Northern Highlights

This classic route is perfect if you're looking for an introduction to Ethiopia, but don't have a lot of time. The focus is on the historic cities, monuments, and culture of northern Ethiopia, with plenty of wildlife and vistas along the way.
6 Days

Northern Highlights - 6 - $1,029

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Start from Addis Ababa and end at Addis Ababa

Landmarks potentially visited on Northern Highlights


Day 1

From Addis Ababa, 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 beautiful monasteries nestled on the islands and peninsulas around the lake and wander through the coffee plantations. Enjoy some of the local brews and meet the 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 ‘air breathing’ 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 on the lake, 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 leave you soaked 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.

Day 2

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’. 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 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 to the fantastic Awramba community. 

Day 3

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 Ark 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.

Day 4

Catch a late morning flight from Axum to Lalibela. Spend the afternoon exploring the 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 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. 

Day 5

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 to the town. 

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 was 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, situated 4,000 metres up in the hills of Lalibela. Any trip to Lalibela is incomplete without an evening dinner at the phenomenal Ben Abeba restaurant. 

Day 6

Catch a flight from Lalibela to Addis Ababa and to connect with your international fight home, or to continue your onward journey. 

Prices and Inclusions

Prices are per person based on 2 people travelling together. Price is guideline only. Price will depend on your final itinerary, group size, 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.

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