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Hiking & Culture - Relaxed travels through the North

Centuries old cultural sites, high mountains with a huge variety and spectacular landscapes make this trip to Ethiopia a real enchanting experience. On this award-winning easy hiking tour through northern Ethiopia you explore the country in a refreshingly different way. You have plenty of time to experience people, culture and nature. You will see the insider tips off the beaten track, hike on the Menz Guassa Plateau and in the Lasta Mountains near Lalibela. You stay overnight in small local guesthouses and thus support the local communities and nature conservation projects of the region.
But also the culture lovers will get their money's worth. Plenty of time will be available to discover the rock churches of Lalibela or the medieval castles of Gondar and Lake Tana Region.

UNDERSTAND OUR ICONS

Accompanied by a German speaking guide this 17 days trip is the perfect mix of being active in pristine nature destinations and not missing out the classics. Awarded as a sustainable tour in 2016 by the German travel magazine GEO SAISON. On hikes off the beaten track you take our time and get in touch with the people and nature of Ethiopia. By consciously choosing two accommodations in nature reserves you support the communities in these sensitive regions and the development of sustainable tourism in Ethiopia. You observe blood-breasted baboons, go on a stalk for the Ethiopian wolf and other mountain dwellers.

On the way through Ethiopian history you visit wonders of church architecture in Lalibela and experience the Christian Orthodox religion, as well as the castles of Gondar with their glorious history. At the highest lake in Africa, Lake Tana, you explore medieval monasteries and admire the flying skills of colorful tropical birds. Lake Tanasee is a highlight for bird watching. More than 300 species of birds live here and with a little luck you will spot storks and crown cranes.

Dates:

  • GR11-01: December 18, 2020 to January 3, 2021
  • GR11-02: January 8 to 24, 2021 (incl. Timkat Festival)
  • GR11-03: March 26 to April 11, 2021
  • GR11-04: October 8 to 24, 2021
  • GR11-05: December 17, 2021 to January 2, 2022
  • GR11-06: January 12 to 28, 2022 (incl. Timkat Festival)
  • GR11-07: April 08 to 24, 2022 (incl. Hosanna & Easter Fesitvals)

Tour code: GR11

Operator: Partner of SimienEcoTours

Gallery

Itinerary & In/Exclusions

Day 1

Flight from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa

Flight time: 7 h

Flight with Ethiopian Airlines from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa. Arrival at Bole International Airport. Here you are welcomed by our tour guide and transferred to our hotel in Addis Ababa.

Meals: during flight

Accommodation: Heyday Hotel or similar, Addis Ababa (if late evening arrival)

Day 2

Entoto Park and excursion in Ethiopia's capital

Travel: 1-2 h, 50 km

The Entoto, Addis Ababa's highest mountain, is located on the outskirts of the city. With its very rural flair and the scent of the forests, it is the ideal place to arrive calmly after your night flight. For acclimatization you take a short walk through the eucalyptus forests (approx. 1 hour in flat terrain). Up here, a fascinating overview of this growing metropolis of Ethiopia awaits us. The scent of the eucalyptus forests invites you to stay. In one of the coffee houses you enjoy our first Ethiopian coffee from the charcoal fire. Afterwards you visit the Derg Museum, which deals with the time of the Red Terror in Ethiopia in the 1970/80s and is one of the best, though sad, museums in the city.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Early check-in Heyday Hotel or similar, Addis Ababa

Day 3

The Great African Rift & Menelik II. palace

Travel: 3-4 h, 174 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 3-5 km (difficulty: easy/moderate, altitude difference: ↑100m, ↓100m)

Today you leave the bustling metropolis and drive with four-wheel drive vehicles through the Ethiopian highlands to Ankober, the old Ethiopian capital. On the way you pass through the flat and densely populated agricultural areas of the highlands.

After lunch in Debre Birhan the road turns east towards Ankober. The last kilometers to the lodge you hike along the old imperial trade route with a wide view into the African Rift Valley. On the way to the Rift Valley you have a good chance to see the first birds of pray or even the endemic blood-breasted baboons.

The village Ankober is situated on a mountain with great views into the surrounding lowlands of Eastern Ethiopia. 

After a short ascent to the mountain where the Emperors Palace was build, you move into your room in the Ankober Palace Lodge, a replica of the palace of Emperor Menelik II. (19th century). In the evening you dine imperially in the large dining room of the lodge and sit together around the campfire during a typical Ethiopian coffee ceremony to escape the coolness of the night.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Ankober Palace Lodge or similar, Ankober

Day 4

Menz Guassa Conservation Area

Travel: 6-7 h, 160 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 4-6 km (difficulty: easy/moderate, altitude difference: ↑100m, ↓100m)

Today a gravel road brings you to the high plateau of Menz Guassa. On the way you make stops and look down into the lowlands at breathtaking viewpoints. Here it is always a good idea to walk some parts of the route. There is the possibility to walk the last kilometers to the accommodation and thus to go on a game walk for antelopes and the rare Ethiopian wolf in the nature reserve. 

At 3,100 meters you finally reach the Guassa Plateau, a unique ecosystem more intact than that of the famous Simien Mountains. The next two nights you will stay in a self-catering Eco-lodge built in the traditional style, which is part of an ecotourism project. On board is your own chef from Addis Ababa, who provides the group with freshly prepared meals at the campfire in cold temperatures in the evenings. 

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Menz Guassa Community Lodge (self-catering with own cook)

Day 5

Man and nature in harmony

Hiking: 3-4 h, 5-7 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑400m, ↓400m)

From the lodge you explore the surroundings on foot and learn more about the flora and fauna in Menz and an interesting nature conservation project once implemented by the Frankfurt Zoological Society to protect the highland ecosystem and support the farmers, here on the high plateau. Finally you reach the escarpment with views into the valleys 1,500 meters below. Here dozens of blood-breasted baboons can be observed. you can join these peaceful animals without hesitation. With a little luck you can also admire the shy Ethiopian wolves and other mountain dwellers. In the afternoon you stop at a farmers house for a cup of coffee. In the evening you enjoy this unique mountain world and doze into a restful silent night under the endless Ethiopian starry sky.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Menz Guassa Community Lodge (self-catering with own cook)

Day 6

Drive through fertile lowland regions

Travel: 4-5 h, 175 km

Today the road winds over impressive serpentines down to almost 2,000 meters and you drive through green valleys where the farmers irrigate their fields with the river waters coming from the highlands. After 40 km of gravel road you reach the paved highway heading north. Here in the small town of Ataye the wild off road experiences of the past days come to an end and you change from the four-wheel drive vehicles to a minivan or coaster bus.

Here in the lowlands you see an Ethiopia that is very different from the one you have seen so far. You meet camels and the temperatures often rise above 35 degrees Celsius. The landscapes here are drier and predominantly inhabited by Muslims. These areas were once characterized by famines and droughts. Today they are a flourishing oasis with a lot of agriculture. Also the bird life is getting really colorful for the first time during your trip. Ethiopia's lowlands are one of the most bird rich habitats in the world. Along the way you have a lunch break before stopping in Dessie for an overnight stay. 

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Golden Gate Hotel or similar, Dessie

Day 7

Tropical Lake Hayk and through the Lasta Mountains to Lalibela

Travel: 6-7 h, 220 km

You leave the lowlands and drive from Dessie back to the highlands. Still in the morning you head for Lake Hayk, a green oasis and ideal place for bird watching. During your coffee break here you can watch all kinds of water birds, parakeets and kingfishers.

For lunch you stop at the home of an Ethiopian family. Afterwards you continue your journey westwards to the mountainous regions of Wollo and Lasta: for centuries the heartland of the Ethiopian emperors and Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. In the evening you finally reach the holy town of Lalibela and relax with a delicious dinner with a view of the Lasta Mountains.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Lodge or similar, Lalibela

Day 8

Visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela & climb to Hudad

Hiking: 2-3 h, 6 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑400m, ↓50m)

Lalibela is one of the most important pilgrimage centers for Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia and is known for its 800-year-old monolithic rock churches, which were chiseled into the soft tuff stone from top to bottom and from the outside to the inside in decades of detailed work. You will spend the morning sightseeing, walking through dark tunnels from one church to the next. Lunch in the city.

In the late afternoon you start your hike to a small Eco-lodge in picturesque scenery above the city. Sustainable tourism, appreciation of the local culture and nature, fresh food and friendly service are the principles followed by the staff and the community of Lalibela Hudad. The remote Hudad Lodge is an oasis in the nature with 360 degree mountain panorama and will be the starting point for the hikes in the following days and can only be reached on foot or by mule.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Hudad Eco-Retreat, Lasta Mountains

Day 9

Day hike to Asheten Mariam Church

Hiking: 4-5 h, 11 km (difficulty: moderate/medium, altitude difference: ↑300m, ↓300m)

The lodge is far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Up here you experience the Ethiopian country life and pure nature. After an invigorating breakfast you start our half day tour to the nearby table mountain of Asheten. At the top you visit the Asheten Mariam Monastery with its up to 800 years old parchment writings and crosses, which are shown to you by a priest.

Once the rock churches of Lalibela were supposed to be built up there, but finally the kings in the old days decided in favor of the lower situated and better accessible Lalibela. The hike is rewarded with great views over the region.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Hudad Eco-Retreat, Lasta Mountains

Day 10

Visit the people of Hudad

Hiking: 2-3 h, 11 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑150m, ↓150m)

Today you will make another excursion to the nearby high plateau and its villages, with the focus on meeting the farmers. During the half-day round trip you will immerse yourself in their culture and have the opportunity to get an insight into the simple dwellings of the farmers. During the visit of the villages you will be welcomed with a traditional foot-washing, which is prepared for guests up here. A friend will prepare a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony for the group.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Hudad Eco-Retreat, Lasta Mountains

Day 11

Yemrehanna Christos Church

Hiking: 1.5 h, 4 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑50m, ↓400m)

Optional hiking: 6-7 h, 17 km (difficulty: medium/difficult, altitude difference: ↑400m, ↓1.000m)

After breakfast you start your descend to Lalibela and drive to the Yemrehanna Christos church (about 42 km). This church is built in the style of late Axumite architecture and with its beautiful frescoes in the middle of a cave is a real insider tip. The visit of the church is optional (entrance fee 30 USD per person). Together you visit the cemetery with the grave of Saint Yemrehanna. 

Optional: If you like you can also walk from the lodge to the church. The picturesque hike across the plateaus is challenging and takes about 6-7 hours, there are about 1,000 meters descent at the end to reach the church. The hikers get a packed lunch on the way. At the church the group meets again and drives back to Lalibela together. Here you will have dinner together at sunset with views over the Lasta Mountains.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Lodge or similar, Lalibela

Day 12

The Awura Amba Community

Travel: 8-9 h, 380 km

On today's travel day to Bahir Dar you visit the village of the godless Awra Amba along the way. About 400 people live here in a community that has renounced the faith in order to be happy together. You get to know Zumra Nuru, the founder of the community, and visit the old people's home, the weaving mill, the library and the village school. Awra 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 seen as benevolent by the neighboring villages. An exciting excursion that will raise many questions. In the evening you reach Bahir Dar at Lake Tana after a long driving day from Lalibela.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Shimela Lodge or similar, Bahir Dar

Day 13

Visit Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve and its monasteries

Boat cruise: 2 h

Hiking: 1 h, 2 km (difficulty: easy, altitude difference: ↑100m, ↓100m)

Bahir Dar is located on the southern shore of Lake Tanase, the largest lake in Ethiopia. The lake is a habitat for more than 300 different bird species and numerous mammals. In the morning you take a boat trip across Lake Tana past island monasteries and numerous bird colonies that use some of the islands for breeding. Arriving on the Zeghe Peninsula, you will walk through the coffee forest, which for centuries has enabled the inhabitants to survive by selling the delicious beans. Through the undergrowth, shaded by mighty acacia trees, you walk through the forest and finally reach the Ura Kidane Miheret Church with paintings from the 17th and 18th century. After a picnic on the lake shore you return to the mainland. The afternoon is at leisure. Your tour guide will be happy to give you tips for activities in the area.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Shimela Lodge or similar, Bahir Dar

Day 14

Bird watching and good bye to Lake Tana

Travel: 3-4 h, 180 km

The sunrise from the lodge compound is a fabulous experience and brings back the colorful life of the birds this morning. It is worth it to use the early hours of the day for a bird walk! Or you can enjoy a relaxing morning with an extensive breakfast before finally heading off to the old imperial city of Gondar. This afternoon there is still some time left for a little individual city stroll to get to know Gondar a little bit. Your lodge is located directly in the city center and its location makes it easy to swarm out into the alleys of the city. After a first walk you will stop for a traditional dinner.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lodge du Chateau or similar, Gondar

Day 15

The imperial city of Gondar

The old town of Gondar is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the castles are also called the 'Camelot of Africa'. Today you visit these old palaces, as well as the bath house and the Debre Birhan Selassie Church, one of the most beautifully painted churches in the country. In the afternoon you will also have a moving visit to a street children's project. You meet the project leader Nigisti, a young committed Ethiopian who shows us that social support can also come from Ethiopia itself.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lodge du Chateau or similar, Gondar

Day 16

Flight to Addis Ababa and journey home

Flight time: 1 h

Travel: 1-2 h, 50 km

After some leisure time in the morning or some stroll over the busy Gondar market you leave for the airport in Gondar from where you take the plane to Addis Ababa. Finally you reach Addis, where a day-use room allows you to refresh yourself before departure. A dinner rounds off your travel experience and you leave for the return flight to Europe.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Day-use room Heyday Hotel or similar, Addis Ababa

Day 17

Arrival home

Flight time: 7 h

You catch a night flight back home and arrive early today.

Meals: during flight

Included

Our services include:
  • Scheduled flight from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa and back (other airports on request and possibly extra charge);
  • Airport tax / security fees;
  • Domestic flight Gondar to Addis Ababa;
  • Transfers and rides in private bus and four-wheel drive vehicle (4 days) according to the program;
  • Extra airport transfers for individual arrival and departure;
  • 14/15 overnight stays, 9 of which in double rooms with shower/WC in mid-range lodges and guest houses, 5 in community lodges with simple shared bathrooms in double rooms (3 nights for large groups in triple or quadruple rooms) and 1 on the return flight in the plane (before departure day-use room in Addis Ababa)

    Note: On this trip you can choose half a double room. You share the room with a fellow traveler of the same sex. If no roommate is found up to 4 weeks before the start of the trip, you pay the full single room supplement for this trip.;

  • Early check-in on arrival in Addis Ababa or room on arrival in the evening of day 1;
  • Day-use room in Addis Ababa on the last day of your trip;
  • Full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner including one non-alcoholic drink each) from the 2nd to the 16th day of travel, 1st and 17th day of travel meals during the flight;
  • For Menz Guassa: own cook from Addis Ababa and equipment (incl. stand-by 2-person tents for guests who may wish to stay in the tent);
  • Excursion program with sightseeing and hiking tours as described;
  • German speaking tour guide;
  • English speaking mountain guide in Lalibela, cook and pack animals as described;
  • Drinking water in the bus (we recommend bringing a reusable drinking bottle);
  • Entrance fees and national park fees according to itinerary;
  • TRESCHER travel guide book "ÄTHIOPIEN" by Christian Sefrin.

Optional

Our optional services:
  • Flight deduction possible; price on request;
  • Flights from/to other European airports: extra charge on request;
  • Rail&Fly tickets available on request
  • single room supplement
    • € 240 (GR11-01)
    • € 390 (GR11-02)
    • € 260 (GR11-03)
    • € 350 (GR11-04)
    • € 350 (GR11-05)
    • € 450 (GR11-06)
    • € 350 (GR11-07)

Excluded

Our services do not include:
  • optional excursion to Yemrehanna Christos church (plus US$ 30 per person);
  • travel to and from Frankfurt Airport (Rail&Fly tickets available on request)
  • sleeping bag;
  • visa for Ethiopia (currently € 46);
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • tips;
  • photo and video fees (if applicable);
  • all extras and personal expenses and meals (approx. € 50 to € 100);
  • possible increases of fees and/or kerosene surcharges.