Large ethiopian wolf

Bale Mountains Lodge with Northern Circuit Highlights

This holiday combines the cultural highlights of Ethiopia's Northern Circuit wit the wilderness and raw beauty of the Bale Mountains National Park. A unique opportunity to visit rock hewn churches, lake side monasteries and then view rare wildlife from the comfort of a remote mountain lodge.

Tailor-made Luxury 10 - 14 days

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

Flights are typically an additional $846 per person economy class from London

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Tourdust is rated 4.9 out of 5 stars


…We were really happy with the service we got from Tourdust which can be best described as friendly, efficient and expert.....

Missing Matthew McSweeney. See all Reviews

Itinerary

Overview

  • View the rare wildlife of the Bale Mountains
  • Stay in a superb wilderness lodge in the Bale Mountains
  • See Lake Tana Monastries and Visit the Blue Nile Falls
  • Visit the medieval royal compounds of Gondar
  • Experience the spritual rock hewn churches of Lalibela

On this diverse itinerary we have included our highlights of the Northern Historical Circuit including the Island Monasteries of Lake Tana, Gondar's Royal Enclosure and the magnificent rock hewn churches of Lalibela. If you have time, then we add the stellae at Axum (additional 1-2 days, although note accommodation options here are poor) and the incredibly remote and hard to reach monasteries of the Tigray region (additional 3 days, only suitable for those with a good head for heights).

Lake Tana is an excellent place to start your cultural tour of Ethiopia, with over 20 monasteries dotted along the shores and on the islands. You visit these by boat, which also takes you to see th source of the Blue Nile. You then continue to Gondar, where you get to grips with the history of Ethiopia with a tour of the medieval sights. An undoubted highlight of Northern Ethiopia are the eleven rock hewn churches of Lalibela. all carved out of the bare rock and concentrated within walking distance of the town. This is an incredibly atmospheric location where white-robed priest are often found enjoying the morning sun whilst chanting the Eucharistic Prayer and contemplating scriptures.

From Lalilbela, you head to the Bale Mountains National Park, a lesser visited location. This makes a perfect extension to the classic northern historical circuit and the focus on wilderness and nature is a good contrast to the cultural. The newly opened Bale Mountain Lodge offers comfortable, accessible accommodation in a beautiful location giving you the comfort to explore the unique surrounds and excellent chance of seeing Ethiopian wolf and the array of endemic birdlife. This is a pristine wilderness that incorporates the largest tract of Afro-alpine moorland remaining on the continent and a stunning cloud forest with significant numbers of endemic and rare bird species.

The itinerary includes internal flights with Ethiopian Airlines and specialist local guides in each location. This keeps the overall cost down and saves on some long and arduous journeys. If preferred we can quote to include an accompanying tour leader for the whole trip and / or overland travel by 4wd instead of internal flights.

Day-by-day

Brief Itinerary
DAY 1: Half day Addis Ababa Guided Tour
DAY 2: Fly Addis - Bahir Dar, Visit the Blue Nile Falls
DAY 3: Lake Tana Island Monasteries. Drive to Gondar
DAY 4: Explore Gondar's Castles and Churches
DAY 5: Fly Gondar - Lalibela. Explore Rock-hewn Churches Of Lalibela
DAY 6: Remote churches of Lalibela
DAY 7: Bale Mountains
DAY 8: Bale Mountains
DAY 9: Bale Mountains
DAY 10: Lake Langano
DAY 11: Depart

Full Itinerary
DAY 1: HALF DAY ADDIS ABABA GUIDED TOUR
You will 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. Depending on time and how you feel after your flight, you can choose to sample some of the best coffee in the world in the Piazza (old town), explore the National Museum and Archaeological Museum (home to the 3.5 million year old remains of Lucy) or explore the largest open air market in Africa.
Meals Included: None included
Accommodation: Addis Regency
Transport (where relevant): Airport transfer and half day city tour

DAY 2: FLY ADDIS - BAHIR DAR, VISIT THE BLUE NILE FALLS
After a morning flight and checking into your accommodation, you will have the afternoon to visit the Blue Nile Falls (40 minutes from Bahir Dar). Although the power of the falls has been subdued by the hydro electric plant, they are still an incredible sight. A lovely circular walk takes you over an ancient bridge built by the Portuguese in the 15th century, passing fantastic viewpoints of the falls, over a rope bridge and then up to top of the falls where you will cross by boat to meet your vehicle.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Kuriftu Spa
Transport (where relevant): Airport Transfers, Morning flight Addis - Bahir Dar, Blue Nile Falls Tour

DAY 3: LAKE TANA ISLAND MONASTERIES. DRIVE TO GONDAR
After breakfast you will go for an early morning boat excursion on Lake Tana, the highest and largest lake in Ethiopia and also the source of the Blue Nile. Dotted on its shores and islands are 20 monasteries, most of which were hidden to the outside world until the 1930's. You will visit two examples of monasteries before ending your excursion by passing by the mouth of the Blue Nile. After enjoying a relaxing lunch on the shore, transfer to Gondar.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Mayleko Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Boat tour of Lake Tana monasteries. Road transfer of 3 hrs from Simien Moutains to Gondar. Guided tour of Gondar

DAY 4: EXPLORE GONDAR'S CASTLES AND CHURCHES
Today 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 included
Accommodation: Mayleko Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Guided tour of Gondar

DAY 5: FLY GONDAR - LALIBELA. EXPLORE ROCK-HEWN CHURCHES OF LALIBELA
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: Tukul Village
Transport (where relevant): Transfer to Gondar Airport. Morning flight to Lalibela. Transfer and half day tour in Lalibela

DAY 6: 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 included
Accommodation: Tukul Village
Transport (where relevant): Day tour of Lalibela

DAY 7: BALE MOUNTAINS
Road transfer to Lalibela Airport. There is currently a flight on a Wednesday and Friday to Goba which is the gateway to Bale Mountain. On arrival you will be met and transferred to the lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Bale Mountain Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Transfer to Lalibela Airport and Goba Airport.

DAY 8: BALE MOUNTAINS
Your guide and vehicle will take you up to the Sanetti Plateau which is 4000 metres above sea level with an excellent chance of seeing the rare Ethiopian Wolf and spectacular bird life this area is renowned for.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Bale Mountain Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Tour of Sanetti Plateau.

DAY 9: BALE MOUNTAINS
The guide and vehicle are at your disposal should you wish to return to the Sanetti Plateau or journey outside of the park to the central Rift Valley in search of rare indigenous birds, visit the Sof Omar Caves the largest limestone caves in Eastern Africa or the ancient walled city of Harar one of the most holy Muslim cities in the world. However, if you prefer to explore on two feet, the lodge has a number of marked tracks which guide guests into the forest, out to a hot spring or up onto the plateau.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Bale Mountain Lodge
Transport (where relevant): n/a

DAY 10: LAKE LANGANO
After breakfast, drive to Langano arriving early afternoon for a relaxed afternoon at Bishangari Lodge, a lovely eco lodge with superb birdlife
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: Bishangari Lodge
Transport (where relevant): Road transfer taking approximately 5 hours

DAY 11: DEPART
Morning at leisure at Bishangari. Although there are several national parks in the area, we recommend enjoying the peace and wildlife found at the lodge on the shores of the lake. We recommend a half day wildlife walk in the morning to view the large array of endemic birdlife. Afternoon transfer back to Addis Ababa.
Meals Included: Breakfast included
Accommodation: n/a
Transport (where relevant): Drive Lake Langano - Addis (4 hrs)

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

Kuriftu Lodge

Lake Tana

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Swimming Pool
- Lake-side Lodge
- Spa treatments included

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Comfortable accommodation
- Relaxed rural location
- Swimming pool

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

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

Bale Mountains Lodge

Bale Mountains

Our rating

9/10

Price guide

Price rating 5

- Wilderness setting
- Comfortable eco lodge
- Ethiopian Wolf
- Endemic wildlife

Bishangari Lodge

Rift Valley Lakes

Our rating

9/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Eco lodge
- Lake views
- Superb birdlife
- Fantastic Service

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 £650 per person including domestic internal flights

Price includes

Accommodation with meals as specified, local guides, entrance fees to museums and national parks and attractions. Domestic flights (priced at discounted rate that is only applicable if booked together with international fare)

Excludes: International flights, airport taxes, additional meals & activities, visas, tips, medical vaccinations, comprehensive travel insurance and incidental expenses are not included.

When is best?

The Ethiopian Tourist Board proudly promotes their slogan “13 months of sunshine” to anyone who will listen, but they are not far off the mark. The rainy season in the North is in July and August, it won’t really affect you if you are planning on touring the Northern Historical route. The best time to visit the North is in autumn, after the rains when the mountains are full of lush green and the views are unimpeded by haze.

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

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 611 reviews

(4.94/5)

  • 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 the most fantastic time and loved the country and its people. The tour worked really well and including the internal flights meant that we could maximise our 2 weeks (if we had of had more time sure the drives would be lovely!) - the pace of it was busy but just right. You really put together a trip which showed us the beauty and culture of the North. I loved all the walking and timket was amazing. The advice just take yourselves and leave everything else at home for timket was perfect as we were free to just enjoy the experience - I have never experienced anything like it. The thing that surprised me about the trip was the variety and how each day was so different. The people were so warm and friendly and children were absolutely enchanting - the contrast of the privilege of children I know here and those living in poverty in Ethiopia is very humbling.

    Having a driver guide worked extremely well - lema was excellent, he really added to our holiday through enabling us to have interaction with local people - he clearly had a way which gained acceptance and thus acceptance of us - for example with a family making injera and farmers threshing. He is a real ambassador for his country and was such a caring guide but also great fun. We always felt safe and he was an excellent driver - even when conditions were not easy.

    As we had local guides everywhere, I think having a driver and a guide plus local guides would have been a bit too much. The local guides were all very good or excellent. They clearly had good relationships with lema and again I think this meant we in turn had a good experience.

    The accommodation was generally very good/ excellent. We actually preferred the guest house we stayed in on the final night in addis to the regency hotel ( cannot remember the name but Stephen took us there - it had more character) I particularly liked fasil lodge as had great atmosphere, and gheralta was fantastic. I also liked lalibela lodge. I thought Kuriftu lodge was good but slightly impersonal.

    My only criticism about whole trip really is about simien lodge - As you know the cost of food and drink at the lodge is inflated - I completely understand that the location would attract a premium but compared to everywhere else it is so over-inflated. I have seen their response on trip advisor to anyone who raises this - basically you a penny pinching tourist who expects a "cheap" trip and do not want to contribute to the country ( I do not think we fall into this category!) the main thing I objected to was only having the "choice" of a $18 buffet of food that was not of great quality as well very inflated prices for drinks

    However, You did warn us and i know I wanted to stay in the park so this is not a complaint about tour dust or itinerary at all - I realise that they have a monopoly so unlikely to change but wonder if agents have any more sway in feedback than individuals. It is a shame as the lodge is in great location and the rooms, solar heating etc are all good.

    I would contrast the simien lodge with the gheralta lodge which likewise has a captive audience but provides food of much higher quality and drinks at reasonable hotel prices - I know Kate would have preferred local food but I was very happy to have good Italian food in such a lovely place. It was the perfect place to spend our last couple of days.

    Thanks for organising such a great holiday - I would highly recommend tour dust to anyone travelling to the countries you cover and I am promoting ethiopia as holiday destination at every opportunity!

    Missingruth moesby reviewing Classic Northern Historical Circuit on 05 February 2015

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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.

A tour of North Ethiopia's highlights in comfortable accommodation, visiting Lake Tana, the Simien Mountains, Gondar & Lalibela. For the non-trekker.

Tailor-made Classic 9 - 14 days

Adults from $2,116 pp plus flights

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

Flights are typically an additional $848 per person economy class from London

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