Community Trekking in Ethiopia

Our community trekking routes are among our favourite experiences in Ethiopia. Offering a unique insight into rural Ethiopia through trails off the beaten-track, we're yet to find anyone who isn't blown away by the beauty of the rolling hills of Lalibela, the sweeping sun-glazed panoramas of Tigray, and the kindness and warmth of the local communities. Authentic community tourism at its absolute finest.

15 Days

$3,330

Community Trekking in Ethiopia - 15 - $3,330

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Introduction: 

Community trekking was first established in Wollo back in 2004. There are now a total of 12 community guesthouse around Wollo in rural Lalibela and Tigray. The trekking involves meditative walks through rural Ethiopia with overnights at simple but charming guest houses perched on the plateau edge. The views from the plateau are extraordinary, and the starlight in this part of the country is amazing. There is something about the simplicity of it all, walking across the sweeping plateaus, through farmland or local villages, before arriving the guesthouses, welcomed by fresh coffee and snacks overlooking the staggering views beyond the escarpment. 

Over half the money generated for community treks goes to the local communities, so it's an initiative well worth supporting. 

Trip highlights: 

  • You start your adventure in the bustling capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Most international flights arrive in the morning at Addis, so we'll collect you from the airport and take you to your hotel where you can relax and freshen up after your flight. In the afternoon you can take your first steps into the city and explore some of the sites of Addis, before heading to one of the capitals wonderful cultural restaurants
  • From Addis you head to Bahir Dar, a charming lakeside town that's great for some light adventuring. You can take a boat trip out onto Lake Tana and the visit the Blue Nile Falls
  • Head into the highlands around Lalibela for 3 nights community trekking in Wollo, where community trekking all began in 2004. Your first guesthouse will be Mequat Mariam, one of the original sites and one that often leaves the biggest impression. The views are simply extraordinary.
  • Next, head to Lalibela, one of Ethiopia's most famous destinations home to the incredible rock-hewn churches and the fantastic Ben Abeba restaurant.
  • You then head to Gonder, an ancient capital city of Ethiopia and home to the crumbling castle ruins of ancient kings and queens - Gonder is known as the Camelot of Africa
  • From Gondar, the road leads up into the spectacular beauty of the Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of almost unimaginable beauty. There are 3 main campsites in the Simiens: Sankaber, Geech, and Chennek. The classic trail starts by the park entrance and heads to Sankaber for the first night. You then trek on to Geech for a second night, and a final night at Chennek (the best of the 3 campsites with exceptional views, and the best place to spot Walia Ibex!). If you don't have time for the full 3 night trek, you can skip one of the campsites to make it 2 nights - or even one! You can also replace camping in the Simiens with lodge stays - enquire for details. 
  • After the Simiens, take a drive down the switchbacks to Axum, the original capital city of Ethiopia. Axum was once a hugely influential city back in the days of the Axumite empire. It's glory days are long gone, but the relics that remain from that time are fascinating and its one of the most culturally significant regions of Ethiopia. The drive passes through incredible scenery. 
  • Head up into the sandstone cliffs of Tigray for 3 nights community trekking. The walks are challenging, but the views blissful. You will be well looked after by the local team, and the mountains of Tigray, with the sky alight with stars, is the perfect place to relax with the tipple of your choice. 
  • Descend the cliffs of Tigray and head to Gheralta Lodge, a beautiful boutique lodge, wonderfully designed with the backdrop of the Gheralta Mountains providing a great view from your veranda. Gheralta will be your base for exploring the rock churches and landscapes of Tigray.  The rock churches in Tigray are built into the cliffs, with some even requiring some short rock climbing (all safe and supported by your guides) to access - the views from the top are amazing.

Start from Addis Ababa and end at Addis Ababa

Landmarks visited on Community Trekking in Ethiopia

Itinerary

Day 1: The adventure begins!

Upon arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, your driver will meet you outside the airport terminal. Head into the city for your first taste of fresh Ethiopian coffee. Explore some of the sites around the capital, including National Museum and the sprawling Mercato market before catching a domestic flight to Bahir Dar. The flight time will depend on your international arrival details. 

At Bahir Dar airport, your driver will meet you outside the airport terminal and transfer you to your hotel. Spend the evening at leisure in Bahir Dar. 


Accommodation: Blue Nile Resort

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Kuriftu Resort & Spa

Meals: None


Day 2: Bahir Dar to Mequat Mariam

In the morning, take a trip to the Blue Nile Falls. These 42 metre falls create such large amounts of spray that they are known in Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language) as ‘Tis Abay’ meaning ‘Smoking Water’. A short distance down the Blue Nile lies a stone bridge built in 1626: potentially one of the famed seven stone bridges built by the emperor Fasilides. This river and another, the White Nile, are the two main tributaries to the Nile, the world’s longest river.

In the afternoon, your driver will pick you up from the hotel in Bahir Dar and transfer you to the lunch stop, Werkhaye Mariam. Enjoy a simple lunch of enjara & 3 vegetarian wots over a coffee or tea before beginning the 3 hour walk through various villages to the escarpment edge. You will soon arrive at Mequat Mariam on the south and west facing promontory. The guesthouse offers staggering views into the gorges below that feel the Nile system.


Accommodation: Mequat Mariam Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A

Meals: Lunch, Dinner


Day 3: Wajela 

Wake up to the stunning views of the guesthouse and fresh coffee. Begin today's walk to Wajela, passing by the interesting church of Kura Ambesa Giyorgis (Crow Lion George), with its church yard full of indigenous trees. Then cross the meadows and main road, before dropping down of the escarpment edge on the north side to the village of Wajela. Wajela Community Guesthouse is in a bucolic location in west Meket just below the top of the plateau with great views to the west and north.


Accommodation: Wajela Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A

Meals: Lunch, Dinner


Day 4: Aterow Community Guesthouse

Another day of community trekking as you head from Wajela to Aterow guest house. Walk up from Wajela and follow the escarpment eastwards. The views over the escarpment are remarkable and real highlight of the trip. Stop for lunch at Giyorgis church before continuing the trail onto Aterow guest house. 


Accommodation: Aterow Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A

Meals: Lunch, Dinner


Day 5: Lalibela

From Bahir Dar, a short flight takes you to Lalibela, home of the rock-hewn churches and a World Heritage Site. These eleven structures are world-famous, having been built in the 12-13th century and carved out of single pieces of rock. Haile Selassi reportedly risked his life to make a solo pilgrimage here during the war with Italy, seeking clarity and guidance.

Discover Biete Medhane Alem (House of the Saviour of the world), believed to be the world’s largest monolithic church, before navigating through the system of trenches to arrive at Biete Ghiorgis (House of St. George), the most famous and isolated of all the structures. It’s worth spending a day wandering through these mazes of rock and soaking up the heritage. If you’ve time, there is also a wonderful hike to a monastery up on the mountainside.

Finish the day with a delicious dinner in the famous Ben Abeba restaurant, a crazy structure of steel and concrete overlooking the hills and valleys of the mountains. 


Accommodation: Tabor Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  Mezena Lodge, Maribela Hotel

Meals: Breakfast 


Day 6: Gondar

Spend the morning visiting the remaining rock-hewn churches in Lalibela. Catch a midday flight to Gondar, the old capital of the country. Your first stop will be Debre Berhan Selassie Church, whose heavy and unassuming stone facade hides the colourful frescoes inside.

After this you will head to the well-preserved Fasil Gebbi in Gondar, described by some as the ‘Camelot of Africa’ for a guided tour.  Now known as the Royal Enclosure, this was initially founded in 1636 and built by Emperor Fasilides as his home, but successive emperors and rulers added to his blueprint. Now, the buildings span over 70,000 square metres of land and include palaces, libraries, two lion houses, royal baths, and a women’s vocational school built by Mentewab, the Empress of Ethiopia. Within the enclosure there there are multiple architectural styles and influences jostling for position. The influences include Indian, Portuguese, Moorish and Aksumite. 


Accommodation: Goha Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  Gondar Hills Resort (Goha Hotel and Gondar Hills are similar in quality)

Meals: Breakfast 


Day 7 : Simien Mountains National Park

A car will pick you up from your hotel in Gondar take you to Debark, the headquarters of the Simien Mountains National Park. Here you’ll meet with your trek leader and scout. You’ll take a 4×4 some of the way to your first camp at Sankaber, but you will walk the final stretch (approximately 3 hours) in order to acclimatise to the altitude.

Ascending to over 3,000m above sea level and with a jagged landscape, you’ll be stunned by the views from the offset. You’ll be met with drinks, a tasty and hearty dinner, and a campsite in Sankaber where you can sit around the fire and swap stories with guides and other trekkers. 


Accommodation: Camping at Sankaber

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Possible to replace camping in the Simiens with lodge stays, enquire for details. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 7 : Simien Mountains National Park

Most of today’s path hugs the edge of the ridge. Trek to the viewpoint Imet Gogo before dorpping down through a forest of Giant Hazel before rising back to open grassland and continuing on your ascent up to Inyate. The views from the top are monumental. After recovering from the climb and the view, you’ll descend towards Chenek camp. This camp is well known for its visitors: Wallia Ibex and Gelada Baboons.


Accommodation: Camping at Chennek

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Possible to replace camping in the Simiens with lodge stays, enquire for details. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 9 

In the morning, trek up to Bwahit peak for the opporunity to spot the Walia Ibex and enjoy the views. Drive (~2.5 hours) to the incredible Limalimo Lodge. Spend the day relaxing around the idyllic lodge - the perfect way to bring your adventure in the Simien Mountains to an end. 

Brilliant says: you might want to consider spending at least 2 nights at Limalimo Lodge - it's a real treat!


Accommodation: Limalimo Lodge

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 10: Axum

Today is a full day drive across fantastic landscapes from the Simien Mountains to Axum. You’ll drive through the switchback and across the Tekeze river along the Tigrayan plateau towards Axum. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the way. 

Upon arrival in Axum, spend the afternoon exploring the sites of Axum, including the Stelae field (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that tower metres above and look fantastic in the afternoon sun. Visit Tsion Mariam Church, claimed to hold the original Ark of the Covenant. 

Spend the evening at leisure in Axum. You’ll stay overnight at the best available property in Axum, Sabean Hotel. 


Accommodation: Sabean Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Accommodation in Axum of lower quality than elsewhere in the north.

Meals: Breakfast


Day 11: Erar Community Guesthouse

Today marks the start of your community trekking experience in rural Tigray. After breakfast, we drive from Sabean Hotel to the trailhead. En route, visit the ancient pre-Axumite ruins at Yeha and the lovely Mariam Kiat church. 

From the trail head, we kick off the trek with a gentle 1.5 hour walk Erar Community Guesthouse. 

Erar Community Guesthouse, one of the first established in the region. Erar Community Gueshouse is built on an isolated section of the western escarpment has some of the most wonderful views of the community trekking experience. 

Relax around the guesthouse while dinner is made and get to know the locals over dinner before retreating to the simple and cosy rooms of the guesthouse. 


Accommodation: Erar Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Basic, but charming guesthouses. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 12: Seheta Community Guesthouse

Head from Erar to Seheta today. There are two trails to choose from today. Both trails will last 4-5 hours, one takes you down into the valleys, the other a slightly tougher trail with some steeper gradients. In the afternoon you can explore the nearby churches around Seheta, or simply relax, read a boor or have a beer as you enjoy the view. 

Accommodation: Seheta Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Basic, but charming guesthouses. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 13: Shimbrety Community Guesthouse

Today marks your final day of community trekking in Tigray. 

After breakfast and fresh coffee over the wonderful views, begin the trail to Shimbrety. This is a really exciting trail, and as you get closer to Shimbrety you’ll find a rock-tunnel that has been carved through the ridge to give villages on the western side access to the lovely rock church of Maryam Buzuhan. 

Spend your final night atop the limestone cliffs of Tigray, blanketed by starlight and well-fed by your lovely local stuff. Grab some cold beers (other refreshments available) and enjoy the view one last time. 


Accommodation: Shimbrety Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  N/A. Basic, but charming guesthouses. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 14: Gheralta Lodge

After breakfast at the guesthouse, walk for 3 hours to the trail head Idega Arbi. There is market day here on Friday which is great to visit if your dates coincide. Transfer to Gheralta Lodge, charming lodge with cabin-esque rooms dotted along the plateau ridge offering tremendous views of the Gheralta Mounatins and low-lying farmland. 

After lunch at the lodge, explore some of the rock-churches in the region. The rock churches of Tigray 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 accessibly through climbing the vertical cliff, and yet they’re still used by local Ethiopians of all ages. The views from inside the churches is extraordinary. 

The view as the sunsets behind the mountains and the sky illuminates in dark reds, yellows and oranges is the perfect respite after your community trek. 


Accommodation: Gheralta Lodge

Accommodation Upgrade Options:  Korkor Lodge. 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 15

As your adventure in Ethiopia draws to a close, catch a flight back to Addis Ababa. Services can be available in Addis depending on your international flight departure time.

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Prices are per person based on 2 people travelling together. Prices guideline only, actual price swill depend on final itinerary, accommodation choices, and time of year. 

Includes

  • Domestic flights.
  • 6 nights in hotels and 8 nights on trek.
  • Breakfast included on all days not trekking except on arrival at start of trip.
  • Meals included at Limalimo Lodge.
  • Transport in minibus(s) and 4WD's.
  • English speaking national guides available in all locations.
  • Entrance fees in Addis, Gondar, Simiens, Axum, Yeha, Lalibela, Tisisat, and Lake Tana.

Excludes

  • Entrance fees to rock churches in Tigray.
  • All meals not mentioned as included.
  • International flights and visa fees. 
  • Tipping and any expenses of a personal nature.

Questions about this Trip?