Contact Us

Ethiopia: Northern Explorer

Group Tour

13 Days From €4,228

Overview

This is a great itinerary that visits the best of the historical northern circuit whilst offering a few additional hidden treasures as well.

Starting our tour in Addis we will fly north to Mekele and drive through the Eastern Tigray region, one of the most visually stunning parts of the whole country, to visit a number of the impressive rock-hewn churches on the way. With some time to visit the sites of the ancient capital of Axum via Yeha, we continue to the stunning Simien Mountains ...

Read More

HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

12 x Breakfasts
13 x Lunches
12 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

On this tour we will use a mini bus, a boat, internal flights and your own two feet!

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ACCOMMODATION

As an overall ethos and wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip.

On this tour we will stay in a variety of hotels, lodges & community owned guesthouses. These are chosen based on location or the quality of the rooms, but please note that an open mind will be very much appreciated as the hot water and the Wi-Fi won’t necessarily work all of the time – this is Ethiopia! Whilst on the TESFA trek you will stay in basic huts, where you will be between three to four to a room with shared facilities.

Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Moderate / High

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE/HIGH: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-4hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-5 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

VERY HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 5-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

Ethiopia: Northern Explorer
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ADDIS ABABA

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ADDIS ABABA

Meeting at our hotel this morning, there will be time to relax and freshen up before having lunch and an orientation tour around Ethiopia’s bustling capital, including the Trinity Cathedral, the National Museum and the Mercato, the biggest open-air market in Africa. In the evening we’ll have an early dinner back at our hotel in preparation for the trip ahead.

Capital Hotel or similar
Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: ADDIS ABABA - MEKELE - NORTH EAST TIGRAY REGION

DAY 2: ADDIS ABABA - MEKELE - NORTH EAST TIGRAY REGION

A morning flight takes us to Mekele from where we’ll drive north to our lodge. En route we will explore some of this fascinating region of Ethiopia, which is home to the stunning rock-hewn churches of Tigray. We will get the chance to discover Wukro Chirkos church, a crooked cruciform sandstone church, which is semi-monolithic and believed to have been created during the 4th century. From here we can continue on to the rock-hewn church of Abreha Atsbeha, considered among the country's earliest churches and architecturally one of its finest. Enjoying the dramatic scenery of the Northern Tigray region we then complete our journey to our lodge.

Agoro Lodge or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: IN & AROUND NORTH EAST TIGRAY REGION

DAY 3: IN & AROUND NORTH EAST TIGRAY REGION

Today we will visit two of Ethiopia's most striking churches, known for their unique location and stunning views. Miriam and Daniel Korkor are rock hewn churches located in the heart of the Gheralta Mountains. These unique churches are found in splendid isolation on remote rocky outcrops and involve a strenuous (but highly rewarding!) walk up to reach them, taking around 2hrs to climb up. Taking our time and enjoying the magnificent views as we work our way slowly up the escarpment, at the top we are not only rewarded with the epic vistas but also a wealth of 17th century paintings and church treasures. After enjoying some time exploring the two churches, we can begin our descent, which will take around an hour back down to the main road.

Agoro Lodge or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: NORTH EAST TIGRAY REGION - YEHA - AXUM

DAY 4: NORTH EAST TIGRAY REGION - YEHA - AXUM

After breakfast we’ll turn west to Axum, stopping en route at the Yemeni influenced Yeha temple (also known as the temple of the Moon from the 5th century BC). On arrival in Axum, a town steeped in more than 2,500 years of history, we’ll visit some of the key sites such as the palace and tomb of King Kaleb, the extraordinary stelae field (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the tomb of King Remhay, and the church of St Mary of Tsion, in which the Ark of Covenant is allegedly hiding! Depending on time we will also visit the Queen of Sheba’s Palace (if not the following morning).

Sabean Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: AXUM - THE SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

DAY 5: AXUM - THE SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Our journey continues south west to the Simien Mountains National Park, stopping for lunch en route. The scenery along this route is truly breath-taking and there will be time for photo stops along the way. On arrival to the Simiens there should be time for a leisurely walk in the nearby area where with some luck we'll get to see some of the wildlife the park is known for, including lammergeier vultures, Gelada baboons and bushback.

Lima Limo Lodge or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: IN THE SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

DAY 6: IN THE SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Today we’ll have a full day to explore the stunning landscapes the National Park is renowned for. Taking a picnic lunch with us we’ll walk along the escarpment taking in the exceptional views. Without doubt we’ll get to spend some time observing the Gelada baboons and if we’re lucky we might get to see the elusive walia ibex.

Lima Limo Lodge or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK - GONDER

DAY 7: SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK - GONDER

Leaving the mountains behind our next stop is Gonder, where we’ll visit the key sites of the ancient capital including the Debre Birhan Selassie church (Light of Trinity) with its wonderful murals. We’ll also visit the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its medieval castles, architecturally unique and unlike anything else found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Goha Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: GONDER - LALIBELA

DAY 8: GONDER - LALIBELA

This morning we will catch a flight to Lalibela, arriving late morning. This isolated town, situated high up in the Lasta Mountains, is famous throughout the world for its incredible rock hewn churches. At 2,630m and perched among wild mountains, the setting is fantastic. From the 10th to the mid-13th century it was the capital of the Zagwe Dynasty that ruled the country and it was under the direction of its most famous King, Lalibela, that the churches were carved. He gathered together the greatest craftsmen possible and some estimate as many as 40,000 people were required to create the churches. This incredible group of monuments consists of six churches to the north and five churches to the south, and the churches are linked by a series of rock hewn tunnels similar to catacombs. After settling into our hotel and enjoying an early lunch, this afternoon we'll visit the first cluster of UNESCO World Heritage Site churches, included the famous church of St. George, or Bete Giyorgis, carved in the shape of a cross from the red tuff. For dinner we hope to pay a visit to a local family for a traditional coffee ceremony and the chance to see how a real Ethiopian family live.

Maribela Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: IN & AROUND LALIBELA

DAY 9: IN & AROUND LALIBELA

After breakfast we’ll drive up into the mountains to visit the wonderful Yemrehana Kristos cave church, situated about 40km from Lalibela. Set at an altitude of 2,700m and protected by an unflattering wall, Yemrehana Kristos is an old built-up church within a large cavern and is a particularly fine example of late Axumite architecture, with a cruciform carved window and an etched wood-panel roof. It's a short hike up to the church but well worth the visit and the scenery en route is spectacular. With lunch back in Lalibela, this afternoon we'll visit the second cluster of staggering rock hewn churches. In the evening we'll take a trip to a tej house to sample the local liquor, followed by dinner at a traditional restaurant.

Maribela Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAYS 10 - 11: LALIBELA - TESFA TREK

DAYS 10 - 11: LALIBELA - TESFA TREK

This is sure to be a real highlight of the trip and is an opportunity not currently offered by any other UK tour operator (as far as we are aware!) Driving to the start point we undertake a fascinating walk visiting local communities and staying in traditional villages. Please note that depending on the overall group size it may be necessary to divide in to two groups – in an attempt to minimise the impact our presence may have in these communities. It will also allow for a more personal and intimate experience for everyone. Both groups will visit the same villages (but in a different order), meeting up at the start, middle and end. Most walking is at around 3,000m and as everyone should be fully acclimatised by now, anyone of reasonable fitness should be fine with it. The walks vary in length from 4-7 hours with the emphasis being very much on seeing the people and countryside rather than rushing through.

Specially constructed huts (tukuls) with shared facilities
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: TESFA TREK - BAHIR DAR

DAY 12: TESFA TREK - BAHIR DAR

After a final morning walk to the trail-head we will be picked up and driven west to Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana. Here we’ll have the chance to freshen up in our rooms before dinner.

Blue Nile Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13: TOUR ENDS IN BAHIR DAR

DAY 13: TOUR ENDS IN BAHIR DAR

This morning we’ll drive to Tisissat to visit the Blue Nile falls. Here the waterfall plunges 45 metres down before continuing its journey to join the White Nile in Khartoum. After taking in views of Tis Abay (Smoke of the Nile) from a classic vantage point we’ll take a beautiful walk via the base of the falls and a short boat trip across the river back to Tisissat. Heading back towards Bahir Dar we’ll board a boat and take a trip out on to Lake Tana, visiting a highly distinctive monastery found there replete with some truly spectacular frescoes. The tour ends late this afternoon, and those on the suggested group flights will be transferred to Bahir Dar airport in time for their return flight to Addis.

Please be aware that the flow of water at the falls is significantly reduced due to a hydro-electric plant. We therefore have no way of knowing the size of the falls in advance. Despite this a visit still makes for an enjoyable excursion from Bahir Dar, whatever the level of water.

Breakfast, Lunch

ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR

Premium

Excellent standards without the big price tag

Simple

No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Mid-Range

Good quality service and overall comfort

Mid-Range

Good quality service and overall comfort

Mid-Range

Good quality service and overall comfort

Premium

Excellent standards without the big price tag

Mid-Range

Good quality service and overall comfort

Mid-Range

Good quality service and overall comfort

Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

Additional Details

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. For more information, please see our responsible travel page.

Promoting Gender Quality

In 2020 Wild Frontiers is sponsoring the Gondar Girls’ Football Team. The team initiative, set up by partners Link Ethiopia, promotes gender quality, builds confidence, and develops the leadership skills of girls aged 13 to 16. Training twice a week, it also provides opportunities for girls to move beyond the limitations of traditional gender roles in a fun, safe environment and develop a supportive network of friends, while improving their physical fitness.

The programme also runs regular sessions for the 20 girls on puberty, sexual health, family planning, and the right over their bodies, along with providing menstrual hygiene management kits.

Supporting Education in Ethiopia

The Wild Frontiers Foundation is proud to support Camara, an international charity and social enterprise that uses technology to deliver 21st century skills to improve education in disadvantaged communities around the world.

In 2012, with £2500 initial funding from the foundation, Camara was able to install 25 recycled computers, loaded with educational software, and create a new E Learning Centre at Aba’ala Secondary School in the remote Afar region of northern Ethiopia. Teachers from the school have also been trained in basic digital literacy skills, simple hardware maintenance and how to use computers to teach other subjects.

In 2015 we sponsored our second school with a further £2500 to establish an e-learning classroom at the Bruh Tesfa Primary School, in Addis Ababa. These students now have access to affordable technology and are learning new skills to improve their education and ultimately gain better future employment.

We are continuing to raise money to install more e-learning centres in other Ethiopian schools.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
ET 701 London Heathrow (LHR) 20:15 Addis Ababa Airport (ADD) 07:00
ET 147 Bahar Dar Airport (BJR) 20:00 Addis Ababa Airport (ADD) 21:05
ET 700 Addis Ababa Airport (ADD) 01:20 London Heathrow (LHR) 06:35

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for Ethiopia.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Harar

For a completely different side of Ethiopia, why not visit the walled city of Harar – Islam’s 4th holiest city. This fascinating city is famous for its qat market, ornately decorated traditional houses, vibrant mix of local people (including Afars & Somalis), historical links with Richard Burton, and the ‘hyena man’ who feeds wild hyenas outside the city walls each night - this extension is the perfect complement to a trip to the predominantly Christian northern highlands! Allow for 3-4 nights.

Omo Valley

Visit one of the most culturally diverse regions in Ethiopia, home to several unique and fascinating tribes. Allow for 12-15 days.

The Great African Rift Valley

For nature lovers, this extension to one of Africa’s predominant geological features gives you the opportunity for some great bird watching and relaxing on the shores of beautiful Lake Langano. Allow for 3-4 days.

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information

CLIMATE

In terms of the heat the temperature is fairly consistent all year round. The only real change is in rainfall. As our trips go between the end of the long rains (September) and the beginning of the short ones (May) this should not be a problem. During the day the temperature usually hovers around the mid 20’s (C) falling to an overnight low of 6-8C. However when at higher altitude the evenings will feel a bit colder.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities are optional. However, please note that there will be some long days in the car and when visiting some of the sights you will be on your feet walking around.

Please be advised that on this trip vegetarians can be easily catered for, but we will need to know of any dietary requirements before departure.

For the TESFA walk you will be walking at altitudes of around 3,000m, walking up to 15-20km on one day, of which there are periods where you will be walking over uneven rocky paths, so you will need to bring footwear that supports your ankles. The walking however is mostly on the flat and we can take our time to cross the rocky areas. The walking should be within the capabilities of anyone with a reasonable level of fitness but you should ensure that you’re in good shape before departing for your trip in order to get the most out of it. If you’re unsure about your fitness, horses can be hired for the duration of the walk (for a small fee) for which you don’t need to have much riding experience. If you are unsure about your level of fitness please contact the office.

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.

On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour except whilst on the TESFA trek. Here you will share Tukul huts with others on the trip (typically 3 or 4 people to a hut). In addition we can’t guarantee a single room at Lima Limo Lodge and Gheralta Lodge (although we will do our best to get you a single room at these 2 places).

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Standard policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £200 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking. 

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 7318 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

INSPIRATION

60 SECOND GUIDE TO ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia is an undiscovered gem. Home to one of the oldest Christian civilisations in the world, it has an archaeological pedigree to match any and a cultural and natural diversity that can compare w…

REVIEWS OF THIS TRIP