Peaks and Plateaus of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is often called the 'Roof of Africa'. This trip shows you why. Community trekking and in Wollo and Tigray and hiking through the Simien Mountains highlight the staggering natural beauty of the northern highlands. Tours of the ancient cities of Bahir Dar, Lalibela, Gondar and Axum play supporting roles.

12 Days

$2,785

Peaks and Plateaus of Ethiopia - 12 - $2,785

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Bahir Dar and Lake Tana

Take a boat trip on Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. Explore the monasteries on the various islands dotted around the lake. You’ll encounter large groups of Great White Pelicans along the way.

Community Trekking in Wollo

Trek through rural Ethiopia and stay overnight at charming, community run guesthouses with views among the best you'll find anywhere in Africa. The majority of money for our community trekking experiences go straight the local communities. 

Lalibela

Discover the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. These 13th Century architectural wonders have been called the eighth wonder of the world. 

Gondar

Explore the ancient castles of Gondar, home to Ethiopia’s Kings and Queens in times gone by. Discover the famous Debre Birhan Selassie Church with its roof adorned with the wide-eyed cherubs forever watching from above.

Simien Mountains National Parl

Spend two nights camping in the stunning Simien Mountains National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site has some of the most staggering landscapes anywhere in the world, and the two day camping/trekking trail takes you to all the best viewpoints.

Axum

Explore the ancient city of Axum, Ethiopia’s original capital city. Axum plays an enormous role in Ethiopia’s history and culture and is central to the identity of many Ethiopian’s.  Home to Stelae fields where massive Obelisks over 1700 years old shoot dozens of metres into the sky, it’s a town of deeply religious roots and fascinating history.

Community Trekking in Tigray

The unique and stunning landscape of Tigray makes community trekking here one of the best experiences available in the country. The treks traverse the giant plateaus that jut out of the Tigrayan landscape, taking you down into the valleys before ascending sharply over the top of the ridges. 

Gheralta

Explore the rock churches of Gheralta, including the famous Abuna Yemata Guh carved into the cliff face and accessible only via rock-climb. The views from the churches are stunning. Still in use by local Ethiopians, the churches are a testament to commitment to faith. Stay overnight at the wonderful Gheralta Lodge overlooking the Gheralta Mountains.

Landmarks visited on Peaks and Plateaus of Ethiopia

Itinerary

Day 1: Addis to Bahir Dar

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.

In the afternoon, take a boat trip out on Lake Tana to visit the various monasteries dotted around the lake's islands as well as the Great White Pelicans and Hippos that reside in the lake. 

Overnight: Kurfitu Resort Bahir Dar

Day 2: Community Trekking in Wollo

Today marks the start of your community trekking experience in Ethiopia. Have breakfast at the hotel and head out into the centre before driving 2.5 hours to the trailhead where you will be met by your local guide. Enjoy a simple lunch of enjara & 3 vegetarian wots over a coffee or tea before beginning the 2 hour walk through various villages and over meadows to the escarpment edge. You will soon arrive at Mequat Mariam Guesthouse perched on the plateau edge offering incredible views.  

Upon arrival at the guesthouse, you'll be welcomed with snacks over the staggering views. Enjoy dinner over the campfire in one of the Tukuls at the guesthouse. "

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 and talking to the locals. 

Overnight: Mequat Mariam Community Guesthouse

Day 3: Community Trekking in Wollo

Wake up to the stunning views of the guesthouse and fresh coffee. Begin today's walk to Wajela, passing through meadows, fields and across the plateaus. Wajela Community Gueshouse is in a bucolic location in west Meket just below the top of the plateau with great views to the west and north.

Overnight: Wajela Community Guesthouse

Day 4: Lalibela

As your community trekking in Wollo draws to a close, enjoy your last breakfast over the fantastic views before driving 2 hours to central 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!

Overnight: Tabor Hotel

Day 5: Lalibela

After a relaxed morning, explore the remaining churches of Lalibela and the market (depending on your travel dates). Evening at leisure. 

Overnight: Tabor Hotel

Day 6: Gondar

Catch a midday flight 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. 

Overnight: Goha Hotel

Day 7: Simien Mountains National Park

A car will pick you up from your hotel in Gondar take you to Debark, the headquarters of the Simien Mountains National Park. Here you’ll meet with your trek leader and scout, who will talk you through all aspects your hike in the next few days. You’ll take a 4×4 some of the way to your first camp at Geech, but you will walk the final stretch (approximately 3 hours)  in order to acclimatise to the altitude. Ascending to over 3,000m above sea level and with a jagged landscape, you’ll be stunned by the views from the offset. You’ll be met with drinks, a tasty and hearty dinner, and a campsite in Geech where you can sit around the fire and swap stories with guides and other trekkers. 

Overnight: Camping at Geech

Day 8: Simien Mountains National Park

The first full day of hiking starts with breakfast, and then a trail along the ridge. This gives you a vantage point and incredible views over the foothills some 800m below. The mountains are known worldwide for their biodiversity: Ethiopia’s placement on the equator makes this mountain range a particularly temperate one. Your guides will point out flora and fauna of note, but regular sightings on this trail are of Gelada Baboons, Kilpspringer and Ibex. From these heights, you’ll be able to watch birds of prey soar on the thermals below.

A highlight of today’s path is Genbar Falls, a waterfall over a sobering 500m sheer drop which you’ll see from the opposite side of the ridge. After a break for lunch, you’ll carry on towards Geech, a remote traditional village with thatched roofs. This is the perfect opportunity for a booster: some coffee and injera. Then onwards to the camp which is a great spot for watching the sunset.

Most of today’s path hugs the edge of the ridge. You’ll drop down through a forest of Giant Hazel before rising back to open grassland and continuing on your ascent up to Inyate. The views from the top are monumental. After recovering from the climb and the view, you’ll descend towards Chenek camp. This camp is well known for its visitors: Wallia Ibex and Gelada Baboons.

Overnight: Camping at Chennek

Day 9: Axum

After breakfast at the lodge, head to Axum. This is a 6-8 hour drive passing through some fantastic scenery, down the switchbacks and along the Tigrayan plateau to Axum. Evening at lesiure in Axum. 

Overnight: Sabean Hotel

Day 10: Community Trekking in Tigray

Axum is 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.

In the afternoon, transfer to the trailhead (Halloka) to start the community trek in Tigray. Begin with a 3 hour walk to Enaf Community Gueshouse. 

Overnight: Enaf Community Guesthouse

Day 11: Community Trekking in Tigray

As we continue our route through the sandstone cliffs of Tigray, we trek from Enaf to Gohgot. The trek takes about 6 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. 

Overnight: Gohgot Community Guesthouse

Day 12: Gheralta

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. 

Overnight: Gheralta Lodge

Day 13: Return to Addis Ababa

Visit the remaining churches in Gheralta before driving 2 horus to Mekele to catch the late afternoon flight to Addis. 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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