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Ethiopia North and South Combined

Combine the best of Ethiopia in a two week trip taking in the tribes of the South, the wildlife and stunning scenery of the Simien Mountains and the famous rock hewn churches of Lalibela.

Tailor-made Adventure 13 - 15 days

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

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Itinerary

Overview

Ethiopia boasts a wealth of UNESCO World heritage sites, some of the best trekking in the world, stunning landscapes and some of the most fascinating and colourful tribal groups in Africa. This two week itinerary includes much of the best:

A highlight for many visitors to Ethiopia is a multi-day trek in the Simien Mountains, walking along a high altitude plateau amongst troops of Gelada Baboon and the rare Wallia Ibex with incredible views of an endless mountain-scape. Either side of the trek you’ll have the opportunity to explore the Northern towns of Gondar and Lalibela which form the mainstays of the famous Northern Historical Circuit, boasting the remains of Fasilades’s Castle (once the Camelot of Africa) and the incredible rock hewn churches of Lalibela.

Making use of Ethiopian Airlines twice weekly flights south to Arba Minch; you’ll also get a taster of the diverse and fascinating tribes of the Omo Valley and the dense crocodile populations on Lake Chamo (itself situated in a stunning national park).

Day-by-day

This itinerary makes full use of internal flights. Flights from Addis to Arba Minch are only available Wed, Fri and Sun, so Day 1 of the itinerary would need to be on a Monday.

Because your vehicle and guide will be heading to and from Addis to Arba Minch to meet you, we can instead arrange to drive you between Addis to Arba Minch, a day's drive that passes some lovely scenery. We are happy to accommodate this option (and it will typically save on the overall trip cost). It also opens up the option of a stop on route at the lovely Bishangari Lodge on Lake Langano in the Rift Valley. If driving, then the tour can start on any weekday.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL. ADDIS ABABA
You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your central hotel. After a rest and refresh at the hotel your guide will take you around the highlights of Addis, you’ll get a chance to drink some of the best coffee in the world in the Piazza (old town), explore the National Museum and Archaeological Museum (home to the 3.5million year old remains of Lucy) and explore the largest open air market in Africa.
Meals Included: None included
Accommodation: Addis Regency
Transport (where relevant): Airport transfer

DAY 2: FLY TO GONDAR, EXPLORE CASTLES AND CHURCHES
You’ll be picked up early from your hotel and transferred to the airport for the internal flight to Gonder. Once you have arrived, your guide will take you to explore the fascinating medieval history of Gondar. Your tour will include visiting the Royal Enclosure set in its beautiful gardens, Fasilidas Bath and the fascinating Debre Berhan Selassie Church, renowned for its vivid and striking interior art and arguably one of the finest church interiors in the country.
Meals Included: Breakfast only included
Accommodation: Fasil Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Fly Addis - Gondar

DAY 3: GONDAR – SIMIEN MOUNTAINS (SANKABER CAMP 3,200M)
You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Gondar around 7.30am for the drive to Debark. At Debark you will sign in at the park headquarters, pick up your guide and scout and head up into the mountains. The road continues all the way to the first camp at Sankaber, but you’ll be dropped off on the way for a leisurely three hour acclimatisation hike. The stunning views hit you as soon as you get out of the vehicle as you walk along the ridge. There will be time to stop for a picnic lunch and after a short but demanding climb (at this altitude) to Sankaber you’ll be met as every day on this trek with a tray of fresh coffee, tea and snacks. 7km 2/3 hours walking
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant): Drive Gondar - Simien Mountains (2-3 hrs)

DAY 4: SANKABER (3,200M) – GEECH CAMP (3,600M)
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll set off trekking along the ridge with stunning views over the foothills 800m below. For the first two hours, the trail passes through low bush of Giant Heather, soda apple, Abyssinian rose, St John’s Wort and Globe thistle. The highlight of the trek from Sankaber to Geech is Genbar Falls, an incredible 500m sheer drop. From the viewpoint opposite, you can watch the falcons, augur buzzard and lammergeyer bearded vulture soar on the thermals below. From the Genbar falls, the trail passes arable fields, broken by lunch at a somewhat less intimidating and more peaceful waterfall. Klipspringer and bush buck may be seen in the steep rocky and wooded slopes, whilst troops of Gelada Baboons roam the fields for roots. Just before you reach Geech camp site, there is a wonderful opportunity to visit one of the traditional village houses for home roasted coffee and injurra (ask your guide). Geech Camp itself is set on a grassy plateau with stunning sunset views. Walking 7-8hrs / 15km
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant):

DAY 5: GEECH (3,600M) – IMET GOGO (3,926M) – SIHA GORGE – KEDAR DIT – GEECH (3,600M)
After breakfast you’ll trek for 2 hours along the grass plateau past countless bizarre outsized Giant Lobelia plants. The destination is Imet Gogo, an incredible rocky promontory that grants 360 degree views over the Simien Range. At an altitude of 3,926m you can see West back along the ridge towards Sankaber and Geech and South East across a deep gully towards the tomorrow’s ridge walk to Inatye and Chennek Camp. The views here are arguably the best in the Simien Mountains and the drop is terrifying. From Imet Gogo, you’ll return to camp via the Siha Gorge for lunch. Afternoon at leisure before heading out for a short optional sunset trek to KedaDit (3760m). Overnight at Geech Camp again. Walking 5-6 hrs / 13km
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant):

DAY 6: GEECH (3600M) – INNATYE (4070M) - CHENNEK (3,600M)
Today is the longest and arguably most spectacular passing close to the ridge most of its length. After breakfast you will head back on the path towards Imet Gogo before detouring SE towards Inatye. The path drops into a forest of Giant Hazel before following the ridge on open grassland. The climb to Inatye (4,070m) rewards with stunning views. Inatye roughly translates as “mamma mia” and the terrifying vertical drop here justly warrants the name! After a picnic lunch the path follows mostly downhill through open grassland and giant lobelia towards Chenek with a number of stunning viewpoints along the way. Chenek camp is superb for wildlife with both Gelada Baboons and Wallia Ibex common here. Walking 7 hours / 15km
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant):

DAY 7: CHENNEK (3600M) – MOUNT BUAHIT (4430M) – CHENNEK (3600M)
After breakfast, you will begin the journey back to Gondar getting back in the early afternoon. Those feeling brave can opt to tackle Buahit before leaving camp. You'll need to be up early for the 3-4 hour round trip to this spectacular summit at 4430m.
Meals Included: Breakfast, and lunch included
Accommodation: Fasil Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Drive Simien Mountains - Gondar (4 hrs)

DAY 8: FLY TO LALIBELA. ROCK HEWN CHURCHES
Today is an early start for your morning transfer to Gondar airport. Once you have landed, you will be picked up at Lalibela Airport and transferred to your central hotel. Lalibela is world famous for its monolithic rock hewn churches. Carved by hand out of solid rock in the 12th and 13th Centuries and filled with the evocative sound of chanting of monks, this is a deeply spiritual place and quite rightly a UNESCO World Heritage site. You will visit most of the Central churches that Lalibela is so famous for including the Northern Group (containing the Lalibela Cross), The Western Group (Bete Giyorgis) and the Eastern Group.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Mountain View
Transport (where relevant): Fly Gondar - Lalibela

DAY 9: REMOTE CHURCHES OF LALIBELA
Today is an opportunity to take it a little slower. you can choose to walk or ride a rented mule (small extra cost for the mule) up to Asheton Maryam Church, situated at about 3100 metres. Here you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Lalibela town and the surrounding valleys.
Meals Included: Breakfast only included
Accommodation: Mountain View
Transport (where relevant): N/A

DAY 10: RETURN TO ADDIS, FLY TO ARBAMINCH, DRIVE TO KONSO. VISIT KONSO CHIEF AND MUSEUM
Fly Lalibela to Addis Ababa and onto Arba Minch. Konso is a 2 hour drive from Arba Minch famous for its ingenious terracing and unique multicropping systems. Visit the museum depicting Konso traditions and way of life, and pay a visit to the Konso paramont chief to learn about the Konso chief system and mummification of chiefs and heroes.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Kanta Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Fly Lalibela - Addis.

DAY 11: KEY AFAR MARKET AND MURSI
Drive to Mursi with a stop at The Key Afar market. The market is frequented mostly by the Benna, Ari and Tsemai people. You will spend the night with the Mursi, giving you a unique opportunity to learn a small bit about the Mursi people whose women traditionally wear clay lip plates for which these people are famous and whose men practice a fierce stick fighting ceremony.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant): 2 hrs driving

DAY 10: DRIVE MURSI TO TURMI
Drive to Turmi stopping at the Hamer Women's market, and setting camp at the Kaske Mango campsite, a Hamer run campsite. You will go for a walk to a village and attend an Evangadi dance.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included
Accommodation: Camping
Transport (where relevant): 2 hrs driving

DAY 11: VISIT THE DASANECH ON OMO RIVER IN THE MORNING. DRIVE TO ARBA MINCH VIA DIMEKA MARKET
After breakfast disassemble camp and pack vehicles. You will go for an excursion to the Dasanech people in Omorate departing after breakfast around 8 am. After a 1 hr drive, cross the Omo River in dugout canoes to visit a Dasanech camp. The same principles of photo taking with the Mursi apply with the Dasanech, you need to pay approximately 3-5 Birr per person in the photo. After your visit, you drive the 4-5 hrs to the Dorze highlands where you will spend the night in simple visitor huts in the village compound.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included
Accommodation: Dorze Village-stay (or upgrade to Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch)
Transport (where relevant): 5 hrs driving

DAY 12: LAKE CHAMO IN THE MORNING. FLY TO ADDIS IN AFTERNOON.
Enjoy a leisurely morning boat ride on Lake Chamo with stunning scenery, good bird-life and large crocodile and hippo populations. Fly back to Addis in the afternoon.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Addis Regency
Transport (where relevant): Fly Arba Minch - Addis

DAY 13: MORNING DEPARTURE
Transfer from your hotel to meet your departing flight.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: End of Services
Transport (where relevant): Airport transfer

Accommodation


Guide price is based on recommended accommodations. Alternative accommodations and upgrades are available. Please get in touch or click on 'alternatives' below for alternatives and upgrade options.

Addis Regency

Addis Ababa

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Lovely rooms
- Solid mid-range option
- Good value

Our rating

6/10

Price guide

Price rating 2

- Friendly service
- Nice bar and terrace
- Clean rooms
- Great value

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Central location
- Comfortable rooms
- Pleasant gardens
- Good service

Paradise Lodge

Omo Valley & Arba Minch

Our rating

6/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Lake & mountain views
- Comfortable rooms
- Best in town
- Inconsistent service

Kanta Lodge

Omo Valley & Arba Minch

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Quality Lodge
- Comfortable Tukuls
- Gardens & Views
- Best in Konso

Details

Getting there

Ethiopia’s national airline, Ethiopian Airlines is arguably one of the best in Africa. International services are reliable with good seat pitch, whilst domestic flights are serviced by a brand new fleet of twin props. Ethiopian flies direct from London, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome in Europe. The flight takes around 8 hours. Return flights from London are usually around £500 per person.
Direct outbound flights from London to Addis Ababa: Every Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
Direct return flights from Addis Ababa to London: Every Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun
Return flights from Addis Ababa to London via Rome: Every Mon and Thu

Price includes

- All guides and transfers and accommodation as detailed in the itinerary
- Entrance fees to museums and national parks and attractions
- Meals where stated (e.g. on trek)
- International flights, visas, tips and incidental expenses are not included
* Price quoted is on the basis of two people, discounts apply for larger groups

When is best?

The best time to visit is June to September coinciding with many of the important tribal festivals. The dry season from January to February is best for wildlife. The rainy season early March – end of May and during November is best avoided.

Is it for me?

If you are considering Ethiopia in the first place, you are probably aware that the standard of hotels, road and general comfort is not going to match what you might expect at home. Travelling in Ethiopia is always an adventure and it is incredibly important you come with the right mind-set. The challenges are the lack of luxuries (a reliable hot shower in Ethiopia is a rare thing, even in upmarket hotels), the unique cuisine and occasionally hassle from hawkers (no worst than most tourist destinations). Having said that it also happens to host one of the most unique cultures in the world with a rich cultural heritage and some of the best trekking in the world. You can’t have everything.

Trekking in the Simien Mountains is classified as moderate. You will need to have a good level of fitness and able to cope with basic amenities. Although walking lengths each day are reasonably long (7-8 hrs a day), it is mostly flat going with several options available to shorten the trekking day if necessary. Altitude can be an issue with nights spent at 3,200m – 3,600m, but being a plateau walk, there is little altitude gain to contend with.

Visiting the tribes in the South can be a challenging experience. The contrasting lifestyles and traditional ways of life are fascinating, but locals will demand payment for photographs, often aggressively. Better by far is to put the camera away, visit the villages, talk to the people, and if necessary ask politely to take a photograph at the end of your visit. For these reasons it is important you come with a respectful attitude and open mind.

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 606 reviews

(4.93/5)

  • Our trip was excellent. Thank you! We were particularly impressed with the way it all worked seamlessly: someone was at each arrival point to meet us (or Alex was on the end of the phone to tell us what to do) or there was a phone message at Reception for when to expect someone.

    The Jerusalem Hotel in Lalibela is not the same standard as Tukul Villages but it was OK for one night & we had plenty of warning. Lalibela at Christmas is pretty manic: full to bursting!

    I must say that Alex looked after us well. He came to see us in Gondar to make sure everything was in place for the Simiens Trek & that we knew what to expect. When we got back after it, there he was again! Small but highly-valued pieces of customer care, evident again when he spoke to drivers while we were travelling.

    All the staff who worked with us were of high quality, especially drivers and guides. Two who stood out were Younus, our driver both times we were in Addis Ababa, who we felt went beyond the call of duty & made our time there enjoyable - our last evening when waiting for a 2 a.m. flight could have been a drag, was in fact absolutely fine because of his suggestions (the Via Via cafe for dinner & then Mama's Kitchen for some music) and company.

    The Simiens Trek was outstanding. Spectacular scenery, challenging at times, full of interest. Key to making it so was Dereje Gedamu who is a wonderful guide: we felt privileged to have him. he was ably assisted by the other staff & when our first, excellent chef had to leave at short notice to visit his mother in hospital, a replacement was found immediately (at Chenek!) who fed us to the same high standard. It was all a great experience that we will be talking about for a long time.

    We were all pleased to have selected the 8 day option (& were not at all jealous of the peak-baggers heading for Ras Dashen). The second half of the trek was a good contrast to the high altitude section in the National Park's heartland as we descended through more intensively cultivated and populated areas, down steeply to the river and then back up past wonderful rock formations towards Mulit and out to the road at Adi Arkaye. It was full of interest and we were pleased to be pretty much on our own, rather than with the crowds at Geech & Chenek.

    By comparison, the TESFA trek was rather tame, although an interesting comparison to see a more pastoral landscape and less remote villages. We had another good guide & enjoyed the lunch & evening stops, and the "loos with a view".

    Pleased as we were that we had opted to drive from Bahir Dar to Lalibela, we had mixed feelings about driving the rough Gashena-Lalibela road three times - the starting and finishing points for the TESFA trek were just beyond Gashena. In 3 years when the road is complete this point may become academic, but meanwhile - if anyone else wants to do the same thing - it would be better for them to drive from Bahir Dar to Gashena, meet the TESFA crew there, do the trek & then continue to Lalibela. I am sure that TESFA could look after any extra baggage that people did not want on the trek.

    One other point about the TESFA trek: we were not aware that there are several grades offered. I think we did the easiest and might well have preferred something more challenging so perhaps you could clarify the options available.

    Only one other critical comment: we were underwhelmed by the Mayleko Lodge near Gondar airport. It was indeed welcome to have somewhere peaceful to return to after the trek, the rooms are nice & a couple of us enjoyed a "refreshing" swim, but on the other hand the restaurant was pretty mediocre and slow: we might have preferred to be out in the town.

    Apart from that it was all good! A glimpse of Addis and another of Gondar; trekking with some R&R in Bahir Dar with its different scenery and history, ending with the religious fervour at Lalibela. A great holiday.

    MissingGordon Parker reviewing Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 09 February 2016

  • We had an excellent, stretching , fascinating mix of history (sites) , tough trekking , and wonderful views .. From the many treks that I have done to places including Nepal , Italy , Croatia , Crete , Myanmar , Japan I would judge that it would be very difficult to beat the 7 days that we had in the Simien Mountains .. Tigrai was spectacular for those willing to climb to all the churches. ( there’s a challenge for you to suggest the next adventure !).

    Our guide Abebe was really excellent ( fit, engaging, knowledgeable and with a good sense of fun/humour ) and I would not hesitate in recommending him, the quality of the tents was excellent except that there were only 3 two man tents which were much roomier than the singles. We saw very few other people which was perhaps just as well in view of the loo situation at the camp sites. The food was reasonable .. in fact too much pasta and not enough rice. We certainly needed the heavier sleeping bags as it was very cold the first two nights out.

    On the negative side .. the long drop loos at Geech were frankly a disgrace .. you could not stand in there for all the crap around and the smell ( even in the freezing evening ) .. surely they should be cleaned every morning / evening. The result is people are crapping in other places round the site .. not nice ! There was no water for washing at Geech ! At the Chennek camp the long drops were only marginally better but there were two dribbly very cold showers at least ! If the tourist board want to encourage tourism clean loos is the absolute must.

    The trekking times were generally accurate which was a change as in most other treks that I have been on they are 25% overestimated. Our final 11 hour day was tough but perfectly achievable for fit walkers. I am glad we did not break it into two tranches … we had time to stop for a swim/wash in the river/pools and it was fantastic to spend two days at Geralti Lodge before our return. Addis is a bit of a disappointment but it was certainly worth spending a couple of hours walking the Mercato ( although you have to be very careful not to lose the guide !). I thought Axum was disappointing by comparison with Gonder and Lalibela and not really worth going to.

    That’s about it .. I would certainly recommend Tourdust !! Thank you , James

    MissingJames Lawson reviewing Classic Northern Circuit & Simien Mountains Trek on 10 February 2015

  • We had a wonderful 2 week trip to Ethiopia - we found the country very different from other places that we've been, and also found Ethiopia very different from what we'd imagined it would be. The wildlife and birds we saw were incredible, the mountains and views nothing short of spectacular. We found different parts of the country varied hugely - both in landscape, climate and wildlife - which made the trip hugely varied. The travel arrangements (internal flights included) all worked perfectly - and our guides, drivers and cooks were all professional, friendly and keen to help make our trip as enjoyable as possible. As a vegetarian, I really enjoyed the variety of food (the local beers and wines were great too!), and we found all the hotels we stayed in very comfortable. In particular, the Kuriftu spa was a lovely treat after having spent 5 days in the Simiens trekking. We probably tried to fit too much into our 2 week trip, and were feeling a bit tired by the time we came home, but we would certainly have no hesitations in recommending both Ethiopia and Tourdust to anyone!

    MissingNatalie Nickelson reviewing Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 27 November 2014

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Alternative Itineraries

Our itineraries are carefully designed by our experienced travel designers based on years of experience and customer feedback. For a custom itinerary tailored to you, please enquire giving as much detail as possible on your brief.

Classic fully supported 3-5 day trek in the Simien Mountain National Park including transfer to and from Gondar. Guide, cook, porters and scout all included.

Private Trek Adventure 5 days

Adults from $698 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Extended 8 day trek in the Simien Mountains following the classic Sankaber - Chenek route then down to the Lowlands.

Private Trek Adventure 8 days

Adults from $1,209 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Combines the popular Sankaber - Geech - Chenek section with a challenging ascent of Ras Dashen & descent to the rarely visited lowlands.

Private Trek Adventure 10 days

Adults from $1,352 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

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