Trip Summary and Itinerary Map
- Take a boat out on Lake Tana and visit the various monasteries of the lakes many islands.
- Visit the famous Blue Nile Falls.
- Spend a day in the historic town of Gondar, visiting the castles and famous Debre Berhan Selassie church.
- Tour the ancient city of Axum, famous for its Stelae field.
- Visit the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.
Landmarks visited on Northern Highlights
From Addis, you’ll take a one hour flight north to Bahir Dar. Here your guide will accompany you on a boat trip on Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. Visit some of the peaceful monasteries nestled on the islands and peninsulas around the lake and, if you are lucky, wander through coffee plantations, enjoy some of the local brew and meet local farmers. As the monasteries were used for religious retreats, the lake and its islands serve as an unofficial nature reserve. Look out for white pelicans and ‘airbreathing’ catfish. Your boat tour will end at Zege peninsula. There is a short path walk towards Ura Kidrane Mehret, arguably the most beautiful of all the churches at Lake Tana, with hundred-year-old characterful frescos.
Later venture towards the only outflow of the lake: Blue Nile Falls. These 42 metre falls create such large amounts of spray that they are known in Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language) as ‘Tis Abay’ meaning ‘Smoking Water’, which can soak you from a kilometre away. A short distance down the Blue Nile lies a stone bridge built in 1626: potentially one of the famed seven stone bridges built by the emperor Fasilides. This river and another, the White Nile, are the two main tributaries to the Nile, the world’s longest river.
An early morning drive (approximately 3.5 hours) takes you to Gondar, the old capital of the country. Your first stop will be Debre Berhan Selassie Church, whose heavy and unassuming stone facade hides the colourful frescoes inside.
After this you will head to the well-preserved Fasil Gebbi in Gondar, described by some as the ‘Camelot of Africa’ for a guided tour. Now known as the Royal Enclosure, this was initially founded in 1636 and built by Emperor Fasilides as his home, but successive emperors and rulers added to his blueprint. Now, the buildings span over 70,000 square metres of land and include palaces, libraries, two lion houses, royal baths, and a women’s vocational school built by Mentewab, the Empress of Ethiopia. Within the enclosure there there are multiple architectural styles and influences jostling for position. The influences include Indian, Portuguese, Moorish and Aksumite.
There is an option to make a visit the fantastic Awramba community.
Catch a morning flight from Gondar to Axum. Spend the day exploring Axum, Ethiopia’s most religious city which is home to an impressive display of Obelisks. The city is purported to have been the home of the Queen of Sheba. Rumour has it that the lost Arc of the Covenant is in the Church of St Mary of Zion. A short walk through the cobbled streets brings you to the stelae fields. Some of the 4th century AD granite structures rise to over 23 metres.
Catch a late morning flight from Axum to Lalibela. Spend the afternoon exploring the various clusters of rock-hewn churches. You'll begin with the north-western cluster: Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, and Bet Danaghel. Our fantastic local guides will help you understand the churches historic significance of this World Heritage Site. If you're lucky enough to visit during one of the religious festivals, you'll be a part of something few people ever experience.
Your day starts with an early morning service before visiting the south-eastern cluster of churches: Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanual, and Bet Abba Libanos. Finally, visit the most famous of all the churches – Bet Giyorgis. If you've done any research into Lalibela, you'll have seen pictures of Bet Giyorgis. It's the most well preserved of all the churches and is a sure highlight of any visit of Lalibela.
In the afternoon, you can hike for around 4-7 hours to Yimhrehane Kristos, an under-appreciated gem of Lalibela. In stark contrast to the famous rock-hewn churches, Yimrehane Kristos is built rather than excavated, and is likely to pre-date the rock-hewn churches by nearly a century. The elaborate decoration of the interior is juxtaposed by the mummified bodies that inhabit the caves behind the church.
Alternatively, a 5 hour hike leads you to Asheton Maryam church, situation 4000 metres up in the hills of Lalibela. Any trip to Lalibela is incomplete without an evening dinner at the phenomenal Ben Abeba restaurant.
Catch a flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa and head home. Enquire about this trip if you'd like to include it as part of a larger itinerary.
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
Prices are per person based on 2 people travelling together. Prices guideline only, actual price swill depend on final itinerary, accommodation choices, and time of year.
- Domestic flights.
- Airport transfers and road transport by private minibus.
- Accommodation based on double/ twin room sharing.
- Meal plan bed and breakfast.
- Fees for entrances, local guides, compulsory scouts/ security personnel and boats for activities mentioned in the itinerary.
- All government taxes for the services included in the tour price.
- International flights and visa fees.
- Lunches and dinners, unless stated as included above.
- Activities not mentioned or stated as optional in the itinerary.
- Fees for photos and video.
- Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc.