One of our most popular trips in Africa, this tour explores the seldom-visited Ethiopia. This journey has all the best of the country’s highlands and the north; the main highlights of the trip being the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, trekking in the Simien Mountains and an expedition into the wilds of the north to explore the Danakil Depression.
We also visit Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and the Blue Nile Falls where the great river cascades down into a massive gorge. Nestling on the bank of Lake Tana is the picturesque city of Bahir Dar, one the three great Ethiopian settlements we visit; the others are Addis Ababa and the historic city of Gondar, with its ancient castles and churches.
Border Information: If joining in Addis Ababa, you will most likely enter Ethiopia at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (IATA code: ADD).
There will be a group meeting at the joining hotel at 6:00pm. Please look out for a note from your tour leader at the reception when you arrive giving more details about this important meeting.
If you are travelling to the Sudan and have arranged to pick the visa up in Addis Ababa, you will need to arrive at least 2 working days early to collect the visa.
Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Addis Ababa before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Addis Ababa.
In Addis Ababa we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
We will start our journey today with a drive to the small town of Debre Markos. En route we will drive to the bottom of the dramatic Blue Nile Gorge and up the other side!
In Debre Markos we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
Today we will complete our drive to Bahir Dar, a small town on Lake Tana, the source of the mighty Blue Nile.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.
On our first full day in Bahir Dar, we will have an included boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the famous old monastery of Gabriel Ure Kideth and to visit the spot where the lake outflows into the start of the Blue Nile.
On our second day, we will head off in the truck to visit the Blue Nile Falls and take a short walk around the area to the historic Portuguese Bridge. We will have some free time in the afternoon to take optional visits to some other spots around Bahir Dar such as the 'Hippo bridge' and the Tigray war memorial.
In Bahir Dar we will stay in decent local hotel.
Today we have a full day's drive through the beautiful scenery of central Ethiopia to reach the small medieval town of Lalibela.
Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.
On our first day in Lalibela, we will have an included full-day guided tour of the world-famous 13th-century rock churches of Lalibela. Our guide will be able to explain the fascinating history of Lalibela and its churches, and there will be plenty of time to explore, absorb the haunting atmosphere inside the churches, and take plenty of photographs of the incredible architecture and the religious rituals within.
On the second day, we will have a free day for further exploration or optional activities. We will have opportunity to hike up the nearby mountains to the Asheten Monastery, visit the Yemrehana Kristos cave church outside the town, or freely explore the Lalibela churches again at your own pace.
In Lalibela we will stay in a local hotel.
Leaving Lalibela behind us, we have a full days drive through increasingly mountainous scenery to reach the town of Mekele.
We will stay in a decent local hotel in Mekele.
Estimated Drive Times - 9-10 hours
After breakfast meet your 4 x 4 vehicles and drive to Hamed Ella. On the way you will pass through the beautiful Tigre Villages and the escarpment of the Afar depression, this is commonly known as the cradle of mankind and is part of the Great East African Rift Valley. Along the way you will see camel caravans going to the traditional salt mine or to the North Eastern highlands of the country, loaded with salt bars in the old traditional way. We will also stop at Brehalle where we will get our permits and scouts for the trip into the Danakil Depression.
Overnight we will climb the famous Erta Ale mountain. Once at the top we will be able to look directly into the volcano's crater and hopefully witness the lava within. We will then sleep under the stars at the top of the mountian before walking down as the sun begins to rise. There is an option to ride a camel up and down instead of walking.
On the second day you we drive to Dallol. Here in Dallol you will visit the beautiful land covered by salt, sulfur and different minerals that gives the area a spectactular colour. We will then continue on to Lake Asale to witness the beautiful salt flats.
We will wildcamp and stay in a local homestay during this excursion. The final day we will then make our way back to Mekele visiting villages along the way.
Today we will make our way back to Mekele where we will stay in a basic hotel overnight.
Today we will visit one of the famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray (either the Abraha Atsbeha or Wukro Chirkos church), then continue through the increasingly breathtaking mountain scenery of the Adwa mountains to reach the ancient town of Axum in the far north of Ethiopia.
Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.
The next day we will have an included half-day guided tour of the incredible historical sites of Axum, the capital of the once-mighty Axumite Empire - included in this tour will be seeing the Stelae Field, the Tomb of King Kaleb, and the Palace of the Queen of Sheba. We will have a free afternoon to make optional visits to other places such as the Church of St. Mary of Zion, the supposed resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
In Axum we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Leaving Axum behind us, we continue our journey with a full day of driving through the foothills of the Simien Mountains to reach the small village of Debark. The roads here are very tough, but we are rewarded with more truly breathtaking scenery!
Debark is the gateway to the Simien Mountains National Park, and on arrival we will have a briefing from our local mountain guide explaining the various trekking options that we will have during our excursion starting the following day.
Here we will stay in a basic hotel.
Estimated Drive Times 9 - 10 hours.
Today marks the start of our 3-day excursion into the Simien Mountains National Park. The area is home to some of Africa's most jaw-dropping mountain scenery and is a great opportunity to enjoy some incredibly beautiful treks and breathtaking views!
The area is also home many indigenous animals, and during our time here we hope to spot Lammargeyer vultures, geladas, Walia ibex, and (if we are very lucky) klipspringers and Ethiopian wolves.
We will spend 3 nights in the incredible Simien Mountains National Park. On each day we aim to provide an option for a long trek (of 5-8 hours), a short trek (2-5 hours) or no trekking.
On our first day we aim to wild camp at the area of Sankaber. On our second and third days we aim to wild camp at the area of Chenek (underneath Ras Bwahit, the second-highest mountain in the Simiens, which we hope to get the opportunity to summit).
Please note that we must keep a flexible itinerary in the Simien Mountains, as our options will largely be determined by the weather.
Please also note that the camping areas in the national park are very basic, and are essentially wild camps with long drop toilets. Please also note that the food and provisions available in Debark and the National Park are very limited, and it is also likely to be very cold at night (often dropping below freezing), so please be prepared! You will need to bring a suitable sleeping bag and mat with you from home to ensure you are ready for this environment.
Today we head back out to the mountains to Debark, and then finally join the tarmac road again to reach the ancient royal city of Gondar!
Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.
On the next day, we will have an included half-day guided tour of the historical sites of Gondar, including Gondar Castle, the King Fasilades' Baths and the Debre Birhan Selassie church.
In Gondar we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Border Information: If you are finishing in Gondar, you will most likely exit Ethiopia at Gondar Atse Tewodros Airport (IATA code: GDQ).
Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Gondar. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Sales Team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.
For passengers continuing their journey north on to Khartoum, the trip will continue on to Gedaref in the Sudan today. For passengers continuing south back to Addis Ababa on the Ethiopia Loop, we will leave today to reach Bahir Dar.
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Trip Name: Ethiopia, Historic Route & Danikil Depression
Duration: 21 Days
From Price: $2,225
Supplier Tour ID: ZGA2/157978
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