On this extensive (and one of our most popular) private, tailor-made individual tour, you visit the best known of Ethiopia's historical attractions including Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lalibela and Axum, as well as the spectacular scenery of the Simien Mountains, the Rift Valley Lakes region, spectacular Bale Mountains National Park and the Blue Niles Falls.
Ethiopia has among the largest complements of endemic birds and mammals of any African country, so for nature enthusiasts who also want to immerse themselves in Ethiopia's fascinating historical and culural aspects, this is the option to choose.
You stay in comfortable accommodation throughout. Our excellent, highly experienced, dedicated English-speaking guides and competent drivers, will ensure that you are in the most capable hands during your stay.
Day 1 Fly from London on an overnight Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa.
Day 2 On arrival, your guide will drive you to the Jupiter International Hotel. An afternoon city tour including visits to Entoto Hills, some of the city's more spectacular cathedrals and the National Museum, where you see among other exhibits, the bones of 'Lucy'. Overnight here, breakfast included.
Day 3 Transfer to the airport to fly to Bahir Dar, on the shores of the deep blue Lake Tana. Your guide will take you to the Zeghe Peninsula to see some of the island monasteries. Overnight in a suite at Abayminch Lodge, all meals included. Optional upgrade to Kuriftu Resort & Spa, from £90 per person sharing, per night.
Day 4 Enjoy an excursion to the Blue Niles Falls, Africa's second largest waterfalls, and then to the vibrant market of Bahir Dar.
Day 5 After breakfast, depart on the 2 - 3 hour journey to Gondar and then 2 hours onward to the Simien Mountains, where you overnight in an en-suite chalet at Simien Lodge, all meals included. You can drive up to Chennek to seek the critically endangered Walia ibex - of which less than 500 remain with none in captivity - and in the lodge grounds, the iconic Gelada monkey (the only primate to graze) is common.
Day 6 Spend today exploring the awe inspiring Simien mountains, where you can take in some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa. In the early morning, you will be driven up to Sankaber Camp, which will be your base. The Simien Mountains National Park is a World Heritage Site and contains great volcanic plugs, formed 40 million years ago, and now shaped into fantastic crags and flat topped mountains. Seek out the endemic Gelada or Bleeding- heart monkeys (formerly thought to be baboons), the Walia ibex and many endemic birds, especially raptors including Lammergeier and Ruppells griffon vultures. Return to Gondar, founded in 1636 by Emperor Fasilidas who chose Gondar as his imperial seat. Here you can explore the Imperial Compound, with its enchanting 'Fasilidas' castles, still in very good condition. Overnight stay in Mayleko Lodge, all meals included.
Day 7 Transfer to the airport for the morning flight to Lalibela. Here you will be taken to see some of the famed rock-hewn churches which are cut into the rugged mountainsides. Stay 2 nights at Maribela Hotel, all meals included. Your guide and driver will take you to see the first cluster of rock-hewn churches in this World Heritage Site
Day 8 Visit Ashetun Mariam and Yemrehane Christos, two of the most spectacular churches outside of Lalibela. You can also make a short mule trip if you wish, but this is by no means essential. Please note that stairs leading to some of the churches can be quite demanding but your guide will be happy to assist you if need be.
Day 9 Fly to Axum in northern Ethiopia where you will see the incredible monolithic obelisks or stelae, the Queen of Sheba's Bath, the church where it is said the Ark of the Covenant is housed, and an interesting museum. Overnight in a suite at the simple Sabean Hotel, all meals included. Please note that there are no good hotels in Axum, but the Sabean is the best of the town's existing accommodation.
Day 10 Transfer to Axum airport for the flight back to Addis Ababa where you will be met by your guide and driver. Travel southwards by land with your guide into the Rift Valley to Lake Langano, where the lakeland scenery is home to an abundance of water birds. In the woods around the hotel you can find a selection of mammals and numerous birds. Overnight at the very relaxed Sabana Beach Lodge, all meals included.
Day 11 Drive overland to Goba in the Bale Mountains National Park, via the park HQ in Dinsho. In the juniper woods around Dinsho, keep a lookout for endemic mammals like the Mountain nyala and Menelik's bushbuck. There is excellent birding here, with local specials including one of Africa's finest songsters, the Abyssinian catbird. Stay 3 nights in Bale Mountains Lodge, all meals included.
Day 12 Your guide and driver take you for a drive up to the high-lying Sanetti Plateau, where wildlife enthusiasts come to look for the world's rarest canid, the Simien wolf. They are easy to see - most of the approx. 400 individuals are concentrated in Bale. Their future remains very precarious, as a rabies outbreak which started among feral dogs in villages around the park, killed a substantial proportion of the wolves in Bale during the last year. Watching these beautiful animals hunt by day for their favourite prey - giant mole rats - is an unforgettable experience! The Sanetti Plateau is included in all birding itineraries to Ethiopia, because it is the best place for endemics like the Blue-winged goose (Africa's only true goose), Spot-breasted lapwing and Rouget's rail. All of these are easy to see at puddles or small ponds along the road.
Day 13 Excursion to the wonderful Harenna Forest, where the lodge is located. This vast evergreen forest is a treasure trove for naturalists, with several new reptiles and frogs discovered here in recent years. Mammals present include lion, giant forest hog, warthog, Menelik's bushbuck and birds are abundant and diverse. Regularly seen highlights include Narina trogon, White-cheeked turacou and look around the lodge for Abysinnian catbird.
Day 14 Depart Bale National Park today for Lake Langano to stay overnight at Sabana Resort with all meals included. (Alternatively it is now possible to take the recently upgraded road back to Addis Ababa, which involves a full day's drive (8hrs)
Day 15 Return to Addis overland with some very interesting stops along the way. In the evening you will be taken to see a traditional dance and music. Overnight at the Jupiter International Hotel or if your flight departs after midnight you will be transferred to the airport for the Ethiopian Airlines check-in.
Day 16 Transfer to Addis Ababa airport for your mid-morning Ethiopian Airlines flight to London. Arrive Heathrow in the evening.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website