Ethiopia's Northern Historical Route - 10 Days

Drive through the Simien Mountains and visit four UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites, along with the other main highlights of the classic historical northern route, like Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, and Lalibela. At night, enjoy a stay in the highest hotel in Africa, the Simien Lodge.

Brief itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Addis Ababa, arrival and city tour Addis Ababa
Day 2 Flight Addis Ababa – Bahir Dar, visit Blue Nile Falls Bahir Dar
Day 3 Bahir Dar, Visit Lake Tana Bahir Dar
Day 4 Drive Bahir Dar – Gondar, visit castle and church Gondar
Day 5 Drive Gondar – Simien Mountains National Park Simien Lodge
Day 6 Drive Simien Lodge – Axum Axum
Day 7 Axum visit Axum
Day 8 Flight Axum – Lalibela Lalibela
Day 9 Lalibela visit Lalibela
Day 10 Flight Lalibela – Addis Ababa, market and departure  -

 Overview map

Map of the 10 day Northern Historical Route
Map of the 10 day Northern Historical Route

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Addis Ababa, arrival and city tour

Addis Ababa
Looking over Addis Ababa

Arrival in Addis Ababa and completion of the entry formalities. Transfer to the hotel and accommodation in the rooms. Then you'll have time for a city tour. If interested, we can visit a project, which is supported by our local tour operator. In the evening we have dinner together.

Day 2: Flight Addis Ababa – Bahir Dar, visit Blue Nile Falls

Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia
Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia

Domestic flight to Bahir Dar and drive to the Blue Nile Falls. Directly at the waterfalls, we undertake a two-hour hike and thus have the opportunity to experience the falls from different perspectives, cross over two bridges bridge, then the Blue Nile by boat and see sugar cane plantations. In the evening again common dinner and overnight in a hotel.

Day 3: Bahir Dar, Visit Lake Tana

Today we undertake a full day exploration on a boat trip to Lake Tana and visit a selection of the remote island monasteries. In addition, the interesting fauna of the lake can be observed in this trip (mainly hippos and different types of birds). The nearly full-day boat trip ends up in the afternoon and we get back to the hotel for the second night there.

Day 4: Drive Bahir Dar – Gondar, visit castle and church

Transfer by private vehicle to Gondar, the capital of Ethiopia until 1855, where the ancient emperor’s palace with churches and baths is situated. The castle from the 17th century, called Fasil Ghebbi, is located in the palace district which has been declared to be a UNESCO cultural world heritage site. We also visit the Church of Debre Birhan Selassie with its iconic ceiling of painted angels.

Day 5: Drive Gondar – Simien Mountains National Park

In the morning we drive along a newly built tarmac road from Gondar to the park headquarters in Debark, the 100 km journey take around 2 hours. At the headquarters, we arrange our permits to the park and pick up our scout/park ranger. Then we keep driving for other 1-2 hours to the most interesting spots of the national park. From time to time we stretch our legs and take short walks (depending on your interest) which will allow us impressive views over the dramatic mountain range. In the afternoon, we return to the Simien Lodge, the highest hotel in Africa.

Day 6: Drive Simien Lodge – Axum

Today’s drive takes us farther north to the ancient city of Axum. The first part is leading along the old Limalimo road which was built by the Italians almost 80 years ago but still in use. It is quite a long drive that takes about 6 hours, but rewarding with long mountain chains which can be seen from different perspectives.

Day 7: Axum visit

Axum is the former capital of the Kingdom of Aksum. Today, the city is located in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, about 50 kilometers from the border to Eritrea. Axum is a holy city in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and in the Church of the Holy Mary of Zion, according to the Ethiopian-Orthodox tradition, the ancient original covenant is preserved.

However, access to the covenant is denied to tourists. On the other hand, we can visit the remains of ancient settlements and monasteries, but above all the many stelae typical of the Kingdom of Aksum.

Day 8: Flight Axum – Lalibela

In the late morning, a domestic flight takes us from Axum to Lalibela, the pilgrimage site and holy town for Ethiopian-orthodox Christians. There we see the famous churches carved in stone. These eleven monolithic churches and their underground tunnels were carved from the rock by 16,000 Ethiopians during 23 years in the 12th-13th century and are today part of the UNESCO cultural world heritage, too.

Day 9: Lalibela visit

Today we visit a rock church too, but a special one: we first visit Asheten Maryam (Amharic for St. Mary's perfume), a still active mountain monastery with a cave church. After lunch in the town, in the afternoon there’s the possibility to visit the other group of churches or simply to enjoy the time at the local market. Overnight in the previous hotel.

Day 10: Flight Lalibela – Addis Ababa, market, and departure

Transfer to the Lalibela airport in the morning and flight to Addis Ababa. If there is enough time before your departure, we visit a market or shops in Addis Ababa to buy souvenirs. Finally, there is a joint traditional Ethiopian dinner with music and dance performance. End of the trip and departure depending on flight times.