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Northern Ethiopia & Danakil Depression Tour

Join us on the Northern Ethiopia & Danakil Depression Tour

17 Days, 16 Nights

Ethiopian history spans over 3,000 years, and it is not more prevalent than it is in the north. This experience will immerse you in the ancient culture and history that makes this country one of a kind. You’ll visit Axum with its ornate obelisks and Gondar with its medieval castles. You’ll also travel to the sacred sites of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the mountain churches of Gheralta, and many more significant religious locations.

On this trip to you’ll also be able to take in some of the country’s natural beauty. You’ll have the opportunity to trek through Simien Mountain National Park as well as take a boat ride past the stunning Blue Nile Falls.

The focal point and highlight of this excursion will be your visit to the Danakil Depression. This place is the hottest location on the earth and has a colorful and impressive landscape. You’ll be able to camp in the region and even spend a night on top of the Erta-Ale volcano.

This excursion is available from September to April and provides a complete and immersive experience of the northern part of the country. You will leave with a better understanding of the culture, natural beauty, and history of this unique nation. Let’s explore the wonderful land of Ethiopia together!

**Please note, due to the current conflict in Ethiopia, this itinerary might be subject to changes. Please reach out to us to learn more and discuss. Thank you!**

Day 1

Welcome to Ethiopia! Upon arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, you will meet one of our staff members who will transfer you to your hotel. After you check in, you may be able to explore this bustling city. You can shop at a local market or hike to the top of Mount Entoto for a stunning view of the city. You also might have the opportunity to go to the National Museum and see the oldest hominid fossil ‘Lucy”. Tonight you’ll have a delicious local meal at your hotel or in town.

  • Arrive at Addis Ababa Airport (ADD)
  • Transfer to accommodation
  • Depending on arrival time you may be able to take a city tour
  • Overnight and Dinner at Best Western Plus

Day 2

Today will be a full day of exploring in Addis Ababa. You’ll start at the Grand or Menelik II Palace. You will wander around the gardens that span 40 acres and includes many historical buildings and beautiful flora and fauna. Inside the palace, you’ll visit the exquisite Throne Hall. It contains a historical exhibit that traces Ethiopia’s evolution through legends, cultural beliefs, governments, and significant events. Ancient aristocrats used the room to meet with visiting monarchs, and even today, it is often used for special occasions.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Tour of Addis Ababa
  • Lunch
  • Overnight and dinner at Best Western Plus

Day 3

After breakfast, fly to Bahirdar to visit the Blue Nile Falls or ‘Tis Abay’. The name means ‘Great Smoke,’ and the falls are a testimony to Ethiopia’s stunning natural beauty. Enjoy lunch before taking a boat ride to visit the monasteries of Lake Tana. These include Azuwa Marian and Ura Kidane Mihret, which are famous for their medieval mural paintings. You’ll have dinner and spend the night in Bahirdar.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Flight to Bahirdar
  • Visit the Blue Nile Falls
  • Lunch
  • Boat ride to Lake Tana monasteries
  • Overnight and dinner at Avanti Blue Nile Resort

Day 4

This morning you’ll drive to the magnificent Gondar. Here you’ll visit the spectacular royal castles that are something out of a fairytale. After lunch, you will explore the castles, King Fasiledes bath, and the mesmerizing Debre Birhan Selassie church, known worldwide for the angel faces on its ceiling. Your day will give you a clear picture of why Gondar is called the “Camelot of Africa.”

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Drive to Gondar and city tour
  • Lunch
  • Overnight and dinner at Goha Hotel

Day 5

On this day, you’ll travel to the far-reaching Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This park exemplifies Ethiopia’s beauty, with its striking peaks, deep ravines, and rare wildlife. You’ll participate in a trek that will fully immerse you in nature. Keep your eyes peeled for the Walia ibex, the gelada baboon, the Ethiopian wolf, and the giant lobelia plants. Spend the night at the Simien Park Lodge, which offers a unique lodging experience with spectacular views of the park.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Drive to Simien Mountains National Park
  • Trek within the park
  • Overnight and dinner at Simien Park Lodge

Day 6

Wake up early and head to the country’s northern border and the city of Axum. The scenic drive meanders through the national park and across the Tekeze River. Axum was once the most powerful state between Persia and the Roman Empire and the center of Ancient Ethiopia. This afternoon you will enjoy a coffee ceremony in Axum, and then you’ll have the rest of the afternoon at your leisure.

Day 7

Today you’ll take a tour through 3,000 years of history. You’ll visit the Ark of Covenant’s original location, St. Mary’s Church, Stelae Park, King Ezana’s inscriptions the ruins, and the Queen of Sheba’s palace. The afternoon is at your leisure to explore the city or relax.

Day 8

This morning leave Axum and travel to Hawizzen, making a few stops along the way. First, visit the spectacular Tigray rock-Hewn churches. These structures are over 120 years old and differ from Lalibela’s churches because they are carved out of cliff faces and built into pre-existing caves. It makes for a stunning landscape. You’ll stop at the battlefield of Adwa, the historical site where Ethiopian forces defeated the Italians and prevented the country’s colonization. Finally, you’ll visit the Yeha Temple. Built between 500-400 BC, it is the oldest standing structure in Ethiopia.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Drive to Hawizzen
  • Visit the Tigray rock-hewn churches
  • Lunch
  • Visit the battlefield of Adwa & Yeha Temple
  • Overnight and dinner in Gheralta Lodge

Day 9

After an early breakfast, you’ll drive to the Gheralta churches. This location is home to a quarter of the churches in the northern rock cluster. Many are known for their stone artistry, ancient paintings, and manuscripts, while others are famous for their magnificent views and challenging climb to reach them. You will visit the churches of Abune Yemata and Mariam Korkor before heading to Hawizzens to spend the night.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Visit the Gheralta churches
  • Lunch
  • Overnight and dinner at Gheralta Lodge

Day 10

Today you’ll make your way to Hamed Ela. Along the way, you’ll make stops at the Abreha we Atsbeha and Wukro Cherkos churches. These sites are much more accessible than others in the area and are more well preserved. The Abreha we Atsbeha church has an adjacent museum that holds unique artifacts, including King Atsbeha’s golden shoes. You’ll then make your way to the town of Berhale, where you will have a briefing on what you will experience over the next few days.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Transfer to Hamed Ela
  • Visit the Abreha we Atsbeha & Wukro Cherkos churches
  • Lunch
  • Briefing in Berhale
  • Overnight and dinner at basecamp in Hamed Ela

Day 11

On this day, you’ll make your way to Dallol, the hottest as well as the deepest location on the earth’s surface. It is part of the great rift system that stretches from Mozambique to Syria. You’ll also cross the salt road and view the beautifully colored sulfur lakes. Journey back to Hamed Ela before the temperature gets too hot.

  • Breakfast at camp
  • Drive to Dallol
  • Lunch
  • Overnight and dinner at basecamp in Hamed Ela

Day 12

Wake up early this morning and enjoy breakfast before making the journey to Erta-Ale, a live volcano. The trip there is through the salt and desert-covered landscape that is so common in this area. You’ll stop for lunch with the Afar tribe, and you’ll have the opportunity to spend time and speak to the elders. This afternoon you’ll head to basecamp and relax while you wait for the temperature to cool down. At sunset, head out on a 3-4 hour trek that will take you to the top of the volcano. Here you will witness the firey volcanic lake which shimmers at nighttime. You will spend the night here in this surreal environment.

  • Breakfast at camp
  • Transfer to Erta-Ale
  • Lunch with Afar tribe
  • Trek to the top of Erta-Ale
  • Overnight and dinner on top of Erta-Ale

Day 13

Early this morning, you’ll wake up on the top of Mount Erta-Ale in awe of your surroundings. You’ll descend the mountain for a well-earned breakfast at basecamp. Take some time to rest before driving to Mekele. Along the way, you’ll make stops at the small towns of Habala and Erepti. The afternoon is at your leisure to explore Mekele.

  • Breakfast at basecamp
  • Descend from the top of Erta-Ale
  • Lunch
  • Transfer to Mekele
  • Visit Habla and Erepti
  • Overnight and dinner at Axum Hotel

Day 14

Enjoy breakfast in Mekele before driving to Lalibela. The drive is scenic, and you’ll pass the town of Ambalage and the beautiful surrounding mountains. The afternoon is yours to relax or explore the city of Lalibela.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Transfer to Lalibela
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon at your leisure
  • Overnight and dinner at Mountain View Hotel

Day 15

Today you’ll take a guided tour of one of the world’s most sacred sites, the rock-hewn churches. There are eleven located here, and each is carved entirely out of a single block of granite with its top at ground level. You’ll see the legendary St. George church, which is symbolic of the river Jordan and the recreated Adam’s tomb. Spend the evening in Lalibela.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Tour of the rock-hewn churches
  • Lunch
  • Overnight and dinner at Mountain View Hotel

Day 16

This morning you’ll have breakfast at your hotel before driving to the little town of Bilbala and the Yemrehanna Kristos church. This site is built into a cave and predates the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. It’s a stunning and colorful location built from marble, and wood using impressive architectural skills. Inside the caves, you will see many mummified bodies of people who have made pilgrimages to this site for centuries. After this incredible experience, the rest of the day is at your leisure to relax or explore the town.

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Transfer to Bilbala
  • Lunch
  • Visit the Yemrehanna Kristos church
  • Overnight and dinner at Mountain View Hotel

Day 17

Today marks the end of your Northern Ethiopia journey! After breakfast, you’ll catch a short flight back to Addis Ababa, where you’ll have time to explore or relax. This evening you’ll enjoy a traditional meal with a live folk show before heading to the airport for your trip home!

  • Breakfast at your hotel
  • Flight to Addis abba
  • Afternoon at your leisure
  • Traditional dinner & folk performance
  • Transfer to Addis Ababa Airport (ADD)
We are happy to customize additional day excursions before or after this tour if you want to get more out of your journey. Possible additions include the historic sites, trekking in Simien Mountain National Park, coffee tours, and so much more!
Reserve Your Spot Today

What’s Included?

  • Your local, experienced driver with many years of guiding tours in Ethiopia
  • Lodging in Ethiopia on a full room and board basis
  • Domestic Flights
  • Entrance fees for all the National Parks and Conservation Areas
  • All cultural activities and excursions on the itinerary
  • Contribution to the 501(c)(3) organization Second Look Worldwide and World Resources Institue for sustainable urbanization, climate policy and analysis, forest restoration, and access to information issues
  • Beverages while in transit, excluding while in the airports
  • Drivers transfer to and from the airports
  • Wire Transfer and other banking fees

What’s Not Included?

  • International flights to & from Ethiopia
  • Tips for your drivers, tour guides, and lodges, highly encouraged
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Traveler’s insurance
  • Souvenirs and gifts
  • Baggage weight overages if applicable
  • Any incidental expenses
  • Anything from room service or the hotel minibar
  • Any visas required for entry into Ethiopia
  • Any Covid-19 tests required for entry into Ethiopia


Best Western Plus: 2 nights, Full Room & Board Basis

Avanti Blue Nile Resort: 1 night, Full Room & Board Basis

Goha Hotel: 1 night, Full Room & Board Basis

Simien Park Lodge: 1 night, Full Room & Board Basis

Sabean International Hotel: 2 nights, Full Room & Board Basis

Mountain View Hotel: 3 Nights, Full Room & Board Basis

Camping: 6 Nights, Full Room & Board Basis

Next Steps


50% of the total package cost must be paid 90 days before travel to retain your reservation, and the balance must be paid 60 days prior to the date of arrival.

Pricing, hotels, and itinerary are subject to change.