16 DAYS TREKKING IN SIMIEN MOUNTAINS, DANAKIL & ERTA ALE
In this 16 days trekking and adventure travel in Ethiopia, we will discover the most famous places in the country and travel through the ‘Roof of Africa’ (Simien Mountains National Park) to one of the lowest points in Africa, Danakil Depression. The power of nature in the majestic Simien Mountains National Park and active volcanoes in Erta Ale are highlights of this adventure and trekking tour. We start our trekking from Afar deserts and continue to Danakil and Era Ale. Then, we hike in Simien Mountains and climb to Buahit (4200 meters a.s.l). This tour also gives us the chance to admire the millennia-old history and traditions. We visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and old town of Gondar. Other than trekking, this tour also provides the chance to interact and get to know the people and culture of Ethiopians through a visit to family in a village and enjoy the typical coffee ceremony. We also organize a cooking evening where we can cook Ethiopian food with the family.
Details of the Tour
Tour Catagory: Adventure & Active
Tour Code: AA02
Tour Duration: 16 Days
Price: From 2,790 € / person
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TOUR
– Trekking in Simien Mountains National Park – the Majestic Mountains of Africa
– Climb to the highest point in Ethiopia- Ras Dashen (4,620) meters a.s.l
– Drive through the desert in Afar and visit camel caravans
– Hiking in Danakil Depression and active volcanoes of Erta Ale
– Fascinating 12th century Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela
– Island Monasteries of Lake Tana & the Blue Nile falls
– The 17th Century Castles of Gondar
– Game Drive in Awash National Park
ETHIOPIA TREKKING & ADVENTURE TRIP IN PICTURES
Where do we start the tour?
We start our tour to Ethiopia from Addis Ababa, commonly referred ‘Addis.’ Addis lies at an altitude of about 2,300 meters above sea level. This elevation gives the ‘Political Capital of Africa’ an enjoyable & welcoming weather. Addis offers a lot to visitors – including Merkato, the largest open-air market in Africa, the National Museum where oldest human fossils are collected and exhibited, the Ethnological museum where we can get a fascinating glimpse into Ethiopia’s many tribal groups, and the Entoto Mountains which gives a stunning view of the city. Addis also offers excellent artworks and musical shows.
Meeting Place – Hotel in Addis Ababa
We meet the small group at a hotel in Addis Ababa a day before the tour starts. If you need airport transfers and hotel room before the tour starts, please let us know. We will arrange everything you need in Addis. Details of the meeting place and contacts of our tour leader and driver will be given once you book the tour. We assume you visit Addis Ababa by yourselves either a day before or after the tour. We can also arrange it on request or provide recommendations.
Day 01 – The Castles of Gondar
Visit the Castles of Gondar, Bath of the Fasilidas and Debre Birhan Selassie Church.
We fly to Gondar in the morning. Gondar used to be the seat of many Emperors who ruled Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th century. The town is the gateway to the Simien Mountains and lies at an altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level.
After lunch, we will visit the famous castles of the town, where former rulers built numerous palaces for themselves and their families. Afterwards, we will go to the bath of King Fasilidas, where Timkat fest is annually hosted. Timkat is one of the famous festivals in Ethiopia and held annually to celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ. We finish the day with a visit to the church of Debre Berhan Selassie, which is famous for its beautiful ceiling paintings. The motif of the angelic face became a symbol of the Ethiopian art.
Overnight at hotel.
Day 02 – Trek Simien Mountains National Park
Morning Drive to Simien Mountains National Park (135 km). The Simien Mountains has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1969. The UNESCO described the mountains as “one of the world’s most spectacular landscapes on the Ethiopian plateau.” The park is full of breathtaking landscapes and abundant flora and fauna. Over 10,000 of the rare & endemic Gelada baboons live in the park and can be observed at a close distance. The park is also the home for the Walia Ibex, which is also called Ethiopian Wolf.
We will be accompanied by our local hiking guide and a scout (park rangers). We will have an easy hike (approx. 3 h) from Sankaber (3.260 m) to Geech. We pass picturesque scenery, as well as Ethiopia’s highest waterfall Jinbar, also called “gateway to hell.” We will camp in Geech (3.600 m) for the overnight. It is situated on a huge plateau horses grazing in the meadows.
Day 03 – Trek Simien Mountains National Park – Second Day
Today’s hiking (approximately 4 to 5 hrs.) takes us to the best viewpoints of the Simien National Park, Imet Gogo (3,926m). From here, we can enjoy a 360 ° panorama view of the Simien Mountains. Ethiopia is not called the “roof of Africa” for nothing. Many of the country’s northern part is full of rugged terrains & escarpments, deep valleys and a high plateau. Simien Mountains is part of the Ethiopian highlands. The area is covered with massive walls of volcanic rocks, which fall over a thousand meters deep into steep gorges. Some regions of the park are still inhabited and cultivated at over 3,000 m. More than four thousand people live in the Simien Mountains National Park.
We continue hiking to the next observation point Seha (3.785 m), where we have a picnic for lunch. The last stop is Quedadit (3.760 m) before we go back to Geech Camp.
Overnight – Camping at Geech (3,200 meters)
Day 04 – Trek Simien Mountains National Park – Third Day
After enjoying the stunning morning view of the mountains, we continue to hike to Chenek (approximately 5 hrs.). The hiking trail is full of giant lobelia and tree-heather or Erica Arborea. After a picnic lunch, we continue hiking along the steep slopes of the Enatye (4,000 m), from where we once again have a breathtaking view of the landscapes of the national park, including the Imet Gogo. Then we go down to reach Chenek Campsite (3.620 m). Around Chenek campsite, there are groups of Gelada baboons in search of food and relaxing in the meadows. If we are lucky, we may see also the rare Walia Ibex. Then we drive back to Gondar (160km) for an overnight stay.
Day 05 – Bahir Dar – Monasteries of Lake Tana
The Drive to Bahir Dar (185 km) is via magnificent landscapes of the Amhara region. The farmlands of the Amhara people are visible on the roadside.
The city is situated on the shore of Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country with 37 islands most of which are monasteries from the 14th – 19th century. Bahir Dar has a Mediterranean type weather. Its palm-lined streets make Bahir Dar one of the most attractive cities in Africa. The city is the capital of the regional government for the Amhara people.
We will have a quick stop at Awra Amba community, egalitarian society. Unlike other parts of the country, in Awra Amba community women have equal rights as men, and there is no distinction in divisions of labor between men and women.
In the afternoon, we take a boat across Lake Tana to the Zeghie peninsula. On the peninsula, we do a short walk and visit two monasteries from the 14th century – Azwa Mariam and Ura Kidane Mehret. The architectural style of both monasteries is a typical example of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with its round shape, mud walls, and conical straw roofs. In Zeghie, we also find a diverse bird species and Columbus Baboons in the forest. After the walk, we will be invited to a local family for a typical tradition Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Two overnight stays in a family owned hotel/lodge.
Day 06 – Bahir Dar – The Blue Nile Falls
Visit local market and waterfalls of the Blue Nile
In the morning we visit the local market. In the Local market, we discover traditional handicrafts, jewelry, cotton scarves and straw baskets for which Bahir Dar is known for all over the country.
After lunch, we will have an excursion to the magnificent Blue Nile waterfalls. The waterfall is locally known as ‘Tis-Issat’ which means a smoking water. After driving for 40 minutes, we will have a short hike to the falls. The area around the falls is green an appealing for hiking.
Overnight stay in a family owned hotel/lodge.
Day 07 – Drive through the desert and visit camel caravans in Afar region
We take a short flight to Mekele and drive to Ahmedela (100 km). The journey continues through a magnificent landscape down to the Afar Valley. We enter to Afar, dry and desert region with one of the earth’s active volcanoes. In Berhele, a small village in Afar, we meet our local tour guide and scouts who will accompany us on our tour to the Danakil & Erta Ale for the next four days. We continue driving in the desert. In the late afternoon, we reach the villages of the Afar people and meet camel caravans. They transport salt bars from the salt mining place called Dallol to nearby regions.
Three overnights – Camping
Day 08 – Visit Danakil Depression & Lake Asale
Today another highlight of the tour awaits us, the visit of the Danakil Depression. According to geologists, the Danakil is part of the Afar Triangle formed as a result of earth’s tectonic movement when Africa and Asia were moving apart million years ago. It is one of the hottest and most inhospitable places on earth. Parts of which are up to 116 m below sea level, which makes it one of the lowest place on earth. The temperature in the afternoon can be over 50 ° C.
There are many hot springs which are rich in sulfur, potassium carbon and salt. The mix of all these minerals makes the rocks colorful and the area very spectacular. Some people call the area as color factory and Mars on earth because of the different colors of rocks.
We continue our tour to Lake Asale also known as Lake Karum. Here we visit a century-old salt mine. We will see men and women making a salt bar traditionally. After visiting a salt cave, which is known as the “Salt New York” at the Afar, we go to our camp.
Day 09 – Climb to Erta Ale – Active Volcano
After breakfast, we drive to Erta Ale and enjoy the desert. On the way, we stop in a small village to meet the head of a community, and we eat lunch on his property. Then we continue our tour to Dodom.
There the active volcano Erta Ale awaits us. Erta Ale rises 50 meters wide and 600 meters above sea level. It is one of the few volcanoes in the world with a permanent lava lake. In the language of Afar, Erta means “Smoking Mountain.” Its southernmost point is known as the “gateway to hell.” Although the last major volcanic eruption in the area was in 2005, the lava keeps flowing out in some year after.
At sunset, we start our ascent to the crater of the volcano. When we arrive, we will be rewarded with a breathtaking view. The lava eruptions are spectacular and incredibly colorful. After enjoying the lava dance, we go back to the camp (hike in total approx. 4 h).
Day 10 – Erta Ale in the morning
Today we get up early in the morning to enjoy an incredible view of boiling lava. Then we hike to Dodom. Afterwards, we drive to Hawzen (320 km). Today will be our last drive from Afar desert. We will have stops in between for a picnic lunch and visit the Afar villages and people.
Two Overnight stays at Gheralta Lodge
Day 11 – Hiking Gheralta Mountains
Today we will have a hike to Gheralta Mountains. Our first hike is to the top of one of the mountains which takes almost two hours. The hike goes through some steep and narrow passages. On the top of the mountain, we will have a fantastic view of the dry land of Tigray region. Besides the view, there are two 14th century old rock-hewn churches called Mariam Korkor and Daniel Korkor. The view of the other mountains of Daniel Korkor is extraordinary. Then we hike down for lunch before the next hike.
After lunch, we hike to Abune Yemata Gughe. To enjoy a breathtaking view, we have to hike for another two hours. This part of the hiking needs a bit of physical fitness as it includes climbing about a 10 meters high and steep rock. Local farmers will also help you climb the rocks. Even they provide you ropes so that you can climb comfortably. Once you climb up, you will be proud of yourself and rewarded with one of the best views of Gheralta Mountains and nearby regions. There is also another rock-hewn church on the top of the mountain carved in between the 9th & 11th century with paintings from14th century.
Day 12 – Drive to Lalibela
After breakfast in Hawzen, we head to Labella which is about 340 km away. Lalibela, formerly known as ‘Roha,’ was the political capital the 11th and 12th Century Ethiopia. Lalibela is considered as one of “the eighth wonders of the ancient world” because of its eleven rock-hewn churches from the 12th century. The town is named after King Lalibela, who build the churches. King Lalibela had a dream of making a “second Jerusalem” in his kingdom to be a pilgrimage site for Ethiopians. According to historians the carving of the churches from a single rock lasted for 20 years. However, according to a local myth, which many locals believe, the carving of the churches took overnight because of the help of invisible angels. The architecture of these carefully carved churches remains one of the highlights of our tours to Ethiopia.
Two overnights in a hotel.
Day 13 – Churches of Lalibela and Cooking with an Ethiopian family
After breakfast, we will visit the first group of the world famous churches of Lalibela. In this group of churches, there is Bete Medhane Alem, which means “House of Savior of the World.” Bete Medhane Alem is the largest monolithic church in the world. Its architectural style resembles a Greek temple. The church is home to the original Lalibela Cross known as “Afro Ayigeba.” In the corner of Bete Medhane Alem church, there are three empty tombs symbolically representing Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of the Old Testament.
In the afternoon we will discover the second group of monolithic rock churches. Among them is the church Bet Giyorgis, probably the most famous, finest & well-designed of all churches of Lalibela. Bete Giyorgis is connected to the other churches by a tunnel and carved out of the rock in the form of a cross.
In the evening, a special highlight awaits us. We will be guests of an Ethiopian family and cook our dinner together. We learn not only new delicious recipes but also gain an insight into the everyday life of the Ethiopians.
Day 14- Awash National Park
After breakfast, we take a short flight to Addis Ababa. From Addis, we continue to drive to Awash National Park (220 km). We do short hiking in Awash and visit a village of the Kereyu people.
Two overnight stays at a lodge inside the park
Day 15 – Game Drive in Awash National Park
In the morning we do a game drive in Awash National Park. We explore the park’s beautiful surroundings around the Awash River and its waterfalls, antelopes, crocodiles, gazelles, ostriches and a colorful bird world. With luck, we may even discover zebras, lions or leopards.
Day 16 – Addis Ababa (End of our Ethiopia Tour)
Today is our last day of the tour. We drive back to Addis Ababa. In Addis, you have enough time for the last souvenir shopping or visiting some parts of the city. We conclude our Ethiopia trip with dinner at a typical Ethiopian restaurant with traditional music and dance. Afterwards, we transfer you either to your hotel or the airport for your international flight.
– Insolvency Insurance (Secured Payment Certificate)
– Tour Leader for the whole tour
– 3 domestic flights with Ethiopian Airlines (a Star Alliance member)
– Airport Taxes, security fees, and all government taxes
– Overland transport – depending on the group size we use
comfortable minibus or 4X4 off-road vehicle
– 9 nights stay in hotel/lodge in a standard shared twin bedroom
– 5 Camping nights
– Day room on departure date (Day 16)
– All breakfasts and lunches including drinks
– All meals while camping in Simien Mountains National Park, Danakil & Erta Ale
– Farewell dinner on the last day
– Water bottles during the tour
– All entrance fees
– Local guides in each destination
– English speaking driver guide throughout the tour
– 100% compensation to the CO2 emissions of this tour in
Ethiopia (emissions from domestic flights and overland transport)
– Dinner – it is your personal choice to join the group or plan it by yourself
– Visa Fee – We will be glad to assist you
– Video and photo fees
– Alcoholic drinks
– Other Personal expenses
– Single room supplement – 230 USD or 210 €
– Domestic flight supplement (an extra 200 USD or 185 EURO required
if your international flight is NOT with Ethiopian Airline)
Currently, we only offer customised private tours. Please contact us for a private tour.
COOKING WITH ETHIOPIAN FAMILY
On this trip, we have the chance to spend a cooking evening with an Ethiopian family. We learn not only new delicious recipes but also gain an insight into the everyday life of the Ethiopians.
TRADITIONAL COFFEE CEREMONY
The experience of a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a must. Coffee (bunna) plays an important role in the daily life of the Ethiopians. Coffee is served every morning and evening. It is common to have a coffee ceremony when the family has visiting guests. Buna (coffee) is the favorite drink of many Ethiopians. It is drunk uniquely and traditionally. The coffee beans are roasted over charcoal then ground and placed in a jebena (coffee pot) with boiling water. When ready, it is served to people in small cups, up to three rounds per ceremony. The first round is called Abol, the second Tona, and the third Bereka. This is a social ceremony and will last at least for an hour. The ceremony is accompanied by incense and sometimes a small snack like homemade bread or popcorn.
When visiting a local market, there is a lot to discover. Local ornaments, wonderful fabrics, unique spices, several varieties of coffee beans and people different tribes coming for the market. We can get our favorite souvenir.
Traditional dance clubs are trendy among the Ethiopians and are worth a visit. This is not a nightclub, but rather a bar with a stage for Ethiopian traditional dancing. There are singers and dance groups, who show different dance styles of people and tribes from all over the country. Delicious Ethiopian food with a local beer guarantee a lively atmosphere.
PEOPLE OF SOUTH
Many of Ethiopian tribes are still largely unaffected by modern influences. When visiting some of these tribes in the south, we witness a unique way of life. Their body decoration and interaction with the rest of the world is quite natural and beautiful.
A normal physical fitness & good health condition is enough for this trip. All the hikes in this tour are standard and easy level, which takes a maximum of 3 to 4 hours a day.
The hotels and lodges are to the country standard, mostly 3 to 4-star hotels and lodges. However, occasional power cut and a limited supply of hot water may occur everywhere in the country. On this trip, we spend one overnight in a rural village at Dorze. This homestay accommodation is a clear contrast to the classic hotel accommodation. We sleep in small, simple huts with basic sanitary facilities. This tour to Ethiopia is an exciting opportunity to get insights into the culture and everyday life of the local people. We also have five nights of camping. The camping sites are simple. There are no or very basic sanitary facilities and no electricity. We use battery powered lights.
The daytime temperatures range between 18 ° and 30 ° degrees depending on the date of travel. In the mountains, the temperature can become much colder at night. Especially in the Simien Mountains, it can get below 5 ° degrees at night. The dry season starts from September to May. It rarely rains at this time. In the rainy season, June to August, it rains almost every day in the north, but the area is green, and flowers are blooming. However, the southern part of Ethiopia is dry from June to August.
Except for the main routes, the roads network in Ethiopia is not sufficiently developed. Some routes, particularly the Lower Omo Valley and some national parks, are unpaved roads and we recommend you to expect longer travel times.
We recommend you to pack your sleeping bag and towel as we have homestay and camping overnights. Also, you need to pack solid shoes for hiking in the mountains and volcanos in Erta Ale. For further recommendations, please check on our packing list to travel to Ethiopia.
On your trip to Ethiopia, you may produce from 1, 500 to 2,500 kg of CO2 on domestic flights and overland transport. MUKA Travel compensates 100% of your Co2 emissions by contributing the compensation amount to a project working to provide Solar Home Systems in Ethiopia. In cooperation with a climate protection organization called atmosfair, efficient solar systems are being developed and made available to the rural communities in Ethiopia. Find more information about the project here.
Visiting families or villages in different parts of Ethiopia in our tours mean far beyond experiencing a unique and discrete culture. The families in a homestay and each village visited receive an additional income. Even if this small money cannot bring a complete change, it brings extra income to support their livelihood. Read more about our homestays here.
Fairness of the tourism system is a big issue in many developing countries. We have seen that many tourism businesses in the developing world are either being owned by foreigners or controlled by few elites. The local communities are not well benefited from the tourism resources they naturally own. MUKA Travel tries to its best to bring a fair trade of tourism. We avoid international chain hotels and use standard locally owned accommodation. We use local guides in each destination. We pay a fair price, not only for local service providers but also for families and communities. Most importantly, we do not and will never set a price for services provided by local guides, families, and villages. See details of our work on promoting fairness.
Want to make this Ethiopia Tour Private?
Do you like to design your private Ethiopia tour? We are glad to advise and work with you and create a customized private trip to Ethiopia. You can pick one or more of our tours for a reference and decide dates and travel partners by yourself. Contact us with the following details and we make your private Ethiopia tour happen.
- When do you want to travel?
- What kind of transportation do you prefer?
- Would you like us to book international and domestic flights?
- Which accommodation do you prefer? Mid-range hotel, camping, lodge, luxury hotel, a homestay in a small village?
- What do you like to visit in Ethiopia?
- Culture, nature, animals, tribes of Ethiopia, trekking, photography, or a bit of everything?
- How much is your travel budget?
- What other wishes do you have?
If you are planning a customised private Ethiopia tour, please send your inquiry to info_at_mukatravel.com.