The Churches of North Ethiopia

Lightfoot Travel specialise in tailor-made itineraries for family holidays, honeymoons and corporate travel around the world. Below is a sample itinerary for a tour of the majestic churches of Northern Ethiopia, and can be adjusted based on your time, budget and interests.

Day 1: Addis Ababa

The adventure begins in Addis Ababa, a magical portal to the mystical land of Ethiopia and a gateway between the diplomatic capital and the ancient sites of Africa. With a base at The Sheraton Addis, you’ll have a calm respite from the chaos of the busy city streets. Settle into your spacious, luxuriously furnished guestroom, then head out to explore the dichotomy of the Ethiopian capital. The National Museum, United Nations Conference Centre, and UNECA headquarters are all nearby. Don’t miss a visit to the Raguel Church or the chance to climb atop Mount Entoto to enjoy the spectacular views.

Stay: The Sheraton Addis

Days 2-3: Monasteries and Waterfalls in Bahir Dar

This morning a short flight will take you to Bahir Dar, the lakeside capital of the Amhara region. You’ll spend two days exploring the colourful sites of Lake Tana (the largest lake in Ethiopia), including the Blue Nile Falls (known locally as Tis Isat – or ‘Smoke of Fire’ thanks to the continuous spray thrown off when the heavy waters drop over a sheer chasm more than 45 metres deep) and the 14th century monasteries that dot the islands on the lake. Ura Kidhane Mihret is reputed to be one of the most beautiful, and the elaborate and colourful murals are well worth a visit.

Your home in Bahir Dar is the Kuriftu Resort, known as “Ethiopia’s little gem.” Relax in a true Garden of Eden, in sumptuously appointed rooms featuring colourful textiles, private verandas, and romantic garden and lake views.

Stay: Kuriftu Resort

Day 4: Gondar, The Ancient Capital

After breakfast, embark on a comfortable 3-hour drive from Bahir Dar to the ancient capital of Gondar. This city was the capital of Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries, and amassed an impressive array of antique palaces and castles. Explore the city on foot, stopping at the Debre Birham Selassie Church, a site with a truly incredible story. In the 1700s lightning destroyed the original church. Then, in the 1880s, when Sudanese Dirvishes arrived to ruin the second iteration, legend has it that a giant swarm of bees emerged and chased the invaders away. Thanks to those bumbling allies, visitors today are still able to marvel at the glorious frescoes, arched doors, and ceiling replete with 135 winged cherubs.

There are several other attractions within easy reach of the Goha Hotel. When you’ve had your fill, retreat to one of the bright and comfortable guestrooms, take a dip in the outdoor pool, or gather around the campfire to swap stories of the day.

Stay: Goha Hotel

Day 5: Simien Mountains National Park

The adventure continues with your arrival in Simien Mountains National Park. The Unesco World Heritage–listed site is one of Africa’s most beautiful ranges, full of dramatic cliffs, rocky escarpments, and breathtaking views. Sit and watch groups of gelada monkeys who playfully watch you back, or gaze at the magnificent walia ibex, an endangered species found only in the northern mountains of Ethiopia.

At night, arrive at Simien Mountains Lodge, a boutique accommodation sitting on the edge of the escarpment, where the world (and your worries) just drop away.

Stay: Simien Mountains Lodge

Days 6-7: The Churches and Monasteries of Axum

Today involves a lengthy journey to Axum, but once you arrive, you’ll forget all about the trip and fall instantly in love with the mystical city. Aksum’s population is 95% Orthodox Christian, and more than 120 churches dot the region as a result. St. Mary of Zion is believed to have housed the biblical Ark of the Covenant, but our top pick is Debre Damo, a monastery dating from the 6th century and the most inaccessible church in the entire country. To reach the site, you’ll need to scale a sheer 15 metre cliff with only a thick leather rope and the strength of the monks to help pull you up. It’s a heart-pounding adventure, but sadly only accessible to men at the moment (women aren’t allowed to visit the site).

Tonight, stay in comfort at the Yeha Hotel where you’ll find the perfect balance of comfort and luxury.

Stay: Yeha Hotel

Days 8-9: Lalibela, the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’

Lalibela (and it’s majestic churches) was among the first sites in the world to receive a Unesco World Heritage designation. The almost-pristine condition and incredible orientation of the churches, literally carved out of the ground, is perhaps why they’ve been given the unofficial title of the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World.’ In Lalibela you’ll have a chance to see these eleven magnificent and medieval structures with your own eyes. Marvel at one of the greatest religious-historical sites in the Christian World, a place that some locals believe was constructed by thousands of labourers during the day, and aided by angels at night

Days 10-11: North Wollo

A fitting end to an itinerary of unique and memorable experiences, the final days of this trip will be ones you won’t soon forget. The North Wollo is home to spectacular trekking routes for everyone from novices to experts on the trail. Spend the day exploring the highland areas and lowland plains, then retreat to a thatch-roofed hut where you’ll drift to sleep snuggled in blankets, savouring the taste of local life.

Itinerary

Duration Description Overnight
Day 1: Addis Ababa The Sheraton Addis
Days 2-3: Monasteries and Waterfalls in Bahir Dar Kuriftu Resort
Day 4: Gondar, The Ancient Capital Goha Hotel
Day 5: Simien Mountains National Park Simien Mountains Lodge
Days 6-7: The Churches and Monasteries of Axum Yeha Hotel
Days 8-9: Lalibela, the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’
Days 10-11: North Wollo

Inclusions

Included

  • 24 hour emergency contact

Not Included

  • Visas
  • International airfare
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Travel insurance (please note that travel insurance is mandatory for all Lightfoot Travel holidays)

Map

The Sheraton Addis Kuriftu Resort Goha Hotel Simien Mountains Lodge Yeha Hotel

From USD 3,500 per person based on two guests sharing

Notes on our prices

  • This price guide provides you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your holiday.
  • Prices are generally based on two people travelling together (unless stated otherwise) on a shared room basis.
  • Prices can fluctuate depending on season, standard of accommodation, excursions selected (private versus shared) etc.
  • This basic structure works very nicely, but don’t forget that Lightfoot Travel can provide a range of experiences and we tailor-make each itinerary based on your travel requirements. Get in touch to start planning your perfect trip with your own travel consultant.