Day 1: Journey begins in Addis Ababa
Our group meets for lunch and a tour of the city including the Cathedral, National Museum and Merkato. We will experience the lively culture of the city in the evening watching traditional tribal dances in a Culture House, accompanied by a band using traditional instruments. We will have dinner in a restaurant and can even explore a jazz club or two.
Day 2: Fly to Gondar
Upon arrival in the mountain town we will visit the impressive castle grounds in the center of the town, as well as the Light of the Trinity church. Dinner can be followed by a trip to the Dashen brewery’s excellent outside bar which is a short drive down the hill via tuk tuk. Out hotel is on a hilltop with beautiful sunset views.
Day 3: Begin Simien Mountains trek
Our transport will drop us off in the park for a short first-day trek to ease us in to the altitude and mountain terrain; our route passing along the edge of a great chasm that overlooks the incredible vista of the Simiens: a patchwork of fields of teff and other crops between the swirling peaks. We will see troops of Ghelada baboons reclining in this area until we reach Sankober camp from where we can enjoy our dinner at sunset.
Day 4: Sankober to Gich Camp
The trek begins today in earnest with incredible views of a giant waterfall from a bulwark of stone that stretches out into an immense valley, the ambas of towering stone rolling all the way to the horizion. We pass through a local village and cross the river that feeds the waterfall where shepherds will often bring their flocks to drink, before we reach our remote highland camp of Gich.
Day 5: Gich to Chennek Camp
Today there is the opportunity to walk to the top of a small peak just off from the trail with its summit affording 360° views of the Simien Mountains’ most spectacular mountainscape. A stunning ridgeline decent leads us to our final campsite at Chennek, where we often see the majestic Walia ibex crazing close to the camp.
Day 6: Chennek to Gondar
From Chennek we can climb the third highest mountain in the country Mt. Bwahit (4437m), with views across a single valley to Mt. Ras Dashen (4550m), the highest mountain in Ethiopia. After descending we will return by bus to Gondar for a night in the hotel. The last climb is optional but most certainly recommended as the views are fantastic, being right in the very heart of the mountain range.
Day 7: Gondar to Lalibela
After a full days drive, a good opportunity to get some rest, but also to take in the true scale and beauty of the diverse landscape of the country, we arrive in the historic town of Lalibela. We will stay in a Mountain View lodge with wonderful views with a group dinner in its excellent restaurant.
Day 8: Guided tour of rock churches
Today our professional local guide who will take us around the eleven 13th century rock-hewn churches of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. All the churches are connected by passages and tunnels cut into the rock so you feel like a regular Indiana Jones exploring these masterpieces of architecture in what is known as Ethiopia’s ‘New Jerusalem’; its monks, nuns and pilgrims worshipping, singing and praying amid the incense and candlelight.
Day 9: Fly from Lalibela to Gheralta Mountains
We take the short flight from Lalibela’s airport to the city of Makale, then drive for two hours to our mountain lodge with fantastic vistas of the range from a rocky outcrop within the enclosure. The Gheralta Mountains range is reminiscent of a hollywood ‘Spaghetti Western’ filmset – so interesting and unexpected are its formations – it is a real treat.
Day 10: Begin Gheralta Mountains Trek
Our second trek begins! We will immediately ascend to take in the magnificence of the area and visit Yohannes Makudi rock church, which we will view inside along with all the other churches high up in the mountains, before descending down to our campsite, situated in the beautiful Debre Zion valley with cactus, olive, sycamore and eucalyptus trees.
Day 11: Debre Zion to Giant Sycamore Tree Camp
We will view the delightful Abuna Abraham rock church, which again requires a good climb in order to reach it; the views both inside and out always making the excursion worth it however. Tonight we will camp under the biggest sycamore tree in the region, a wonderful spot where many of the local exotic birds flock to nest in its branches.
Day 12: Sycamore Tree to Agoza Camp
On the way we can climb Mt. Kemmer, the highest mountain in the Gheralta range affording 360° views of the surrounding mountains and desert plateau of Tigray. We will also pass by a tiny rock hermitage carved into the mountainside before reaching our camp in Agoza village, where we will camp in the grounds of the local school, chatting with the villagers that often congregate there.
Day 13: Agoza to Koraro Camp
Our hike takes us up to beautiful Abuna Gebre Michael rock church carved deep into the mountainside and adorned with magnificent frescos. We then follow the priest down a narrow natural defile cut through the rock of the mountain which leads to our campsite. This is situated in the lee of an enormous natural cave with a sandy floor for our tents. We celebrate with a barbecue of fresh meat and beer brought up from the nearest village, a campfire and dancing!
Day 14: Journey ends in Addis Ababa
We will drive from Koraro to visit either the world-renowned Abuna Yemata or the beautiful Mariam Koko rock churches; depending on your preferences as the climb to Abuna Yemata is rather steep, requiring simple ropes and a harness for one particular spot as you ascend the giant stalagmite. This being said, for those who brave the climb it is one of the most incredible things you will ever see! We then drive to Mekele Airport for our flight back to Addis Ababa for our final group dinner at one of the best restaurants in town.
Day 15: Fly out of Addis Ababa