Itinerary Highlights

  • Lalibela's incredible rock-hewn churches
  • Enchanting 17th century castles at Gondar
  • Spectacular scenery in Simien Mountains
  • Island monasteries of Lake Tana

What's Included

  • Flights
  • Accommodation Throughout
  • Travel Guide
  • Transfers
  • Car Hire
11 nights from £4,445 per person

Shelley Phillips

Travel Specialist

I'm here to tailor-make your perfect holiday. Give me a call and I'll use my expertise to create your personalised experience.

This private, tailor-made, individual tour can be done throughout the year and the itinerary can be amended to suit your individual interests and requirements. Visit Ethiopia's best- known historical attractions. These included the incredible rock hewn churches of Lalibela; the marvellous 17th century castles in Gondar and the island monasteries in Lake Tana. This phenomenal selection of sites has attracted travellers to the region for centuries. In addition, Ethiopia has spectacular scenery including some of Africa's highest mountains.

You will visit the Simien Mountains, for some of the continent's finest mountain scenery.  Endemic mammals and birds, and a variety of contrasting habitats add a fascinating natural dimension to our historical itineraries. The diverse ethnic groups create a culture rich in ceremony and ritual.

If you are travelling in mid January you can experience Timket, the country's most widely celebrated annual festival.Or if you travel in September you can witness Meskel, which too, is spectacular. As with all our Ethiopia tours, this itinerary ends with an evening feast complete with traditional music from the many regions. Visitors will receive a warm welcome and our English-speaking escort-guides, will ensure a hassle-free holiday. Ethiopia can be visited year round but try if you can, to avoid the rainy season in July and August.

 

Note: currently we are not including Axum or the Tigray region in the far north of the country, in our itineraries. Please contact us for an updated, bespoke quotation.

Itinerary

Depart on your direct, overnight international Ethiopian Airlines flight from London Heathrow or Manchester to Addis Ababa. > If you prefer flying on another carrier, let us know and we can quote accordingly.
Take the overnight flight from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa.
On arrival in Addis Ababa off your international flight, you will be met and assisted by your guide and transferred to the Golden Tulip Hotel to stay 1 night with breakfast and afternoon city tour included. > This itinerary is based on international flights from London or Manchester with Ethiopian Airlines (economy class seating) as this entitles passengers to discounted fares on the domestic flights. > Currently (Jan 2023) Ethiopian Airlines operates the Gondar - Lalibela flight just once weekly (Mondays), so please structure travel dates around that.
Transfer to Bole Addis Ababa airport to check in for the early morning domestic flight (duration 1 hour) to Bahir Dar, adjacent to the deep blue Lake Tana, with its famous island monasteries and round, grass-roofed churches replete with magnificent wall murals. Best known of the monasteries include Debre Maryam, Daga Estefanos, Tana Cherkos and Narga Selassie. While out on the lake, you'll see fishermen on their seemingly frail reed and wooden boats called 'tankwa' and if lucky, some hippos along with plenty of waterbirds. Stay 2 nights in Kuriftu Lodge & Spa with all meals included. On arrival, check in to your hotel, have a leisurely lakeside lunch and visit the market. Here you can find hand-woven capes & scarves made of local cotton. Visit the old palace of Emperor Haile Selassie and wander to the viewpoint over the confluence of the Blue Nile and Lake Tana. Time, allowing, you can also visit Woyto village, a typical village in Amhara province, to see how life is for resident people. This is an easy day - we don’t want to rush clients since most people will have travelled great distances internationally during the previous 24 hours. Back at Kuriftu Resort, there is an excellent spa - the perfect way to recover from long-distance travel.
After breakfast, head for Lake Tana and embark on a private boat trip for a visit to some of the intriguing, ancient monasteries, of which many are on islands or hidden along the shore. A private boat trip will take you to the beautifully decorated Ura Kidane Mihret Monastery, Azewa Mariam and Entose Eyesus Churches, where the painted walls serve as a visual encyclopedia of the biblical history of Ethiopia. NB: As an option, we can add a visit to the Blue Nile Falls which are about 45 minutes drive from the hotel. However, note that the water is seasonal, and the road is rutted. Locally the falls are called Tis- Isat - 'Smoke of Fire'. After the rainy season (September through to November), the Blue Nile Falls present a dramatic spectacle, equally as impressive as the Victoria Falls. However, from January to June, the falls reduce to a mere trickle.
After breakfast, you will be driven to the Simien Mountains. The drive is around 290 km and you will pass through the ancient historic city of Gondar where you stop for lunch at an excellent restaurant such as Four Sisters. After lunch, continue on to the Simien Mountains to stay 2 nights in an en-suite chalet at Simien Lodge, the highest-lying hotel in Africa. All meals included. This mountainous national park is Ethiopia’s most popular hiking destination with its highest peak at Ras Dashen 4,543 Mts (14,900 feet) above sea level. This makes it the fourth-highest mountain in Africa. The Simien Mountains were recognized as the 2nd UNESCO world heritage site to be inscribed after Yellowstone in 1978. Rare mammals inhabiting these mountains include the endemic Walia Ibex, the endemic Gelada monkey and the endemic Ethiopian Wolf. There are also 57 tree species, a variety of herbaceous plants and about 180 bird species. If arriving at the Simien Mountains in good time, you will be able to drive 2km more to Chekwanit area to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the mountains from selected viewpoints before returning to the lodge
After breakfast, your picnic lunch will be packed and the vehicle will drop you around Checkwanit area you will start walking towards Sankaber, the first park campsite which takes around 2 hours. During the walk, you will enjoy the views over the escarpments and you are likely to spot large groups of the Gelada monkeys. You can get very close to the Gelada monkeys for good photos and enjoy Lammergeyer Vultures gilding over the escarpment. You may walk for as long as you like. The hiking path is not far from the road that runs along the escarpment and the vehicle can collect you at any time either to advance more quickly into the park, or return you to the lodge in the rare event that you are feeling the altitude. Sometimes the groups of Gelada monkeys (called bands) can number up to several hundred and you can find yourself amongst them just a metre or two away. The Sankaber area is covered with an Afro-montane forest dominated by Juniper, Haginiaabyssinica, St John’s wort and giant heather. After passing Sankaber, you will walk to the spectacular Jinibar Waterfall. This takes nearly 1 hour. Or if you have walked enough, you can take the car. Around the waterfall area, you will have a picnic lunch and one hour break while enjoying the views then drive further inside the park to Chennek camps site area (3,620m). Around Cheneck there are again excellent views of the mountains and you have the opportunity to see the rare Walia ibex. If you are very lucky, you might see the Ethiopian wolf as well. From the Cheneck area, you can walk to Bwhait pass and enjoy the afro-montane scenery with its giant lobelia trees and maybe see a wolf or two. In summary, you can walk as much as you want, always considering that you will be at 4000 metres altitude where the oxygen level is only half that at sea level. Do note that the sun is incredibly strong so be vigilant of sunburn. Alternatively, the car can be arranged to take you back to the lodge. In the evening, you can view a documentary about the mountains in the lodge’s cinema, or enjoy a drink by the fireplace.
After breakfast, depart from the Simiens on the 123 km drive to the ancient town of Gonder; enjoy another delicious lunch at Four Sisters Restaurant or similar. The ancient city of Gondar, ‘the African Camelot’, is famous for its many medieval castles. It was the residence of the emperors of Ethiopia from the 12th to 19th century. It was the first capital of the Abyssinian Empire founded by Emperor Fasilades and it was the capital from the rise of Fasilades to the fall of Tewodros (1855-68). This is reflected in the many castles and palaces in the city. The History of Gondar City began in 1636, when Emperor Fasilides decreed it to be Ethiopia's capital and started building a walled enclosure around his castle. It subsequently became the palace compound for half a dozen of different palaces, 3 churches and many support buildings built over two centuries by his successors. In the afternoon, explore more of this UNESCO world heritage site by visiting the other royal enclosures. One of the principal castles of interest is Fasilides Castle which is used for the Timket / Epiphany festival in January - this is when pilgrims take a plunge into the pool that has been filled with water over the previous week. Overnight stay in Goha Hotel, all meals included.
You will be transferred to Gondar Airport to check in for the once weekly flight to Lalibela. There is only one flight a week, duration approx 40 minutes. On arrival into Lalibela Airport your private guide and driver will welcome you. You will be transferred to Mezena Lodge for a 2-night stay in a double chalet, all meals included. Your guide will provide you with the background for your visits that will take place during your time in this wonderful place. Lalibela has long been the key attraction for visitors to Ethiopia. Perched 2600 metres above sea level, it used to be a village around the clusters of churches but has grown rapidly like many of the towns in Ethiopia over the past few decades. In the 12th Century, Kind Lalibela, finding his Christian people cut off from Jerusalem by Muslims living on the Red Seas coasts, decided to make a new Jerusalem in these craggy highlands. The life of Kind Lalibela is surrounded by mystery however it is claimed that he spent 25 years in the real Jerusalem, which was then a Christian city following its fall to the Crusaders in 1099. It was when Saladin recaptured the city in 1187 that he retreated to Ethiopia and started to build his own version of Jerusalem. However, rather than build upwards, he decided to carve downwards into the relatively soft sandstone. The churches are large and made larger by the gaps between the churches and walls of holes that were created, which the workers required to excavate the stone. This afternoon you will be able to visit the southwestern cluster of churches. Here you can really absorb the depth and feeling of Orthodox Christianity ingrained in the people and their faith. Lalibela is an active religious site so if you are willing, it is interesting to visit an actual ceremony which takes place early in the morning before breakfast. Your guide will advise on the day, when and where you will be visiting. It is important to wear a gabi, (a white robe that Ethiopians wear while attending church). This mark of respect will be appreciated by the worshipers. You have to take shoes off when inside the churches. Attending a ceremony without the presence of other tourists, whilst dressing yourselves in the same clothes as the Ethiopian believers, provides a memorable experience. Continue your visit to this second group of rock-hewn churches called the south-east group. Bete Emanuel (the house of Emanuel) is architecturally the finest church in Lalibela, while Bete Giorgis (the house of St George) is the most dramatic of all the churches in Lalibela. For this reason, art historians conclude that this church was carved at the end of the cluster when the masons had developed their skills
Begin after breakfast with an excursion to Ashton Mariam monastery, 10km from the centre of the town. This journey takes you through the lovely countryside of Lalibela. At the top of the hills, you will have a commanding view in all directions at an altitude of nearly 4,000m. This is important for obtaining the perspective of the site. Ashton Mariam Monastery is an ancient monastery carved out of stone. The monastery’s construction is believed to span Lalibela’s and Na’akuto La’ab’s reigns, although local tradition claims it was King Lalibela's first attempt at church construction. The monastery contains a few impressive crosses, illuminated manuscripts and other treasures. Meanwhile, it is the walk and the scenery, passing through small hamlets where children run to greet you, which will remain in the memory. You will pass through farmland used for growing plants and vegetables. When you get there, the priests will welcome you and show you the sacred items held in the monastery, including illustrated bibles. After a visit, you may wish to see some local community houses. ALTERNATIVELY you could instead, visit the cave church of Yimrehane Kristos, about 40km from Lalibela. After having visited either Ashetun Maryam OR Yimrehane Kristos, return back to the centre of the town for lunch at the renowned Ben Abeba restaurant with absolutely spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding region from the deck. In the afternoon, you will visit the Second cluster/ northwest cluster of churches, Bet Maryam and Bet Medhane Alem in particular. 'Bet' means house, and St Mary is important in the Orthodox religion
You will be transferred to Lalibela Airport after a leisurely breakfast and some sightseeing, for the flight around midday back to Addis Ababa. There will be time to go shopping for souvenirs in the afternoon. You might want to buy coffee (rated by many afficcianados as the world's very best), and you can visit some of the specialist cafés where they pack their own coffee. Or you could go to Piazza, where some of the gold traders still remain. Finally, you will be taken to a traditional Ethiopian Restaurant for a farewell dinner and enjoy traditional music and dance. You will have day/evening room use at your hotel and in the late evening, you will be transferred to Bole Airport to check in for your Ethiopian Airlines flight home.
Staying at   Golden Tulip
Take the morning flight departing around 01h00 to London Heathrow or Manchester.

Shelley Phillips

Travel Specialist

I'm here to tailor-make your perfect holiday. Give me a call and I'll use my expertise to create your personalised experience.

Pricing Information & Dates

11 nights from £4,445 per person

Shelley Phillips

Travel Specialist

I'm here to tailor-make your perfect holiday. Give me a call and I'll use my expertise to create your personalised experience.

Price Includes

  • Return International Flights as per the itinerary
  • All airport taxes and security charges
  • Accommodation and meals as specified
  • Transfers as specified
  • Activities and excursions as specified
  • All entrace fees on sightseeing tours as specified
- International Ethiopian Airlines flights (economy class, from London Heathrow OR Manchester), - Domestic Ethiopian Airlines flights, departure taxes, - Airport facilitation - All transfers and internal travel with all private transportation - Services of your full-time, professional, English-speaking escort-guide and of drivers - National park permits and park guide fees - Entrance fees and local guide fees - All excursions and activities as outlined - All accommodation as per itinerary with all meals (full board everywhere except in Addis Ababa where it is B&B)

Price Excludes

  • Travel Insurance
  • Any meals not specified in the itinerary
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Optional excursions
- Ethiopian visa (issued on arrival for US$50, cash) - Gratuities - Lunch and dinner in Addis Ababa - items of a personal nature (tips, phone calls, drinks, laundry, travel insurance).

Pricing Notes

Prices are based on two adults travelling together and sharing in twin or double room accommodation. Domestic flights based on flying Ethiopian Airlines internationally, and are therefore discounted.

Why Choose Us?

Passionate travel experts

  • We've been leading wildlife travel since our first South Africa tours over 25 years ago
  • Our Travel Specialists have lived in their specialist area for years
  • We work with local guides to immerse you deeper in our diverse range of experiences

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  • You'll speak to your own expert who'll share their first-hand knowledge
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  • Your Travel Specialist will listen to ensure you have the best chance of seeing the wildlife you love

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  • We take care to actively contribute to the conservation of environments we visit
  • For select countries, we make a charitable donation on your behalf when you make your booking
  • We've partnered with conservation experts and NGOs to curate responsible tours
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