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Tour code: ETH22021
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Group size: 2 - 12
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This is a great itinerary that visits the best of the historical northern circuit whilst offering a few additional hidden treasures as well.
Starting our tour in Addis we will fly north to Mekele and drive through the Eastern Tigray region, one of the most visually stunning parts of the whole country, to visit a number of the impressive rock-hewn churches on the way. With some time to visit the sites of the ancient capital of Axum via Yeha, we continue to the stunning Simien Mountains National Park to go hiking amongst the beautiful landscapes and hopefully spot some of the endemic wildlife.
With time in Gonder to see its medieval castles we then fly to Lalibela to see the impressive rock-hewn churches (which for some are considered to be the 8th wonder of the world). From here we undertake a rewarding village walk, spending 2 nights with local communities in conjunction with a community-based tourism project called TESFA (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives). As a fitting climax we finish in Bahir Dar for a boat ride on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile.
Accommodation: Capital Hotel or similar
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Meeting at our hotel this morning, there will be time to relax and freshen up before having lunch and an orientation tour around Ethiopia’s bustling capital, including the Trinity Cathedral, the National Museum and the Mercato, the biggest open-air market in Africa. In the evening we’ll have an early dinner back at our hotel in preparation for the trip ahead.
Accommodation: Agoro Lodge or similar
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
A morning flight takes us to Mekele from where we’ll drive north to our lodge. En route we will explore some of this fascinating region of Ethiopia, which is home to the stunning rock-hewn churches of Tigray. We will get the chance to discover Wukro Chirkos church, a crooked cruciform sandstone church, which is semi-monolithic and believed to have been created during the 4th century. From here we can continue on to the rock-hewn church of Abreha Atsbeha, considered among the country's earliest churches and architecturally one of its finest. Enjoying the dramatic scenery of the Northern Tigray region we then complete our journey to our lodge.
Accommodation: Agoro Lodge or similar
Today we will visit two of Ethiopia's most striking churches, known for their unique location and stunning views. Miriam and Daniel Korkor are rock hewn churches located in the heart of the Gheralta Mountains. These unique churches are found in splendid isolation on remote rocky outcrops and involve a strenuous (but highly rewarding!) walk up to reach them, taking around 2hrs to climb up. Taking our time and enjoying the magnificent views as we work our way slowly up the escarpment, at the top we are not only rewarded with the epic vistas but also a wealth of 17th century paintings and church treasures. After enjoying some time exploring the two churches, we can begin our descent, which will take around an hour back down to the main road.
Accommodation: Sabean Hotel or similar
After breakfast we’ll turn west to Axum, stopping en route at the Yemeni influenced Yeha temple (also known as the temple of the Moon from the 5th century BC). On arrival in Axum, a town steeped in more than 2,500 years of history, we’ll visit some of the key sites such as the palace and tomb of King Kaleb, the extraordinary stelae field (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the tomb of King Remhay, and the church of St Mary of Tsion, in which the Ark of Covenant is allegedly hiding! Depending on time we will also visit the Queen of Sheba’s Palace (if not the following morning).
Accommodation: Lima Limo Lodge or similar
Our journey continues south west to the Simien Mountains National Park, stopping for lunch en route. The scenery along this route is truly breath-taking and there will be time for photo stops along the way. On arrival to the Simiens there should be time for a leisurely walk in the nearby area where with some luck we'll get to see some of the wildlife the park is known for, including lammergeier vultures, Gelada baboons and bushback.
Today we’ll have a full day to explore the stunning landscapes the National Park is renowned for. Taking a picnic lunch with us we’ll walk along the escarpment taking in the exceptional views. Without doubt we’ll get to spend some time observing the Gelada baboons and if we’re lucky we might get to see the elusive walia ibex.
Accommodation: Goha Hotel or similar
Leaving the mountains behind our next stop is Gonder, where we’ll visit the key sites of the ancient capital including the Debre Birhan Selassie church (Light of Trinity) with its wonderful murals. We’ll also visit the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its medieval castles, architecturally unique and unlike anything else found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Accommodation: Maribela Hotel or similar
This morning we will catch a flight to Lalibela, arriving late morning. This isolated town, situated high up in the Lasta Mountains, is famous throughout the world for its incredible rock hewn churches. At 2,630m and perched among wild mountains, the setting is fantastic. From the 10th to the mid-13th century it was the capital of the Zagwe Dynasty that ruled the country and it was under the direction of its most famous King, Lalibela, that the churches were carved. He gathered together the greatest craftsmen possible and some estimate as many as 40,000 people were required to create the churches. This incredible group of monuments consists of six churches to the north and five churches to the south, and the churches are linked by a series of rock hewn tunnels similar to catacombs. After settling into our hotel and enjoying an early lunch, this afternoon we'll visit the first cluster of UNESCO World Heritage Site churches, included the famous church of St. George, or Bete Giyorgis, carved in the shape of a cross from the red tuff. For dinner we hope to pay a visit to a local family for a traditional coffee ceremony and the chance to see how a real Ethiopian family live.
After breakfast we’ll drive up into the mountains to visit the wonderful Yemrehana Kristos cave church, situated about 40km from Lalibela. Set at an altitude of 2,700m and protected by an unflattering wall, Yemrehana Kristos is an old built-up church within a large cavern and is a particularly fine example of late Axumite architecture, with a cruciform carved window and an etched wood-panel roof. It's a short hike up to the church but well worth the visit and the scenery en route is spectacular. With lunch back in Lalibela, this afternoon we'll visit the second cluster of staggering rock hewn churches. In the evening we'll take a trip to a tej house to sample the local liquor, followed by dinner at a traditional restaurant.
Accommodation: Specially constructed huts (tukuls) with shared facilities
This is sure to be a real highlight of the trip and is an opportunity not currently offered by any other UK tour operator (as far as we are aware!) Driving to the start point we undertake a fascinating walk visiting local communities and staying in traditional villages. Please note that depending on the overall group size it may be necessary to divide in to two groups – in an attempt to minimise the impact our presence may have in these communities. It will also allow for a more personal and intimate experience for everyone. Both groups will visit the same villages (but in a different order), meeting up at the start, middle and end. Most walking is at around 3,000m and as everyone should be fully acclimatised by now, anyone of reasonable fitness should be fine with it. The walks vary in length from 4-7 hours with the emphasis being very much on seeing the people and countryside rather than rushing through.
Accommodation: Blue Nile Resort or similar
After a final morning walk to the trail-head we will be picked up and driven west to Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana. Here we’ll have the chance to freshen up in our rooms before dinner.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
This morning we’ll drive to Tisissat to visit the Blue Nile falls*. Here the waterfall plunges 45 metres down before continuing its journey to join the White Nile in Khartoum. After taking in views of Tis Abay (Smoke of the Nile) from a classic vantage point we’ll take a beautiful walk via the base of the falls and a short boat trip across the river back to Tisissat. Heading back towards Bahir Dar we’ll board a boat and take a trip out on to Lake Tana, visiting a highly distinctive monastery found there replete with some truly spectacular frescoes. The tour ends late this afternoon, and those on the suggested group flights will be transferred to Bahir Dar airport in time for their return flight to Addis.*Please be aware that the flow of water at the falls is significantly reduced due to a hydro-electric plant. We therefore have no way of knowing the size of the falls in advance. Despite this a visit still makes for an enjoyable excursion from Bahir Dar, whatever the level of water.*
11 x Breakfasts12 x Lunches11 x Dinners
On this tour we will use a mini bus, a boat, internal flights and your own two feet!
A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings
The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate
3 nights x Premium5 nights x Superior4 nights x Simple
All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary
We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatoryTips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documentsInternational Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UKBeverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs
We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatoryTips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documentsInternational Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UKAirport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flightsBeverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs
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