10 Days North - The Historical Route
Early in the morning, depart north to Bahir Dar via Debre Markos. On the way visit the Portuguese bridge, said to have been the first bridge in Ethiopia. Afterwards, you will pass through the spectacular Blue Nile Gorge. The gorge extends nearly 400km and reaches depths up to 1500m. Overnight in Bahir Dar (hotel).
In the morning, take a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the island monasteries, such as those on the Zege Peninsula and Kibran Gabriel (not allowed for women), and the source of the Blue Nile River. In the afternoon, drive out to the Blue Nile Falls for a short hike in the area. Finish the day with the sunset over the lake. Overnight in Bahir Dar (hotel).
After breakfast, continue north to Gondar. The four-hour drive will take you through rural villages, offering wonderful insight into the Amhara culture. After briefly settling in your hotel, explore the sites of Gondar, including a visit to the Royal Enclosure, with six castles and several other buildings. Additionally, visit Fasilidas’s Pool, still used for Timket celebrations today, and the Debre Birhan Selassie church, with the most famous ceiling in Ethiopia. Overnight in Gondar (hotel).
Early morning, depart north for Axum, enjoying spectacular views of the Simien Mountains. After stopping for lunch in Adi Arkay, proceed driving through the dramatic Tekeze Valley, offering some of the best landscapes in the country. Proceed to Axum, home of the ancient Axumite Empire, the Queen of Sheba, and the Ark of the Covenant. Overnight in Axum (hotel).
Today will be a full day visiting the sites of Axum, including the famous obelisks (one that was recently erected after being returned from Italy), the Queen of Sheba’s Bath (which supplies water to Axum year-round), King Bazen’s tomb, and the Queen of Sheba’s Palace. You can also visit the St. Mary of Zion church, where the Ark of the Covenant is kept. Men only are allowed to enter the old church. Unfortunately, no one (except one specially chosen guardian monk) is allowed to enter the chapel where the Ark is kept. Overnight in Axum (hotel).
After breakfast, drive to visit the ruins of Yeha, dating from the 8th to 5th centuries BC, and thought to be the capital of Ethiopian civilization before Axum. Afterwards, visit the Debre Damo monastery, where the men (sorry! No women allowed.) must climb up a 15-m rope to enter. Proceed through the state of Tigray, stopping en-route at Wukro to visit the rock-hewn church of Chirkos. Overnight in Mekele (hotel).
Early in the morning, embark on a full day of driving to Lalibela. Here you will pass through several small villages, with typical sandstone homes of the Tigray people. Proceed through this rural area for the stunning approach to the home of Ethiopia’s most prized destination – Lalibela. Overnight in Lalibela (hotel).
In the morning, start your tour of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, visiting the Northwestern Cluster of churches - Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel, Bet Mikael & Bet Golgotha (entry not permitted for women). After lunch, continue with the Southeastern Cluster of churches – Bet Gabriel-Rufael, Bet Merkorios, Bet Amanual, and Bet Abba Libanos. Finally, you will visit the most famous of all the churches – Bet Giyorgis, constructed in honor of the patron saint of Ethiopia – Saint George. Overnight in Lalibela (hotel).
Early in the morning, drive to Kombolcha via Woldia, on the way visiting the lake in the town of Hayk, where you can visit the local monastery and enjoy the birdlife. Overnight in Kombolcha (hotel).
Return driving to Addis via Debre Birhan. On the way you pass the Mezezo Escarpment, with a good chance to see the endemic gelada baboons. If today is a Sunday, you can stop in the town of Senbete to visit the lively market including the interesting camel market.