Ethiopia's Historic Route to Gheralta | Yampu Tours

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Ethiopia’s Historic Route to Gheralta

PRIVATE TOUR - 13 DAY SAMPLE ITINERARY

FROM £$ 4975

Private Tour Highlights

  • Visit the village of Awra Amba, a unique settlement that is considered to be a prime model for self-help and, above all, gender equality.
  • See the unmissable Tigray Churches, rock-hewn places of worship that are rarely seen by outsiders with a fair amount of trekking and rock climbing to reach them.
  • While in Addis Ababa, visit the National Museum that houses the fossilized remains of "Lucy," a 3.2 million year old Hominid.
  • Visit Axum, once the center of a great empire, and observe the famed granite obelisks of Stelae Park.
  • Experience the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, which are called the "Eighth Wonders of the World".
  • Observe the Gelada Baboon and the breath-taking landscape of the Simien Mountains with a light trek around the area.
Interested in this tour?   Let us build you a customized quote based on your budget.

Tour Overview

Ethiopia is filled with mystic wonders with ancient churches and historic palaces strewn throughout the country. Visitors can discover many of these sites for themselves along Ethiopia’s Historic Route to Gheralta with a stay at the breathtakingly beautiful Gheralta Lodge.

After arriving in Addis Ababa, explorers will embark on their historic journey with a cruise along Ethiopia’s largest lake, Lake Tana to visit the 14th-century Monastery of Ura Kidane Mihret, the most famous of the Zege peninsula monasteries. After a visit to the village of Awra Amba, a unique settlement that is considered to be a prime model for gender equality, the tour takes travelers to the royal and historical city of Gondar. Here, history buffs can explore the royal complex of ancient castles and palaces of numerous architectural styles dating back to the 17th century.

From Gondor, the journey continues to what is known as “The Roof of Africa”, Simien National Park where nature lovers will be able to encounter birds like Lammergeyer and the endemic Gelada Baboon. After taking in the park’s breathtaking scenery, adventurers will take to arguably Ethiopia’s top attraction, the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. After spending some time in Axum, one of Africa’s oldest continuously inhabited sites, the journey to the mysterious Tigray Churches begins. With numerous treks to choose from ranging in difficulty levels, visitors can take in the rock-hewn churches of Gheralta.

Inclusions
Price includes domestic and regional flights within the itinerary; all hotel accommodations including daily continental or buffet breakfast and daily city tax; all transfers between airports and hotels with assistance and baggage handling; guided tours in English including entrance fees.
Exclusions

International airfare (unless specifically included), airport departure taxes that must be paid on-site, gratuities, meals not mentioned, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages with meals, early / late check-out, room service, visa fees/services, and other personal items or services not mentioned.

Best Time to Travel
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC

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Pricing Details
  3-Star 4-Star 5-Star Luxury
Double N/A £$4975 N/A N/A
Single N/A £$7624 N/A N/A

Prices shown above are per person. Hotel categories do not adhere strictly to international ratings; Yampu has evaluated the hotels according to destination and availability. Prices include local airfare (where applicable), hotel accommodation including daily breakfast; all transfers with baggage handling, all guided tours in English and all entrance fees.

Please note that prices are subject to change based on availability and seasonality, especially during the holiday season from December 20th through January 5th each year. Please contact a Yampu Travel Specialist for more information on best times to travel.

Trip Type:

All our trips are operated on a private basis unless specified otherwise. This is only a sample itinerary; your Yampu Tour Consultant will personalize this trip for you according to your available dates, interests and type of hotels. This is your trip and we will work on making it perfect!

Tour Itinerary

Day
1

Overnight Flight to Ethiopia

Overnight International Flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Overnight International Flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Day
2

Welcome to Addis Ababa!

Upon arrival to Addis Ababa, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Serving as the capital and largest city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is the cultural and historic center of the country. The city's National Museum exhibits numerous prehistoric fossils, including replicas of the famous early hominid, "Lucy." Aside from its fascinating history, visitors will also appreciate Addis Ababa's rich food scene as well as Ethiopia's famed export, Arabica coffee.

Upon arrival to Addis Ababa, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Serving as the capital and largest city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is the cultural and historic center of the country. The city's National Museum exhibits numerous prehistoric fossils, including replicas of the famous early hominid, "Lucy." Aside from its fascinating history, visitors will also appreciate Addis Ababa's rich food scene as well as Ethiopia's famed export, Arabica coffee.

Day
3

Lake Tana Cruise Tour

This morning you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Bahir Dar.

Upon arrival to Bahir Dar, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

At the appropriate time, you will take a boat cruise on Lake Tana to visit the 14th-century Monastery of Ura Kidane Mihret, the most famous of the Zege peninsula monasteries with very beautiful painted maqdas and a priceless collection of crosses and crowns.

After the visit, you will be transferred to your hotel for the evening. ...read less

Day
4

Awra Amba Village Tour

After breakfast you will be met by your guide to drive to Gondar (196 km / 122 miles, approx. 4 hours). En route, you will drive to the village of Awra Amba, which is located off the Woreta - Woldia 'China-Road'. Visit the unique settlement that is considered to be a prime model for self-help and above all gender equality. Women have equal rights as men and there is no distinction in divisions of labor. Men cook, women plow, and religion have no place. They believe in hard work and being good to people.

After your visit to Awra Amba, drive to Gondar, a town founded in 1636 by the great Emperor Fassiladas. Set in a landscape of incomparable beauty, it was the Royal Capital of Ethiopia. Visit the impressive castles and churches built by Emperor Fassiladas and his descendants.

Later, proceed to the fascinating Debre Birhan Selassie Church, with its walls and ceilings decorated with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval history.
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Day
5

Simien National Park Tour

This morning, you will drive to Simien Mountain National park (140 km / 87 miles, approx. 5 hours). En route, you will observe the magnificent scenery with unique flora, the first segment of the Simien Mountains National Park - "Roof of Africa". Upon arrival you will check-in to the lodge and you will proceed to drive to Sanqaber where you will be able to encounter birds like Lammergeyer and the endemic Gelada Baboon.

This morning, you will drive to Simien Mountain National park (140 km / 87 miles, approx. 5 hours). En route, you will observe the magnificent scenery with unique flora, the first segment of the Simien Mountains National Park - "Roof of Africa". Upon arrival you will check-in to the lodge and you will proceed to drive to Sanqaber where you will be able to encounter birds like Lammergeyer and the endemic Gelada Baboon.

Day
6

Chenek Sightseeing Tour

Today, you will drive to Chenek. You will have beautiful views on both sides of the escarpment ridge. This is a great place to spot the Walia ibex, if you are lucky, the Ethiopian Wolf. Tucked away behind a hillock on a mini plateau is a romantic spot with a bench, looking back to Imet Gogo and Inatye.

Today, you will drive to Chenek. You will have beautiful views on both sides of the escarpment ridge. This is a great place to spot the Walia ibex, if you are lucky, the Ethiopian Wolf. Tucked away behind a hillock on a mini plateau is a romantic spot with a bench, looking back to Imet Gogo and Inatye.

Day
7

Gondar - Lalibela

At the appropriate time, you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Lalibela.

Upon arrival to Lalibela, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Lalibela, also known as "Africa's Petra", is Ethiopia's crown jewel. It is home to the most famous churches and the scene of many major religious ceremonies.

At the appropriate time, you will be met by your guide to visit the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, which are called the "Eighth Wonders of the World". These churches were hewn out of solid rock between 800 - 1200 AD and are still active houses of worship. The churches are carved below ground level, ringed by trenches and courtyards and are arguably Ethiopia's top attraction. They are connected to each other by a tangled maze of tunnels and passages.

You will visit the first group of six churches that lie in rock cradles, one behind the other: 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.
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Day
8

The Second Group of Churches & Nakuto Le'ab Monastery

Today, you will visit the second group of churches, Bet Giyorgis, possibly the most elegant of all the Lalibela churches, lies somewhat isolated in the south-west part of the village on a sloping rock terrace. It can only be reached through a tunnel. The group of four, south of the Jordan River, comprise of Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercuiros, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel - Rufa'el. Bet Emanuel's elaborate exterior is praised by art historian.

In the afternoon, take an excursion to visit Nakuto Le'ab monastery. King Nakuto abdicated his throne in 1270 AD and went to a cave to lead a hermit's life. This cave has since become a monastery with a dramatic setting.
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Day
9

Lalibela - Axum

At the appropriate time, you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Axum.

Upon arrival to Axum, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel to freshen up before your Axum City Sightseeing tour.

Dating from the second century B.C., Axum City reached its height of power between the fourth and seventh centuries A.D., when it controlled most of present-day Ethiopia and, at times, both sides of the Red Sea. Axum was once the center of a great empire, and the seat of learning for the ancient Ge'ez language and literature. Take a city tour that includes the Stelae Park. These famed granite obelisks are relics of this time and have gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The tallest, the Great Stele, has fallen and broken into six massive pieces, but when standing, it was 33 meters (108 feet) tall and weighed about five hundred tons. The tallest obelisk still standing at Axum today is about 23 meters (75 feet) tall, still an impressive sight!

We continue the city tour, visiting St. Mary's Church and the Sanctuary Chapel which is the repository of the Ark of the Covenant; the Coronation Yard; King Ezana's Park; and the "Queen of Sheba" ruins, once a massive palace with finely mortared stonewalls, deep foundations, and its own impressive drainage system, believed to be the oldest building in Axum.
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Day
10

Transfer to Hawzen with Visit to Yeha

This morning, you will continue to drive to Hawzen via Adwa and Adigrat (200 km / 124 miles, approx. 4 hours). En route, visit Yeha, a 5th century BC Temple. This temple displays incredible skills in stonework and is, in fact, the oldest building still standing in Ethiopia.

This morning, you will continue to drive to Hawzen via Adwa and Adigrat (200 km / 124 miles, approx. 4 hours). En route, visit Yeha, a 5th century BC Temple. This temple displays incredible skills in stonework and is, in fact, the oldest building still standing in Ethiopia.

Day
11

Optional Activities in Hawzen

Today you will have several options of activities to choose from, ranging in difficulty level.

Your first option is Abuna Yemata Tour (Difficult). You will drive to one of Gheralta's rock-hewn churches, Abuna Yemata (Guh), named for one of the nine saints who came to Ethiopia. A 12 km drive from the lodge and a further 30 minutes' walk will bring you to the foot of the perpendicular rock mountains of Guh, which appear as they are pillars to the sky. The church is carved on the cliff facing one of the mountains of Guh, and it is the most spectacular of all rock churches in Ethiopia and the most challenging to access. The church's interior is reached via a small crack in the rock and is noted for its beautiful ceiling frescoes. Surprisingly, such great works of art have existed for centuries in such an unusual place that seems closer to the moon than to the earth. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure and overnight at Gheralta Lodge.

The Second option will be Debre Maryam Korkor Tour (Difficult).

Debre Maryam Korkor is one of the biggest and most complex churches in the area and is situated on one of the high mountains of Gheralta. While the climb to the church is not technical, it is steep and takes just over one hour to reach the summit. Climbing up to the church, we will enjoy the panoramic view of the Hawzen plain. The church of Maryam Korkor faces west and it has a whitewashed facade nestled into the cliff face. The interior has a series of beautifully decorated arches, and both the arches and ceiling of the church are decorated with bas-reliefs, similar to those at Abreha Atsbeha. The church walls and columns are decorated with paintings of stories from the bible, from both the Old and the New Testament. The church also has a wide collection of parchment manuscripts, archaic bibles, and crosses. The afternoon will be at leisure with overnight at the Gheralta Lodge.

Your third option includes Debre Tsion Tour (Easy).

The church of Debre Tsion is 18 km south-east of the lodge and about 40 minutes' walk from the escarpment foot. Situated at the top edge of the escarpment, the church proudly overlooks the entire Hawzen plain. Often referred to as Abune Abraham after the monk who founded it. Debre Tsion is a church entirely hewn from living rock and architecturally outstanding. It is rectangular and is supported by six cruciform pillars and surrounded by a cloister. There is a small domed room considered to have served as Abune Abraham's prayer room. Its walls are decorated with many geometrical designs and saints.

The final option to choose from is Dugem Selassie Tour (Easy).

After breakfast at the lodge, we will take a short drive to Dugem at the Gheralta Lodge base. We will visit Dugem Selassie, carved into granite within the compound of the eponymous modern church. The church is unusual due to its location on the plain rather than in the mountains. It is the only site with three sanctuaries in a single area. After our visit, we will drive back to the lodge to enjoy the beautiful sunset.
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Day
12

Addis Ababa - Hawzen - Mekele

This morning, drive to Mekele (105 km / 65 miles, approx. 3 hours). En route you can visit Abraha Atsbeha. Abraha Atsbeha church is a rock-hewn church. Its interior is painstakingly decorated. Drive to Wukro town. Visit the rock church of Wukro Cherkos near the town, the most accessible of the rock-hewn churches in Tigray. Then continue driving to Mekele for your Domestic Flight to Addis Ababa.

Upon arrival to Addis Ababa, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

This morning, drive to Mekele (105 km / 65 miles, approx. 3 hours). En route you can visit Abraha Atsbeha. Abraha Atsbeha church is a rock-hewn church. Its interior is painstakingly decorated. Drive to Wukro town. Visit the rock church of Wukro Cherkos near the town, the most accessible of the rock-hewn churches in Tigray. Then continue driving to Mekele for your Domestic Flight to Addis Ababa.

Upon arrival to Addis Ababa, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Day
13

Addis Ababa Historical Sightseeing Tour

This morning, after breakfast, begin your city tour of Addis with a drive to Mount Entoto. This is a historical place where Emperor Menelik II resided and built his palace when he came from Ankober and founded Addis Ababa. It is considered a sacred mountain and has many monasteries. It is situated at an altitude between 2,600 and 3,100 meters. You will have a magnificent view of the city. Then, drive to the National Museum that houses the nation's artistic treasures as well as many of the most precious archaeological finds. This includes the fossilized remains of early hominids, the most famous of which is "Lucy," the partial skeleton of a specimen of Australopithecus afarensis. The well-known Lucy is said to be 3.2 million years old. After visiting the museum, you will drive to Trinity Cathedral Church. This church is the highest-ranking Orthodox cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was built to commemorate Ethiopia's liberation from Italian occupation and is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia, after the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum.

This afternoon, you will visit the Ethnological museum set within Haile Selassie's former palace, surrounded by the beautiful gardens and fountains of Addis Ababa University's main campus. Even if you're not normally a museum fan, this one is worth a bit of your time - it's easily one of the finest museums in Africa. Later, you drive to Mercato and visit the largest open market in Africa, where you will drive through the market. Mercato is located covering several square miles and employing an estimated 13,000 people in 7,100 business entities.

At the appropriate time, you will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to flight home.
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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Gondar, Ethiopia

Simien Mountains National Park, Debark, Ethiopia

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Gondar, Ethiopia

Axum, Ethiopia

Hawzen, Ethiopia

Mekele, Ethiopia

Places You'll See

  • Addis Ababa

    Ethiopia’s sprawling capital city, located along the Great Rift Valley, provides travelers with a fantastic introduction to the country’s culture and history. History buffs will appreciate hundreds of prehistoric fossils at the National Museum where replicas of the famous early hominid, “Lucy,” reside. Foodies can indulge in Addis Ababa’s plentiful culinary scene and participate in an important part of Ethiopian culture with a delicious coffee ceremony.

  • Bahir Dar

    With its charming lake side views, the city of Bahir Dar has long served as the gateway to both the massive Tana Lake and the impressive Blue Nile waterfall. Keeping out an eye for hippos and crocodiles, visitors can cruise along the waters to the many islands in Tana in search for ancient churches and monasteries.

  • Gondar

    The royal and historical city of Gondar is well known for its royal complex of ancient castles and palaces of numerous architectural styles dating back to the 17th century. Located north of Lake Tana and just south of the Simien Mountains, Gondar serves as the perfect stopover between the two destinations.

  • Lalibela

    Known for its distinct rock-carved churches, Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s most sought-after sites. Dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, the most well-known of the subterranean monoliths are Bete Medhane Alem and the cross-shaped Bete Giyorgis. The eleven churches of the area were carved entirely by hammer and chisels, complete with windows and detailed columns and roofs all connected by underground tunnels. The creations are still used for ceremonies, vigils, and processions today.

  • Axum

    Once a powerful kingdom during the Christian era, Axum is one of Africa’s oldest continuously inhabited sites and is well known for its tall obelisks that still stand today, some reaching 33m tall. Axum is also thought to be the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant within the Chapel of the Tablet, the holiest site in Ethiopia.

  • Hawzen

    The quaint town of Hawzen is a friendly village in northern Ethiopia, serving as an entrance to the unmissable Tigray Churches, an incredible combination of nature, culture, and history. Many of the hundreds of rock-hewn places of worship are rarely seen by outsiders making a visit truly unique. With a fair amount of trekking and rock climbing, reaching the churches is a feat of its own, with a decent amount of fitness required to reach them. The most famous of the churches is Abuna Yemata Guh, filled with intricate dome paintings.  But be fair warned, reaching Abuna Yemata Guh is not an easy feat with rock climbing, scaling cliffs, and navigating centuries-old footholds to reach it.

  • Mekele

    Located north of Lalibela and south of the Danakil Depression, Mekele is the perfect stopover between the two destinations. Since being selected to be the capital of the Tigray region by Emperor Yohannes IV in the 19th century, the city has become a center for salt trade with its proximity to Danakil. Visitors can explore the Emperor’s palace that has since been transformed into a museum.

Hotel Options

Featured Accommodation

Gheralta Lodge

Designed by Giuseppe Tommasi, an Italian architect from the school of Carlo Scarpa, the structures are oriented to simplicity and solutions are minimalist. Bungalows have been developed with local workers and techniques, adopting the traditional ‘tigrigna’ architecture based on sand-stone walls and ‘wood and soil’ roofs; furniture and cloths are Ethiopian or, any case, manufactured in the village. Only the major technical equipment (sanitary fittings, water pumps, community kitchen, industrial washing machines, generator, etc.) have been imported from Italy for quality reasons. Drilling of two boreholes were executed in late 2005, construction realized by ‘Elmi Olindo plc’ during 2006 and start-up procedures in the first months of 2007. The lodge has been inaugurated by the President of National Regional State of Tigrai on March 25th 2007.

Hawzen ,

4 Star Properties

Addis Ababa : Jupiter International Hotel

Bahir Dar : Kuriftu Resort & Spa

Gondar : Goha Hotel

Simien : Limalimo Lodge

Lalibela : Tukul Village Hotel

Axum : Sabean International Hotel

Testimonials

Alina M.

Traveled December 2018

Another great trip with Yampu!

Another great trip with Yampu! Our Safari trip to Kenya was spectacular- very well organized down to the very last detail. The trip was beyond everyone’s expectations! Would/ Will definitely use their services again!

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Lisa

Traveled March, 2017

Already planning a return for next year!

Kenya is on record on FB and Instagram as the best vacation ever that the Ahmads have taken! Thank you for all your efforts and attention to detail which made transfers and bookings so easy. I am still in Nairobi with friends about will reach out when I return to share details. Already planning a return for next year! 🙂

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Alina P.

Traveled December 2018

All their choices were excellent and I recommend them highly

I was very pleased for all the arrangements that Yampu tours made for my family of 12. All their choices were excellent and I recommend them highly. I would definitely use them again.

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