Northern Ethiopia History & Scenery

This is a 12 night, 13 day private (mostly) fly-in guided tour of the historical and archaeological wonders of Northern Ethiopia. It includes the ancient centres of Harar, Lalibela, Gondar and Axum.

Unesco Sites

You get to see four of Ethiopia’s eight UNESCO Cultural World Heritage sites. There are a couple days when the steadily improving roads mean that you can travel by road. This makes for a nice change & allows us to include the Simien Mountains. At present the only Natural UNESCO World Heritage site in the country.

The emphasis is primarily on Ethiopia’s ancient wonders and its immense cultural and religious heritage, rather than its natural history. Nonetheless, you’ll visit the Blue Nile Falls, Lake Tana and the misty highland home of the impressive and friendly gelada baboons in the Simien Mountains too. Even on short transfers from the airports to the towns you’ll be in some of Africa’s greatest mountain scenery with glorious views.

Northern Ethiopia History & Scenery at a glance

Hotels and Lodges

By comparison with many of the safari destinations we offer at Cedarberg Africa, the accommodation in Ethiopia is less ‘magazine worthy’. Standards are steadily improving and we will always strive to book the best available accommodation in each area when planning a tailor-made tour with you, subject to availability.

We are confident that most travellers would consider all the accommodation we use in the tour as perfectly acceptable and pleasant, bearing in mind that this is Ethiopia and not Dubai!

See Day by Day
Day 1
Addis Ababa

On arrival in Addis Ababa, after Customs and Immigration, you will be met at the airport by the driver/guide who will be conducting your tour.

UK passport holders will need a visa to visit Ethiopia. This can be obtained at the airport on arrival.

After checking into the hotel, visit the National Museum that houses many of Ethiopia’s most treasured archaeological and historical finds. These include the famous complete hominid fossil remains of ‘Lucy’, locally known as ‘Dinknesh’, meaning ‘wonderful’. Visiting this museum is a good introduction to any visit to the historical sites of northern Ethiopia.

Overnight: Jupiter or similar 4* Hotel (Bed & Breakfast).

Upgrade options would include Radisson Blu or the stunning Sheraton.

Day 2
Addis – Dire Dawa – Harar

Fly to Dire Dawa, then drive 55 km to Harar – the “City within a city”.

After Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, the ancient walled city of Harar is arguably Islam’s next most holy centre. Here you can appreciate the unusually relaxed atmosphere of the spiritual home of Ethiopia’s Muslim community.

Visit the marvellous 16th century city walls, various museums and the colourful multicultural market in which the Amhara, the Oromo and the Adere people meet. In the evening, visit the famous ‘Hyena Man’ who feeds wild hyenas by mouth.

Overnight: Heritage Plaza Hotel (3* Hotel) or Rawda Guest house (Full Board)

Day 3
Harar – Dire Dawa

Drive 55 km to the tree-lined streets of Dire Dawa visiting the largest Chat (a mild stimulant) market in the world at Aweday. In Dire Dawa, now a far more busy commercial hub than the older city of Harar, you visit the spice market and camel markets, which attract rural Oromo and Afar people, many of them in traditional dress.

Overnight: Samrat Hotel (Full Board)

Depending on flight schedules and routing, sometimes it makes more sense to fly back to Addis Ababa to stay the night, before the next day’s onward flight.

Day 4
Dire Dawa – Addis – Bahir Dar

Fly to Addis Ababa. After lunch in Addis Ababa, take late afternoon flight to Bahir Dar on Lake Tana.

Overnight: Avanti Blue Nile or Kuriftu Resort and Spa (Full Board)

Day 5
Bahir Dar, Lake Tana, Blue Nile Falls

Morning excursion to Blue Nile Falls. In the afternoon, visit the market in Bahir Dar

Overnight: Avanti Blue Nile or Kuriftu Resort and Spa (Full Board)

Day 6
Bahir Dar – Gondar

In the morning, take a boat trip on Ethiopia’s largest water body – Lake Tana (3,600 sq km ) to visit the island monasteries of Ura Kidane Mihret (14th Century AD) and Azwa Mariam (14th Century AD).

After lunch, drive from Bahir Dar to Gondar – the 17th century capital of Ethiopia.

Overnight: Mayleko Lodge (Full Board)

Day 7

A full day in Gondar to visit the many important sites of the city: among them will be the Imperial Castle Compound (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the ‘Bath of Emperor Fasiladas’, the church of Quskuam Mariam (17th century AD), the residence of Empress Mintwab, and the church of Debre Birhan Sillassie which is famous for its wall and ceiling paintings.

Overnight: Mayleko Lodge (Full Board)

Day 8
Gondar – Simien Mountains

Drive from Gondar to the Simien Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site) to visit the endemic mammal of Ethiopia – the Gelada Baboon, and the breath-taking scenery of the Simien Mountains.

Overnight Simien Lodge (Full Board).


Day 9
Simien Mountains – Axum

Drive to Axum – the earliest of the many capitals of the Ethiopian Empire, crossing the Tekezze Gorge.

Overnight: Sabean Hotel (Full Board)


Day 10

Have a sightseeing tour of Axum which includes visiting the Archaeological museum of Axum, the famous stele park (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the church of St. Mary of Zion which is believed to be the last resting place of the original Ark of the Covenant, the palace and tomb of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel (6th Century AD), and the ruined palace of the Queen of Sheba (9th Century BC).

Overnight: Sabean Hotel (Full Board)

Another night might be added here, so as to make time for an excursion to Yeha Temple and Adwa.

Day 11
Axum – Lalibela

In the morning, fly to Lalibela – home of the 12th century AD rock hewn churches of King Lalibela. And in the afternoon, visit the first group of churches of King Lalibela (UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Overnight: Roha Hotel (Full Board)

Day 12

In the morning make an excursion to Yimrehane Kirstos cave church. After lunch, tour the second and third group of churches or visit the market in Lalibela.

Overnight: Roha Hotel (Full Board)

Day 13
Lalibela – Addis

Fly to Addis Ababa. In the afternoon, visit the famous Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa, an amazing spectacle and then the Trinity Cathedral church.

You will have a “Day use” room so that you can rest and shower before transferring to the airport in the mid-evening for your departure after midnight.

Day Use: Jupiter or similar 4* Hotel (Breakfast & Lunch)

Accommodation and meals as shown, internal flights, transfers, an English-speaking local guide in each centre visited, entrance fees and porterage
International flights, gratuities, bar accounts
Minimum number:
Health requirements:
Malarial all year. Various vaccines and boosters may be recommended by a medical practitioner. See or
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