Northern Historical Circuit
This amazing tour gives you the best impressions of Northern Ethiopia. It starts in the capital Addis Ababa and brings you to some wonderful places like Lake Tana, the Blue Nile Falls, the castles of Gondar, breathtaking landscapes of the Simien Mountains, the ancient kingdom of Axum, the rock hewn churches of Lalibela and the Gheralta Cluster. Relax and enjoy the trip back into Ethiopia’s history.
Day 1 – Addis Ababa
Arrival in Addis Ababa. Depending on your flight you will have time for a city tour through Addis Ababa. Spend the night in Addis Ababa.
Day 2 – From Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar
Leave the capital Addis Ababa and drive north towards Bahir Dar. On the way you will pass the Nile River and gorge and stop at the Millennium Bridge that is crossing the gorge. From here you have a wonderful view through the wide gorge. Lunch and coffee will be taken in Debre Markos or any other town on the road. You will reach Bahir Dar in the late afternoon. Spend the night in Bahir Dar.
Day 3 – Bahir Dar and around
After breakfast, head out by boat to the various islands on Lake Tana to visit different Ethiopian Orthodox Churches and Monasteries with its beautiful wall paintings. You will be back in Bahir Dar for lunch. After a good meal, the car will take you to the close by Blue Nile Falls. The Nile actually origins in Laka Tana to flow first south and then to the West towards Sudan. The Blue Nile Falls are the biggest water falls in Ethiopia and also the short hike to the viewpoint is great. Don’t be shy and get close to the water in order to enjoy the spindrift of the strong water falling down, it will cool you down on a hot day. Take as much time as you need at the falls and enjoy a cup of coffee. Spend the night in Bahir Dar.
Day 4 – Bahir Dar to Gondar
Enjoy the landscape during the easy drive from Bahir Dar to Gondar. A relaxed start after breakfast is sufficient for this 3 hrs ride. In Gondar you will visit King Fasil’s Castle and Bath which was built in the 17th century. You will easily understand why Gondar has been called the Camelot of Ethiopia. Also a visit to Selassie Church is absolutely recommended. No other church has such beautiful and well preserved wall paintings that tell you a lot about Ethiopian Christianity. Spend the night in Gondar.
Day 5 – Drive into Simien Mountains
Today you’ll drive into the Simien Mountains National Park to reach an altitude of 4,000 m. After finishing organizational issues at the park entrance in Debark, you continue by car into the mountains. Depending on your fitness you’ll be able to join a 1 – 3 hrs hike around the area to watch the amazing landscape as well as the indigenous Gelada Baboons. You’ll spend the night in the National Park in the Simien Lodge which claims to be the “highest” hotel in Africa.
Day 6 – Simien Mountains to Axum
Enjoy the beautiful scenery and fantastic landscape on this trip along the Simien Mountains National Park towards the far northern city of Axum which was founded around 2,000 years ago. Spend the night in Axum.
Day 7 – Axum
You have an entire day to visit the ancient capital of the kinddom of Axum with its important churches, monuments, tombs and stelae. Legend says and all Ethiopians believe it passionately that the holy Ark of the Covenant still resides in Axum in St. Mary of Zion Church. High civilization started to rise here as early as 400 BC and for close to 1,000 years, Axum dominated the lively trade between Africa and Asia and the kingdom numbered among the ancient world’s greatest states. Spend the night in Axum.
Day 8 – Axum to Gheralta
We are leaving the ancient town of Axum behind and travel south again into the Gheralta Cluster, an area where you can visit rock hewn churches caved into the rocks on top of mountains (not like in Lalibela where they are build into the ground). On the way to one of the most beautiful lodges in Ethiopia – the Gheralta Lodge – you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Tigray.
Day 9 – Gheralta Cluster
You will spend the whole day around Gheralta Cluster enjoying the fairytale-like view on rocks and mountains from the Gheralta Lodge and relaxing from the drive. More than 120 churches are hidden on top of the surrounding rocks, carved as caves in the form of ancient monasteries with beautiful wall paintings. Some churches demand quite some fitness and a bit of climbing skills, however the reward in terms of views on the landscape as well as the hidden churches is very well worth it. Other churches are easier to reach with a short hike through flat grassland. Spend the night in Gheralta Lodge.
Day 10 – Gheralta to Mekele
Take it easy in the morning, enjoy the breakfast and relax a bit more at the lodge. Just before lunch, we’ll start our tour towards Mekele which is only 1,5 hours away. After lunch in the capital of Tigray region, walk around a bit and visit the museum of Emperor Johannes IV who reigned in the late 19th century. The museum is located in his former palace that was built in 1872. Spend the night in Mekele.
Day 11 – Mekele to Lalibela
Another scenic drive takes you further south to Lalibela. The drive will take almost the full day but will show you mountain ranges and beautiful valleys. Stop over in Woldiya for lunch break and some coffee. Spend the night in Lalibela which you will reach in the late afternoon. But before retiring to bed, you should visit the local Azmari House where you can enjoy traditional honey wine, music and dance.
Day 12 – Lalibela
Lalibela is famous for its eleven rock hewn churches that were built by King Lalibela in the 11th century. This town is very small and all of these churches can be reached on foot very easily. A local guide will take care of you to show you the many hidden treasures that can be found while walking through these amazing monolithic churches that are also part of the World Heritage List. Another restaurant should not be missed in Lalibela, the Ben Abeba restaurant which is located at the edge of the mountains providing the guests to look over a beautiful mountain range while enjoying the finest food that Lalibela has to offer. Spend the night in Lalibela.
Day 13 – Lalibela to Dessie
You will start your journey back to the capital Addis Ababa today with one night stop over in Dessie. 28 km north of Dessie lies on a peninsula the little town of Hayk. Especially its picturesque lake give a great opportunity to enjoy freshly grilled fish in the cafes on the lake shore. Different birds can also be spotted if you have an eye for that. Spend the night in Dessie.
Day 14 – Dessie to Addis Ababa
Leaving Dessie in the morning, you will reach Ethiopia’s capital in the afternoon. After checking in for your last night in Ethiopia, we’ll spend a farewell dinner together in a cultural restaurant enjoying great Ethiopian food and traditional dances and music from all over the country. Spend the night in Addis Ababa.
Day 15 – Departure
Depending on your flight data you will leave Addis Ababa in the early morning or late evening. There is no more program planned for this day but we can help arrange a shopping tour for you to make sure you’ll take home some delicious coffee or other souvenirs.