⇐  2 Week Trips Menu

Historical North Trip, Simien mountains ( Danakil )

Trip duration: 15 days

The Historical Road is a treasure of Ethiopia. Nowhere in the world one can find more astonishing heritage from people from the past as in Northern Ethiopia. The history goes back until the pre-history: Axum city is older than 3000 years, the Temple of Yeha, from 5th century before Christ, the churches hewn from the rocks in Lalibela (12th century) and de Middle-Age castle in Gondar…

Allthis can be found in a breathtaking landscape with among them the Simien Mountains, the waterfalls of the Blue Nile and the many picturesque villages…

Northern Ethiopia is situated on highlands. Situated almost entirely above 2000 m, it makes the climate really enjoyable. The whole year round it’s about 25°C. If you choose to go to the Danakil depression, then you will have some hot days.

Southern Stars follows the more traditional roads. The distances have to be covered andthere are few alternatives. We try to give our own attractive accents to surprise you with good overnight lodging and more…

In our middle-class program, the hotels are screened, to be good, clean and mostly quiet. You can also choose for ‘top end locations’ (luxurious hotels) or you can go for more ‘couleur locale’ in small pensions. Also here in the basic hostels a private bathroom is available.

The trip is ideal to do with small self-composed groups.

Trip overview:

Day 01: Home departure – ADDIS ABEBA – DEBRE MARKOS
Day 07: AXUM
Day 08: AXUM – HAWZEN (Danakil, + 2 or 4 days))
Day 15 : Home destination capital

Day by Day Programme

Flying with Ethiopian Airlines, you may arrive early morning in Addis Ababa. With a 4X4 or with minibus we drive northwards to  Debre Markos. On the road we visit the Debre Libanos monastery. It’s a pilgrims place situated near to a wonderfull deepvalley. The current church is build by emperor Haile Selassie and is decorated with windows in glass and lead. We walk 20 minutes up to the cave of Tekle Haymanot. The water trickeling inside is captured in big plates and Christians are blessed with this holy water.

We follow are way through large fields of teff, the type of grain that is the basic product for the national plate of the ‘injera’ (a big little sour pancake, filled with vegetable or meat stews). After a spectacular and bumpy road through the Blue Nile Canyon (where our first baboons can be spotted), we arrive in Debre Markos.

Optional: a 1 hour visit of a pasture farm. Milk is pasteurized here and yoghurt is prepared.

After breakfast we drive 200 km up to  Bahir Dar. Here we are at the lowest point of our trip (1880m altitude). The vegetation is green and wealthy. We make a stop at the Bezawit Hill, a palace from emperor Haile Selassie. We visit shortly the town and the market.

We can stay overnight in huts (tukul), situated in a wonderful garden full of exotic birds and monkeys. 

Optional: a 2 hour visit of the plantation of Kogoveg. Here people cultivate courgettes, beans and peppers at large scale.

In the morning we catch a private boat to sail on Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. We can spot pelicans, king fishers and sea eagles. We make a first boat stop at the small Azuwa Maryam unique painted murals.  We make a 20 min. walk through a forest with wild coffee plants, up to Ura Kidane Meret. Sailing back we can, if desired, make a stop at the more quiet 19th century nunnery monastery…

After lunch, back on land, we drive 30 km to Tis Abory for our next hot spot: the Blue Nile waterfalls . After a little hour walk and meeting the local Amhara people we reach the beautiful waterfall site.

We arrive in Gondar,  a city looking in some areas quite Italian.  Our attention goes to the Royal Enclosure (a Unesco World Heritage) with castles and palaces in Portuguese style. Fasiladas Bath is a centuries-old swimming pool surrounded by huge trees that are growing through the walls. Once a year during the religious Timkat festival (in January) the bath is filled with water to baptize people. 

We finish our trip in the  Debre Berhane church and the 18th century  Empress Mentewab abbey. We can enjoy a relaxed evening walk in the town.

The Simien Mountain National Park is Unesco World Heritage listed and is sometimes said to be Africa’s most rough and breath taking beautiful park.  We walk 4 to 5 hours to the Jinbar waterfalls. We see Ras Dashan, with  4.545m the highest mountain of Ethiopia and we see a variety of rare endemic plants and animals. We certainly will meet the amazing red-hearted Gelada baboons, also known as the bleeding-heart monkey.

We stay overnight in tents at the base camp in the park.

Option  1: You dont’ like to camp? You can choose the option to stay overnight in the exclusive Simien lodge.

Option 2: A 2 to 6 days mountain trekking. Although its steep tops (several peaks above 4000 km) and extreme deep valleys (canyons), the Simien Park is an ideal hiking area. You can choose trekkings from 2 – 6 days. You camp in the base camps. SS Tours takes care of all arrangements, entrees, meals and guides (local guide and scout are obligatory).

We leave the park. We go for a spectacular drive through the canyon of the Tekeze river and the Lima-Limo road . We have several stops to enjoy the daily Ethiopian life ‘as it is’…

Day 07: AXUM
We have a full day visit of Axum town. In ancient times the city was the centre of Africa and is also a World Heritage site. We visit the St-Mary Cathedral where the original Ark of the Convenant is stored; the coffin with the Ten Commandments, the ruins of the palaces of the Queen of Sheba . We also visit the 6th century old graveyard of Gebre-Meskel and the mysterious 2000 years old obelisks.
We have some time for individual sightseeing or shopping in the town.

We have again a most sceneric drive with amazing panorama’s. We first drive in the direction of Eritrea to visit the temple of Moon in Yeha, assigned to the God Almougah, dating back 700 years BC. From there we continue our trip to Adrigat. The road from Adrigat to Hawzen is on the list of most beautiful roads of Africa. We are now arriving in the Tigray area, know for its many rock churches. We visit at least one today.

Option 1:
A 3 hour visit to the Debre Damo Monastery (3000 m). Some 15km off road, we find the Debre Damo monastry . We start the walk at the foot of the mountain and after half an hour walking on steps hewn in the rocks we reach a plateau. The men can climb via a 15 m longrope via a sheer cliff to the entrance of the cloister. Monks help the brave man with a security rope up and down. The ladies wait on the first plateau enjoying the climb and heroic pranks of their male part of the group. The monastery is built in the 6th century by Abuna Za Mikael Aregawi. The legend has it that a flying serpent dropped him first on top of the mountain. Not only men are not allowed, each female creature (with exception of cats and chickens) is expelled here. The monks reward the braves with coffee and local brewn beer. This activity is not for man with fear of heights.

Option 2
Duration 1 day. The Gheraltacluster. Heavy hike with the main focus on rock churches. The challenging hikes are super. The programme is discussed locally and adapted following the travellers wishes. Some churches are difficult to reach and are only for sports loving people with iron nerves (e.g. Abum Yemata Guh and Maryam Korkor). The Maryam Papaseit and  Wukro Cherkos Churches are more accessible.

Option 3:
Duration 2 days. The amazing Danakil Depression.
From the highlands (Hawzen is at 2100 m) we go down slowly to ‘under sea level’ . In some hours we change from a fresh spring temperature to hot desert climate. The Danakil depression is undoubtly the most stunning excentric place of Ethiopia and one of the most dry and hot places on Earth.

We can offer 2 programs of 2 days. These can be combined. This in only possible from October to end of February. Visit theDanakil is not that easy, several conditions have to be fulfilled.

  • Danakil program A
    Day 1: We drive down from Hawzen to Agula and Berhale. Here start the Danakil depression. We go further to Hamedelaand make a trip to the Salt lake (111 m under sea level) where the Afar peoplecut salt from the lake to bring it back to cities on camels and donkeys. We have a sunset on the lake enjoying departure of the camel caravans.

    We stay overnight ”aux milles etoiles’ as we say in French, under the stars.
    Day 2: Very early we drive to Dallol, the hottest place on Earth. Everywhere around we discover vulcanic activity, with sulphur and potassium springs. Green, blue, red, yellow, an amazing variety of shapes and colours . At noon we drive back to Hawzen.
  • Danakil program B
    Day 1: Going down from Hawzen to Agula up to the foot of the Erta Ale volcano. It is a quite long trip; the last 80 kms may take 6 hours. Erta Ale is a active volcano and the only one on Earthwiht a permanent lava lake. In the late afternoon we climb for 3 to 4 hours through an marslike stone landscape to the top of the crater. Camels walk ahead of us with our matrasses and our food.

    We stay overnight, at the border of the crater, again ”aux milles etoiles’.
    Day 2: Very early morning we breakfast and walk down back . We drive to the salt lake of Afdera . The camel caravan leave and we drive back to Hawzen.
    In our vehicles, we have cooking gear with us.

Some may dream of a real offroad adventure via high mountain peaks, small mountain villages and desolate landscapes. Well it is such a day today. We choose for a offroad drive via  Abi Adi, via Sekota, to reach Lalibela ; amazing… keep your eyes open! 
In Lalibela we stay for 3 nights in a beautifull hotel, situated on a hillside. From here you have a wonderful view on the whole plain.

Lalibeal, a simple mountain village, were time has stopped and that hides the 8th world miracle: 12 churches hewn 800 years ago out of one huge rockstone. Untill now it is a mystery how labour with only simple tools could create such a architectural masterpiece. The churches are divided in a Northern and a Southern cluster. We can reach them all by foot. The order was given by king Lalibela and the story says that he was assisted  by angles to make this great construction in a short time. The churches are located beneath ground; you can only see them when you stand just next to them. 
After the visit we have time to enjoy the ‘couleur locale’.

 It may look monotonous, but it is not at all the case. Indeed today again 2 churches fill our progamme. On the way we enjoy a local coffee ceremony. We walk around and meet the friendly local people. After breakfast we drive to  Yemrehanna Christos. For this road 4×4 mode is necessay. The church is in a cave and is rather build on it then hewn from it. Hunderds of mummified bodies of pilgrims lay behind the church , in the cave. These are from the pilgrims that came here to die. Other people say that these are the bodies of the hunderds of workers who died during the construction of the church. We recommend to make an evening walk to the hill top untill  Geneta Maryam. Monks may surprise us with  injera, coffee and beer. On top of the hill we enjoy a wonderfull sunset on Lalibela.

The ride back to Addis takes two days. We choose the last off-road transect up to  Dessie. We take time for stops in the villages and colourfull markets.  We meet people from several etnic groups. Among them we meet the  Amhare people, known for their special hair style. We drive relaxed and witness the daily african life , and take the opportunities we encounter.

We have a whole day in the capital Addis. On your request we can offer for everyone what is wished. We suggest to visit the national museum where you can visit ‘Lucy’. Lucy was excavated in 1974 in the Afar region and is considered the oldest specimen of the  homo sapiens. During the excavations the song ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ from the Beatles was played, the oldest female skelet is named ‘Lucy’.  Afterwards you can get lost in the Mercato, said to be the biggest market of Africa. Tell your guide what you wish, everything can be found. It is quite chaotic. At the end of the day we refresh and take a last meal. We may have the occasion to dance on local music and to test our shaking capacities…

Day 15: Home Destination

Notice: The program can be slightly adapted depending on the circumstances like the weather, local markets, etc.

Toevoegen foto Addis?

Prices: ‘Individual comfort’ class

  • English guiding
  • Date at your choice (most circuits are accessible the whole year)
  • 2 persons:  € 2290 p.p. (€2690 pp top-end ) 
  • 3 persons:  € 2090 p.p. (€ 2490 pp top-end)
  • 4 persons:  € 1990 p.p. (€ 2390 pp top-end ) max 4 p. in 1 land cruiser
  • If more than 4 persons, 2 landcruisers are needed.
  • Extra for singles : € 250  (€ 550 top-end)
  • full board accommodation
  • all transport is in 4×4 vehicles
  • boat trips 
  • all entry fees (churches etc.) 

For the optional program the prices can be given on request.

You are requested (obligatory) to arrange your own travel insurance!

For more information or reservations:
Mobile Wonde: +251 911769489
For more info. Mail us zebraguesthouse.tours@gmail.com