Meskel Gurage Tour & Northern Explorer
SimienEcoTours with Ride the Rift, a collaborative effort of 3 tour operators organizing trekking, cycling, and running tours and events, presents a biking adventure followed by a tour taking you to some of the most stunning and memorable places in Ethiopia. There are different packages we offer and you can simply choose which of those you'd like to book.
The following 2 packages can be booked singularly or combined. For more details check the document here.
1) Meskel Gurage Tour - 24 to 27 September 2022
This specially-designed Outdoor Adventure Weekend in the Gurage region allows you to enjoy some exhilarating cycling, running, and walking in landscapes that in any other country would be considered as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The beauty of the scenery is matched by the warmth and hospitality of the local people.
2) Northern Explorer Trek - 28 September to 9 October 2022
The Northern Explorer extends your journey by taking you to some of the most stunning and memorable places for tourists in Ethiopia: exploring Lalibela’s labyrinth of churches, trekking in the Meket Highlands among local farmers, and touring the majestic Simien Mountains ending your tour in Gondar and its romantic castles.
- GR16-01: September 24 to October 9, 2022
Tour code: GR16
Operator: SimienEcoTours & Ride the Rift partners
Itinerary & In/Exclusions
NoteShorter options available
Depending on which packages you book the itinerary and price will vary. Click here for all options and details.
Day 1Departure from Addis Ababa to Gurage
Travel: 4 h, 200 km
Arrive in Addis Ababa. Early arrivals (before 9am) can join the first group of cyclists to Gurage for their first mountain biking trip in the afternoon from Welkite to the Ride the Rift camp close to Hawariat in the heart of the Gurage region.
Overnight is at our community camp and our cook will make your evening with delicious foods.
Accommodation: camp 1 in Gurage, Hawariat
Day 2-3Exploring the green Gurage highlands
This Ride the Rift experience brings you to the lush green highlands of the Gurage region, another of Ethiopia’s hidden gems within a four-hour drive from Addis. This specially-designed tour allows you to enjoy some exhilarating cycling, running and walking in landscapes that in any other country would be considered as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The beauty of the scenery is matched by the warmth and hospitality of the local people. This tour gives you the chance to visit the homes of these people whose only complaint when we visited was “Why didn’t you tell us in advance so that we could prepare a ceremony for you?!”
During your days in Gurage we offer you fully catered camps. We provide tents, mattresses, toilet and shower facilities, tasty meals and clean drinking water. Camps are situated in safe and sheltered areas.
Groups have an average size of 20 to max. 50 participants, but during activities you will be split into smaller groups with your individual guides. Every morning you can choose from a wide range of activities for the day. Our experienced guides offer you a wide range of different level cycling and hiking opportunities where you can join. 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. Ride through juniper and eucalyptus forests. Saunter through local villages. Fly down grassy strips to the sound of nearby streams and waterfalls. Take a ride with the rafting boat along the Omo river (extra charge). We reckon outdoor activity in Ethiopia doesn’t come much better than this!
Families benefit from our kids' activities such as treasure hunt, arts & crafts and much more. One of the highlights on this trip will be the colorful religious Meskel celebrations that we will join in with the locals on each evening culminating in the big bonfire on Monday night.
Accommodation: camp 2 in Gurage, Hawariat
Day 4Spectacular long downhill ride and return to Addis Ababa
After breakfast we break camp and make our way home to Addis. On some trails and partly asphalt roads you will be able to cycle some part of the way. A breathtaking downhill ride into the Great African Rift Valley will be a spectacular finish of a perfect outdoor holiday. After some lunch near Butajira we will drive back to Addis Ababa (3 hrs.) where either the tour ends for you or you join us for the upcoming Northern Explorer Trip.
Accommodation: Caravan Hotel, Addis Ababa
Day 5Flight to Lalibela for sightseeing of the churches
You will take a flight from Addis Ababa to Lalibela. 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 the labyrinth of rock-hewn churches which were excavated out of the bedrock in the late 13th century. This is one of the most remarkable cultural sites in the world, something not to miss.
In the evening why not go to Ben Abeba with its extraordinary architecture perched on the edge of the ridge, and its different menu? It's quite nice to get there at sunset to enjoy its views.
Accommodation: Tabor Hotel, Lalibela
Day 6Hike to the plateau above Lalibela
Wake up early and explore the remaining churches - more atmospheric in the early morning. There will be a special mass at Gabriel church. After lunch meet your trekking guide and drive for around 90 mins south to the Meket Plateau from where your community trekking will start. From the road you will have a 90 min walk through fields with acacia trees dotted around and over the top of a waterfall before climbing up a short but steep paths to your overnight community guesthouse in Aterow right at the edge of the plateau from where you can enjoy the sunset. The guesthouses are located near the village which has a simple church dedicated to St. Aragawi. It can be a bit cold up here in the evening and early morning when the wind blows off the plateau to the east - the altitude is about 3,000 meters.
Accommodation: Aterow Community Guesthouse, Meket
Day 7Trek between community guesthouses and stay with local farmers
Today your hike is more or less on the flat (5 hrs.), walking mostly along the escarpment. There are great views to the north where the Tekeze river and its tributaries flow west and northwards and with views of the villages below where there is a thickly wooded land around a church dedicated to Abuna Gebre Menfes Kidus and several old churches in the rock. A simple lunch of enjara and vegetable sauces is served by the community beside the attractively located church of Ras Dejen Giyorgis. The afternoon walk again follows the basalt escarpment edge westwards with more great views. A path takes you down the escarpment into the bucolic village of Wajela. TThere is an acacia woodland around a new church, just before you come to the attractive tukuls nestled under the higher escarpment and above another escarpment which leads to a Juniper woodland around an older church - Werketa Mariam and a partially collapsed cave church.
Accommodation: Wajela Community Guesthouse, Meket
Day 8Wildlife, churches and farmers on the last day around Lalibela
The next morning after a wholesome breakfast head back up the ridge to the top of the escapement and cross the plateau from the north to the south side. Near the church of Kura Anbessa Giyorgis, you will meet the southern escarpment with lovely views to the Bashilo river - itself a major tributary into the Blue Nile. Soon after you will reach Meskal Mikael where a simple lunch awaits. This is another cluster of tukuls on the escarpment edge. There is a small waterfall nearby which attracts a lot of birds. 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 at 2,800m.
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.
Accommodation: Mequat Mariam Community Guesthouse, Meket
Day 9Visit of the ancient church school in Betelhem
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 to a monastery that has been hidden away for centuries
Betelhem Monastery in Gayint is an ancient built up church of stone base and lower walls and wooden upper and roof that is hidden by an outer stone wall and thatched roof. It is built in the style and it is said was of time of Mariam Zion in Axum making it one of the oldest churches in the country (and indeed Europe). You will sleep in a simple guesthouse made of pilgrims and eat a simple dinner and breakfast.
Accommodation: Village stay, Betelhem
Day 10Drive through spectacular landscapes to reach Lake Tana
Having explored this church you will drive back up though to the top of the plateau passing volcanic extrusions - one of which is home to Zuramba monastery. The journey west to Lake Tana takes you through breathtaking mountainous landscapes with drop offs and volcanic plugs, before you descend into the lower altitude and subtropical climate of the Lake Tana basin. Lake Tana now a Biosphere Reserve and Ethiopia’s largest lake, has a deep history of Christain and Judaic settlement. Your overnight stay will be in a neat lodge with views from Lake Tana’s Northern shore. We will arrive in the afternoon and have some time for exploring.
Accommodation: Tim & Kim Village, Gorgora
Day 11Relaxing 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.
Accommodation: Tim & Kim Village, Gorgora
Day 12From the lake back to the mountains in the North
Hiking: 3 h, 8 km
After breakfast you start your journey to Simien Mountains National Park for a 4 days trekking adventure. 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. We will drop you off to trek the last few kilometers to Sankaber camp (2,800 m). This area has some of the most lush vegetation and is the best area to see bushbuck and klipspringer. Dinner will be from our camp kitchen.
Accommodation: Sankaber camp, Simien Mountains NP
Day 13Full day trekking from Sankaber to Geech
Hiking: 6-7 hours, 13 km, 1000 m ascent, 700 m descent
Trekking day from Sankaber to Geech. In Sankaber you will meet your mules and mulemen. You will hike along the steep slope before you descend to enjoy some impressive views, notably the Jinbar waterfalls which cascade into the geech Abyss as a thin ribbon of water, with vultures circling on the thermals. From here, you will ascend up along the road and turn off to go down to the Jinbar river itself. This soon after the rains it might be a little deep crossing - but refreshing for your feet! You ascend out of the river by passing the former village of Geech (now resettled in Debark) and continue to your camp at 3,600 m. In the evening you have the possibility to climb Mt. Kedadit just north of the camp and experience an unforgettable sunset.
Accommodation: Geech camp, Simien Mountains NP
Day 14Hike in the national park from Geech to Chennek
Hiking: 7-8 hours, 17 km, 900 m ascent, 900 m descent
Trek Geech to Chennek. The path leads over the Geech plateau to Imet Gogo, a rocky promontory at 3,926meters that juts out above the lowlands with one of Ethiopia’s most dramatic views - spires and pinnacles of rock thrust up from the lowlands, and the edge of the highlands can be seen twisting away to the south like the edge of a cake that has been cut away with a knife. After enjoying this view, you head down to crossing the upper Jinbar valley and up through a giant heather forest (Erica Arboreal) to the highest peak around - Inatye (4,010 m) for a picnic lunch. From here it is a dramatic trail that often clings to the escarpment edge (those with a fear of heights can keep a distance) as it winds down to join the road that links Sankober and Chenek. A few more hundred meters uphill takes you to the campground in Chennek (3,600 m). This campsite is probably the most dramatic of them all - if you walk down to the scout huts at the front of the camp you can enjoy the staggering views both at sunset and sunrise.
Accommodation: Chennek camp, Simien Mountains NP
Day 15Leave the national park for the return to Gondar
For those who like to bag a peak - you can make an early start and climb Bwahit this morning. There is an excellent chance to see the rare Walia Ibex on the north eastern flanks of the mountain. The peak is at 4,430 meters - and after Ras Dashen and its 2 immediate neighbours on the other side of the chasm before you - it is the next highest peak in Ethiopia. On a fine day the views are very impressive. Hurry back down to meet your vehicle to Gondar. The cooks will have prepared a picnic lunch for you. You will drop your team in Debark and carry on to Gondar.
Dinner at Four Sisters Restaurant is a nice spot to end your day.
Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters, Gondar
Day 16Visit the ancient castles of Gondar before flying back to the capital
Wake up early to breakfast before your tour of Gondar, sometimes called the Camelot of Africa, because of the old castles built here by former emperors. Perhaps you will first visit Debre Birhan Selassie Church, with its splendid paintings covering the walls and ceiling of this lovely church. From here go on to see the castles - each emperor built his own in park-like grounds where you can escape from the present day and go back to the Ethiopian 17th century. There were stables for horses when dignitaries came for feasts and much more to see. Finally head down into town to the ceremonial baths that the first Emperor Fasidias built to celebrate Timkat (which commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river.) Take a quick lunch - before heading 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.
Accommodation: Caravan Hotel, Addis Ababa
IncludedOur services include:
For the Meskel Gurage Tour:
- 3 camping nights in tents for 2 persons incl. rental tent & mattress (supplement for single tent 25 USD);
- 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;
- first aid support;
- technician support.
For the Northern Explorer Trek:
- 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);
- 5x hotel accommodation in double/twin rooms with private toilet/shower in hotels or lodges, 3x accommodation in community guesthouses on the Meket Plateau, 1 night village stay, 3 camping nights in tents for 2 persons in Simien National Park;
- supplement for single room (only applicable in camps, hotels/lodges, but not during community trekking) 210 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;
- 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;
- 4 experienced tour guides (1 guide for Addis Ababa, 1 for Lalibela churches, 1 for community trekking in Meket and Betelhem, 1 for Gorgora, Gondar & Simiens) (fluently English & Amharic speaking).
** Please bring a water purification kit - we try not to use water in plastic bottles - this will save you money too!!
OptionalOur optional services:
For both packages:
- supplement for single room/tent 235 USD;
- good quality mountain bikes can be rented for the whole tour for 55 USD.
- city tour in Addis Ababa incl. guide and private minivan 110 USD per group (excl. entrances and meals).
- 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;
ExcludedOur services do not include:
For both packages:
- international flights;
- COVID tests or other requirements linked to COVID travel measures;
- travel insurance;
- visa for Ethiopia (currently US$ 82);
- lunch & dinner as per itinerary;
- sleeping bag;
- fee for rafting (price will be announced);
- fee for horse-riding or other not mentioned activities;
- alcoholic drinks;
- photo and video fees (if any);
all extras and personal expenditures.
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