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Short description

This 9-day tour of the treasures of Ethiopia introduces you to the cultural and historical gems of this beautiful country

In Brief

  • 1 Night Addis Ababa
  • 1 Night Bishoftu
  • 1 Night Gonder
  • 1 Night Simien Mountains
  • 2 Nights Aksum
  • 2 Nights Lalibela


Recommended for:
City | History & culture | Natural world

You'll start your tour in Addis Ababa, the country's capital city where you'll get shown all its highlights, including the Ethnographic Museum, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral, which is renowned for its stain-glass windows. Fly to Bahir Dar, where you'll go on an excursion to the beautiful Blue Nile, where hippopotamus colonies can be seen from afar.

Stop-off at Axum, the land of Queen Sheba, and the capital of Ethiopia in the 10th century, where you'll be impressed by its rich history, and you'll see the Ark of the Covenant. Finally, there's also an optional 3-day add on to your trip, to the beautiful Bale Mountains National Park - take this extra drive to experience more of Ethiopia's spectacular scenery.

Along the way, you'll also stay in some first-class accommodation, from the elegant Radisson Blu in Addis Ababa, to the eight-room boutique forest forest wilderness retreat, the Bale Mountains Lodge in the eponymous national park.

Day by day itinerary

Day 1
Depart UK

Depart the UK on an overnight flight, arriving in Addis Ababa the following day.

Day 2
Arrive Ethiopia

Upon your arrival, a Kibran Tours representative will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. Based on your arrival time, it is possible to organise a full or half-day city tour of Addis Ababa.

You'll visit the National Museum where you will find exhibits ranging from the 3.5 million-year-old bones of Lucy to contemporary Ethiopian art. Then, visit the Ethnographic Museum, which is an ideal place to start learning about Ethiopia's rich ethnic diversity. You'll then stop off at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, built in 1945, renowned for its stunning stain-glassed windows, which depict scenes from the Old and New Testament. The Trinity Cathedral also houses the tombs of the late emperor and his family, as well as the tomb of English feminist Sylvia Pankhurst.

Next go to Mount Entoto - as you drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in temperature and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees, which line the road. From the top, there is a panoramic view of the capital and surrounding countryside. You will also get to visit the Mercato, the largest market area in Africa, where virtually everything is on sale, from livestock to computers. For the visitor good at bargaining, there is a huge selection of Ethiopian arts and crafts.

Stay: Radisson Blu

Meals: L D

Day 3
Fly to Bahir Dar

After your morning flight, you will go on an excursion to the magnificent Blue Nile Falls. It is locally known as Tissisat (smoking water). Depending on the fluctuations of the nearby dam, the falls may give rise to steam clouds and rainbows. After lunch, you will embark on a cruise of Lake Tana, the largest highland lake in Ethiopia. Lake Tana is also the source of the Blue Nile, a fact that may explain many of Ethiopia's links with the ancient world. Even today, the papyrus tankwa that sail the lake bear a striking resemblance to the boats of ancient Egypt.

You will visit the lake monastery of Ura Kidane Mihret and the Zege Peninsula. The forested Zege Peninsula is studded with medieval churches, of which the 16th century Ura Kidane Mihret is the most impressive and beautiful in the Tana region. Following a 2km footpath through thick forest stands the interesting church of Azuwa Maryam that boasts several animated 18th century paintings.

If we have the time, you will have a city tour of Bahir dar including the Bazawit Hill Top, which offers a spectacular view of the surrounding city, the islands of Lake Tana and the Blue Nile leaving the lake. Hippopotamus colonies can be seen from afar. There is also the palace of Emperor Haile Selassie built in the 1960s, which you could see from the outside.

Stay: Kuriftu Resort

Meals: B L D

Day 4
Drive to Gondar

After breakfast, you will drive to Gondar, known as the ‘Camelot of Africa', famous for its medieval castles and churches. On the way, you will enjoy a magnificent scenic view. Gondar was founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1636 as the royal capital of Ethiopia. It retained its position as the capital of Ethiopia for 250 years, though this status was largely nominal from the late 18th century onwards.

After lunch, you will start your tour by visiting the Royal Enclosure or Fasil Ghebbi. Within the compound visit the castles of various Gondarene emperors.

The Quskuam Church (believed to be the home of famous explorer James Bruce during the 1770s) is also worth a visit. After 2 km drive from the town center visit the bath of King Fasilidas. The pool is now the central stage on which the Timkat or Epiphany festival is celebrated in Gondar. Finally drive to Debre Berhan Selassie church, the only church that was saved from Mahdist invasion in the 1880s. The walls and ceiling are completely covered with murals - the angels' faces on the ceiling have become a common motif in Ethiopian design.

Stay: Mayleko Lodge

Meals: B L D

Day 5
Simien Mountains

After breakfast, you will drive to the Simien Mountains National Park. Ras Dashen, the highest peak in Ethiopia and the fourth largest mountain in Africa, is part of the national park. The area was designed to be a national park in 1969 so as to preserve its spectacular scenery and scarce bio-diversity. In 1978, UNESCO ascribed the park as a world natural heritage site. The dramatic topography of the Simien Mountains National Park has resulted from the volcanic activity that occurred during the Oligocene period (40-25 million years ago). In its scenic beauty, the Simien Mountains are very akin to the Grand Canyon of America.

Next, drive to Chennek about 3 hours away from Gondar. When there, you will get to see a group of Gelada Baboon at a very close range. Here you may also spot the elusive Walia Ibex. On the way to the lodge, you will get to stop over for a brief trek to view the Jinnbar River and falls.

Stay: Simien Lodge

Meals: B L D

Day 6
Drive to Axum

After breakfast, you will drive to Axum, which will take approximately 7 hours.

Stay: Sabean International Hotel

Meals: B L D

Day 7

Axum is the land of the Queen of Sheba and the capital of the kingdom of Ethiopia in the 10th century. Once the center of a great empire and the seat of scholars for the ancient Ge'ez language and literature, today it's the prime historical site in the north of Ethiopia. The earliest records and legends of Axum date back at least 3,000 years. The town and its surroundings are filled with archaeological sites, ruins of palaces, underground passageways, tombs and stelae.

Start your tour by visiting the Stelae Park - the park has a number of pre-Christian obelisks, made of solid granite from the surrounding hills. With its row of windows and doors, complete with an imaginary knocker and lock, this symbolic house is thought to have been a dwelling of the spirits of the dead. Alternatively, it may have marked the tomb of an important monarch of ancient times. The Queen of Sheba's Palace - the site contains the remains of what was once a massive palace with finely mortared stonewalls, deep foundations and its own impressive drainage system. It is believed to be the oldest building in Axum. To date, over 50 chambers have been excavated. The floor of a large throne-room has been discovered intact and, although the upper floors and roof have long since fallen in, it is not difficult to imagine the rulers of ancient Axum holding court there.

Next, visit the Church of Saint Mary of Zion, which was built by Emperor Fasiladas in 1665. Legend has it that the current church is the sanctuary of the Ark of the Covenant. According to the legend, Emperor Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, brought the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Axum, where he settled and established one of the world's longest known uninterrupted monarchical dynasties. The Ark, according to Ethiopian belief, has remained in Axum ever since. And finally you will make a stop at the Axum Museum which houses exhibits on ancient pottery and glass, Roman amphorae, bronze jewelry and clay figurines.

Stay: Sabean International Hotel

Meals: B L D

Day 8
Fly to Lalibela

In the morning you will fly to Lalibela, where you'll check-in to your hotel. After lunch, you will visit the first group of six churches that lie in rock cradles one behind the other, namely Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Danaghel and Bet Medhane Alem. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest one is built like a Greek temple. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Stay: Mountain View Hotel

Meals: B L D

Day 9

In the morning, you will go on an excursion to the cave church of Yemrehane Christos. A 40 km trip from Lalibela, followed by a 20-minute hike will bring you to this beautiful church, the finest example of its kind in Ethiopia.

In the afternoon, you will visit the second group of churches, including the famous Bete Giorgis. This Greek cross-shaped church is located in a deep pit with perpendicular walls; accessible only by a tunnel located a small distance away. The church was built by Lalibela for Saint-George, who is said to have supervised the construction himself - just ask the monks who will show you the hoof marks left by his horse! Also visit the group of the remaining four churches south of the Jordan River, comprising Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercuiros, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel- Rufa'el. Bet Emanuel's elaborate exterior is much praised by art historians.

Stay: Mountain View Hotel

Meals: B L D

Day 10
Addis Ababa / Depart Ethiopia

Return back to Addis Ababa for your final day. You will be checked into the Radisson Blu for use throughout the day. In the evening before your transfer back the airport, you will enjoy a farewell dinner in a cultural restaurant accompanied by a traditional Ethiopian music and dance.

Meals: B L D

Day 11
Arrive UK

Arrive back in the UK after your overnight flight and continue your onwards journey home.



Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.

Accommodation rating: Superior

11-day tailor-made journey from £4,105 incl. flights


Low Season

from £4,105 pp. incl. flights

High Season

from £4,305 pp. incl. flights


  • Complimentary UK airport lounge access
  • Return flights between the UK and Addis Ababa
  • Domestic flights from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar and from Axum to Addis Ababa
  • Private transfers
  • 8 nights accommodation in typically 4* (Superior) hotels on a full-board basis
  • Private touring including 2 bottles of waters per person per day
  • All entrance fees and local taxes

Terms & Conditions

Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room; prices are subject to availability and possible change; normal booking conditions apply.

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