every Saturday. Sip coffee made in a coffee ceremony by your new local friend, and take leisurely day trips to neighboring villages and nature highlights, like waterfalls or mountain views and wild animals. 

Sounds appealing? That’s the magic of slow travel, where the emphasis is less on manic sightseeing and more on taking in your surroundings at a relaxed place. This is no “four cities in seven days” tour — instead, you’ll see new places and explore new cultures in a way that’s less stressful for you, more respectful of the locals and easier on the environment. 

Mulu Eco Lodge follows these principles. Therefore in the Mulu Eco Lodge a minimum stay of 3 nights is required. That is not only to guarantee an authentic once in a lifetime experience with local people for the guests but also to protect the locals and their traditions from mass tourism.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Mulu Eco Lodge or similar, Tiame in the Choke Mountains

Day 5

Discovering Bahir Dar and resting at Lake Tana

Travel: 5-6 h, 260 km

A half-day drive will bring you to the lake town of Bahir Dar. Lake Tana is the biggest lake of the country and its tropical setting is the perfect contrast to the highlands where you just spent the last days. Tomorrow's excursion will lead you to the old coffee forest of the Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve, but for today you will have some free time either in your charming lake lodge or to discover the city on foot. You can take some to do the lake walk and to watch birds. A close-by resort also offers some spa options or a swimming pool for those who like (treatments & pool usage starting from 10 € per person).

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Shimela Lodge or similar, Bahir Dar

Day 6

Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve & stay at Awura Amba community

Travel: 2 h, 90 km

Hiking: 2 h, 3 km (difficulty: easy, altitude gain: ↑100m, ↓100m)

This morning you do a boat cruise to do some birdwatching to visit Zeghe Peninsula, where 700 years old monasteries are hidden in the thickets of a coffee forest. Discover this nature’s beauty and its cultural heritage on a small 1 hour hike before you return back by boat to town.

After lunch you set off to the little village of Awura Amba. About 500 people live here in a community that has renounced their faith in order to be happy together and follow their own community rules – by the way one is being vegetarian not to harm living creatures! You will get to know Zumra Nuru, the founder of the community, and visit the old people's home, the weaving mill, the library and the school of the village. Awura Amba is a cooperative project with a moving and poor past, which has now worked its way up to a certain level of prosperity. A prosperity that is not always viewed kindly by the neighboring villages. Tonight you are going to stay with the villagers in their very simple but clean guesthouse to get more insights into the life of this extraordinary project.

The village offers a very authentic community stay in their own guesthouse. You will spend your overnight here in this basic but clean place with common bathrooms to breathe the vibe of the community.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Awura Amba Community Guesthouse, Awura Amba

Day 7

The ancient capital of Gondar

Travel: 2-3 h, 130 km

This morning you set off to the historic town of Gondar. Along the eastern shore of Lake Tana, you will travel through the Tara Gedam Mountains and their forests, then continue towards Gondar, often referred to as the 'Camelot of Africa'. Gondar’s 17th century castles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. You will visit the Royal enclosure with its 5 palaces and then move on to the Debre Birhan Selassie Church (Church of the Holy Trinity) which interior is beautifully decorated with 17th century religious paintings. Truly one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful churches.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters or similar, Gondar

Day 8

Excursion and overnight at Simien Mountains National Park

Travel: 3-4 h, 150 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 4 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude: ↑150m, ↓150m)

This morning we will continue our journey into the impressive Simien Mountains. The National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site was established to protect endemic animals such as the Walia Ibex wild mountains goats, Ethiopian Wolfs, Blood-breasted Baboons and several bird species such as the Thick-billed Raven and the Bearded Vulture. The roof of Africa is also home to the highest mountain in Ethiopia - Ras Dashen, at 4.550 meters. On easy walks you will discover changing and overwhelming landscapes, endless views and rugged cliffs at striking vantage points. You will also get to know the already rare afro-alpine flora with juniper and giant heather trees fully covered with St. John's wort hanging down like an old man’s beard. Overnight in a lodge inside the National Park.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Simien Lodge or similar, Simien Mountains National Park

Day 9

Dive deeper into the nature world of the Simiens

Travel: 4-5 h, 180 km

Hiking: 3-4 h, 6 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude: ↑100m, ↓450m)

Today you have the time to drive deeper into the National Nark. Along the track there are always beautiful viewpoints as well as the Jinbar Waterfall, which plunges over 400 meters into the depth. You will also take a hike off the road to the 4,200 meter high Bwahit viewpoint. If you are lucky, you will also be able to observe the park's wildlife more closely today. At the resting place in Chennek you often meet the rare Walia Ibex wild mountains goats. In the afternoon you will return back to Gondar to your lodge.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Mayleko Lodge or similar, Gondar

Day 10

Enjoy the beauty of Lalibela

Flight time: 1h

Travel: 1.5 h; 40 km

In the morning you will catch your domestic flight to the holy city of Lalibela (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Its 12th century eleven rock-hewn churches are truly mysterious as they are chiselled out of solid rock. Legends claim this miracle as the work of angels. You arrive at Lalibela town in the afternoon for your check in at the hotel. In the late afternoon you will meet with an Ethiopian family for a cooking class. The beyenatu, a vegan platter, is a staple food in the fasting season in Ethiopia. You will have a delicious dinner with an Ethiopian family.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Sora Lodge or similar, Lalibela

Day 11

Exploring the rock churches of Lalibela

Today you are entering the heart of the holy city. On your guided personal tour you walk through the labyrinths of trenches and tunnels to discover the eleven rock churches of Lalibela. Beta Medane Alem (“Church of the World Saviour”) and Beta Giyorgis (“St. George Church”) are architectural masterpieces counting among the biggest rock churches in Ethiopia. Beta Mariam (“Church of St. Mary”) with its beautiful painted interior and its frescoes is not less impressive than the churches of the southern cluster which used to be an old fortress with narrow confusing pathways. You will have a full day to discover these churches in its details. For lunch you return back to your hotel where fresh garden food and some time for relaxation is waiting before you set off for the second part of your church tour in the afternoon. A sunset dinner at the campfire with splendid views into the Lasta Mountains and into the endless skies will make it a memorable day!

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Sora Lodge or similar, Lalibela

Day 12

Discovering Axum, Gheralta and the mesmerizing history of Tigray region

Flight time: 1h

Travel: 3-4h, 220 km

Today's domestic flight takes you to the ancient capital of the legendary Axumite Empire (1st century BC to 9th century AD). Axum was once a very rich and powerful city at the crossroads of important ancient trade routes in a fertile and forested region. Today it conveys a rather rural picture, it is dry, hot and dusty. However, its sights are listed as UNESCO World Heritage and among the main attractions of Ethiopia, with many archaeological secrets still waiting to be explored. You will visit the ruins and monuments of the Axumite Empire with its stelae which served as graves of the ancient kings. The adjoining archeological museum displays an extensive collection of artefacts from the graves under the stelae. 

In the late afternoon you will leave Axum through the picturesque Adua Mountains before the journey continues along narrow serpentines with deep valleys. The typical rectangular stone houses of the Tigray are omnipresent along the way. For sunset, you will reach the Gheralta region near the village of Hawzen, with fantastic views of the sandstone massifs rising out of the flat landscape with the setting sun in the background.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Gheralta Lodge or similar, Hawzen

Day 13

The wonderful mountain world of Gheralta

Travel: 1-2 h, 30 km

Hiking: 3-4 h, 8 km (difficulty: moderate/medium, altitude: ↑400m, ↓400m)

After your breakfast you will start a steep hike up the Gheralta Mountain to enjoy panoramic views from its top and the colorfully painted Mariam Korkor Church. You are flexible to choose easier hikes as well: Discuss with your guide if a hike though the flat Papaseti Valley with its nice Mariam Papaseti Church might be the better alternative for the less fit among you.

In the late afternoon you will be back at your lodge which gives you plenty of time to enjoy the huge compound, and take some rest.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Gheralta Lodge or similar, Hawzen

Day 14

Goodbye beautiful Ethiopia

Flight time: 1,5 h

Travel: 2 h, 120 km

On a short drive through epic landscapes you will be transferred to the airport in Mekelle. On your way lies the well sorted archeological museum of Wukro which will give you an overview of the pre-axumite times in Ethiopia (7th century to 1st century BC). One of its spectacular artifacts is an almost completely preserved 2.500 years old sacrificial altar. A domestic flight will take you then back to the capital of Addis Ababa. After a nice traditional farewell dinner your driver will transfer you to the airport.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: ---

Included

Our services include:
  • all (3) domestic flights in Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (Gondar-Lalibela, Lalibela-Axum, Mekelle-Addis Ababa), Note: If the international flight is with a carrier other than Ethiopian Airlines, there will be a supplement of € 230 for the domestic flights;
  • all accommodations in double rooms with private toilet/shower in hotels or lodges (7x high-range, 3x mid-range); exceptions are 3x low-range stays at Mulu Eco-Lodge with dry toilets and bucket showers and 1x at Awura Amba Community Guesthouse with common toilet/shower; 
  • all transfers and travels in Ethiopia with private car (minivan & 4x4);
  • boat cruise on Lake Tana;
  • full board (1 drink per meal included, alcoholic drinks excluded);
  • all entrance fees and permissions at tourist attractions, churches, museums and national parks;
  • all persons for safety and security (when prescribed);
  • all tips for meals;
  • all (mandatory) local guides in the single destinations;
  • all taxes and administrative fees;
  • 24/7 emergency assistance;
  • experienced SimienEcoTours Tour Guide (fluently English & Amharic speaking), other language guide on request with surcharge.

Excluded

Our services do not include:
  • international flights;
  • travel insurance;
  • visa for Ethiopia (currently € 46);
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • tips;
  • photo and video fees (if applicable);
  • all extras and personal expenses.