Our Historic North Circuit s trip builds off the classic Historic North Circuit, but makes a few key changes:
- The camping in the Simien Mountains is replaced by 2 nights at Limalimo Lodge.
- You spend 2 nights in Lalibela, instead of a single night.
- You spend 2 nights in Gheralta Mountains, instead of a single night (and you stay at Korkor Lodge instead of Gheralta Lodge).
- Accommodation is the best available in each region. In Addis, you stay at the Capital Hotel & Spa, not the best available in Addis, but one of the best value for money top-end hotels in the capital.
- Domestic flights based on the 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. Full board at Limalimo Lodge and Korkor Lodge.
- 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.
- 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.
- Church entrance fee in Tigray.
Upon arrival at Bole International Airport, your driver will meet you outside the airport terminal and transfer you to your hotel. Activities depend on international flight arrival time.
Spend the day exploring the bustling capital city of Addis Ababa. Visit the key sites of your choice, and enjoy dinner at one of the capital's fantastic cultural restaurants.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to catch a domestic flight to Bahir Dar.
Take a boat trip out on Lake Tana. The lake is famous for its monasteries that are scattered around the lake's many islands. Head to the forested Zege peninsular and walk for around 15 minutes to the famous Ura Kidane Mihret church. The paintings in the church are centuries old, and there is a nearby museum housing ancient treasures. You can enjoy a local coffee here, and you may be lucky enough to see the velvet monkeys and papyrus canoes being made.
Head back out on the Lake Tana and return to Bahir Dar via the Nile river outflow. You will see lots of pelicans, and maybe even a hippo or two!
In the afternoon, explore the Blue Nile Falls. The falls are known locally as 'Tis Abay', meaning 'Smoking Water'.
Hit the road for a scenic drive across the lowlands besides Lake Tana, up into the mountains passing volcanic plugs, forests, and the highlands around Mount Guna. Sections of the road have great views to the north and south, particularly while crossing the road bridge between Wollo and Gondar provinces. There will be plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and take photos of the stunning backdrops.
Head north at Gashena, drop down from the highlands before climbing back up to Lalibela, one of Ethiopia's most culturally significant towns. Spend the afternoon exploring this magical town and the rock-hewn churches for which it's so rightly famous.
In the evening, we recommend dinner at the incredible Ben Abeba restaurant - dinner with a view!
After breakfast, explore the remaining clusters of rock-hewn churches. You can spend the afternoon at leisure, or take a short trip out into the highlands around Lalibela to visit some of the ancient monasteries found in the mountains, including Yimrehane Kristos, Bilbala, Asheton Maryam, and the Nakuta La’ab monastery.
A midday flight takes you to Gondar, an ancient capital of Ethiopia and home to crumbling castle ruins of ancient kings and queens gone by. Explore the city, starting with a visit to the Debre Berhan Selassie Church. The church's heavy and unassuming stone facade hides the colorful frescoes inside. Look above to find a ceiling of angels looking down on you. This centuries-old church was of the only churches in Gondar to survive destruction during Gondar's turbulent history.
Next, head to the Royal Enclosure, originally built in 1636, these castles were the original home of Emperor Fasilides. His successors expanded the compound, and now you find the remnants of palaces, libraries, lion cages, dining halls, and a women's vocational school built by Mentewab, the Empress of Ethiopia.
As you explore these ancient structures, you will notice multiple architectural styles jostling for position, including Indian, Portuguese, Moorish, and Axumite. It's a testament to the age and history of this place.
Spend the night at the Goha Hotel, one of the best accommodation options in Gondar with beautiful views overlooking the city.
Today we head up into the staggering Simien Mountains, known as the 'Roof of Africa', and for good reason. Drive along good asphalt roads for ~2 hours, stopping off at the best viewpoints along the way, before arriving in the Simiens.
Check-in at Limalimo Lodge, one of Ethiopia’s finest retreats. The lodge boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and a terrace complete with sunbeds offering remarkable views over the Simien range. The views, aesthetics,s and service make this lodge the perfect place to relax after a day's adventuring in the mountains.
This afternoon, enjoy some self-treks around the lodge for an introduction to the beauty of the Simien Mountains. Head back to the lodge for dinner by the roaring fire.
A full day exploring the Simiens. There are plenty of different trekking options to choose from depending on your interests and fitness. You can drive into the park to Buit Ras and enjoy a 3-4 hour hike in the area. You are all but guaranteed to see Gelada monkeys. Head to Sankaber and walk around the escarpment before heading to the Jinbar Falls, an amazing 500m waterfall that plummets into the Geech Abyss.
Brilliant says: Specific trekking routes can be discussed with your guide on the day. Examples include Buit Ras to Jinbar Falls hike, Chennek Walk, Bwahit Climb, Imet Gogo, or even Ras Dashen!
Leave the mountains behind and drive down the switchbacks to Axum. It’s a relatively long drive (6 hours or so), but passes through stunning scenery. There will be plenty of stops along the way to stretch your legs and soak up the views!
Explore the city of Axum. Visit the archaeological sites, the towering obelisks, the tombs that employed massive stone architecture and the obelisk field to the west of the town. Also see the compound of Tsion Mariam, the remains of the ancient church and old Sabean stones that are scattered in the compound. The chapel of the Ark of the Covenant is here along with the more modern and Gonderine churches.
After lunch at the lodge, explore some of the rock churches in the region. The rock churches of Tigray are 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 accessible through climbing the vertical cliff, and yet they’re still used by local Ethiopians of all ages. The views from inside the churches are extraordinary. The view as the sun sets behind the mountains and the sky illuminates in dark reds, yellows, and oranges is the perfect end to your adventure.
Another full day exploring the beautiful landscapes and churches around Korkor Lodge, or simply relaxing and enjoying the view from your veranda.
As your adventure in Ethiopia comes to a close, transfer to the airport and to catch a domestic flight back to Addis. Relax in the city or do some last minute shopping and sightseeing. Transfer to the airport to catch your international flight home.
Brilliant says: it is easy to adjust the start/end of your adventure to line up with your international flights.