North Ethiopia: History, Trekking and Danakil Depression Tour 18 days

Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Axum and Lalibela are historical routes in North Ethiopia dominating the history of Ethiopia and are the highlights of this extraordinary tour to northern Ethiopia.

In this category Exploriada is pleased to add a trekking trip to Simien Mountains: with the highest pick in Ethiopia and hiking expedition to the lowest & hottest place on earth in Afar district: Danakil Depression. Gonder castles, Lalibela churches, Axum city and Semien Mountains National Park are registered as the world heritage sites by UNESCO.

Duration: Tour 18 days overland or 16 days overland + night time flight to Addis

Day 1 Addis Ababa - Blue Nile Gorge - Bahir Dar

Leave Addis Ababa for Bahir Dar town driving 525 km with the possibility of stopover at Portuguese bridge - the first bridge in Ethiopia made over river Nile and have a glance of Blue Nile Gorge.

Overnight: Bahir Dar – hotel

Day 2 Lake Tana & monasteries

Head to Lake Tana identifying the Abay river path by its muddier water compared to the waters of Tana. Harbor at 3 of the 37 island monasteries and explore the Ethiopian Orthodox church treasures of Holy Icons and admire the church as it is the main habitat for Ethiopian biodiversity, birdlife and aquatic animals including hippo are easily seen there. Finish the day with the sunset over the lake.

Overnight: Baihr Dar – hotel

Day 3 Blue Nile Falls - Falashas

Drive 30 km to the town of Tis Abay that means ”Smoking Abay (Nile river)” to see the gigantic Blue Nile waterfall. It becomes 400 meter wide in rainy season. Drive to Gonder town. Visit black Jewish (Falashas) town near Gonder.

Overnight: Gonder – hotel

Day 4 Gondar

Full day wander in Gonder town visitng the UNESCO registered world wonders of royal castles with the bath of king Fasiledes. After lunch break walk to Debre Berhan Selasie church known by its roof paintings and the Qusquam St. Mary complex.

Overnight: Gonder – hotel

Day 5 Siemien Mountains

Drive 100 Km to Debark town to base for hiking in Semien Mountains on the next day(s). Drive to the first camp site Sanka Ber Satre see the sceneries, wildlife and birds.

Overnight: Sankaber – camping/ lodges

Day 6 Siemien Mountains

Drive to Chenek and then trek to Buhait Ras. Observe the endemic animal Walia Ibex and Gelada baboon with their outstanding habitat.

Overnight: Second camping site – Chenek – camping

Day 7 Siemen & Axum

Drive to Axum city from Debark heading over the Zigzag escarpment of Semien Mountain, viewing the amazing scenery of limalimo and the valley of Tekeze River.

Overnight: Axum – hotel

Day 8 Axum

Full day visit the town of Axum stelae field with the museum that tells you from the ancient Ethiopian history to present, you see Stone Inscription of King Ezana that states how the king and people converted to Christianity in the 4th Century and his successors tomb of Kaleb and Gebre Meskel in the 6th century are default places to visit with the archeological sites. After lunch break continue visit to St. Mary cathedral museum and the Sheba Palace and swimming pool.

Overnight: Axum – hotel

Day 9 Debre Damo - Mekele

Morning drive to Mekelle capital city of Tigray region your base to hike to Danakil Depression for next day(s). On the way divert 5 km to visit the Debre Damo monastery (only men), climb a rope to reach the monastery dated back to the 6th century, after lunch detour to Yeha small settlement to visit the 5th century B.C pagan temple dedicated to moon.

Overnight: Mekelle – hotel

Day 10 Danakil: Dallol & salt mines

Start Expedition to Afar Danakil Depression from Mekelle via Korem early in the morning. This day is a special day in your life to sink in -130 meter below sea level surface a place called Dallol. It is the hottest place on earth. On the way surprisingly see half dressed men extracting salts in the desert and visit different colors of minerals bubbling out.

Overnight: Hamdale – camping

Day 11 Danakil: Erta Ale

Afar Danakil Depression - day two expedition is to Erta'ale volcano. After you arrive near Erta'ale stretch your tents and walk in the middle of nowhere only you feel sandy wind in a very hot temperature. At night time the view of the volcanic lake standing on the rim of the well is astonishing breath taking, see the exploding volcano and returns to the well before reaching the well, again and again molten lava temperature inside the well is over 3000 degree centigrade.

Overnight: camping

Day 12 Danakil: Lake Afdera

Continue excursion to Lake Afdera Ethiopians' unfinished source of salt. Attend Afari people extracting salt and watch salt caravans. On your way take the picture of the landscape of sulfur, phosphate minerals, blue, white, yellow and other colors in between make it colorful planet on earth. Return back to Erta’ale to admire again the volcanic lake in the evening.

Overnight: camping

Day 13 Danakil: Berhale

Drive back to Mekelle town. Stop over Barhalie town of Afar tribe. It is the place of market in the region heading to Mekelle town of the Tigray people.

Overnight: Mekelle – hotels

Day 14 Mekele

Drive to Mekelle town after the amazing nomadic inhospitable area of Afar. Mekelle awaits you the lovely food that you had missed in the dessert, city tour in Mekelle and around Mekelle.

Overnight: Mekelle – hotels

Day 15 Lalibela

Drive to Lalibela town of churches carved from rock in the 12th Century. Visit the first half of the 11 churches in the afternoon.

Day 16 Lalibela

Finish visiting the remaining rock hewn churches and transfer to airport to fly back to Addis on the way to airport visit the cave monastery of Nakuto’leab in Lalibela and end the visit in Ethiopia attending Ethiopian cultural music traditional food and drink at Yod Abyssinia Traditional restaurant close to the air port in Addis Ababa.

Overnight: Addis Ababa – Bole Airport to return back to your country.

Or Overnight: Lalibela – hotel

Day 17 Desse

Drive to Addis Ababa via Desse from Lalibela over land and stay one night in Desse town to head to Addis the next day visiting Ayteyef Museum in Desse in the afternoon.

Overnight: Desse – hotel

Day 18 Addis Ababa

Drive to Addis Ababa, go shopping and end the visit in Ethiopia attending Ethiopian cultural music & traditional food and drink at Yod Abyssinia traditional restaurant close to the air port in Addis Ababa. Then fly back home or

Overnight: Addis Ababa – hotel

Tour highlights

Country: Ethiopia

Duration: 18 days

Available for: Students,Adults,Seniors

Guide speaks: English
* Other languages possible on request

  • Gondar
  • Gonder
  • Danakil
  • Dallol
  • Lalibela
  • Simien
  • Blue Nile
  • Debre Damo
  • Monasteries
  • Lake Tana
  • Erta'Ale

Our clients say:

I did a15-day private tour (just a friend and I) of the Northern historical circuit with Afrotours in December-January 2013/14. Afro Tours did a really great job in customizing the trip to our particular interests, preferences for accommodation and budget. A real differentiator between them and other tours I've been on is that they were flexible in real time - When illness struck, we spent an unexpectedly long time in one place or just wanted to slow down a bit, they were totally willing to change the schedule and accommodations. Both the guide and driver were very knowledgeable, experienced, spoke wonderful English and gave good advice. In addition, having checked with several other tour operators, Afro Tours gave us significantly better pricing. All in all it was a great experience, and I would recommend them to anyone going to Ethiopia!
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