14 days

Ethiopian Explorer

Ethiopian Explorer

UNESCO World Heritage-listed rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient city of Axum

The 'Smoking Water' of Blue Nile Falls

Lake Tana's ancient monasteries and churches

Addis Ababa's Art Deco architecture

Ethiopia's old capital Gondar

Trip rating
  • More than a desert wasteland and home of famine, Ethiopia provides a journey you will never forget. At times testing and heartbreaking, but always awe-inspiring. Ethiopia is full of surprises.


    Day 1 - Addis Ababa

    • On arrival in Addis Ababa, you are met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure. Please note this is an arrival day, so you may arrive at any time. If you arrive early, an optional visit to the National Museum can be arranged. Addis Ababa is a bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants. It is also a city of immense contrasts – the Addis Sheraton, with its ‘singing fountain’ is one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, yet you only need to travel a few streets away to find yourself among busy markets, dirt roads and the odd goat or two wandering the streets. The city is relatively new– established by the Emperor Menelik II in 1887, and at 2,400m has the distinction of being the third highest capital in the world. Although Ethiopia was the only African nation never to be colonised, parts of it, including Addis, were briefly occupied by the Italians in the twentieth century, and in many parts of the city their legacy lives on in the form of old art deco buildings and coffee shops, particularly in the area known as the Piazza. Addis can seem daunting at times, but even the briefest foray into the busy streets can reveal interesting new insights.
    Global Hotel or similar

    Day 2 - Addis Ababa

    • This morning, we visit the National Museum which consists of archeological collections from as early as Lucy (3.5 Million Years old) and other fossils of primates from earlier periods. This museum also includes archeological collections from the ancient civilization of Axum and other major sites in the northern Ethiopia.
    • Merkato is the biggest market in the east Africa and its bustling outdoor markets are very colorful reminders of more traditional way of life. Addis Ababa's cosy espresso bars and pastries are reminiscent of Rome and the Mediterranean world and the people, the bursts of music from the cafes and shops, the pungent aromas of spicy cooking, of coffee and frankincense, form a unique Ethiopian pastiche.
    Global Hotel or similar

    Day 3 - Bahir Dar

    • This morning we fly to Bahar Dar, one of Ethiopia’s most attractive towns where we will walk through the market and maybe stop at the local juice bar, which will give you a nice feel for this town. Located 32 kilometers south of Bahar Dar, the Blue Nile Falls measure over 400 metres wide and descends 48 metres. These falls are known locally as Tis Isat (Smoking Water) and are a spectacular sight when in full flood. The famous explorer James Bruce, when he first laid eyes on the Blue Nile Falls, described them as ‘a most magnificent sight, that ages, added to the greatest length of human life, would not deface or eradicate from my memory.’ The new hydro-electrical plants and dams have somewhat impacted on their magnificence, but the sight is still a memorable one.
    Tana Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 4 - Lake Tana

    • One of the fabled sources of the Nile, Lake Tana is one of Ethiopia’s greatest natural treasures. With a surface of around 3,600km, the lake is also famous for the series of ancient monasteries and churches located on twenty of the islands that are found within the waters. We have a full day visiting the many island monasteries that lie on Lake Tana. We'll travel by boat to visit some of the more remote monasteries and churches, most of which date back to the thirteenth century. The monasteries are fascinating and unlike any others outside Ethiopia, often decorated with bright frescoes. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all over the country. Local history says the Ark of the Covenant was kept on one of these islands when the city of Axum was under threat, and the remains of five emperors are to be found at Daga Istafanos.
    Tana Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 5-6 - Gondar

    • We head to Gondar to explore the old capital of Ethiopia. Upon arrival we head to Debre Berhan Selassie, perhaps Ethiopia's most beautiful church, followed by the Royal Enclosure. The town of Gondar is often described as ‘The Camelot of Ethiopia’, and when you approach the Royal Enclosure, situated in the middle of the town, it’s easy to understand why. A collection of superbly preserved castles built in the 17th century are still standing in an excellent state of preservation today. Different stories abound as to who built them – some say Portuguese craftsmen, others believe they were built by Ethiopian hands. Whatever the truth, the Royal Enclosure has to be one of the most of the most striking and unusual sights in all of Africa.
    Goha Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 7 - Simien Mountains

    • Heading north we travel to Debark, on the edge of the Simien Mountains National Park. This area is characterised by enormous chasms and gorges, and offers some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa.
    • Ethiopia is often described as ‘the roof of Africa’, and when the Simien Mountains first loom into sight, it’s easy to understand why. Characterised by massive gorges and dramatic pinnacles, the Simiens are perhaps Africa’s most beautiful range of mountains, and house the fourth highest peak on the continent, Ras Dashen (4,620m). The mountains are also home too much of Ethiopia’s wildlife and are great for bird watching. The Gelada baboon, a striking primate with a shaggy mane and a patch of bright red skin on its chest, is found here in good numbers. It is quite likely that you will encounter a troop of these impressive animals as you walk the mountain paths. Also found here are the rarer Walia Ibex, and the world’s most endangered member of the dog family, the elusive Simien Wolf. Your trek here takes in some of the most scenic parts of the Simien Mountains National Park, past striking chasms and gorges where lammergeiers fly past swooping for prey.
    • We’ll take a short trek to Sankaber, where we'll camp for the night.
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 8 - Simien Mountains

    • We spend today trekking through these magnificent mountains, hoping to see some of the fascinating wildlife that lives here. You're almost guaranteed to see Gelada baboons, a species that is found nowhere else on earth, and if we're lucky we may see Walia Ibex.
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9-10 - Axum

    • After a short hike this morning we travel back through fantastic scenery on our way to Axum. Here we have a day and a half sightseeing, including the Church of St Mary of Zion, which is believed to contain the Ark of the Covenant. A once great city that was under the control of the Queen of Sheba, Axum is home to many fascinating tombs and churches, and has an unusual collection of stelae dating back to the third and fourth centuries. Today it is a site of pilgrimage, and contains an amazing collection of ancient buildings, including palaces belonging to important Ethiopian kings and emperors. The huge granite stelae are the most famous monuments in Axum. Originally seven in number, the largest measured thirty-three metres and weighed about 500 tons, but it fell centuries ago and lies in pieces next to the remaining stelae.
    Yeha Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 11-12 - Lalibela

    • We fly to Lalibela today, home to a spectacular collection of churches hewn out of the surrounding rock, so astounding that many believe they are the creations of angels. We'll visit the churches within the town and also head out into the surrounding countryside, to visit some of the churches that lie nearby, all made from the rock and dating back to around the twelfth century. There are many stories concerning the origin of these churches, but the most popular local legend is that angels built them in a single night. The churches have been dated back to the reign of King Lalibela sometime in the eleventh or twelfth centuries. Many of the churches are connected by underground tunnels and narrow walkways built into the rock, and they are still a site of pilgrimage today as they have been for centuries. In some of the churches hermits and monks live in tiny caverns in the walls, barely big enough for them to stretch out, staying here for years on end. The jewel of Lalibela’s churches is Beta Giorgis, a cross shaped church rising out of the earth, surrounded by the walls of the pit into which it was dug, which houses a wooden box said to have been carved by King Lalibela himself. While in Lalibela you may also be lucky enough to witness one of the religious festivals that often take place here.
    Mountain View Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 13 - Addis Ababa

    • An afternoon flight takes us back to Addis Ababa. We are then transferred to the hotel and get settled before enjoying an optional final dinner at a well known local Ethiopian restaurant. Here we are able to put our new-found dancing moves to the test by joining in with the traditional dancers.
    Global Hotel or similar

    Day 14 - Addis Ababa

    • Our tour ends this morning in Addis Ababa. Flights out of Addis Ababa can be booked to depart at any time today. Additional post-tour accommodation is also available.
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Peregrine tour leader, transport, sightseeing, arrival transfer, entrance fees.

    Not Included

    • * Visa costs * Border Taxes * Drinks, tips, laundry and other items of a personal nature. * International flights * Departure transfers * Meals other than those listed * The single supplement does not cover the camping in the Simien Mountains. For the 2 nights camping, basic equipment such as sleeping mats will be provided, but you will need to bring your own sleep-sheet and sleeping bag. Sleeping bags can be hired locally for around US$5, however the quality of the sleeping bags vary and good quality sleeping bags cannot be guaranteed. As we are trekking through some of Ethiopia’s most remote regions, please be prepared for very basic washing/toilet facilities. Our tour leader will carry a comprehensive medical kit throughout the duration of the trek.
  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    Ethiopian Explorer

    graham - Canada, 15 Jan, 2012
    Overall Rating

    Guide was excellent and made the trip

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PFEE
Group size 6 - 15
Start City: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
End City: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Style: Small Group

What to know

A non-trekking option is also available in the Simien Mountains (Days 7-8).

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