Northern Ethiopia tours, Monks, Monasteries and Churches

Tour Highlights

Visit the monks and monasteries and awe-inspiring landscape of Ethiopia’s historic northern region. On this tour, you will see the magnificent geography of Northern Ethiopia, stay at some beautiful lodges and hotels and begin to understand why so many people visit this extraordinary Country. You will be in real touch with its ancient religious history – from the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, to St. Mary of Zion in Axum, the holiest church in Ethiopia and alleged to hold, in its sanctuary, the original Ark of the Covenant and onto the many monasteries of the northern region.

There are also medieval castles at Gonder, smoking waterfalls at Tississat and incredible views and hotels in the Simien Mountains. Above all, you will meet the monks of Debre Damo and the Zegie Peninsula of Lake Tana and experience the hospitality of the people of Ethiopia, to discover something of their ways and beliefs. This tour is suitable for all age groups. Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1 Arrival - Addis Ababa.

Arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, meet & assist and transfer to the hotel in Addis. Take a City Tour of Addis Ababa, if you wish. Overnight at the Hilton Hotel.

Day 2 Fly to Lalibela.

After checking to your hotel, begin your tour of the first group of churches in town and then continue the tour late into the afternoon. The first group of six churches lie in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Denagel and Bet Medhane Alem. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest, is built like a Greek temple. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Yacob. 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. Overnight at the Mount View Hotel.

Day 3 Lalibela.

After breakfast, you go by mule to the church of Asheton Mariam, a journey of about 4 hours, round trip. Pass through small villages on the way up and there are wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the mountain, where the church is located. In the afternoon visit the group of four, south of the Jordan River, comprising of Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercurios, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufa'el. Bet Emanuel's elaborate exterior is much praised by art historians. Overnight at the Mount View Hotel.

Day 4 Lalibela to Mekelle.

Drive to Yemrehana Kristos, visit the churches and continue driving along the rugged terrain on the north central massif to Mekelle. Overnight at the Axum Hotel.

Day 5 Mekelle to Axum.

Enjoy the landscape on the way to Debre Damo. Visit the monks and church of Abune Aregawi on the top of the Debre Damo plateau (women are not allowed to visit the plateau, to respect the monks’ vows). You will climb the “Chains of Heaven” using a rope pulley to reach the top of the plateau. You will then drive to Yeha and visit the first temple of Ethiopia, then onto Axum. Overnight at the Yeha Hotel.

Day 6 Axum.

A full day excursion in Axum. Axum, Ethiopia’s most ancient city and capital of one of the most glories empires of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the historic route. The Axumite Empire flourished 3,000 years ago. Its riches can still be pictured as you gaze on the magnificent stelae or obelisks, the graves of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskal, and the legendary bath of the Queen of Sheba. The 16th century cathedral of St. Mary of Zion was probably built on an earlier 4th century church and is the holiest church in Ethiopia. In its sanctuary is said to rest the original Ark of the Covenant, which made its way here via King Solomon, King Menelik and the Queen of Sheba. The churches and monasteries of Axum house are richly endowed with icons and some of the historical crowns of ancient emperors. Overnight at the Yeha Hotel.

Day7 Axum to Gonder.

Drive along the route of Sherie and enjoy the gorge of the Tekeze River and again enjoy the panoramic view of the Simien mountains. Overnight at the Goha Hotel.

Day 8 Gonder to Bahir Dar.

Visit the town of Gonder. Gonder was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia and is notable for its medieval castle and churches. The city’s unique imperial compound contains a number of castles built between 1632 and 1855, by the various emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia. Other treasures of Gonder include the 18th century palace of Ras Beit, the Bath of Fasiladas, the ruined palace of Qusquam and the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, with its unique murals. Afternoon Drive along the rolling plains of Fogera and Dembia before reaching Bahir Dar. Overnight at the Abay Minch Lodge Hotel.

Day 9 Bahir Dar.

In the morning you visit the Blue Nile falls, just 30 Km from Bahir Dar. Here the Blue Nile creates smoking water, an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges in to the gorge below at the Blue Nile falls. In the afternoon, there is a ½ day boat trip excursion on Lake Tana to visit some of the ancient monasteries that have been built around Lake Tana, or on the many islands. These include Dek Stephanos, with its priceless collection of icons as well as the remains of several medieval emperors Kibran Gabriel (closed to women), Zeghie Giorgis (open to women) and Ura Kidanemihret with its famous frescoes. Overnight at the Abay Minch Lodge Hotel.

Day 10 Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa.

Drive to back Addis Ababa, admiring on the way the Blue Nile gorge and the Shawn plateau.Transfer to the airport departure.
 

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Detailed Tour Itinerary

Visit the monks and monasteries and awe-inspiring landscape of Ethiopia’s historic northern region. On this tour, you will see the magnificent geography of Northern Ethiopia, stay at some beautiful lodges and hotels and begin to understand why so many people visit this extraordinary Country. You will be in real touch with its ancient religious history – from the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, to St. Mary of Zion in Axum, the holiest church in Ethiopia and alleged to hold, in its sanctuary, the original Ark of the Covenant and onto the many monasteries of the northern region.

There are also medieval castles at Gonder, smoking waterfalls at Tississat and incredible views and hotels in the Simien Mountains. Above all, you will meet the monks of Debre Damo and the Zegie Peninsula of Lake Tana and experience the hospitality of the people of Ethiopia, to discover something of their ways and beliefs. This tour is suitable for all age groups. Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1 Arrival - Addis Ababa.

Arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, meet & assist and transfer to the hotel in Addis. Take a City Tour of Addis Ababa, if you wish. Overnight at the Hilton Hotel.

Day 2 Fly to Lalibela.

After checking to your hotel, begin your tour of the first group of churches in town and then continue the tour late into the afternoon. The first group of six churches lie in rock cradles, one behind the other: Bet Golgotha, Bet Mikael, Bet Mariam, Bet Meskel, Bet Denagel and Bet Medhane Alem. Bet Medhane Alem, the largest, is built like a Greek temple. In a corner are three empty graves symbolically dug for biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Yacob. 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. Overnight at the Mount View Hotel.

Day 3 Lalibela.

After breakfast, you go by mule to the church of Asheton Mariam, a journey of about 4 hours, round trip. Pass through small villages on the way up and there are wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the mountain, where the church is located. In the afternoon visit the group of four, south of the Jordan River, comprising of Bet Emanuel, Bet Mercurios, Bet Abba Libanos and Bet Gabriel-Rufa'el. Bet Emanuel's elaborate exterior is much praised by art historians. Overnight at the Mount View Hotel.

Day 4 Lalibela to Mekelle.

Drive to Yemrehana Kristos, visit the churches and continue driving along the rugged terrain on the north central massif to Mekelle. Overnight at the Axum Hotel.

Day 5 Mekelle to Axum.

Enjoy the landscape on the way to Debre Damo. Visit the monks and church of Abune Aregawi on the top of the Debre Damo plateau (women are not allowed to visit the plateau, to respect the monks’ vows). You will climb the “Chains of Heaven” using a rope pulley to reach the top of the plateau. You will then drive to Yeha and visit the first temple of Ethiopia, then onto Axum. Overnight at the Yeha Hotel.

Day 6 Axum.

A full day excursion in Axum. Axum, Ethiopia’s most ancient city and capital of one of the most glories empires of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the historic route. The Axumite Empire flourished 3,000 years ago. Its riches can still be pictured as you gaze on the magnificent stelae or obelisks, the graves of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskal, and the legendary bath of the Queen of Sheba. The 16th century cathedral of St. Mary of Zion was probably built on an earlier 4th century church and is the holiest church in Ethiopia. In its sanctuary is said to rest the original Ark of the Covenant, which made its way here via King Solomon, King Menelik and the Queen of Sheba. The churches and monasteries of Axum house are richly endowed with icons and some of the historical crowns of ancient emperors. Overnight at the Yeha Hotel.

Day7 Axum to Gonder.

Drive along the route of Sherie and enjoy the gorge of the Tekeze River and again enjoy the panoramic view of the Simien mountains. Overnight at the Goha Hotel.

Day 8 Gonder to Bahir Dar.

Visit the town of Gonder. Gonder was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia and is notable for its medieval castle and churches. The city’s unique imperial compound contains a number of castles built between 1632 and 1855, by the various emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia. Other treasures of Gonder include the 18th century palace of Ras Beit, the Bath of Fasiladas, the ruined palace of Qusquam and the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, with its unique murals. Afternoon Drive along the rolling plains of Fogera and Dembia before reaching Bahir Dar. Overnight at the Abay Minch Lodge Hotel.

Day 9 Bahir Dar.

In the morning you visit the Blue Nile falls, just 30 Km from Bahir Dar. Here the Blue Nile creates smoking water, an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges in to the gorge below at the Blue Nile falls. In the afternoon, there is a ½ day boat trip excursion on Lake Tana to visit some of the ancient monasteries that have been built around Lake Tana, or on the many islands. These include Dek Stephanos, with its priceless collection of icons as well as the remains of several medieval emperors Kibran Gabriel (closed to women), Zeghie Giorgis (open to women) and Ura Kidanemihret with its famous frescoes. Overnight at the Abay Minch Lodge Hotel.

Day 10 Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa.

Drive to back Addis Ababa, admiring on the way the Blue Nile gorge and the Shawn plateau.Transfer to the airport departure.