Mountains and Mystery in Northern Ethiopia

3,000 years of civilisation hidden on the roof of Africa.

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Mountains and Mystery Tour - 8 Days

Consider the links between the pre-Christian, Christian, Muslim and Jewish worlds of antiquity around the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. Get close to nature in the Simien Mountains National Park and on Lake Tana. Three domestic flights in 8 days reduce driving.
 

Itinerary

Day 1 – The pagan temple at Yeha

Fly from Addis Ababa to Axum. Take colourful photos and buy small souvenirs from local craftswomen at the basket market. After lunch explore the intriguing pre-Christian pagan temple at Yeha. This is the oldest standing structure in Africa south of the Sahara Desert and dates from about 800 BC. Recently an even older palace structure was unearthed nearby.

Distance - Axum to Yeha: 50 km. Drive time: 1 Hour each way


Day 2 – Explore enigmatic Axum

The UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Axum was the capital of the Axumite empire from 400 BCE to 1000 CE. Today, it is considered the holiest Christian city in Ethiopia. Walk into impressive royal tombs and admire the world’s largest single-stone obelisk’s, or stelae. Visit the grounds of the church that every Ethiopian believes houses the legendary Ark of the Covenant. Stand in the throne room of the reputed Queen of Sheba’s palace ruins.


Day 3 – Ascend to The Roof of Africa

Drive the spectacular mountain route from Axum to Debark. This extraordinary mountain road has recently been rebuilt and makes for a fine driving adventure. Climb from a low point of 985 m above sea level at the Takeze River bridge to 2,850 m by the end of the day. The views are breathtaking.

Distance - Axum to Debark: 260 Kms. Driving time: 6 Hours


Day 4 – Simien Mountains National Park

In the morning drive into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Simien Mountains National Park and gaze across the Roof of Africa. Explore on foot looking for troops of endemic Gelada Baboons, stand as close as you dare to the edge of 500 m cliffs and enjoy the unique flowers and trees that thrive at 3,300 m. After lunch, drive to Gondar and relax for the rest of the afternoon.

Distance - Debark to Gondar: 110 Kms. Driving time: 2 Hours


Day 5 – Gondar the City of Castles

Spend the morning in Gondar. Explore the history and architecture at the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Fasil Ghebbi. This is also known as the Royal Enclosure of castles and was built by a succession of kings and a queen when Gondar was Ethiopia’s capital for 200 years from the early 17th century. Other highlights include Emperor Fasilide’s ‘Bath’ and murals in the Debre Birhan Selassie church which is famous for the angelic faces painted on the ceiling.

After lunch drive to Bahir Dar.

Distance - Gondar to Bahir Dar: 180 Kms. Drive time: 3 Hours


Day 6 – The source of the Blue Nile

Bahir Dar is on the shores of Lake Tana the source of the Blue Nile which supplies 80% of the water that flows into the Mediterranean as The Nile. We will cross by boat then take a forest walk past coffee bushes growing under old-growth trees full of monkeys and birds to a famous church known for its elaborate murals and history. You'll see local artists using paints made from natural pigments including berry juices and have a chance to buy small examples of their work. After lunch in a hotel garden overlooking the lake, we take another boat trip to look for shoreline birdlife and the sometimes elusive hippos. If we have time we can explore the buzzing market or take a stroll along the beautiful lakefront walkway watching out for the many water birds including brilliantly coloured Malachite Kingfishers and African Sea Eagles.


Day 7 - Lalibela, City of carved rock churches

Fly to from Bahir Dar to Lalibela chiselled inside and out from the solid rock about 1,000 years ago. King Lalibela wanted Christian pilgrims to be able to visit this New Jerusalem instead of the long and dangerous journey to the 'old' Jerusalem. Lalibela is full of surprises.

Day 8 - Highlights of Addis Ababa

Fly from Lalibela to Addis Ababa and experience one of the most compelling cities in Africa. There are many options depending on the time available. You can visit museums, a contemporary art gallery, shopping, a women's weaving co-op creating contemporary designs, music and bookshops or sip espresso coffee at boutique coffee-roaster cafes.  You will feel the dynamic vibe of the diplomatic capital of Africa, home to the HQ of the African Union.

This evening's dinner and accommodation in Addis Ababa are not included in the tour price but these can be organised for you as part of our service. 

Book your Ethiopian Tour

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Tour Dates:

This tour runs any time with a minimum booking of 2 travellers.

- Includes 3 flights on Ethiopian Airlines Domestic.

1. Addis Ababa (Airport Code: ADD) to Axum (AXU)

2. Bahir Dar (BJR) to Lalibela (LLI)

3. Lalibela (LLI) to Addis Ababa (ADD)

Cost :

Significant discounts of up to 25% are available for bookings of 4 or more travellers.

NZD 3,800
USD 2,450
AUD 3,640
GBP 2,000
EUR 2,200

Per person, sharing a twin or double room.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT COST

If a single bedroom is required, there is an additional Single Supplement cost of US$210.

Ethiopia Map Tour North of Addis Ababa into Axum, Lalibela, Bandar Dir

Domestic Flight Discount

If you arrive in Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines International your domestic air tickets can be discounted by up to 40 - 50%.

This discount can be passed on to clients who provide a passport scan and inbound Ethiopian Airlines International ticket details.

Why Just the North?

If you are short on time or very focused on what you want to see, this tour may be for you.

For over a thousand years until the 15th century, a secret Christian kingdom blossomed in the secure embrace of the Simien Mountains. Eighty percent of the land in Africa over 3,000 m is in Ethiopia. The Simien Mountains provided security, wealth from controlling trade routes through them and an enduring building material, stone.

About a thousand years ago, an Ethiopian King, Lalibela, wanted to legitimise his change of dynasty and made a small mountain town the second most holy Christian city in Ethiopia.

You’ll visit the holiest city, Axum, where all Ethiopians believe the Ark of the Covenant is secured.

The stone carved churches of Lalibela were carved out of solid rock to substitute for Christian pilgrims gruelling, and dangerous journey to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Visit the churches in Lalibela and God will count that like a visit to Jerusalem. The Zagwe dynasty carved out mountains between 900 and 1270 CE.

The oldest standing structure south of Egypt is in Yeha. A pagan moon temple dating from 800 BC still stands with its perfect masonry and mortar free, straight walls.

You may want to assemble a series of the 4 or 7 day short or even custom tours with Ethiopian Adventure Tours. A day or two in and around Addis Ababa to catch up on laundry, Facebook or just walk around makes a nice break between tours. We can advise on all sorts of accommodation, activities and tailored places of interest around Addis Ababa.

This is our latest short tour. It was inspired by a request from two Italian clients who only had 7 days to see Ethiopia and really wanted to see the antiquities of the north. 

The north is what Ethiopia is most famous for.

You will rise 1.5 km in about an hour driving up a near cliff face to over 3,000 m above sea level to Debark, the entrance town to Simien Mountains National Park.

You will gaze at 500 m cliffs and walk right up to troops of Gelada Baboons for close up photos of their behinds that look like they just sat on a hot griddle.

Ethiopia has 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites which is more than any other African country. Visit 4 in 7 days; Axum, Simiens Mountains National Park, Gondar and Lalibela.

Be thrilled by the towering peaks and hidden gems that survived to remind us of one of Africa’s greatest and most influential civilisations.