The Historic Northern Route

Discover the roots of an ancient and proud African civilization. Many visitors are surprised to learn that Ethiopia, alone among all the African nations was never colonized by a European power.  A proud, independent streak runs deep in the Ethiopian psyche and you can discover the roots of this ancient empire on one of our Historical Tours.

 Please select to view itineraries:

Tour Code: AT 017
Program: Historic route to Lalibela
Duration: 3 Days & 2 Nights
Transportation: Surface drive & Flights

Day 01 Addis - Lalibela.

Fly to Lalibela on Ethiopian Airlines 700 kilometers north of Addis Ababa.  Tour the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs, and fabulous examples of icon paintings. Overnight Hotel.

Day 02  Lalibela.

Take a morning hike with mules (optional) to Mount Asheton, with its 13th century rock-hewn monastery and great views of the town.  After lunch, drive to Yemrehanna Kristos, a beautiful church situated in a shallow cave that actually predates the churches of Lalibela.  The drive to Yemrehanna will also give you the opportunity to view the rural countryside and villages of the Ethiopian highlands. Overnight Hotel.

Day 03  Lalibela - Addis.

Return to Addis Ababa via Ethiopian Airlines. Hotel Night Optional.

Tour Code: AT 018
Program: Historic Route
Duration: 5 Days & 4 Nights
Transportation: Surface drive & Flights

Day 01 Addis Ababa - Bahar Dar.

Fly to Bahar Dar on Ethiopian Airlines. Visit the Marketplace in Bahar Dar.  Take a boat tour on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and visit ancient island monasteries.Overnight Hotel.

Day 02  Bahar Dar - Gondar.

Drive through the countryside to Gondar. Tour the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring five castles built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings beginning in the early 17th century. Having survived several wars, including air raids during World War 2, the castles are a testament to the resilience of this once mighty African Empire.  Visit the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, famous for its religious art and especially its iconic ceiling depicting angels. Overnight Hotel.

Day 03  Gondar - Lalibela.

Fly to Lalibela on Ethiopian Airlines.  Tour the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago.  This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs,and fabulous examples of icon paintings. Overnight Hotel.

Day 04  Lalibela - Axum.

Fly to Axum on Ethiopian Airlines. Tour the ancient stelae fields, standing for 2000 years.  Visit the new and impressive Archeological Museum. Visit other tombs and archeological sites as time permits.Overnight Hotel.

Day 05  Axum - Addis Ababa.

Fly to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines.  Visit either the Ethnographic Museum or the National Museum, home of the 3.18 million year old skeleton "Lucy." Optional souvenir shopping in the afternoon. Farewell dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant featuring dancers and musicians representing some of the country's many ethnic groups. Overnight Hotel (You may opt to take this hotel night prior to the tour.)

Tour Code: AT 019
Program: Historic Route
Duration: 7 Days & 6 Nights
Transportation: Surface drive & Flights

Day 01  Addis Ababa.

Visit the Ethnographic Museum, a great introduction to Ethiopian culture and history. Visit the Mercato, one of Africa's largest outdoor markets, and Trinity Cathedral, resting place of Emperor Haile Selassie. Overnight Hotel

Day 02  Addis Ababa - Bahar Dar.

Fly to Bahar Dar on Ethiopian Airlines. Visit the marketplace in Bahar Dar. Take a boat tour on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and tour ancient island monasteries. Overnight Hotel.

Day 03  Bahar Dar - Gondar.

Drive through the countryside to Gondar. Tour the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring five castles built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings beginning in the early 17th century. Having survived several wars, including air raids during World War 2, the castles are a testament to the resilience of this once mighty African Empire.  Visit the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, famous for its religious art and especially its iconic ceiling depicting angels. Overnight Hotel.

Day 04  Gondar - Lalibela.

Fly to Lalibela on Ethiopian Airlines 700.  Tour the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago. This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs, and fabulous examples of icon paintings. Overnight Hotel.

Day 05  Lalibela.

Take a morning trek with mules to Mount Asheton, with its 13th century rock-hewn monastery and great views of the town. Return to Lalibela and visit the second group of rock-hewn churches in the afternoon. Overnight Hotel.

Day 06  Lalibela - Axum.  

Fly to Axum on Ethiopian Airlines. Tour the ancient stelae fields, standing for over 2000 years. Visit the new and impressive Archeological Museum. Visit other tombs and archeological sites as time permits. Overnight Hotel.

Day 07  Axum - Addis Ababa.

Visit the National Museum, home of the 3 million year old skeleton “Lucy.” Optional souvenir shopping. Farewell dinner at a traditional Ethiopian Restaurant featuring dancers and musicians representing some of the country’s many ethnic groups. Overnight Hotel (You may opt to take this hotel night prior to the tour.)

Tour Code: AT 020
Program: Historic Route
Duration: 7 Days & 6 Nights
Transportation: Surface drive

Day 01 Addis Ababa.

Tour the Ethnographic Museum, a great introduction to Ethiopian culture and history.  Visit the Mercato, one of Africa's largest outdoor markets. Overnight Hotel.

Day 02  Addis Ababa - Bahar Dar.  

Drive to Bahar Dar via the Blue Nile Gorge, the "Grand Canyon" of East Africa.  Stop at the historically important Monastery of Debre Libanos, rebuilt since it was razed by the Italians during the 1930's. Overnight Hotel.

Day 03  Bahar Dar.

Visit the Marketplace in Bahar Dar and observe the weaving of Papyrus boats which ply the waters of Lake Tana. Continue with a boat tour of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and visit ancient island monasteries. Overnight Hotel.

Day 04  Bahar Dar - Gondar

Drive through the countryside to Gondar. Tour the Royal Enclosure, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring five castles built by a succession of Ethiopian Kings beginning in the early 17th century. Having survived several wars, including air raids during World War 2, the castles are a testament to the resilience of this once mighty African Empire.  Visit the church of Debre Birhan Selassie, famous for its religious art and especially its iconic ceiling depicting angels. Overnight Hotel.

Day 05  Gondar - Simien Mountains.  

Drive to Sankabar in the Simien Mountains, a world heritage site. Overnight Hotel.

Day 06  Simien Mountains - Axum.  

Take a spectacular drive to Axum, capital of the ancient Axumite Empire and a world heritage site. Overnight Hotel.

Day 07  Axum.  

Tour the ancient stelae fields, standing for 2000 years.  Visit the new and impressive Archeological Museum.  Visit other tombs and archeological sites as time permits. Overnight Hotel.

Day 08  Axum - Ghiralta Lodge.  

Drive to the Ghiralta Lodge passing the Adwa battlefield, site of Emperor Menelik II's 1895 victory over the invading Italians. Visit the 2,500 year old ruins of Yeha, an ancient moon temple.  Scale a cliff to visit the 6th century Monastery of Debre Damo, perched atop a remote plateau (only men are allowed on the monastery grounds.)  Continue past Adigrat and visit Medhane Alem Kesho one of the Tigray region's oldest and finest rock churches.Overnight Hotel

Day 09 Ghiralta Lodge.

Visit more of Tigray's remote and ancient rock-hewn churches:  Abraha Atsbeha, dating from the 10th century; the beautiful Chirkos; Debre Selam, the "church within a church; and the unique Mikael Imba with its fantastic views.Overnight Hotel

Day 10 Ghiralta Lodge - Lalibela.  

Drive leisurely to Lalibela on a scenic road.  Stop at Yemrehanna Kristos, a beautiful church built in a shallow cave. Arrive in Lalibela mid afternoon. Overnight Hotel.

Day 11  Lalibela

Tour the magnificent rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This group of eleven monolithic and semi-monolithic structures were carved directly into the stone of the mountainside at least 800 years ago.  This complex boasts the largest monolithic church in the world, a maze of passageways and tunnels, intricately carved reliefs, and fabulous examples of icon paintings.Overnight Hotel.

Day 12 Lalibela.  

Take a morning trek with mules to Mount Asheton, with its 13th century rock-hewn monastery and great views of the town.  Return to Lalibela and visit the second group of rock-hewn churches in the afternoon.Overnight Hotel.

Day 13 Lalibela - Kombolcha.

Drive leisurely to Kombolcha. Overnight Hotel.

Day 14  Kombolcha - Addis Ababa.

Drive to Addis Ababa.  Enjoy a Farewell dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant featuring dancers and musicians representing some of the country's many ethnic groups and transfer to air port.

Tour Highlights:

Lalibela: The destination that no visitor to Ethiopia should miss.  Set in the remote highlands, Lalibela's amazing rock-hewn churches have been in continuous use since for over 800 years.

Gondar: Famous for its 17th century castles and the beautiful paintings of the church Debre Birhan Selassie. Once the capital of Ethiopia, Gondar is located just north of Lake Tana.

Axum: Home to the Axumite Empire, one of the most powerful of the ancient world. Dominated by the massive stelae fields, numerous archeological sites in and out of town attest to Axum's historical importance. 

Bahar Dar: Situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana, source of Blue Nile.  Bahir Dar is the primary gateway for excursions on Lake Tana to visit the more than twenty 14th century island monasteries.  

Rock-Hewn Churches of Tigray:  These remote, often barely accessible churches, were only recently "discovered" by tourists.  Carved into sandstone cliffs, some of the churches date back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

When to Visit:

The rains are more frequent in July, and August, but the roads are passable year round.  Nearly all the "historic route" has very pleasant temperatures all year.