Historic North Ethiopia Itinerary
This tour will take you on an amazing journey through the Ethiopian highlands as you discover the history and culture of this ancient nation. Explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, carved in the 12th century as a new “Jerusalem” for Ethiopian Christians. Wander through the castles of Gondar, home to Ethiopian Kings and Queens from the 17th to 19th centuries. In the Simien Mountains, walk among a herd of grazing Geladas, a primate easily identified by the bright red markings on its chest and found only in Ethiopia. Four UNESCO World Heritage sites are included on this tour.<!–– start itin loop ––>
Arrive at Bole International Airport. A representative will meet you and take you to your hotel.
Tour the Ethnographic Museum, a great introduction to Ethiopian culture and history. Visit the National Museum, home of the 3 million year old skeleton, “Lucy.” Visit the Mercato, one of Africa’s largest outdoor markets and the Trinity Cathedral, resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie. Drive to the Entoto Hills for a panoramic view of Addis Ababa.
Fly to Bahar Dar on Ethiopian Airlines. Take a boat tour on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile and tour ancient island monasteries. Visit the marketplace in Bahar Dar.
Morning drive to see the Blue Nile Falls. Return to Bahar Dar for lunch. In the afternoon, drive to Gondar north of Lake Tana.
Tour the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring five castles built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings beginning in the early 17th century. Having survived several wars, including air raids during World War II, the castles are a testament to the resilience of this once mighty African Empire. Visit the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, famous for its religious art and especially its iconic ceiling depicting angels. See the baths of King Fasilides which still serves as a baptismal pool during Timkat.
Drive to Sankabar, the gateway to the Simien Mountains National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take in the spectacular scenery and view wildlife such as the Gelada baboon. Light hiking in the afternoon in the park.
Spend the day hiking and enjoying the scale and beauty of this highland region, possibly spotting wildlife such as the endemic Gelada Baboons and the Lammergeyer.
Take a scenic drive to Axum, capital of the ancient Axumite Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Frequent stops at viewpoints along the way. Arrive in Axum late afternoon.
Tour the ancient stelae fields standing for 2000 years. Visit the new and impressive Archaeological Museum. See St. Mary Tsion Church, which houses the Ark of the Covenant according to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (no one is allowed to see the ark). Visit other tombs and archeological sites as time permits.
Fly to Lalibela on Ethiopian Airlines, 700 kilometers north of Addis Ababa. Tour the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs and fabulous examples of icon paintings.
Drive to Yemrehanna Kristos, a beautiful church situated in a shallow cave that predates the churches of Lalibela. The drive to Yemrehanna will also give you the opportunity to view the rural countryside and villages of the Ethiopian highlands. Stop at Arbaytu Ensesa where the monks and nuns make hand crafts and traditional cloth.
Following breakfast, visit Neakuteleab Cave Church 7 kilometers out of Lalibela and on the way to the airport. Fly to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant featuring dancers and musicians representing some of the country’s many ethnic groups. Transfer to airport for late night departure or additional hotel night booked upon request.