Ethiopia is so hot right now!
If you find yourself at a dinner party of the well-travelled, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will be discussing their ideas as to the best Ethiopia tour.
If the Good Safari Guide is good for nothing else, let it at least give you some one-upmanship knowledge for the dinner table. This is the itinerary that covers it all: the churches, the markets, the mountains, the wildlife, the Rift Valley, the buzzing culture…
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017: 12 days taking in the north, the south and all the good bits in between
Arrive at the international airport in Addis Ababa (means ‘new flower’ in Amharic). The airport is nothing to write home about so meet your guide and head off!
Your guide will more than likely inform you on the way to your hotel that Addis is located a whopping 2,500 meters above sea level, so about the same height as your favourite ski resort. Addis is quite a good looking city, as cities go, and has one of the largest outside markets in Africa (Mercato). Overnight in any of the city hotels that suits you: Sheraton, perhaps, or Radisson Blu, Hilton or Capital Hotel and Spa…
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 2
Fly from Addis to Lalibela
After an early breakfast, you are off to the airport again and you’ll catch your flight to Lalibela which is even higher than Addis. This is the place for the famous monolithic churches (11 of them) carved out of pink granite in the twelfth century. Each church has a unique architectural style; all are superbly carved and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings. Overnight in the Mountain View Hotel (don’t let the website put you off!).
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 3
Fly Lalibela to Simien Mountains
After breakfast, it’s back to the airport for your flight to Gondar, the gateway to the Simien Mountains in the north. It’s a bit of a drive from Gondar into the enormous volcanic mass that is the Simien Mountains but the deep fissures carved by rain and ice over the last six hundred millions years create a backdrop to keep you riveted: it is one of the greatest sculptures on earth with peaks, canyons, gorges, clefts and pointed amethyst-colored pinnacles like obelisks.
Overnight at Simien lodge.
Today you have no need to pack your bags, but can roam around the mountains at your leisure – and perhaps meet an endemic gelada baboon or two. For the energetically-inclined you could hike or trek. It’s back to Simien Lodge for dinner.
Overnight at Simien Lodge
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 5
Drive Semien Mountains to Gondar (Drive-135km; approx.3hrs)
After breakfast it’s a drive back to Gondar for a look around. Did you know that Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of Fasilidas? There are enough castles here to keep you entertained for a week, all built by emperors over the last 200+ years. Gondar is interesting as it feels not in the least bit African, but more European with a splash of Islam. After lunch, you can visit the palaces, residences and baths of Fasilidas and the famous church of Debre Berham Selassie (Light of the Trinity) at the top of a hill.
Overnight in Goha Hotel
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 6
Drive Gondar to Bahir Dar
After breakfast you’ll head out on a 3-4hr drive Drive to Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. There are 37 islands on Lake Tana, most of which are home to old churches and monasteries. In the afternoon, you could hop on a boat on the lake to visit the Zege peninsula and its monastic shrines from the 14th Century.
Overnight at Kuriftu Resort or perhaps Avanti Blue Nile.
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 7
Fly back to Addis
It’s a gentle day today: fly back to Addis and have a bit of a rest! For those with less time, it is possible to cut short the trip by a day and fly directly on to Awassa.
Overnight in a 4 or 5* hotel in Addis
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 8
Drive from Addis to Awassa (Drive-275km, approx. 5/6hrs) – or fly if short on time
After having your breakfast you continue your journey to Awassa in the Great Rift Valley. En route you’ll see the Tiya Stelae and Adadi Maryam: the southernmost rock hewn church of the 13th century.
Overnight at Haile resort.
Drive Awassa -Bale Mountains NP (Drive – 310 km; approx 7/8 hrs)
This is the big drive, but it’s so worth it to get to the Bale Mountains. You’ll reach the wonderful Bale Mountain Lodge by the evening but there’ll be plenty to see en route!
Overnight stay Bale Mountain Lodge.
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 10
Excursion to Sanetti Plateau (Drive – 180 km; approx 5 hrs)
After an early breakfast you’ll drive through Harena forest and past Mount Tullo Deemtu, the second highest mountain in the country with an altitude of 4377m. Arriving at Sanetti Plateau you may spot endemic flora and fauna species including the illusive Ethiopian wolf or Simien fox, and indigenous plants like the giant lobelia and heath.
Overnight stay Bale Mountain Lodge.
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 11
Drive Bale Mountain – Langano (Dive 255 km;approx 5/6 hrs)
After breakfast, you shall continue your journey to Langano. In the afternoon you’ll see the twin lakes in Lake Abiata-Shalla National Park, famous for flocks of flamingos and great white pelicans. Though the park is home to settlers and their domestic animals and plantations, it is still very much worth a visit, particularly Lake Shalla as it’s a beautiful crater lake.
Overnight Sabana Resort on the shores of the lake.
Best Ethiopia Tour 2017 Day 12
Drive Langano –Addis (Drive 210km; approx 5 hrs)
On your final day you have time for a relaxed breakfast, heading back to Addis in the afternoon. In the evening, you’re invited to a traditional dinner with live cultural music and dance. Your tour concludes by being dropped to Bole International Airport to catch your flight to home.
The one caveat to our warm recommendations for Ethiopia, and we feel we have to mention this to our trusted readers, is that the airport at Addis is a shocker. I mean it’s really bad, at the time of press. We don’t like to say negative things, in fact this may be the first time we have expressed a negative view, but we’d prefer your expectations were managed. If you can just keep your Addis airport time to a minimum, then the rest should be plain sailing – or flying, if you’re with Ethiopian Airlines who are a delight to fly with!
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