Ethiopia is among countries that start with E listed on Countryaah.com. More than half of the country’s area is over 1,200 m above sea level – the highlands of Abyssinia with the capital Addis Ababa (3.3 million residents) and mountains up to 4,500 m high. The Great Rift Valley runs through the center of the country: the origin of mankind is believed to be in this region.
Although Ethiopia is rich in natural resources, it is one of the poorest countries in the world.
- Day 1: Our great journey begins!
- Day 2: Welcome to Addis Ababa & city tour
- Day 3: Over the Entoto Mountain to Gohatsion
- Day 4: From Gohatsion to Bahir Dar
- Day 5: Lake Tana & its island monasteries
- Day 6: Gonder – the imperial city & its castles
- Day 7: Simien National Park – cliffs, pinnacles, baboons
- Day 8: Hike in the Simien Mountains
- Day 9: Axum, another UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Day 10: Axum, Hawzen and the Gheralta Mountains
- Day 11: Hawzen – Felskirchen & Berge
- Day 12: Off to Lalibela!
- Day 13: The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
- Day 14: Hike to Asheton Maryam Monastery
- Day 15: Cave monastery & flight back to Addis Ababa
- Day 16: Hello, Europe – Welcome home!
This easy hiking tour takes us from one UNESCO World Heritage site to the next: In Gondar, the imperial castles await us, with Axum the most important pilgrimage site for the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. The red rock churches of Lalibela are among the largest monoliths carved out of stone on earth, and believers are still drawn here today.
At first glance, the blood breast baboons seem a bit snooty, but we actually get to know the shaggy monkeys as friendly and trusting. Just like the Ethiopian ibex and the Semien fox, they only live in the mountainous landscape of the Semien National Park. Here, where the highest point of Ethiopia, the Ras Daschän, is located, we walk towards Buhawit (4,430 m) at least to the top of the pass and look down from steep cliffs deep into green gorges.
We get into the boat that is supposed to take us across Lake Tana to one of the islands with the famous churches. On the way we encounter pelicans, ospreys and locals in their tankwas, those boats tied together from papyrus poles. Hidden in the mangrove forest, we discover “Ura Kidane Mehret”, one of the typical round churches from the 14th century made of wood and clay with a round thatched roof. Ura is known for its imperial crowns, processional crosses and colorful frescoes: the “good” are shown with two eyes, the bad (the unbelievers) have to get by with one eye. Later we hike to the waterfalls of the Blue Nile, the “smoking water”.
Meals: B = breakfast / L = lunch / packed lunch / D = dinner
Our great journey begins!
With a lot of anticipation in our luggage we are flying today with Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. What new impressions can we expect on this trip?
Welcome to Addis Ababa & City Tour
We will be picked up by our guide at Addis Ababa airport and taken to the hotel. After we have rested a bit, we explore Addis Ababa: We visit the National Museum, where, among other things, a replica of the 3.5 million year old bones of “Lucy” is exhibited, then the Trinity Cathedral, the final resting place for members of the emperors Family and heroes of the country; it is the most impressive cathedral of its kind in the country, adorned with carvings, mosaics and colored windows. If there is still time, we can stroll through the largest market in Africa. Here we find everything imaginable and unimaginable!
Driving time: 1 hour overnight at Azzamen Hotel or similar., Addis Ababa
(- / – / A)
Over the Entoto mountain to Gohatsion
After breakfast we cross the Entoto Mountain, with the best views over the capital Addis Ababa. We continue through the Sululta plateau to Debre Libanos (approx. 3 hours drive). Debre Libanos is home to one of the most important monasteries in Ethiopia. This also includes a very interesting museum, where we can see numerous ancient treasures of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. We fortify ourselves with lunch and then take an easy first hike to the «Portuguese Bridge», which nestles in a wonderful landscape. Some historians are of the opinion that the bridge dates from the 16th century, when the Portuguese were briefly in Ethiopia, others believe that it was in the 19th century. built by Emperor Menelik’s uncle. After we passed the bridge
Driving time: 5-6 hours (220 km)
Hike: approx. 1-2 hours
overnight stay in the Gohaland Hotel or similar, Gohatsion
(B / – / D)
From Gohatsion to Bahir Dar
Rested after breakfast, we set off on the 9-hour drive from Debre Libanos to Bahir Dar. The tranquil farmland of Fogera and Gojam with many beautiful sceneries scurries past us when we look out the window. Finally we cross the gorge of the Blue Nile, a small masterpiece of nature. We should then reach Bahir Dar in the late afternoon, just in time to end the day with the sunset. The one from the Bezawit Hill lookout above Lake Tana offers us the perfect place for it.
Driving time: 9 hours (450 km) Overnight at Jacaranda Hotel or similar, Bahar Dar
(B / – / D)
Lake Tana & its island monasteries
After breakfast we explore the Zeghie peninsula and discover the 14th century churches of Azoa Mariam and Ura Kidane Mihret, hidden in the mangrove forests. with their fabulous church paintings. The round, grass-covered roofs are typical of the construction of the old Ethiopian Orthodox churches. Ura is particularly known for its frescoes and the rich collection of old manuscripts, cultural objects such as the crowns of several emperors from the 14th century, gold and silver processional crosses and magnificent imperial costumes. On our walk through the densely forested area, with a bit of luck, we will encounter monkeys and interesting native bird species. Lake Tana is a natural paradise and is the source of the Blue Nile, where hippos can also be seen. After lunch we will visit the waterfalls of the Blue Nile. The hike takes around 2 hours. The water plunges 45 m down here. The 35 km journey takes about 1 hour. In the late afternoon we return to Bahir Dar. There is still time to stroll through the famous local market, which sells jewelry, dresses, carvings, baskets and much more from the region.
Driving time: 1 hour (35 km)
Hike: approx. 2 hours
overnight stay in Jacaranda Hotel or similar, Bahar Dar
(B / – / D)
Gonder – the imperial city & its castles
After breakfast we continue to Gonder, which lies at the foot of the Simien Mountains at an altitude of 2,200 m above sea level. Ethiopia was once a proud empire: Abyssinia, one of the oldest countries in the world. One of Haile Selassi’s predecessors, Emperor Fasilides, founded Gondar around 1635 and expanded it into the capital with churches and a palace. One of the main attractions of the royal city from the 17th century. include the association of imperial castles and the lavishly painted Debre Birhan Selassie Church. The city was from the 17th to the middle of the 19th century. Capital and commercial center of Ethiopia. It was founded in 1636 by Emperor Fasilades as a residence for himself and his successors. Gonder has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. After lunch we visit the imperial apartments of Fassil Ghibe and all the castles of the Gondar emperors. Then we take a look at the Debre Berhan Selassie Church. The walls and the ceiling are completely covered with unique paintings. The angelic faces on the wooden ceiling have become a symbol and popular motif of Ethiopian art.
Driving time: 3 hours (170 km) Overnight at Haile Resort or similar, Gonder
(B / – / D)
Simien National Park – cliffs, pinnacles, baboons
With breakfast in our stomach, we set off for the Simien National Park, which awaits us with an unreal landscape and unique wildlife. We will hardly be surprised that the park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The trusting and friendly endemic blood breast baboons, the jeladas, fill the scenic stage design with life – a painting that we hope will be remembered for a long time. In the afternoon we take an easy hike to the highest waterfall in Ethiopia, the Jinber.
Driving time: 2 hours (120 km)
Hike: 1-2 hours
overnight in the Simien Lodge / Rad Dajen Hotel, or similar.
Hike in the Simien Mountains
After we have breathed in the fresh morning air deeply, we drive up to Sankaber and let the impressive scenery with its deep gorges affect us. From here we hike to the Buhawit pass (4,430 m), the third highest peak in Ethiopia. We can be curious which endemic animal species we will encounter here; perhaps the Walia Ibex or the Simien fox and certainly numerous species of birds.
Driving time: approx. 1 hour.
Hike: 4-5 hours.
Overnight stay in the Simien Lodge / Rad Dajen Hotel, or similar.
Axum, another UNESCO World Heritage Site
Today we leave the Simien Mountains and take the 7-hour drive towards Axum. On our way breathtaking landscape scurries past us again and again with magnificent views. The Axumite Kingdom, the cradle of the Ethiopian civilization, lies at an altitude of 1,637 m. For the Ethiopians, Axum is a holy city, but also archeology lovers will love this significant place. The origins of Christianity are believed to be here, more than 2,000 years ago. The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980.
Travel time: approx. 7 hours.
Overnight at Yared Zema or Sabean International Hotel or similar.
Axum, Hawzen and the Gheralta Mountains
We dedicate the first half of the day to Axum and her testimonies from times long past. There are the famous Axum steles or obelisks, including the largest stone block on earth ever worked and erected by humans. Then we visit the castles of the former monarchs, the Mariam Tsion Church, which was built on the site where the first church in Ethiopia once stood. Then we stroll through the palace of the Queen of Sheba and examine the inscriptions of King Ezana. We pass the tombs of King Kaleb and Gabre Meskel and let all these impressions affect us. The hunger is slowly becoming noticeable and it’s time for our lunch before we continue to Hawzen, which is nicely embedded in the Gheralta Mountains.
Driving time: approx. 3 hours overnight at Gheralta Lodge / Wugro Lodge or similar, Hawzen
(B / – / D)
Hawzen – Felskirchen & Berge
Hiking boots laced? Then we set off on a very special hike in the Gheralta Mountains – to the fascinating rock churches Mariam Korkor and Daniel Korkor; these are churches built on rocky outcroppings with phenomenal views over the vast plains of Hawsen. After lunch you have the opportunity to visit the historic Abreha We Atsbeha on the way to Mekelle.
Travel time: approx. 3 hours.
Hike: approx. 4 hours.
Overnight stay in the Mekelle or Axum Hotel or similar, Mekelle
(B / – / D)
Off to Lalibela!
Today we have a longer day of driving to go to the pilgrimage site of Lalibela. The varied landscape that passes us makes the travel time pass a little faster. We catch a lot of impressions of this exciting country and in the late afternoon we reach Lalibela, the small town in the northern highlands; world-famous for their unique rock-hewn churches carved out of red tuff. The city is named after King Lalibela, who had numerous sacred buildings built here. The rock-hewn churches are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are considered the 8th wonder of the world.
Driving time: 8 hours overnight at Lal Hotel or similar, Lalibela
(B / – / D)
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
We dedicate this day entirely to the eleven world-famous rock churches of Lalibelas, which are often called the “8. Wonder of the world ”. Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, is one of the country’s main attractions. One might think that the rock-hewn churches were created by superhuman hands: their architecture, size, execution and their underlying concept have a touch of mysticism, which is why numerous legends circulate about their mysterious origin. All churches are sculptures made of volcanic rock. Some are connected by long tunnels and underground rooms. In the morning we visit the first group with six churches, one behind the other in rock niches: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikeal, Bet Mariam, Bet Maskel, Bet Dangal and Bet Medhanealem. Bet Medhanealem is the largest stone carved church in the world and resembles a Greek temple. After lunch we will visit the second group of rock-cut churches south of the Jordan River. We visit Bet Giyorgis, probably the most elegant of all Lalibela’s churches. Bet Giyorgis is somewhat isolated at the southwest end of the village on a slope terrace and can only be reached via a tunnel. The group of four churches south of the Jordan River includes Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercurios, Bet Aba Libanos, and Bet Gabriel and Rufeal. The exterior design of Bet Emanuel has been hailed several times by internationally recognized art historians as an extraordinary legacy of humanity.
Overnight at Lal Hotel or similar., Lalibela
(F / – / A)
Hike to Asheton Maryam Monastery
Our hiking boots are already waiting to be laced by us. Today we hike to the Ashtem Maryam monastery, which is located at 3,000 m and will richly reward us with views over the valley. Back in Lalibela, we take part in a well-deserved coffee ceremony. The scent of fresh highland coffee flows through our noses and we can be curious to see how the coffee unfolds on our palate. We finally have dinner in the famous Ben Abeba restaurant. What local specialties can we expect?
Hike: approx. 5 hours
overnight in the Lal Hotel or similar., Lalibela
(F / – / A)
Cave monastery & flight back to Addis Ababa
Before we fly back to the well-known capital today, we can visit the interesting cave monastery Ne’akuto Le’ab, which is just outside Lalibela. Afterwards we will be driven to the airport and after our landing in Addis Ababa we will be picked up and brought to the hotel reserved for us (day room until 6: 00 pm).
In the evening we are invited to a traditional restaurant in Addis Ababa with music and dances from all regions of Ethiopia. One last time we have dinner together and taste the local delicacies. When we say goodbye, the shared moments, the memories of the many historical wonders of the world, the sublime nature and the peaceful blood breast baboons continue to connect us. Then we will be driven to the airport to start our journey home.
Travel time: 1 hour
(B / – / -)
Hello Europe – welcome home!
We should really give ourselves time to arrive and process the many impressions that we hope will stay with us for a long time.