Route #2- 13 Days northern Ethiopia
Order of the days might change according to groups leaving and hotels availability. Hotels might change as well.
Day 1: Arrive in Addis 5:40/14:40, Fly to Bahirdar.
After settling at the hotel, 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. Overnight in Solyana hotel, Bahirdar.
Day 2: After an early breakfast, take a drive out to the Blue Nile Falls area for a short hike to view the falls.
The Blue Nile Falls is a waterfall on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. It is known as Tis Abay in Amharic, meaning “smoking water”. It is situated on the upper course of the river, about 30 km downstream from the town of Bahir Dar and Lake Tana. The falls are considered one of Ethiopia’s best known tourist attractions. The falls are estimated to be between 37 and 45 meters high, consisting of four streams that originally varied from a trickle in the dry season to over 400 meters wide in the rainy season. Regulation of Lake Tana now reduces the variation somewhat, and since 2003 a hydro-electric station has taken much of the flow out of the falls except during the rainy season. The Blue Nile Falls isolate the ecology of Lake Tana from the ecology of the rest of the Nile, and this isolation has played a role in the evolution of the endemic fauna of the lake.
A short distance downstream from the falls sits the first stone bridge constructed in Ethiopia, built at the command of Emperor Susenyos in 1626. According to Manuel de Almeida, stone for making lime had been found nearby along the tributary Alata, and a craftsman who had come from India with Afonso Mendes, the Catholic Patriarch of Ethiopia, supervised the construction.
After hiking, drive to Gondar. Overnight in Florida hotel, Gondar.
Day 3: Drive from Gondar to Debark. Here we obtain a permit from the Park headquarters and collect our obligatory scout before continuing to Sankabar (3250m ASL) for the first overnight camp. An early start is needed as the drive from Gondar takes 2-3 hours. The trek begins at Buytras (Simien Lodge), taking about 3 – 4 hours to walk to the Sankabar campsite is usually possible. During the walk there’s a good chance of seeing your first Gelada baboons.
Day 4: In the morning of day 2, we will walk to Geech via the spectacular Jinbar waterfall. The trek will take approximately 5 – 7 hours. After descending down to the Jinbar Wenz (which feeds the waterfall) a short ascent remains to Geech village. A short distance beyond Geech village is the camp site. The camp site has great views of the mountains and is characterized by giant lobelia plants. The nearby Kedadit summit provides one of the best places to see the sun set. The camp site is situated at 3600m ASL.
Day 5: We trek from Geech to the Imet Gogo promontory, for one of the most spectacular views in the whole mountain range. This is a great day for seeing the magnificent Lammergeier vultures. From Imet Gogo we trek back to the road near a village called Ambaras and meet the car for the drive to Axum. The trek will last approximately 4-5 hours.
Day 6: you will visit three churches; Abuna Yemata Guh; Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor. All of which are very different in style but stunningly beautiful in their own way.
For visiting Abuna Yemata Guh, we walk for about an hour to commence a steep ascent up the side of the Gheralta massif. This steep ascent soon turn into a climb using foot holds and hand holds chipped into the sandstone rock by the passage of many hands and feet. The climb and the walk along very narrow ledges with sheer drops to the side is not one for the faint hearted. The church itself can be reached by walking out on a ledge one meter wide and with a 200m drop to the left hand side. At the entrance there is a small cave and a wooden door built into the rock.
Of the three, Maryam Korkor is the most impressive architecturally. A huge, high ceiling is supported by 12 free standing pillars. Looking at it you could not help but wonder how the architect managed to carve so high from the ground. Overnight in Brana hotel, Axum.
Day 7: short visit via your drive from Axum to Mekele: Over 125 rock-hewn churches are recorded in Tigray alone. These churches date from the 4th-15th century. Most of them lie scattered around the Gera-Alta mountain chain.
From Axum, Drive and Visit the 2,500 years-old ruins of Yeha, an ancient moon temple. Continue past Adigrat and visit Wukro Cherckos: rock-hewn church, on a knoll of red rock. The church is supposed to have been constructed by the two kings Abreha and Asbeha in the 4th century. The upper part of the wool and the ceilings were painted, but now much is destroyed. Nevertheless, a good impression of the decoration can be gained. According to the priests, the church was burned down by the Judaic Queen Gudit in the 10th century, who destroyed many Christian monuments and also toppled the Axum stele as the Axumite kingdom came to an end. Overnight in Yordanos hotel, Mekele.
Day 8: We start our day by driving from Mekele to Erta Ale (which means smoky mountain in Afar language). Erta Ale ranks one of the most alluring and physically challenging natural attractions anywhere in Ethiopia. It is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30 km and 1km square caldera at its summit. Erta Ale contains the world’s only permanent lava lake. It is 613 meters, with a lava lake, one of only five in the world, at the summit. It is notable for being the longest existing lava lake, present since the early years of the twentieth century.
We start early 9:00 AM, drive to Dodom (at the base of Erta Ale). This is may be one of the roughest roads in the world. The 80 km distance may take about 6 hrs passing through changing landscape of solidified lava, rock, sand and occasional palm lined oasis. After passing several small hamlets scattered here and there in this deserted land, you will arrive to Dodom camping site, located about 17km from Erta Ale.
Dinner will be served around 17:00 o’clock. After a short break, trek up to Erta Ale at 20:00 hours. Camels will be transporting all the camping materials and some food (sleeping materials like light mattresses and mat and water) to the rim of the volcano, where we spend the night watching the dramatic action of the boiling lava. You will spend the night on top of the mountain, at the rim of the Volcano.
Day 9: Early Morning sun rise at the northern one corresponds to the main pit crater and walk 5 minutes for the southern and central pits could either corresponds to an ancient pit, or to a simple collapse structure. The main pit-crater, 200 m deep and 350 m across, is sub circular and three storied. The smaller southern pit is 65 m wide and about 100 m deep. Descend from Erta Ale around 9 am Dodom – Leave back to Dodom after an early breakfast, if possible at 07:00 o’clock.
You will reach latest at 10:30 o’clock at the camp, where you will be relaxing. As soon as possible, drive to reach the mythical Lake Giulietti (or Lake Afrera) (optional may not be available during summer time), a salt water lake located more than100 meters below sea level, in one of the deepest depressions of the planet. Because of the picturesque landscape, it is interesting to visit the salt flats where the Afar people obtain the salt by evaporating the water of the lake, continue to Erbiti and proceed Abaala/ Hamedela.
Day 10: Morning tour Drive to Ragad (Asebo), the place where the localities are mining salt. Look the activity of workers breaking salts from the ground, cutting in to rectangular pieces and loading on camels. You drive ahead to Dallol and visit the difference landscape formed by volcanic activity, Dallol + Lake Assal + camel caravans. Excursion to Dallol (116 meter below sea level, one of the lowest places in the world) colorful salts mining, visit Lake Assal, follow up camel caravans (No camel caravan on July, August and early September)and walk with the Afar people. Drive back to Hamedela and proceed to Mekele. Overnight in Yordanos hotel, Mekele.
Day 11: After breakfast at the hotel, drive from Mekele to Lalibela (About 10 hours drive). Overnight in Lalibela Lodge.
Day 12: visit the first group of Lalibela Churches which are located north of a small stream named Jordan River. These Churches were carved during the time of King Lalibela (1181 – 1221) and are registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Then, have an excursion trip to the cave-built up church of Ne’akutoLe’ab (13th Century AD) which is famous for its wide collection of ancient crosses, manuscripts and icons. If this day is Saturday, spare some time at the interesting weekly market of Lalibela. After lunch, visit the second and third group of churches of Lalibela. Overnight in Lalibela Lodge.
Day 13: Fly from Lalibela (12:45) to Addis (13:45) and back home (16:20/ 23:30).