Ancient Ethiopia & the Rift Valley

  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Dates
  • Dragoman

This incredible overland route between Gondar and Arba Minch will take you from the historical splendours of Ethiopia's north to its remote tribal villages and the Rift Valley in the south. The wonderful country of Ethiopia is an extraordinary land with a unique cultural heritage of opulent monasteries, stunning churches carved out of the mountains, and incredible scenery.

In the North we explore the countries famous historic sites, such as the ancient city of Axum and the historic churches at Lalibela and the islands of the beautiful Lake Tana, before heading off on a wild expedition to explore the Danakil Depression.

We will spend time trekking in the spectacular Simien and Bale Mountains; explore the bustling capital of Addis Ababa, and the historic UNESCO World heritage site of Harar.

Highlights
  • Explore chaotic and bustling Addis Ababa
  • Guided tour of the ancient UNESCO city of Harar
  • Witness the traditional feeding of the hyenas
  • Follow the scout along the trails of Awash NP
  • Take a boat trip across Lake Ziway and explore the Coptic monastery
  • 2 days hiking in the beautiful Bale Mountains
  • Search for a rare sighting of Ethiopian wolves on the Sanetti Plateau
  • Relax in the Hot Springs at Wendo Genet
  • Optional trip to 'Crocodile Market' in Arba Minch
Tour Staff
Two Dragoman Crew Members, Local Guides where necessary
Transport
Overland Expedition Vehicle, Boat
Destinations
  • Africa
  • Ethiopia
Tour Types
  • Adventure
  • Overland
  • Trekking
  • Discovery
  • History
  • Local Living
  • Cultural
  • Eco
  • GAP Year
  • Walking
  • Historical
  • Jeep & 4WD
  • Kayak & Canoe
  • Active
  • Local Guide
  • Overland truck
  • River Cruise
  • Sightseeing
  • Walking Tour
  • Wildlife
Day Arba Minch

Border Information: If you are joining in Arba Minch, you will most likely enter Ethiopia at Arba Minch Airport (IATA code: AMH).

Welcome to Ethiopia! Today is the arrival day for those joining in Arba Minch, and will be a free day to explore the town.

There will be an important meeting with your crew at 6:00pm today. Look out for a note from them at the hotel reception letting you know where to meet.

Location: Arba Minch

Day Arba Minch

Today we have time for optional activities such as taking an optional boat trip on Lake Chamo to the view the crocodiles that reside there (known locally as the crocodile market) or to take bike rides around the city.

Location: Arba Minch

Day Wendo Genet

Today we will head north to the small town of Awasa, where we can visit the local fish market.

After our visit we will head to Wendo Genet, a small town in the hills above Awasa, where we will stay for the night.

During our stay here we may have time to explore the region, go on an optional walk to some nearby waterfalls, or take a dip in the nearby hot springs.

Location: Wendo Genet

Day Bale Mountains NP

Today we will leave Wendo Genet and drive to the stunning Bale Mountains NP.

We will enjoy 2 full days to explore the NP.

Location: Bale Mountains NP

Day Bale Mountains NP

We will keep today completely free to head out for optional guided walks - there are several possibilities for routes, including highland routes up the hills and moorlands searching for mountain nyalas, or lowland walks through the forest areas to look for Bale monkeys!

Location: Bale Mountains NP

Day Bale Mountains NP

Today we will drive in the truck up to the Sanetti Plateau, all the way to the second-highest point in Ethiopia (the 4359m summit of Tulu Dimtu) to explore the primeval landscape and search for Ethiopian wolves.

Location: Bale Mountains NP

Day Lake Ziway

Today we will leave the Bale Mountains and head to the small town of Ziway.

Location: Lake Ziway

Day Lake Ziway

Today we will take an optional boat trip across Lake Ziway to Tulu Gudo Island, where we will have a short guided tour of the ancient monastery there and view some of the old religious manuscripts.

Location: Lake Ziway

Day Awash NP

In the morning we will leave early and head for Awash NP.

In the afternoon we will take a park scout out with us to explore the surrounding area and to try to find game or just to enjoy the stunning scenery of this lovely NP. We overnight in the lovely Awash Falls Lodge; who said luxury was not part of overlanding! This is a stunning place to experience a great little NP .

Location: Awash NP

Day Harar

Today we will have a long drive east through the mountains to the ancient trading city of Harar.

Location: Harar

Day Harar

Today we have a free day in ancient Harar and will have an included guided city tour of the walled city of Harar (Harar Jugol). Enjoy its colourful markets, mosques and shrines. In the evening you can visit the Hyena Men who feed the hyenas every night just outside the walls of the city. 

Location: Harar

Day Harar

Our final day in this incredible city is a free day to explore this amazing city on your own.  It is one of the most important historic sites on this trip and one not to be missed. 

Location: Harar

Day Addis Ababa

Today we will have a long drive West through the mountains to the capital city, Addis Ababa  

Location: Addis Ababa

Day Addis Ababa

Today we have a free day in Addis Ababa and will organise an included guided tour of the city including visiting St. George's Cathrdral, The Menelik mausoleum, The national Museum and the colourful city market. 

Location: Addis Ababa

Day Addis Ababa

Border Information: If joining in Addis Ababa, you will most likely enter Ethiopia at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (IATA code: ADD).

There will be a group meeting at the joining hotel at 6:00pm. Please look out for a note from your tour leader at the reception when you arrive giving more details about this important meeting.

If you are travelling to the Sudan and have arranged to pick the visa up in Addis Ababa, you will need to arrive at least 2 working days early to collect the visa.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Addis Ababa before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Addis Ababa.

Location: Addis Ababa

Day Debre Markos

We will start our journey today with a drive to the small town of Debre Markos. En route we will drive to the bottom of the dramatic Blue Nile Gorge and up the other side!

Location: Debre Markos

Day Bahir Dar

Today we will complete our drive to Bahir Dar, a small town on Lake Tana, the source of the mighty Blue Nile.

Location: Bahir Dar

Day Bahir Dar

On our first full day in Bahir Dar, we will have an included boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the famous old monastery of Gabriel Ure Kideth and to visit the spot where the lake outflows into the start of the Blue Nile. 

Location: Bahir Dar

Day Bahir Dar

On our second day, we will head off in the truck to visit the Blue Nile Falls and take a short walk around the area to the historic Portuguese Bridge. We will have some free time in the afternoon to take optional visits to some other spots around Bahir Dar such as the 'Hippo bridge' and the Tigray war memorial.

Location: Bahir Dar

Day Awra Amba

Today we will drive to the ideological village of Awra Amba. Run by the infamous Zumra Nuru the village operates with the belief that everyone is equal and should have a say in how their home is run. We will take a tour of the village and camp on the outskirts.

Location: Awra Amba

Day Lalibela

Today we have a full day's drive through the beautiful scenery of central Ethiopia to reach the small medieval town of Lalibela.

Location: Lalibela

Day Lalibela

On our first day in Lalibela, we will have an included full-day guided tour of the world-famous 13th-century rock churches of Lalibela. Our guide will be able to explain the fascinating history of Lalibela and its churches, and there will be plenty of time to explore, absorb the haunting atmosphere inside the churches, and take plenty of photographs of the incredible architecture and the religious rituals within.

Location: Lalibela

Day Lalibela

On the second day, we will have a free day for further exploration or optional activities. We will have opportunity to hike up the nearby mountains to the Asheten Monastery, visit the Yemrehana Kristos cave church outside the town, or freely explore the Lalibela churches again at your own pace.

Location: Lalibela

Day Mekele

Leaving Lalibela behind us, we have a full days drive through increasingly mountainous scenery to reach the town of Mekele.

Location: Mekele

Day Danakil Depression

After breakfast meet your 4 x 4 vehicles and drive to Hamed Ella. On the way you will pass through the beautiful Tigre Villages and the escarpment of the Afar depression, this is commonly known as the cradle of mankind and is part of the Great East African Rift Valley. Along the way you will see camel caravans going to the traditional salt mine or to the North Eastern highlands of the country, loaded with salt bars in the old traditional way. We will also stop at Brehalle where we will get our permits and scouts for the trip into the Danakil Depression.

Location: Danakil Depression

Day Mekele

On the second day we drive to Dallol. Here in Dallol you will visit the beautiful land covered by salt, sulfur and different minerals that gives the area a spectacular colour. We will then continue on to Lake Asale to witness the beautiful salt flats.

This is an extremely intense environment and a very adventurous three days, certainly a once in a lifetime experience. However, if you feel like your personal fitness can not withstand this pressure then there is a chance this may not be the trip for you.

Today we will make our way back to Mekele ending our time in the stunning Danakil Depression.

Location: Mekele

Day Axum

Today we will visit one of the famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray (either the Abraha Atsbeha or Wukro Chirkos church), then continue through the increasingly breathtaking mountain scenery of the Adwa mountains to reach the ancient town of Axum in the far north of Ethiopia.

Location: Axum

Day Axum

Today we will have an included half-day guided tour of the incredible historical sites of Axum, the capital of the once-mighty Axumite Empire - included in this tour will be seeing the Stelae Field, the Tomb of King Kaleb, and the Palace of the Queen of Sheba. We will have a free afternoon to make optional visits to other places such as the Church of St. Mary of Zion, the supposed resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

Location: Axum

Day Debark

Leaving Axum behind us, we continue our journey with a full day of driving through the foothills of the Simien Mountains to reach the small village of Debark. The roads here are very tough, but we are rewarded with more truly breathtaking scenery!

Debark is the gateway to the Simien Mountains NP, and on arrival we will have a briefing from our local mountain guide explaining the various trekking options that we will have during our excursion starting the following day.

Location: Debark

Day Simien Mountains NP

Today marks the start of our 3-day excursion into the Simien Mountains NP. The area is home to some of Africa's most jaw-dropping mountain scenery and is a great opportunity to enjoy some incredibly beautiful treks and breathtaking views!

The area is also home many indigenous animals, and during our time here we hope to spot Lammargeyer vultures, geladas, Walia ibex, and (if we are very lucky) klipspringers and Ethiopian wolves.

We will spend 3 nights in the incredible Simien Mountains NP. On each day we aim to provide an option for a long trek (of 5-8 hours), a short trek (2-5 hours) or no trekking.

Please note that we must keep a flexible itinerary in the Simien Mountains, as our options will largely be determined by the weather. 

Please also note that the camping areas in the NP are very basic, and are essentially wild camps with long drop toilets. Please also note that the food and provisions available in Debark and the NP are very limited, and it is also likely to be very cold at night (often dropping below freezing), so please be prepared! You will need to bring a suitable sleeping bag and mat with you from home to ensure you are ready for this environment.

Location: Simien Mountains NP

Day Simien Mountains NP

Today we once again have the choice between joining a short trek or a long trek. Each one will have a guide and a superb route showing off the best the Simiens have to offer.

Location: Simien Mountains NP

Day Simien Mountains NP

This is our final day of treking in the National Park. Once again there will be a choice between short and long routes as we soak in the final moments of the mountains.

Location: Simien Mountains NP

Day Gondar

Today we head back out to the mountains to Debark, and then finally join the tarmac road again to reach the ancient royal city of Gondar! 

Location: Gondar

Day Gondar

Today, we will have an included half-day guided tour of the historical sites of Gondar, including Gondar Castle, the King Fasilades' Baths and the Debre Birhan Selassie church. 

Location: Gondar

Day Gondar

Border Information: If you are finishing in Gondar, you will most likely exit Ethiopia at Gondar Atse Tewodros Airport (IATA code: GDQ).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Gondar. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Sales Team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

Location: Gondar

Dates Price Single Availability
13-Nov-2020 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
15-Dec-2020 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
04-Jan-2021 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
12-Feb-2021 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
17-Feb-2021 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
17-Apr-2021 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
19-Nov-2021 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
14-Dec-2021 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
11-Feb-2022 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website
16-Feb-2022 for 34 Nights On Request Visit Website

Touring with Dragoman

Dragoman has a proud history, of nearly 40 years of pioneering overland adventures in their fleet of iconic, orange trucks. They aim to get you completely off the beaten track and really under the skin of the places that they visit, taking the road less travelled, mixing with the locals, learning about their culture, and ensuring that every part of the journey counts towards an amazing adventure.

Dragoman’s life changing overland adventures, visit over 55 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Many trips are a convenient 14-21 days, offering a great snapshot of a region getting you off the tourist trail on a perspective-changing journey.

These short trips can also be combined to create epic journeys lasting several months be it along the fabled Silk Route, a trans-Africa expedition from Cape Town to Cairo, or travel the entire length of the Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Or journey from Mongolia down through China, and South East Asia – or in India you can circle the continent. These are incredible journeys that will change your life!

Group sizes are limited to 22, creating a personal experience with the most popular tours having frequent departures so you can easily find a date to suit you. They guarantee more trip departures than comparable operators and strive to offer value with more inclusions, so you don't have to pay extra on the road.

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tour details

This tour is operated by Dragoman

34 nights from pp exc.flights; per Night
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Group Size:0 - 22
Suitable For: 18 plus
Accommodation:Comfortable Hotel 19 nights<br />Camping 1 night<br />Multishare Hostel 3 nights<br />Guesthouse 3 nights<br />Basic Hotel 3 nights<br />Camping without facilities 5 nights
Difficulty:3
Meals:Breakfasts x 68, Lunches x 18, Dinners x 18
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