Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking

Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken up by hikes in the Simien Mountains National Park and community trekking in the rural plateaus of Tigray.

12 Days

$3,239

Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking - 12 - $3,239

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Introduction

A variation on the classic northern route, our historic north circuit and community trekking experience puts scenery, wildlife, and of course trekking(!) at centre stage. Community trekking in rural Tigray is one of our favourite thing to do in the country and involves meditative walks through rural Ethiopia with overnights at simple but charming guest houses perched on the plateau edge. The guesthouses are basic but that is part of their charm. The views from the plateau are extraordinary, the starlight in this part of the country is amazing and the daily walks are challenging but incredibly rewarding.

The highlights

  • You start your adventure in the bustling capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Most international flights arrive in the morning at Addis, so we'll collect you from the airport and take you to your hotel where you can relax and freshen up after your flight. In the afternoon you can take your first steps into the city and explore some of the sites of Addis, before heading to one of the capitals wonderful cultural restaurants
  • From Addis you head to Bahir Dar, a charming lakeside town that's great for some light adventuring. You can take a boat trip out onto Lake Tana and the visit the Blue Nile Falls
  • From Gondar, the road leads up into the spectacular beauty of the Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of almost unimaginable beauty. There are 3 main campsites in the Simiens: Sankaber, Geech, and Chennek. We have skipped the Sankaber camp on this itinerary (but you are welcome to add it back in if you want the full 3 night camping experience). 
  • After the Simiens, take a drive down the switchbacks to Axum, the original capital city of Ethiopia. Axum was once a hugely influential city back in the days of the Axumite empire. It's glory days are long gone, but the relics that remain from that time are fascinating and its one of the most culturally significant regions of Ethiopia. The drive passes through incredible scenery. 
  • Head up into the sandstone cliffs of Tigray for 3 nights community trekking. The walks are challenging, but the views blissful. You will be well looked after by the local team, and the mountains of Tigray, with the sky alight with stars, is the perfect place to relax with the tipple of your choice. 
  • Descend the cliffs of Tigray and head to Gheralta Lodge, a beautiful boutique lodge, wonderfully designed with the backdrop of the Gheralta Mountains providing a great view from your veranda. Gheralta will be your base for exploring the rock churches and landscapes of Tigray.  The rock churches in Tigray are built into the cliffs, with some even requiring some short rock climbing (all safe and supported by your guides) to access - the views from the top are amazing.

Start from Addis Ababa and end at Addis Ababa

Landmarks visited on Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking

Itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, your driver will meet you outside the airport terminal. Head into the city for your first taste of fresh Ethiopian coffee. Explore some of the sites around the capital, including National Museum and the sprawling Mercato market before catching a domestic flight to Bahir Dar. The flight time will depend on your international arrival details. 

At Bahir Dar airport, your driver will meet you outside the airport terminal and transfer you to your hotel. Spend the evening at leisure in Bahir Dar. 


Accommodation: Blue Nile Resort

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Many available, enquire for details

Meals: None


Day 2: Bahir Dar to Gondar

After breakfast, take a boat trip out on to Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. The lake is famous for its historic monasteries found on the lake’s many islands. Visit the churches of Azwa Mariam, Ura Kidane Mihret, Beti Mariam and Naga Sellasie. The lake attracts huge amounts of birdlife, including enormous flocks of Great White Pelicans. 

In the afternoon, transfer to Gondar and stay at Goha Hotel, a wonderful property with beautiful views.   


Accommodation: Goha Hotel or Gonder Hills Resort

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A

Meals: None


Day 3: Simien Mountains National Park

After breakfast at the lodge, drive to Gondar (30-40 minutes). Gondar was the capital of Gondar in times gone by, and the castles that once housed the country’s rules still stand today. 

After a quick visit of the castle compound and (time permitting) the stunning Debhre Birhan Selassie Church, continue your journey to the Simien Mountains National Park. 

You’ll soon arrive at the park HQ and the entrance town of Debark. Here, you’ll collect your entry permit, scout and guide. You’ll then be dropped at Geech Abyss where you’ll begin you Simien trek. 

Today you’ll walk from Geech Abyss to Geech campsite (6-7 hours). Panoramic views characterise the trail, and you’ll meet troops of curious Gelada Monkeys. Witness the staggering Jinbar Falls that plunger over 500 metres in the river below. 

Have lunch around Jinbar river before continuing your trek through barley fields and along the plateau edges. You’ll soon arrive at Geeck campsite that offers tremendous views over the mountains. Your cooking team will do you proud as you gather around the campfire for dinner before retreating to the warmth of the tents. 

Note: the trekking routes can be amended depending on your fitness/preferred activity levels. 


Accommodation: Camping at Geech

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Possible to replace camping in the Simiens with lodge stays, enquire for details.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 4: Simien Mountains National Park

Wake up to the views of the Simien Mountains and the smell of fresh Ethiopian coffee. 

Today’s trek takes us from Geech to Chennek, a 7-8 hour trek through endless fields of Giant Lobelia and towering cliffs. A highlight of the trail is the viewpoint at Imet Gogo (3926m). From this vantage point, the landscape extends miles into the horizon and you have 360 degree views of the Simien range. 

Climb to a peak altitude of 4070 metres where you’ll stop for lunch. Continue the trek to Chennek campsite. Chennek marks the end of the classic Simien trail, and is the best place to spot Walia Ibex. 

Note: the trekking routes can be amended depending on your fitness/preferred activity levels. 


Accommodation: Camping at Chennek

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Possible to replace camping in the Simiens with lodge stays, enquire for details.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 5: Axum

Today is a full day drive across fantastic landscapes from the Simien Mountains to Axum. You’ll drive through the switchback and across the Tekeze river along the Tigrayan plateau towards Axum. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the way. 

Upon arrival in Axum, spend the afternoon exploring the sites of Axum, including the Stelae field (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that tower metres above and look fantastic in the afternoon sun. Visit Tsion Mariam Church, claimed to hold the original Ark of the Covenant. 

Spend the evening at leisure in Axum. You’ll stay overnight at the best available property in Axum, Sabean Hotel. 


Accommodation: Sabean Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Accommodation in Axum of lower quality than elsewhere in the north.

Meals: Breakfast


Day 6: Community Trekking in Tigray

Today marks the start of your community trekking experience in rural Tigray. After breakfast, we drive from Sabean Hotel to the trailhead. En route, visit the ancient pre-Axumite ruins at Yeha and the lovely Mariam Kiat church. 

From the trail head, we kick off the trek with a gentle 1.5 hour walk Erar Community Guesthouse. 

Erar Community Guesthouse, one of the first established in the region. Erar Community Gueshouse is built on an isolated section of the western escarpment has some of the most wonderful views of the community trekking experience. 

Relax around the guesthouse while dinner is made and get to know the locals over dinner before retreating to the simple and cosy rooms of the guesthouse. 


Accommodation: Erar Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Basic, but charming guesthouses. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 7: Community Trekking in Tigray

As we continue our route through the sandstone cliffs of Tigray, we trek from Seheta in the valleys to Gohgot. Gohgot sits higher up in the cliffs, above the villages around Seheta but below the plateaus. The trek takes about 4 hours, and en route you can visit the local church of Gohgot Eyesus. 

Gohgot Community Guesthouse as great views into the valleys and low lying villages below. It’s a picturesque place and a great place to spend the afternoon relaxing. 

The starlight in this part of the country is stunning, so don’t forget to look up to spot the various celestial bodies shimmering brightly in the absence of any light pollution. Beers and other cold drinks are available, and you can spend the evening enjoying the beautiful view.


Accommodation: Gohgot Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Basic, but charming guesthouses. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 8: Community Trekking in Tigray

Today marks your final day of community trekking in Tigray. 

After breakfast and fresh coffee over the wonderful views, begin the trail to Shimbrety. This is a really exciting trail, and as you get closer to Shimbrety you’ll find a rock-tunnel that has been carved through the ridge to give villages on the western side access to the lovely rock church of Maryam Buzuhan. 

Spend your final night atop the limestone cliffs of Tigray, blanketed by starlight and well-fed by your lovely local stuff. Grab some cold beers (other refreshments available) and enjoy the view one last time. 


Accommodation: Shimbrety Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Basic, but charming guesthouses. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 9: Churches of Tigray and Gheralta Lodge

After breakfast at the guesthouse, walk for 3 hours to the trail head Idega Arbi. There is market day here on Friday which is great to visit if your dates coincide. Transfer to Gheralta Lodge, charming lodge with cabin-esque rooms dotted along the plateau ridge offering tremendous views of the Gheralta Mounatins and low-lying farmland. 

After lunch at the lodge, explore some of the rock-churches in the region. The rock churches of Tigray astounding not just for their history, rock carvings and paintings, but also for their representation of the religious commitment of the local people. Built high into the cliff face, some of these churches are only accessibly through climbing the vertical cliff, and yet they’re still used by local Ethiopians of all ages. The views from inside the churches is extraordinary. 

The view as the sunsets behind the mountains and the sky illuminates in dark reds, yellows and oranges is the perfect respite after your community trek. 


Accommodation: Gheralta Lodge

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  Korkor Lodge. 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 10: Lalibela

After breakfast at the lodge, transfer to Lalibela. This is a full day drive that passes through a number of villages and beautiful landscapes. There’ll be plenty of stops along the way for photo opportunities and breaks. 

Evening at leisure in Lalibela. 


Accommodation: Tukul Village Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  Mezena Lodge or Maribela Hotel. 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 11: Lalibela

Spend the day exploring the fascinating town of Lalibela, home to the world-renowned rock-hewn churches. A UNESCO World Heritage site, these churches date back to the 13th Century and earlier, and have often been called the ‘eight wonder of the world’. 

The churches are found in three clusters. Two main clusters are separated by the Jordon River, and the stunning Biete Giyorgis (Church of St George) stands alone to the west. The local guides are often priests who run daily services in the churches.

After exploring the churches, spend your final night in Ethiopia at leisure. We recommend a night at the incredible Ben Abeba restaurant – dinner with a view!


Accommodation: Tukul Village Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  Mezena Lodge or Maribela Hotel. 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 12: Addis Ababa

As your adventure in Ethiopia draws to a close, catch a flight back to Addis Ababa. Services can be available in Addis depending on your international flight departure time.

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. 

Includes

  • Domestic flights based on discounted Ethiopian Airlines rates enjoyed when travellers fly internationally with Ethiopian Airlines. 
  • All ground transport via private minibus or 4WD. 
  • All accommodation as indicated in the itinerary. 
  • Meal plan bed and breakfast. All meals included on community trek. 
  • Fees for entrances, local guides and compulsory scouts for activities mentioned in the itinerary, unless listed as excluded.
  • All government taxes for the services included in the tour price.

Excludes

  • Any meals not mentioned as included.
  • International flights and visa fees.
  • Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc.
  • Any activities not mentioned as included.

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