Northern Explorer Trek & Jamma Canyon

Explore the sweeping plateaus and historical sites of northern Ethiopia on an 11-night trekking tour (5th October 2021 - 15th October 2021). Then, grab a bike and head to the ‘Jamma Canyon of Ethiopia’ with Ride the Rift (16th October 2021 - 20th October 2021).
15 Days

Northern Explorer Trek & Jamma Canyon - 15 - $2,388

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Northern Explorer Trek: 5th October 2021 - 15th October 2021

On this adventure across the north of Ethiopia, visit Lalibela as you're hosted by a rural community on the edge of the plateau, miles from asphalt and electricity. Trek through the core part of the Simien Mountains National Park, with its unique wildlife and afro alpine landscape; then explore the romantic castles of Gondar before returning to the Rift Valley and trekking in one of the largest forests in the centre of Ethiopia: Wof Washa. 

Ride the Rift - Jamma Canyon Tour: 16th October 2021 - 20th October 2021

Head to the little known canyons north of the capital, where tributaries of the Nile have carved hundreds of meters down into the bed rock, leaving the largest display of waterfalls we have seen in the country. We will cycle, run or trek through the remarkable landscapes with epic journeys - sometimes flying downhill, other times following the escarpments with the outrageous views, and all the time passing by the traditional farming communities of the highlands. This is a time when the crops are just turning from green to gold and the landscapes are captivating. We will be camping - and camping with a view - and our professional team of cooks and camp staff will look after us. 

Start from Addis Ababa and end at Addis Ababa

Landmarks potentially visited on Northern Explorer Trek & Jamma Canyon


Day 1: 5th October 2021 - Lalibela

After your arrival in Addis Ababa you will take the connecting flight to the holy city of Lalibela. You will be welcomed by your guide at Lalibela airport and transferred to your hotel. Take a moment to refresh yourself after your journey and perhaps take lunch in your hotel. Afterwards, head out for the afternoon with your guide to see the first set of the churches in this extraordinary town. You might like to head down to see the sunset and enjoy dinner at Ben Abeba, with its extraordinary architecture and wonderful mountain views. If you have the energy you might like to visit a famous ‘house’ serving Tej honey wine run by Askalach who makes the best Tej with traditional Azmari musicians!

Meals: B

Accommodation: Tabor Hotel

Day 2: 6th October 2021

Wake up early and explore the remaining set of churches - even more atmospheric in the early morning! Around 10:30am meet your trekking guide and drive south to the Meket Plateau from where your community trekking to Mequat Mariam will start. Trek to the Meskal Mikael lunch stop (45min walk) where the community will serve you a of local fare: local enjara (a sour pancake made from local grains notably teff) and vegetarian stews, washed down with a traditional cup of hand roasted & ground, freshly brewed coffee. Soft drinks, water and beer are for sale.

The trek on to Mequat takes about 3.5 hours along the plateau with wonderful views of the gorges to the south. You will reach Mequat Mariam at the end of the day, and be served a snack with tea, while dinner is prepared (probably stew with rice & vegetables). The tukuls (thatched round cottages) are set on a promontory of the Meket plateau with staggering views to the west and south. A small troop of Gelada Baboons patrol the escarpment, and a troop of Vervet monkeys sometimes come up for a visit. Lammergeyers, vultures, buzzards, kites, ravens and many other birds soar over the site. Mequat Mariam boasts a 'rock bar', a smooth sheltered ledge that is warmed by the afternoon sun and invites guests to sit with a sundown drink a watch the golden glow at the end of the day turn red as the sun sets over Mount Guna.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Meket Mariam Community Guesthouse

Day 3: 7th October 2021

After breakfast, you start your 3-hour walk out to Werkhaye Mariam following well beaten trails through the landscape, passing the local school and through villages. At Werkhaye the local community provides lunch as yesterday, before you head to the car and drive to Gondar. The drive along the escarpment that forms the watershed between the Nile and Tekeze rivers takes you through breathtaking mountainous landscapes with drop offs and volcanic plugs, before you descend into the Lake Tana basin. Head north over the mountains before you approach the imperial city of Gondar.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters

Day 4: 8th October 2021

Wake up early to breakfast before your tour of Gondar, sometimes called the Camelot of Africa, thanks to the old castles built here by former emperors. First walk around the corner from your lodge to see the castles - each emperor built his own in park-like grounds where you can escape from the present day and go back to 17th century Ethiopia. There are stables for horses when dignitaries came for feasts and much more. Afterwards, head down into town to the ceremonial baths that the first Emperor Fasidias built to celebrate Timkat (which commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river.)

Take a quick lunch before heading to the Simien Mountains National Park. You will stop in the town of Debark to pick up your scouts and grab a coffee before driving into the park. We will drop you off to trek the last few kilometers to Sankaber camp (2,800m). This area has some of the lush vegetation and is the best area to see bushbuck and klipspringer. Dinner will be from our camp kitchen. 

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Sankaber Camp

Day 5: 9th October 2021

Trekking day from Sankaber to Geech. Your gear will be loaded onto mules while you head out of camp to hike along the northern ridge of the Sankober plateau before descending to one of the parks most impressive viewpoints to see the Jinbar waterfalls cascade into the Geech Abyss as a thin ribbon of water, with vultures circling on the thermals.

From here, you climb up along the road and turn off to go down to the Jinbar river itself. This soon after the rains it might be a little deep crossing! You ascend out of the river by passing the former village of Geech (now resettled in Debark) and continue to your camp at 3,600 m. In the evening you have the possibility to climb Mt. Kedadit just north of the camp and experience an unforgettable sunset.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Gich Camp

Day 6: 10th October 2021

Trek Geech to Chennek. The path leads over the Geech plateau to Imet Gogo, a rocky promontory at 3,926meters that juts out above the lowlands with one of Ethiopia’s most dramatic views - spires and pinnacles of rock thrust up from the lowlands, and the edge of the highlands can be seen twisting away to the south like the edge of a cake that has been cut away with a knife.

After enjoying this view, you head down to crossing the upper Jinbar valley and up through a giant heather forest (Erica Arboreal) to the highest peak around - Inatye (4,010 m) for a picnic lunch. From here it is a dramatic trail that often clings to the escarpment edge (those with a fear of heights can keep a distance) as it winds down to join the road that links Sankober and Chenek.

A few more hundred meters uphill takes you to the campground in Chennek (3,600 m). This campsite is probably the most dramatic of them all - if you walk down to the scout huts at the front of the camp you can enjoy the staggering views both at sunset and sunrise.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Chennek Camp

Day 7: 11th October 2021

For those who like to bag a peak - you can make an early start and climb Bwahit this morning. There is an excellent chance to see the rare Walia Ibex on the north eastern flanks of the mountain. The peak is at 4,430 meters - and after Ras Dashen and its two immediate neighbours on the other side of the chasm before you - it is the next highest peak in Ethiopia. On a fine day the views are very impressive. Hurry back down to meet your vehicle to Gondar. The cooks will have prepared a picnic lunch for you. You will drop your team in Debark and carry on to Gondar. Dinner at Four Sisters Restaurant is a nice spot to end your day.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Inn of the Four Sisters

Day 8: 12th October 2021

After breakfast head down the road to visit Debre Berhan Selassie Church, with its splendid paintings covering the walls and ceiling of this lovely church. It was the only survivor of the Mahdi invasion in the late 19th Century. Gondar's market is the biggest in the region with sellers that trade all the way to Sudan. Not far from your hotel it is worth a visit. Take a quick lunch - before heading to Gondar airport for your domestic flight to Addis. We will pick you at the domestic airport and transfer to your city hotel for the night.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Caravan Hotel

Day 9: 13th October 2021

This morning head east out of Addis, gradually going higher to the town of Debre Berhan (130km) where we can stop for coffee and perhaps some brunch before driving the 42km Ankober. If you prefer you could have a quick local lunch here before trekking along the 12-14km to Lik Marefya following the little used track, with lovely views down into the Rift Valley and along to the forest.

In the evening you should hear the chorus of ‘roaring’ from the colobus monkeys. It is a sound you will not easily forget. They do a repeat show in the morning, too!

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Lik Marefia

Day 10: 14th October 2021

After a simple breakfast head up into the Olive and Podocarpus forest and cross the ridge to the north of the guesthouse. Head down into the Mescha valley following a trail that clings to the side of the forested escarpment. Somewhere along here sit down and enjoy a simple picnic lunch.

As you head north there are more villages, until you pass Mescha village with its school and market. It was market day this morning, but by the afternoon most marketeers will have finished. Never the less you will see many people along the trail returning from the market. In the village there are simple shops in case you forgot something. From here continue around the top of the valley to the guesthouses tucked under the forest, more Juniper here. Another chance here to listen to the Colobus monkeys. Listen out well, you might hear leopards too. There is a surprising amount of wildlife in the forest here!

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Mescha

Day 11: 15th October 2021

This morning you can do a short early morning walk in the forest around the guesthouse before heading up through the forest passing several cattle camp clearings. As you climb you will see the forest switch more to higher altitude vegetation, with Giant Lobelia and Giant Erica as you get higher up. After a while the trail becomes a switch back up the stepper slopes to emerge at the plateau top around the Gosh Meda guesthouse.

Enjoy your simple picnic lunch here. Its a lovely - mostly flat - 5km walk from here around the escarpment and through a patch of woodland along a good trail to join the road and meet your transport to Debre Berhan at the trail head we call Kura Mariam. 45 minutes later you will be checking into the Getva hotel in Debre Berhan. Debris Berhan is a fast growing city. It is not that attractive and at just under 2,800m it is quite cold at night. The hotel is clean and has good food, and makes an ideal overnight stop before continuing your adventure tomorrow.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Getva Hotel

**Jamma Canyon Ride The Rift Add-on**

Day 1: 16th October 2021

For those coming from Debre Berhan there will be cycling opportunities along the way to Deneba. We will stop for coffee in Deneba and join the waterfall explorer group. Arrival from Addis - We will have a group head out to explore the waterfall from the road in. This will be a round trip 10km walk - a bit longer for those who want to trek to the edge of the gorge. Late afternoon activities include cycling around to the edge of the escarpment to get the views at sunset, runners and hikers will have similar opportunities.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Camp

Day 2: 17th October 2021

Today the advanced cycling group will cycle to Lemi and head down the new road towards Alem Ketema. We will drop down some 400m in around 9km, before turning off onto a gravel road that more or less follows the contours, giving us an opportunity to ride another 10km out to get great views of the Debre Libanos gorge. Before heading back to the Alem ketema road to get transport back to camp. There will be options for hikers and runners and easier cycling for those not keen on the long ride. Picnic lunch and snacks.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Camp

Day 3: 18th October 2021

Today the advanced riders will get the option to ride to the new camp near Enewari. It's around 45-50km mostly on the flat with mix of surfaces - packed soil, gravel roads, a bit of asphalt, and some bumpy stretches. Others will get shorter options for a ride that goes around this extraordinarily beautiful gorge, crossing a waterfall and on to the campsite. Great runs and treks too.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Camp

Day 4: 19th October 2021

Today the whole group will make their way to Zena Markos monastery. It’s a great cycle ride from camp to the monastery - cross country, and on gravel and dirt roads. Runners and walkers will get dropped in Enawari and walk/run to the monastery. After a visit and lunch there will be a variety of options for the return including transport for those who prefer.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Camp

Day 5: 20th October 2021

This morning people will ride, walk or run from the camp to Deneba (10km) (or for some a closer point) bikes and people will be loaded up and we will return to Addis. We will be back in Addis by mid afternoon.

Meals: B L D

Accommodation: Camp

Accommodation: TBD depending on international flight departure time

Option for later international departures (e.g. need for COVID testing)

Not everyone will be able to leave by plane in the evening of the 20th October for different reasons (COVID testing, other travel plans, etc.) and might need to spend another night in Addis Ababa. You can book your hotel with us in Addis Ababa for an extra night. See hotel prices and airport drop off below. We are happy to assist you with the COVID testing to make it easier for you, and this might give you the extra time to do a city tour in Addis Ababa. 

Prices and Inclusions

Additional Notes

Optional extras:  

  • Supplement for single tent 30 USD.
  • Good quality mountain bikes can be rented for the whole tour for 60 USD.
  • City tour in Addis Ababa including guide and private minivan 100 USD per group (excluding entrances and meals).
  • Additional overnight in Addis Ababa at Caravan Hotel (incl. airport shuttle, room & breakfast) 60 USD per person/night/single room.
  • Additional overnight in Addis Ababa at Caravan Hotel (incl. airport shuttle, room & breakfast) 40 USD per person/night/twin room.

Please bring water purification kit - we try not to use water in plastic bottles - this will save you money too!


Northern Explorer Trek (11 nights): 

  • 2 domestic flights in Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines in tourist class (Addis Ababa > Lalibela, Gondar > Addis Ababa). Extra fee of 180 USD if your international flight is not with Ethiopian Airlines. 
  • 5x hotel accommodation in double/twin rooms with private toilet/shower in hotels or lodges.
  • 3x accommodation in community guesthouses on the Meket Plateau & Wof Washa Forest.
  • 3 nights camping in tents for 2 persons in Simien Mountains National Park.
  • Supplement for single room/tent (only applicable in camps, hotels/lodges, but not during community trekking) - 160 USD.
  • All transfers and travels in Ethiopia with private car.
  • All breakfasts, other meals as per itinerary (1 drink per meal included, alcoholic drinks excluded).
  • All entrance fees and permissions at tourist attractions, churches, museums and national parks.
  • For treks: entrance and camping fees, guide, scouts and rangers, mules/dromedaries and mule men, cook, cooking assistant, cooking and camping equipment (it's recommended to bring your own sleeping bag).
  • All persons for safety and security (where mandatory).
  • All (mandatory) local guides in the single destinations.
  • 24/7 emergency assistance.
  • 4 experienced tour guides (1 for Lalibela churches, 1 for community trekking in Meket, 1 for Gondar & SMNP, 1 for Wof Washa community trekking). Fluent English & Amharic. 

Ride the Rift (Jamma Canyon Tour, 4 nights): 

  • 4 camping nights in tents for 2 persons including rental tent & mattress.
  • All transfers and travels with private vehicles.
  • Transport for bikes (from/to Addis & during the rides).
  • All meals as per itinerary (including water, coffee/tea, alcoholic drinks excluded).
  • Refreshments & sandwiches for the rides & other activities.
  • Guides for rides and hiking.
  • First aid support.
  • Technician support.


  • International flights.
  • Lunch & dinner as per itinerary.
  • COVID tests or other requirements linked to COVID travel measures.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Visa fees.
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Alcoholic drinks.
  • Tipping.
  • Photo and video fees (if any).
  • All extras and personal expenditures.

Questions about this Trip?