• Northern Tour Ethiopia

Ethiopia Holiday to the Historical Highlights

This bestseller tour follows the classical northern historical circuit. In fact, all important sites destinations of the North like Lake Tana, Gondar and Lalibela are visited. With a drive through the Simien Mountains you will add to these three UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites a natural highlight. Accommodation like the Simien Lodge, the highest hotel of Africa, will make this trip unforgettable.

ethiopia holiday north

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Accompanied by one of our experienced SimienEcoTours guides (English, Italian, Spanish, French & German available) you will visit Ethiopia’s Northern historic and nature sights. The tour begins with a visit of the capital city, after which you’ll be heading for a day trip to Debre Libanos, one of the biggest and most important monasteries in the country. After visiting the year-round green city of Bahir Dar on Lake Tana and Ethiopia’s historic capital of Gondar with its 17th century castles, you will go for short walks in Ethiopia’s highest mountain range and discover its steep cliffs, mountains and wildlife. Move on to see mythical rock-hewn churches in Lalibela carved out solid rock and set off for an optional easy hiking day in the stunning surrounding Lasta Mountains.

Overnights are spent in wisely selected and mainly beautifully located mid-range to high-range hotels and lodges. Upgrades to more atmospheric lodges in some destinations are possible. Talk to our Travel Experts.

Tour code: CU01

Operator: SimienEcoTours

Itinerary & In/Exclusions

Day 1

Discover the capital Addis Ababa

Travel: 1 h, 30 km

After your arrival & immigration you will meet with your guide at the airport and you will be transferred to your hotel/lodge for some refreshment. Depending on your arrival time your guide will go on a city tour through Ethiopia’s vibrant and lively capital. 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. Others might enjoy one of the city’s weekly markets. You can choose your itinerary with your guide.

Meals: B/L/D

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

Day 2

Day trip to the monastery of Debre Libanos & the Grand Canyon of Ethiopia

Travel: 4-5 h, 220 km

The drive to Debre Libanos leads across the highlands north of Addis Ababa. It offers a glimpse into the lovely village landscape of Ethiopia until suddenly a more than 1,000m deep gorge opens at Debre Libanos. You take a short rest at the top of the gorge, where various birds can be observed. On a short hike (about 1 hour) you cross an old bridge built for commercial purposes, in order to arrive at a terraced waterfall and caves inhabited by monkeys.

In the afternoon you visit the sanctuary, where the famous monastery of Debre Azbo (later Debre Libanos) was founded in the 13th century and destroyed in 1937 during the Italian occupation. You visit the octagonal church with the glass-paintings of the artist Afework Tekle, who also designed the windows of the Africa Hall in Addis Ababa, as well as the newly built museum in which art treasures of the monastery are shown. In the late afternoon you return to Addis Ababa.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Caravan Hotel or similar, Addis Ababa

Day 3

Coffee forests & historic monasteries at Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve

Flight time: 1 h

Travel: 1 h, 30 km

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

A domestic flight 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 escape to start you boat cruise, do some bird watching to finally reach 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 before you return back by boat to town to your lodge.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Shimela Lodge or similar, Bahir Dar

Day 4

The impressive waterfalls on the Blue Nile

Travel: 2 h, 80 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 4-5 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑150m, ↓150m)

Today you drive to Tis Issat just outside of Bahir Dar where the Blue Nile Falls are situated. Directly at the waterfalls you undertake a 2-3 hours hike and thus have the opportunity to experience the falls from different perspectives, cross over two bridges bridge (one being the historical Portuguese bridge), then the Blue Nile by boat and see sugar cane plantations. In the afternoon we reach a viewpoint where former emperor Haile Selassie built his summer residential palace.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Shimela Lodge or similar, Bahir Dar

Day 5

The Awura Amba Community - a moving experience

Travel: 3-4 h, 200 km

This morning you will drive to the ancient capital of Gondar with a stopover in the Awura Amba Community Project. About 500 people live here in a community that has renounced their faith in order to be happy together. 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 neighbouring villages. An exciting stopover that will raise many questions. Along the eastern shore of Lake Tana, you will travel through the Tara Gedam Mountains and their forests, then continue in the afternoon towards Gondar, often referred to as the 'Camelot of Ethiopia'.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters or similar, Gondar

Day 6

The Camelot of Ethiopia - the castles in Gondar

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 7

Natural beauty and scenic views in the Simien Mountains National Park

Travel: 3-4 h, 130 km

Hiking: 1-2 h, 4k m (difficulty: easy/moderate, altitude difference: ↑100m, ↓150m)

This morning you will continue your 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 Capricorn, Ethiopian Wolf, 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 metres. 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, St. John's wort and heather, Kniepofia, tree heather species and the Kosso tree. Overnight in a lodge inside the national park.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Simien Lodge or similar, Simien Mountain National Park

Day 8

Domestic flight to Lalibela

Flight time: 1 h

Travel: 4-5h; 160 km

You will return back to Gondar for you 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 late afternoon for your check in at the hotel. On the way from the airport to town you will have the chance to enjoy views of the Lasta mountains and your guide will show you the Neakto Laab Church out of town which was build inside a cave where holy water drops down from the cliff. Its forest is also a beautiful spot to rest and do some bird watching.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Lodge or similar, Lalibela

Day 9

The masterpieces of Lalibela - its eleven rock churches

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 Gyorgis (“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 as 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 before your sunset dinner will be with splendid views in the Lasta Mountains.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Lodge or similar, Lalibela

Day 10

Discover Lalibela's surrounding mountain scapes

Travel: 2h; 30 km

Hiking: 2-3 h, 8 km (difficulty: moderate, altitude difference: ↑300m, ↓400m)

Mount Asheton (3,300 masl) has been towering over the city of Lalibela during the last days of your stay. Today it is time to get closer to this beautiful mountain and depart for a panoramic hike along its base and visit the close by rock church of Asheton Mariam and its parchments, 800 years old manuscripts written on goat skin. If you prefer to avoid the hike, you can shorten the walk to 30min by using a vehicle that brings you almost on the top of the climb or stay in Lalibela for the visit of the market or simply relax in the garden of the hotel.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: Lalibela Lodge or similar, Lalibela

Day 11

Flight back to Addis Ababa and departure

Flight time: 1 h

Travel: 1 h, 40 km

After a relaxed breakfast in the hotel the driver will transfer you to the Lalibela airport in the late morning for the flight to Addis Ababa. If there is enough time before your departure, you will visit a market or shops in Addis Ababa to buy souvenirs. Finally, there is a traditional Ethiopian dinner with music and dance performance. End of the trip and departure depending on flight times.

Meals: B/L/D

Accommodation: ---

Included

Our services include:
  • all (3) domestic flights in Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa-Bahir Dar, Gondar-Lalibela, Lalibela-Addis Ababa), Note: If the international flight is with a carrier other than Ethiopian Airlines, there will be a supplement of US$ 240 for the domestic flights;
  • all accommodations in double rooms with private toilet/shower in hotels or lodges (1x high-range, 9x mid-range);
  • 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 US$ 52);
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • tips;
  • photo and video fees (if applicable);
  • all extras and personal expenses.

Excluded

Our services do not include:
  • international flights;
  • travel insurance;
  • visa for Ethiopia (currently US$ 52);
  • alcoholic beverages;
  • tips;
  • photo and video fees (if applicable);
  • all extras and personal expenses.