Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking

Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken up by hikes in the Simien Mountains National Park and community trekking in the rural plateaus of Tigray.

12 Days

$3,239

Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking - 12 - $3,239

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Bahir Dar and Lake Tana

Take a boat trip on Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. Explore the monasteries on the various islands dotted around the lake. You’ll encounter large groups of Great White Pelicans along the way.

Gondar

Explore the ancient castles of Gondar, home to Ethiopia’s Kings and Queens in times gone by. Discover the famous Debre Birhan Selassie Church with its roof adorned with the wide-eyed cherubs forever watching from above.

Simien Mountains

Spend two nights camping in the stunning Simien Mountains National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site has some of the most staggering landscapes anywhere in the world, and the two day camping/trekking trail takes you to all the best viewpoints.

Axum

Explore the ancient city of Axum, Ethiopia’s original capital city. Axum plays an enormous role in Ethiopia’s history and culture and is central to the identity of many Ethiopian’s.  Home to Stelae fields where massive Obelisks over 1700 years old shoot dozens of metres into the sky, it’s a town of deeply religious roots and fascinating history.

Community Trekking

Spend 3 days community trekking through rural Tigray. The treks take across the plateaus of the Tigrayan highlands and into the valleys below. The views are breath-taking, and the treks are locally run meaning over half the money goes directly to the local community.

Gheralta

Explore the rock churches of Gheralta, including the famous Abuna Yemata Guh carved into the cliff face and accessible only via rock-climb. The views from the churches are stunning. Still in use by local Ethiopians, the churches are a testament to commitment to faith. Stay overnight at the wonderful Gheralta Lodge overlooking the Gheralta Mountains.

Lalibela

Discover the famous rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. These 13th Century architectural wonders have been called the eighth wonder of the world. 

Landmarks visited on Historic North Circuit and Community Trekking

Itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa

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. 

Activities: Sightseeing in Addis Ababa, Flight to Bahir Dar

Overnight: Blue Nile Resort


Day 2: Bahir Dar

After breakfast, take a boat trip out on to Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake. The lake is famous for its historic monasteries found on the lake’s many islands. Visit the churches of Azwa Mariam, Ura Kidane Mihret, Beti Mariam and Naga Sellasie. The lake attracts huge amounts of birdlife, including enormous flocks of Great White Pelicans. 

In the afternoon, transfer to Gorgora, a quiet and beautiful region just outside of Gondar. You’ll be staying at Tim and Kim Village, a charming, well run lodge in the middle of this peaceful landscape.  

Activities: Boat trip on Lake Tana, Explore the beautiful Gorgora region

Overnight: Tim and Kim Village


Day 3: Simien Mountains National Park

After breakfast at the lodge, drive to Gondar (30-40 minutes). Gondar was the capital of Gondar in times gone by, and the castles that once housed the country’s rules still stand today. 

After a quick visit of the castle compound and (time permitting) the stunning Debhre Birhan Selassie Church, continue your journey to the Simien Mountains National Park. 

You’ll soon arrive at the park HQ and the entrance town of Debark. Here, you’ll collect your entry permit, scout and guide. You’ll then be dropped at Geech Abyss where you’ll begin you Simien trek. 

Today you’ll walk from Geech Abyss to Geech campsite (6-7 hours). Panoramic views characterise the trail, and you’ll meet troops of curious Gelada Monkeys. Witness the staggering Jinbar Falls that plunger over 500 metres in the river below. 

Have lunch around Jinbar river before continuing your trek through barley fields and along the plateau edges. You’ll soon arrive at Geeck campsite that offers tremendous views over the mountains. Your cooking team will do you proud as you gather around the campfire for dinner before retreating to the warmth of the tents. 

Note: the trekking routes can be amended depending on your fitness/preferred activity levels. 

Activities: Trekking in the Simien Mountains (6-7 hours, moderate trek)

Overnight: Geech Campsite


Day 4: Simien Mountains National Park

Wake up to the views of the Simien Mountains and the smell of fresh Ethiopian coffee. 

Today’s trek takes us from Geech to Chennek, a 7-8 hour trek through endless fields of Giant Lobelia and towering cliffs. A highlight of the trail is the viewpoint at Imet Gogo (3926m). From this vantage point, the landscape extends miles into the horizon and you have 360 degree views of the Simien range. 

Climb to a peak altitude of 4070 metres where you’ll stop for lunch. Continue the trek to Chennek campsite. Chennek marks the end of the classic Simien trail, and is the best place to spot Walia Ibex. 

Note: the trekking routes can be amended depending on your fitness/preferred activity levels. 

Activities: Trekking in the Simien mountains (7-8 hours, moderate trek)

Overnight: Chennek Campsite


Day 5: 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. 

Activities: Sightseeing in Axum

Overnight: Sabean Hotel


Day 6: Community Trekking in Tigray

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. 

Activities: Sightseeing in Axum, community trekking in Tigray (1.5 hours)

Overnight: Erar Community Guesthouse


Day 7: Community Trekking in Tigray

As we continue our route through the sandstone cliffs of Tigray, we trek from Seheta in the valleys to Gohgot. Gohgot sits higher up in the cliffs, above the villages around Seheta but below the plateaus. The trek takes about 4 hours, and en route you can visit the local church of Gohgot Eyesus. 

Gohgot Community Guesthouse as great views into the valleys and low lying villages below. It’s a picturesque place and a great place to spend the afternoon relaxing. 

The starlight in this part of the country is stunning, so don’t forget to look up to spot the various celestial bodies shimmering brightly in the absence of any light pollution. Beers and other cold drinks are available, and you can spend the evening enjoying the beautiful view. 

Activities: Trek from Erar to Gohgot (~5 hours)

Overnight: Gohgot Community Guesthouse


Day 8: Community Trekking in Tigray

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. 

Activities: Trek from Gohgot to Shimbrety (~5 hours)

Overnight: Shimbrety Community Guesthouse


Day 9: Churches of Tigray and 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. 

Activities: Explore the rock-churches of Tigray and the sunset at Gheralta Lodge

Overnight: Gheralta Lodge


Day 10: Lalibela

After breakfast at the lodge, transfer to Lalibela. This is a full day drive that passes through a number of villages and beautiful landscapes. There’ll be plenty of stops along the way for photo opportunities and breaks. 

Evening at leisure in Lalibela. 

Activities: Drive from Gheralta Lodge to Lalibela

Overnight: Tukul Village Hotel


Day 11: Lalibela

Spend the day exploring the fascinating town of Lalibela, home to the world-renowned rock-hewn churches. A UNESCO World Heritage site, these churches date back to the 13th Century and earlier, and have often been called the ‘eight wonder of the world’. 

The churches are found in three clusters. Two main clusters are separated by the Jordon River, and the stunning Biete Giyorgis (Church of St George) stands alone to the west. The local guides are often priests who run daily services in the churches.

After exploring the churches, spend your final night in Ethiopia at leisure. We recommend a night at the incredible Ben Abeba restaurant – dinner with a view!

Activities: Explore the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

Overnight: Tukul Village Hotel


Day 12: Addis Ababa

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 two travellers. Per person price decreases with group size. 

Includes

  • Domestic flights based on 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. All meals included on community trek. 
  • 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.

Excludes

  • 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.

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