Ethiopia Hiking Tours
Join us for a Hiking Tour in Ethiopia!
November 1st-15th, 2021
Registration: OPEN (Max 14 participants)
(This itinerary is designed for private group travel. Please contact us with your dates and requirements)
Arrive-Depart Addis (airport designation ADD).
Travel: This is a 14-day (14 nights inclusive) hiking tour in Ethiopia, focused on the northern highland regions where we will visit national parks and UNESCO heritage sites. Travel is overland, combined with 4 domestic flights.
Visas: obtained online ($52 for US passport holders)
Group Size: maximum 14 guests (only a deposit secures a place in this small-group tour)
Tour Leaders: Christian Sefrin, plus local guides, drivers, scouts, and porters
Contact us for the invitational tour brochure and registration form. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit registration form
Send deposit of $1000 to secure your place (details in registration form)
Accommodation will be in the best available hotels and lodges. Ethiopia is not renowned for its accommodation, but we will stay in comfortable 3-star hotels and lodges with ensuite facilities. The locations include Addis, Gondar, Simien national park, Lalibela, Gheralta. Request brochure for details.
Travel will be overland only locally around cities. Otherwise we travel by short domestic flights between regional centers.
See brochure for details including domestic flights, single supplements, and extension tours
Gold: 5% discount
Silver: 5% discount
Add a 3-day extension trip to the medieval Islamic city of Harar! Details in the brochure.
Add a 5-day extension trip to the federation of indigenous people's region in southern Ethiopia! Details in the brochure.
Accommodation in high quality best-available boutique hotels specially vetted for comfort and location
All ground transportation including airport transfers
All meals with wine/beer as noted in itinerary
Entertainment (traditional singers)
Water on the bus, snacks (we pamper our guests!)
Tips for primary guides and driver
Personal services (laundry)
Standard: 8/10 on the mobility scale (10 being the most demanding).
This tour is organized for people of reasonable fitness level to be able to accomplish all hikes. A typical hike is 3-4 hours round trip (though a couple will be 6 hours round trip), with frequent stops, with support vehicles not far away and easier alternatives for those that do not feel up for the longer walk.
Participants should feel comfortable walking 5-6 miles in a day, and going up/down 1500 feet. The hikes on this itinerary are relatively flat, but altitude will be a factor: we will be above 7,000 feet for the duration of the tour, with most of the hikes happening between 7,500-9,000 feet altitude. Since we are this altitude for the whole trip, it will not feel too extreme as we allow several days after arrival before attempting any serious walking. In the Simien national park, the optional walks are at higher elevations (see brochure for details).
All hikes are described in detail in the brochure.
Flagship itinerary, most popular destinations
This will be dry season, expect lots of sunshine
Best available hotels
Lots of arts and music on this itinerary
Plenty of walks. Optional vigorous walks.
We will expect dry season weather. Lots of sunshine! The mountains will be green after the summer rainy season has drenched the land. In general, prepare for temperatures between 65-85F, dropping to 60F at night. In the Simien National Park, where we spend three nights, the temperatures will be similar during the day time but drop to 40F at night because of the altitude.
Tour Videos (Ethiopia)
Our tour begins and ends in Addis, the thriving cultural and business capital city of Ethiopia. During our brief time in Addis, we will tour two fascinating museums and visit one of the sprawling marketplaces where the commerce of the city is conducted.
After a short flight, we arrive in Gondar, a regional city that was once the heart of a Jewish kingdom. During the 15th-17th centuries, Christian kings overthrew the Jewish kings and built a series of castle complexes that still dominate the downtown area. In Gondar, we will enjoy a performance of Ethiopian traditional dance by one of the University student groups, and partake in a traditional coffee ceremony that involves roasting the beans, heating the coffee in sand, and serving it piping hot in small cups. We’ll also spend a day bird-watching and walking along the shore of nearby Lake Tana, the headwaters of the Blue Nile River (for details on all hikes, see the itinerary in this brochure).
We spend three days in the Simien National Park, which has been called the “Roof of Africa” for its incredible views. The national park is also home to several unique wildlife species including the herbivorous Gelada monkeys, who graze in large herds on the high grasslands. They don’t mind humans approaching close enough to take good photographs, so one of our hikes will be aimed at locating and approaching these unique, long haired monkeys. Other species that we may see include the walia ibex, the Ethiopian wolf, and several raptor species. In addition, the park features unique high altitude flora of all varieties which we will learn about on site. The main hike here will be through grasslands and scrub forests down the flank of Ras Dashen, the tallest mountain in Ethiopia, which affords incredible views towards the lowlands to the north.
After a short flight we arrive in Lalibela, a small city in the hills where a medieval king decided to carve a ‘new Jerusalem’ into the surrounding sandstone rock. The product of this industrious and ambitious undertaking created a UNESCO-recognized world heritage site where 11 churches were carved in two open-air rock-hewn complexes. We will explore these cultural sites, while also doing some hikes in the region over our three-night stay. The main hike in Lalibela will be a ridge walk above the historical town, with fantastic views in all directions.
A third flight brings us to Aksum, the capital of a pre-Christian kingdom that grew wealthy by controlling the ivory export from Africa to Arabia, Egypt, and Rome. These kings built elaborate tombs, and erected the largest stone stelae in the world, some of which still stand in the central square. Kings here were influenced by Jewish tradition, and claimed descendency from King Solomon. Later, in the 4th century, they converted to Christianity. We will visit the National Museum and stelae field, as well as the massive church where oral tradition maintains that the original Ark of the Covenant is safe-guarded.
In the afternoon, we drive three hours to Gheralta, a volcanic region with striking sandstone buttes rising out of the agricultural plains (reminds one of monument valley in Utah). Our three night stay at the feted Gheralta Lodge will give us ample time to enjoy several long walks in the region as well as cultural visits to some of the famed rock-hewn churches. Our 4-5 hour walk through the Papasati valley is relatively flat, with our destination being a copse of ancient sycamore trees whose age is unknown. An optional walk climbs a narrow passageway up onto the top of a 1400 foot butte to visit the breath-taking Mariam Korkor Church carved into the top of the mountain.
Our tour concludes with a visit to the impressive Wukro National Museum before our flight back to Addis and final banquet. Guests may choose to extend their exploration of Ethiopia through short trip offers to the medieval Islamic city of Harar in the East, or to the indigenous region in the Omo Valley.
+ Addis, the capital city of Ethiopia, is a 20th century city situated in the center of the country at an altitude of 7,700 feet. In addition to being home to some four million Ethiopians, it is the headquarters for the African National Assembly and many international organizations working in the African continent. Our visit here will focus on two of the more important museums, as well as one of the large marketplaces.
+ Gondar is an ancient city with both a Jewish and Christian heritage. It became an important capital city in the early 1600s, when Christian kings forced out of their northeastern provinces by Ottoman-backed Muslim invaders established their residency in Gondar. To this day, the center of the city is dominated by an impressive array of medieval-looking fortresses.
Simien National Park
+ We will spend three days hiking in the Simien National Park, dubbed the "Roof of Africa" because of its peaks that rise to almost 15,000 feet. Here we will marvel at the spectacular views as the land drops away to the north several thousand feet over the 'escarpment.' On our walk in the region, we will look to find the "red-hearted" Gelada monkeys, ibex, and the Ethiopian wolf which can sometimes be spotted with binoculars.
+ One of the Christian kings declared Lalibela a "new Jerusalem" in the 10th century, and proceeded to sponsor increasingly ambitious construction projects building a series of magnificent churches that are now UNESCO heritage sights. Only, these churches are not built above ground, but dug straight down into the sandstone bedrock. Our visit will coincide with the largest celebration of the year, Nativity ("Genna"), which is celebrated on January 7th. There we will intermingle with thousands of white-clad pilgrims who have traveled from far and wide to witness the important dawn celebration at the iconic Church of St. George. We will explore the UNESCO sites, and spend a full day hiking the high ridge-lines above Lalibela, offering spectacular views in all directions.
+ King Ezana of the Aksumite Empire converted to Christianity in the fourth century, and left behind several carved stones to prove it. This historic town is full of important archeological finds, not least the massive stelae that are still standing in the center of town. Nearby is the massive Aksum cathedral, where Ethiopians believe that the original Ark of the Covenant is housed.
Gheralta - Tigrai
+ As Muslims encroached on this northeastern territory of Tigrai, Christians began carving their churches high up in secluded cliffs. Some 300 churches are hidden throughout the region, many of them with ornate architectural features such as columns, capitals, and ornamental symbology carved directly into the rock. Others are covered in medieval paintings. The dramatic topography of the region is dominated by sheer-cliffed buttes, which rise vertically out of the agricultural land and turn bright oranges and purples at sunrise and sunset. We will spend two full days hiking through fields, small villages, and up valleys without car roads. There will also be a challenging hiking option here, to climb up to some of the rock-hewn churches on top of the buttes.