Ankober Charity Challenge, Great Ethiopian Run & Explorer Tours

SimienEcoTours with Ride the Rift, a collaboration of 4 tour operators organising biking, trekking and running tours and events, presents a combination of different unique packages, classical but also special like the Great Ethiopian Run or a bike charity ride. There's plenty of different packages we offer and you can simply choose which of those you'd like to book.

The following 5 packages can be booked singularly or combined. For more details check the document here.

1) Northern Explorer Trek - 6 to 13 November 2021

On the Northern Explorer Trek you will see the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Lalibela, with its labyrinth of 12th-century rock-hewn churches; the castles of Gondar built by Ethiopian emperors in the 17th and 18th centuries; the stunning Simien Mountains with its unique wildlife.

2) Great Ethiopian Run - 13 to 14 November 2021

We also offer you the chance to participate in the Great Ethiopian Run with thousands of local Addis Ababans in Ethiopia’s vibrant capital city and to meet Ethiopia’s distance running legend and double Olympic gold medallist Haile Gebreselassie.

3) Rift Valley Explorer Tour - 15 to 19 November 2021

This tour neatly connects the Run and Bike ride taking you along Ethiopia’s chain of Rift Valley lakes to Ethiopia’s coffee heartland in the Sidama region. Here you can dive into local culture while visiting local coffee farms and enjoy sampling coffee in an authentic Ethiopian coffee ceremony. At Lake Langano you can bathe among hippos and water birds including Lesser Flamingos. The Rift Valley shows you a vast array of scenery and landscapes with a range of wildlife.

4) Ankober Charity Challenge - 19 to 21 November 2021

On our Outdoor Adventure Weekend in Ankober we take you cycling along the Rift Valley escarpment in breathtaking mountain scenery. This ends with the charity bike ride raising money for local guides and cooks who have had no income due to the impact of Covid-19.

5) Northern Explorer Tour - 22 to 29 November 2021

On this lodging tour you will see the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Lalibela, with its labyrinth of 12th-century rock-hewn churches; the castles of Gondar built by Ethiopian emperors in the 17th and 18th centuries; the stunning Simien Mountains with its unique wildlife; and the tropical Lake Tana with a relaxing place to stay on its northern lake shore.

Dates:

  • GR18-01: November 15 to 29, 2021
  • GR18-02: November 2022

Tour code: GR18

Operator: SimienEcoTours & Ride the Rift partners

Gallery

Itinerary & In/Exclusions

Note

Shorter options available

Depending on which packages you book the itinerary and price will vary. Click here for all options and details.

Day 1

Arrival and drive into the African Rift Valley

Travel: 5-6 h

After arrival you will be picked by your guide & driver to start your journey. Leaving Addis southwards, you will head into the Great African Rift Valley passing by the majestic Zuqualla volcano near Debre Zeit. After joining the main road to Kenya you will follow the chain of several Rift Valley lakes. At Lake Ziway your guide will show you around the lake shore at Liben with opportunities to spot waterbirds. It is also a good place for an early lunch at the Liben Lodge.

Carry on south past lakes Langano, Abijata and Shalla (to be explored a bit later in the trip). Today you will drive further south to Yirga Alem. Arriving in the late afternoon you have enough time to explore the beautiful lodge compound, an old coffee plantation, and join a bonfire and a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony before dinner. Dinner in the lodge is unusual for their mix of local and international cuisine. It will be something a bit different.

Meals: B/-/D

Accommodation: Aregash Lodge, Yirga Alem

Day 2

Explore the famous coffee area of the Sidama Region

In Sidama, around the lodge, farmers live a small-holder life based around agriculture, notably Enset (a banana like plant grown for its root!) and coffee. The top grade coffee is earmarked for European markets, but much is traded within Ethiopia. With your guide walk through the villages meeting farmers getting an idea of their life. Sidama people are very welcoming and often happy to invite you into their homesteads to show you around where you can sit together for a cup of freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee from the jebana (the Ethiopian clay coffee pot) and taste cocho (made from the enset).

After your visit you will head back to Aregash lodge for a relaxed late afternoon and evening, it’s a beautiful place to relax. Maybe get up early to do a little loop around the compound with the guards around 6:30am to see the Black & White Colobus monkeys and the hyenas that you will have probably heard during the night. It is also worth taking  a walk through the forest in the morning.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Aregash Lodge, Yirga Alem

Day 3

Drive back to see the lakes and park around Langano

Head north to Lake Langano. After a short drive of around 2-3 hours you will arrive at this Rift Valley Lake which is the only lake in Ethiopia which is safe to swim. Bilharzia can not develop here due to the alkaline waters. Hara Langano Lodge is the best place around the lake to enjoy the wildlife and natural scenery. In the wooded compound you can see many different birds, and monkeys  and  often spot the nearby family of hippos. You can also either go for a swim or paddle a bit with their kayaks.

There is a forest reserve nearby where you can take a walk with your guide in the afternoon to relax in the cool still of the forest and to see some wildlife, primarily more birds and monkeys.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Hara Langano Lodge, Langano

Day 4

Relax in the hot springs of the Awash National Park

Early risers should not miss the chance to do a small game drive in the close-by Abijata-Shalla National Park. It is best to enter the park just after the sun is up to have better chances to see some of the wildlife and waterbirds around its lake shores. The park is actually known for its big colonies of Lesser Flamingos that can be found along the lake shore. The lodge breakfast will taste even better when coming back from a beautiful excursion to the park.

After breakfast you drive to the northern edge of Awash National Park where the Doho hot springs are located, a place where huge amounts of hot spring water just comes out of the rock and is diverted into pools to relax with nice views over the wetlands. A great spot to do pool birdwatching in the late afternoon.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Doho Lodge, Awash

Day 5

Explore more wildlife in the national park before leaving the Rift Valley

Alledhegi National Park offers a similar ecosystem like Awash National Park and neighbors your lodge compound. On an early morning game drive through plains and bushlands you can discover Oryx Antelopes and Soemmering’s Gazelles as well as the Gerenuk Antelope with its giraffe-like neg that can only be found in some few parts of Eastern Africa.

We will have a simple picnic lunch as we drive up from the Afar lowlands passing by camel caravans and bush, then heading higher up the Rift valley edge where donkeys become the main carriers. We will stop for a coffee in Aleyu Amba - the town where the lowlands and highlands meet before driving on up to the historic town of Ankober where former Ethiopian Emperor Menelik had his palace will be the setting for our Ride the Rift charity bike ride. Cycling and hiking along these mountainous slopes with vistas down in the Rift Valley and into the forest is what you have to look forward to for the next few days. In the afternoon you will meet other participants arriving from Addis Ababa for the weekend and join them for the first activities on Friday afternoon.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Camp Lik Marefia or Ankober Palace Lodge, Ankober

Day 6

Start the Ride the Rift adventure with different outdoor activities

Our charity bike ride around Ankober was born in 2020 when the pandemic hit and freelance tourism professionals remained without income for months. As a group of four Ethiopian tour operators we came up with the idea to run this event to raise funds for those most in need. The situation has not changed in 2021 and we wanted to run this bike ride again. This is now one of the best cycling and hiking tours you can do in Ethiopia. Stay at our riders' camp at Lik Marefia on the edge of the forest, one of the Wof Washa community guest-houses or do it in a bit more luxury at Ankober Palace Lodge -a rebuild of the former Emperor’s palace. At the camp mingle with the locals, your fellow riders and their friends and family. We provide you with all you need for your weekend including tents and camp equipment, toilets, bucket showers, all meals, and participant and bike transfers from Addis Ababa to and from the event. The total number of riders will be 30 to a max. 50 participants (some camping, some in the lodge), but during activities you will be split into smaller groups with your individual guides. Today is the arrival day with some beautiful hiking options and flatter mountain biking opportunities. Bike rental is available at an additional cost for the weekend.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Camp Lik Marefia or Ankober Palace Lodge, Ankober

Day 7

More biking and hiking on the escarpment of the Rift Valley

On Saturday morning you can choose from a wide range of activities for the day. Our experienced guides offer you different level cycling and hiking opportunities. All of our cycling, hiking & running routes allow you to marvel at the beauty of landscapes as you pass through local villages and explore quiet scenic trails.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Camp Lik Marefia or Ankober Palace Lodge, Ankober

Day 8

Participate to the charity bike ride ending at the historical Ankober Palace

Today is the day of the actual charity ride which will start near Lik Marefia just below the Wof Washa forest and ends in a finish at Ankober lodge where a crowd of locals and some family members will cheer you over the finish line.

After our great finishing party with some buffet lunch provided by the lodge we will put you on our transport back to Addis Ababa. Whereas some of you might live in Addis and go home, others will be catching their return flights back home.

Meals: B/L/-

Accommodation: Caravan Hotel, Addis Ababa

Day 9

Flight from Addis Ababa to Lalibela to see the famous churches

You will take an early flight from Addis Ababa to Lalibela. Lalibela, the centre of Ethiopia during the Zagwe dynasty,  was until recently a remote village that was home to a labyrinth of rock hewn churches connected by tunnels and trenches. Road access to Lalibela only came in the early 1970s, and even then it was inaccessible in the rainy season. But inside its rocks was perhaps Ethiopia’s most remarkable secret as you will see. 

You will be welcomed by your guide at Lalibela airport and transferred to your hotel. After a quick lunch you will spend the afternoon visiting one of the clusters churches which were excavated out of the bedrock in the late 12th century by the Saint King Lalibela.

After your tour, why not go to Ben Abeba with its extraordinary architecture and wonderful mountain views?

Meals: B/-/-

Accommodation: Tabor Hotel, Lalibela

Day 10

After the churches reach the highlands above Lalibela

Hiking: 3-4 hrs.

Wake up early and explore the remaining churches - it is more atmospheric in the early morning. Head back to the hotel for brunch and a transfer at 10am to the Meket Plateau from where your community trekking to Mequat Mariam will start. 

We will drop you on the road a short walk from the cliff edge site at Meskal Mikael where a simple local lunch (enjara and vegetarian sauces) will be awaiting you, and home brewed coffee. From here it is another 3h30m walk across the meadows and along the escarpment to Mequat Mariam. This is one of the most delightful walks on the trek. One of our favourite spots is Sar Dingay (Grass Rock) - a glade of trees used as the resting place for the tabot (sacred replica of the tablets of stone kept in each church) when it is processed out for Timkat). As at all guesthouses snacks and tea await you on arrival, there are also beers (cooled by the cold air at altitude). But here you have a rocky ledge - the Mequat Rock Bar - from which to enjoy the most incredible views at sunset.

Mequat is also home to a small troop of Gelada baboons (kept away from the crops at this time of the year), there are also Vervet Monkeys and the rodent like Rock Hyrax in the area, and a regular Lammergeyer flies overhead. A large flock of white-billed starlings, endemic to Ethiopia, also nest in the cliffs here.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation:  Mequat Mariam Community Guesthouse, Alt. 2,800m, Meket

Day 11

Back to the road and drive across spectacular landscapes to Gondar

The trek out from Mequat  takes you through villages and past schools descending through a juniper woodland to passing by the church of Werkhaye Mariam. Just beyond the woods facing the meadows you will be served a simple lunch by the community before meeting up with your transport for your journey back down to lower altitude. 

The journey takes you through breathtaking mountainous landscapes with drop offs and volcanic plugs, before you descend into the Lake Tana basin.  It is time for a change, as we drop in altitude to the subtropical Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve (Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake, and has a deep history of Christain and Judaic settlement). Your overnight stay will be in a simple lodge with views from Lake Tana’s Northern shore.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation:  Tim & Kim Village, Gorgora

Day 12

Relaxing on the peaceful lakeshore with some activities

With the lodge kayaks you can go on a peaceful early morning boat trip to nearby monastery islands  and soak up the nature. Lake Tana is a haven for water birds: egrets, cormorants, pelicans, herons, fish eagles, cranes and much more. Possibly even a large monitor lizard 

Gorgora is also the home of the 17th century Debre Sina Mariam church. Surrounded by an old forest the church lies right at the lake shore and its impressively painted interior makes this a very special place to visit.  Take your time here to get in touch with Ethiopia’s religious history before heading back to the lodge to relax in the afternoon.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation:  Tim & Kim Village, Gorgora

Day 13

Pass Gondar and drive to the famous Simien Mountains

Hiking: 2 h, 5 km

After breakfast you start your journey to Simien Mountains National Park for a 2 days nature adventure in one of the countries top lodges. You will drive up through Gondar, and on up to the Simien mountains. You will stop in the town of Debark where the park HQ is for lunch and coffee- before driving into the park. After some refreshments at the lodge your guide will take you on a 2 hour hike with breathtaking views to the lowlands and some amazing wildlife. Certainly the stars of the park are the red-breasted Gelada baboons that prefer the lush green vegetation around the lodge for feeding.

Meals: B/-/D

Accommodation: Simien Lodge, Simien Mountains NP 

Day 14

Explore the wildlife and dramatic landscapes of the national park

Hiking: 2-3 h, 10 km

Your guide takes you on a day excursion through the park. After a short transfer you will hike along a steep slope in the Sankaber area of the park, known for the bushbuck and klipspringer found here. before you descend to enjoy some impressive views, notably the Jinbar waterfalls cascade into the Geech Abyss as a thin ribbon of water, with vultures circling on the thermals.

A gravel road brings you even further into the park to Chennek from where the majestic North-Eastern face of the Simiens can be seen with cliffs that drop vertically for almost 1500 m. There is an excellent chance to see the rare Walia Ibex  on the north eastern flanks of the mountain as well.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Simien Lodge, Simien Mountains NP 

Day 15

Leave the national park for the return to Gondar

After breakfast enjoy the views one last time before your drive back to Gondar (2 hrs). Gondar is sometimes called the Camelot of Africa, because of the old castles built here by former emperors. After lunch you will have time to wander around the park-like grounds in which the castles are enclosed. It's a peaceful place and you can conjure up images of how Ethiopia was in the 17th century. There are also stables for horses when dignitaries come for feasts and other buildings. Then head down into town to the ceremonial baths that the first Emperor Fasilidas built to celebrate Timkat (which commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river.) This is also a tranquil spot. If time allows, head up the hill to Quskwam to see the ruined palace on the Empress Mentwab on a hill above the town.

Meals: B/-/-

Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters,Gondar

Day 16

Visit Gondar before flying back to Addis Ababa and end your tour

After breakfast in your hotel, head down the road to visit Debre Berhan Selassie Church, with its splendid paintings covering the walls and ceiling of angels. It is a wonderful way to end your visit to Ethiopia seeing one of the most beautifully painted churches. 

Afterwards enjoy a coffee in Piazza overlooking the statue of Emperor Tewedros and the Art Deco centre of the town, before heading to the hotel to get your gear and driving back to  Gondar airport for your domestic flight to Addis. We will pick you at the domestic airport, if COVID tests are needed we will assist (excluded in the price) and include a chance to buy a few last minute souvenirs and have dinner before beginning your journey home.

Meals: B/-/D

Included

Our services include:

For the Northern Explorer Trek ($ 1,230):

  • two domestic flights in Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines in tourist class (Addis Ababa - Lalibela, Gondar - Addis Ababa) (extra fee of 180 USD if the international flight is not performed with Ethiopian Airlines);
  • 4x hotel accommodation in double/twin rooms with private toilet/shower in hotels or lodges, 3 camping nights in tents for 2 persons in Simien National Park; 
  • supplement for single room/tent (only applicable in camps, hotels/lodges, but not during community trekking) 145 USD;
  • all transfers and travels in Ethiopia with private car;
  • all breakfasts, other meals as per itinerary (1 drink per meal included, alcoholic drinks exclude;
  • farewell dinner;
  • all entrance fees and permissions at tourist attractions, churches, museums and national parks;
  • for the trekking: entrance and camping fees, guide, scouts and rangers, mules/dromedaries and mulemen, cook, cooking assistant, cooking and camping equipment (it's recommended to bring your own sleeping bag);
  • all persons for safety and security (when mandatory);
  • all (mandatory) local guides in the single destinations;
  • 24/7 emergency assistance;
  • 2 experienced tour guides (1 for Lalibela churches,1 for Gondar & Simiens) (fluently English & Amharic speaking);
  • driver guide for the last day in Addis Ababa (fluent in English & Amharic).

For the Great Ethiopian Run ($ 265):

  • 2x hotel accommodation in double/twin rooms with breakfast and private toilet/shower in hotel in Addis Ababa;
  • all transfers and travels with private vehicles;
  • pre-race pasta party on the evening before the run attended by Haile Gebreselassie;
    race T-shirt;
  • participation to the 10k Great Ethiopian Run 2021;
  • running guide for both the pasta party and the run;
  • face mask and refreshments during the run;
  • first aid support during the run.

For the Rift Valley Explorer Tour ($ 880):

  • 4x hotel accommodation in double/twin rooms with private toilet/shower in lodges;
  • supplement for single room 165 USD;
  • all transfers and travels in Ethiopia with private vehicles;
  • all breakfasts, other meals as per itinerary (1 drink per meal included, alcoholic drinks excluded) ;
  • farewell dinner;
  • all entrance fees and permissions at tourist attractions, churches, museums and national parks;
  • all persons for safety and security (when mandatory);
  • all (mandatory) local guides in the single destinations;
  • 24/7 emergency assistance;
  • 1 experienced RTR tour guide (fluent in English & Amharic).

For the Ankober Charity Challenge ($ 270):

  • 2 camping nights in tents for 2 persons incl. rental tent & mattress;
  • mules/porters to carry the luggage to the campsite;
  • all transfers and travels with private vehicles;
  • transport for bikes (from/to Addis & during the rides);
  • all meals as per itinerary (incl. water, coffee/tea, alcoholic drinks excluded);
  • refreshments & sandwiches for the rides & other activities;
  • guides for rides and hiking;
  • T-Shirt for the bike ride;
  • first aid support;
  • technician support.

For the Northern Explorer Tour ($ 1,690):

  • 2 domestic flights in Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines in tourist class (Addis Ababa - Lalibela, Gondar - Addis Ababa) (extra fee of 180 USD if the international flight is not performed with Ethiopian Airlines);
  • 6x hotel accommodation in double/twin rooms with private toilet/shower in hotels or lodges, 1x accommodation in community guesthouses on the Meket Plateau;
  • supplement for single room (only applicable in camps, hotels/lodges, but not during community trekking) 220 USD;
  • all transfers and travels in Ethiopia with private vehicles;
  • 1 guided kayak trip on Lake Tana;
  • all breakfasts, other meals as per itinerary (1 drink per meal included, alcoholic drinks excluded);
  • farewell dinner
  • all entrance fees and permissions at tourist attractions, churches, museums and national parks;
  • all persons for safety and security (when mandatory) ;
  • all (mandatory) local guides in the single destinations;
  • 24/7 emergency assistance;
  • 4 experienced tour guides (1 guide for Addis Ababa, 1 for Lalibela churches, 1 for community trekking in Meket, 1 for Gondar & Simiens) (fluent in English & Amharic).

** Please bring water purification kit - we try not to use water in plastic bottles - this will save you expense too!

Optional

Our optional services:

For different packages:

  • city tour in Addis Ababa incl. guide and private minivan 110 USD per group (excl. entrances and meals).
  • supplement for single room/tent, as follows for the single packages: - 1) Northern Explorer Trek: 145 USD - 2) Great Ethiopian Run: 35 USD - 3) Rift Valley Explorer Tour: 165 USD - 4) Ankober Charity Challenge: 25 USD - 5) Northern Explorer Tour: 220 USD
  • only for Ankober Charity Challenge: upgrade to overnight in simple community guesthouse instead of 2 nights camping 45 USD;
  • only for Ankober Charity Challenge: upgrade to overnight in Ankober Lodge instead of 2 nights camping 140 USD;
  • only for Ankober Charity Challenge: good quality mountain bikes can be rented for the whole tour for 45 USD.
  • additional overnight in Addis Ababa at Caravan Hotel (incl. airport shuttle, room & breakfast) 60 USD per person/night/single room;
  • additional overnight in Addis Ababa at Caravan Hotel (incl. airport shuttle, room & breakfast) 40 USD per person/night/twin room.

Excluded

Our services do not include:

For different packages:

  • international flights;
  • meals not included in the itinerary;
  • COVID tests or other requirements linked to COVID travel measures;
  • travel insurance;
  • visa in Ethiopia;
  • sleeping bag (not needed for all tours);
  • alcoholic drinks;
  • tipping;
  • photo and video fees (if any);
  • all extras and personal expenditures.