Timket on the Plateaus

Experience the colourful Timket festival along the sweeping plateaus of rural Amhara on a community trek. Continue your adventure through the classic northern circuit where you'll discover ancient monuments from bygone civilisations, diverse wildlife, incredible views and wonderful people.

16 Days

$3,360

Timket on the Plateaus - 16 - $3,360

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Introduction:

Our Timkat on the Plateaus adventure combines community trekking in Lalibela and Tigray with luxury lodges in the Simien Mountains and an exploration of the ancient cities and towns of northern Ethiopia. Experience the colourful Timkat festival (January 19th, one of the largest celebrations on the Ethiopian calendar, on the highlands around Lalibela during a community trek. A truly unique way of experiencing the festival. 

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, head up into the highlands around Lalibela for your first taste of the wonderful community trekking in rural Amhara. These are among our personal favourite experiences in the country and involve meditative walks through rural Ethiopia and overnights at simple but charming guest houses perched on the plateau edge. The views from the plateau are extraordinary, the starlight in this part of the country is amazing, and the combination of the views, treks, and local hospitality mean the community treks will stat with you forever. If this wasn't enough, if you travel on the dates suggested below you can experience the Timkat festival during your community trek. 
  • 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. You base yourself at the stunning Limalimo Lodge overlooking the beautiful Simien range. Limalimo is one of the best properties in Ethiopia, combining incredible views with beautiful design and unmatched service. The perfect spot for sundowners by the roaring fire after a days exploring!
  • 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 Timket on the Plateaus

Itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa, 17th January 2021

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.


Accommodation: Capital Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Many available, Capital Hotel best value for money top end hotel. Enquire for details. 

Meals: None


Day 2: Community Trekking in Wollo, 18th January 2021

After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for the 08:00 flight to Lalibela. Upon landing and collecting your luggage, leave the airport to meet your driver to begin the 2 hour drive to the trailhead at Istayish, the starting point to your community trek. Begin the walk to Aina Amba, a gentle walk through the countryside (~1 hour). Upon arrival, you will be welcomed with fresh coffee and snacks, and you can spend the afternoon exploring the local area. 

The Timkat celebrations begin today, and the starlight in this part of the country is magnificent. Spend the evening spotting the shooting stars and getting to know the locals who run the guesthouses over a beer (other drinks available!)


Accommodation: Aina Amba Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 3: Community Trekking in Wollo, 19th January 2021

Celebrate Timket at Aina Amba. In the morning, the villagers gather, waters are sprinkled on the participants, who are then invited to renew their baptismal vows by immersing themselves in water.  The remainder of the day is spent in celebration, culminating in a colorful procession during which the Tabots are escorted back to Aina Amba Giorgis churches. The many-hued robes and umbrellas of the clergy illuminate the scene with unforgettable colours, which move about as the participants perform joyous dances and songs; children run about shouting and playing with sticks and games. 


Accommodation: Aina Amba Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 4: Community Trekking in Wollo, 20th January 2021

After a good breakfast, say goodbye to Aina Amba and take to the trail for a 3 hour walk to the lunch stop at Waro Mikael. The trail is mostly flat, following the escarpment edge to the lunch stop. In the afternoon, continue for 3-4 hours along mostly flatland across the plateau to arrive at the village of Boya Mikael.

The Timkat celebrations continue today, so spend the evening celebrating with the Boya community. 


Accommodation: Boya Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 5: Lalibela, 21st January 2021

Today marks the end of your community trekking experience in Wollo. In the morning, head to the trailhead from Boya to meet your driver who will transfer you 2 hours to central Lalibela.

Spend the afternoon exploring this magical town and the rock-hewn churches for which it's famous. In the evening, we recommend dinner at the incredible Ben Abeba restaurant - dinner with a view!


Accommodation: Tukul Village Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Mezena Lodge, Maribela Hotel, Ben Abeba Hotel 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 6: Lalibela, 22nd January 2021

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. 


Accommodation: Tukul Village Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Mezena Lodge, Maribela Hotel, Ben Abeba Hotel 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 7: Gondar, 23rd January 2021

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 churches heavy and unassuming stone facade hides the colourful frescoes inside. Look above to find a ceiling of angels looking down on you - this centuries old church it was of the only churches in Gondar to survive destruction during Gondar's turbulent history. 

Spend the night at Goha Hotel, one of the best accommodation options in Gondar with beautiful views overlooking the city. 


Accommodation: Goha Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Gondar Hills Resort (Goha Hotel comparable to Gondar Hills Resort) 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 8: Gondar, 24th January 2021

Spend the day exploring Gondar. 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 the these ancient structures, you will notice multiple architectural styles jostling for position, including Indian, Portugese, Moorish and Axumite. It's a testatment to the age and history of this place. 


Accommodation: Goha Hotel

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Gondar Hills Resort (Goha Hotel comparable to Gondar Hills Resort) 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 9: Simien Mountains National Park, 25th January 2021

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, aesthetic 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 into the beauty of the Simien Mountains. Explore around the lodge via some of the parks self-treks that give you an introduction to the beauty of the Simien range. Head back to the lodge for dinner by the roaring fire. 


Accommodation: Limalimo Lodge

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch Dinner


Day 10: Simien Mountains National Park, 26th January 2021

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!


Accommodation: Limalimo Lodge

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch Dinner


Day 11: Axum, 27th January 2021

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 in the views!

Spend the evening at leisure in Axum. 


Accommodation: Sabean Hotel

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

Meals: Breakfast


Day 12: Axum, 28th January 2021

Explore the city of Axum. Visit the archaeological sites, the massive 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 modern and Gonderine churches.

Evening at leisure in Axum. 

Brilliant says: you might want to consider reducing your time in Axum to just 1 night, and adding a night at Gheralta Lodge or Korkor Lodge in Tigray at the end of your trip. Enquire for details. 


Accommodation: Sabean Hotel

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

Meals: Breakfast


Day 13: Community Trekking in Tigray, 29th January 2021

This morning you take to the hills again with a return to the rural communities for part 2 of your community trekking in Ethiopia.

 Our driver will pick you up from the hotel and drive to a trailhead Rahya to start the trek. Rahya to Erar is a 90 min ridge walk and below is the Mariam Kiat Church and lush village well worth a visit. The round trip takes about 3-4 hours. The guest house is a 90 minute walk further south along the same escarpment ridge from Rahya. 

Once again you will be welcomed with fresh coffee and snacks. Get to know the locals and enjoy dinner with them around the roaring fire. 


Accommodation: Erar Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 14: Community Trekking in Tigray, 30th January 2021

Wake up to stunning views at the guesthouse and fresh coffee. Begin the 4 hour walk to Shimbrety, explore the rock tunnel and see the Mariam Buzzuhan church en route. Stop for lunch at Shimbrety guesthouse with magnificent views and spend the afternoon exploring Shimbrety village.


Accommodation: Shimbrety Community Guesthouse

Accommodation Upgrade Options: N/A. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 15: Tigray, 31st January 2021

After breakfast over the stunning views, leave the Tigrayan cliffs behind and head to Gheralta Lodge to close out your trip with a wonderful view over the Gheralta Mountains.

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 end to your adventure.

Brilliant says: extending your stay at Gheralta Lodge by a night or two works well to take some of the pace out of the itinerary and make for a relaxing end to your adventure. 


Accommodation: Gheralta Lodge

Accommodation Upgrade Options: Korkor Lodge

Meals: Breakfast


Day 16: Tigray, 1st February 2021

As your adventure in Ethiopia comes to a close, transfer to Mekele airport (visit some of the remaining rock churches en route) 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. 

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.
  • Airport transfers and road transport by private minibus.
  • Accommodation based on a shared twin room.
  • Meal plan bed and breakfast. Full board at Limalimo and during community treks.
  • Fees for entrances, local guides and compulsory scouts for activities mentioned in the itinerary.
  • All government taxes for the services included in the tour price.

Excludes

  • International flights and visa fees.
  • Lunches and dinners, unless stated as included above.
  • Activities not mentioned or stated as optional in the itinerary.
  • Fees for photos and video.
  • Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc.

Questions about this Trip?