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Addis Ababa to Gondar

Overlanding is the only way to see East Africa! Dragoman have been leading the way in African overland expeditions since 1981, so take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. The extraordinary country of Ethiopia has a uniquely fascinating culture and history, and on this overland trip we'll explore the incredible areas of the north of the country. This is overlanding at its finest - a pioneering expedition through rugged country, taking in magnificent sites such as the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the beautiful monasteries on Lake Tana, and the phenomenal ruins of the ancient Axumite Kingdom in Axum. We'll visit the Blue Nile Falls and go trekking in the rugged Simien Mountains, home to some unique wildlife such as the Ethiopian wolf and the gelada. The scenery on our drive days through northern Ethiopia is truly some of the most spectacular you'll find in the world! We start our trip in the historic town of Gondar and end in the thriving capital of Addis Ababa - join us for an unforgettable and comprehensive exploration of northern Ethiopia!

  • Duration: 21 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Trekking, Hiking, Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites, Parks & Nature Reserves
  • Physical rating: Demanding
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 80.0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Supplier Tour ID: ZGA2/157978
  • Starts: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Finishes: Gondar, Ethiopia
You will Visit
  • Addis Ababa
  • Debre Markos
  • Bahir Dar
  • Lalibela
  • Woldiya
  • Mekele
  • Axum
  • Adi Arkay
  • Debark
  • Simien Mountains National Park
  • Gondar

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Addis Ababa

Border Information: If joining in Addis Ababa, you will most likely enter Ethiopia at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (IATA code: ADD).

There will be a group meeting at the joining hotel at 6:00pm. Please look out for a note from your tour leader at the reception when you arrive giving more details about this important meeting.

On the next day, we will have a free day to explore Addis Ababa and visit the city's many museums and sights. If you are travelling to the Sudan and have arranged to pick the visa up in Addis Ababa, this day will be spend arranging this visa.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Addis Ababa before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Addis Ababa.

In Addis Ababa we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

02

Day 2: Debre Markos

We will start our journey today with a drive to the small town of Debre Markos. En route we will drive to the bottom of the dramatic Blue Nile Gorge and up the other side!

In Debre Markos we will stay in a basic local hotel. 

Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

03

Day 3-5: Bahir Dar

Today we will complete our drive to Bahir Dar, a small town on Lake Tana, the source of the mighty Blue Nile.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

On our first full day in Bahir Dar, we will have an included boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the famous old monastery of Gabriel Ure Kideth and to visit the spot where the lake outflows into the start of the Blue Nile. 

On our second day, we will head off in the truck to visit the Blue Nile Falls and take a short walk around the area to the historic Portuguese Bridge. We will have some free time in the afternoon to take optional visits to some other spots around Bahir Dar such as the 'Hippo bridge' and the Tigray war memorial.

In Bahir Dar we will stay in decent local hotel.

04

Day 6-8: Lalibela

Today we have a full day's drive through the beautiful scenery of central Ethiopia to reach the small medieval town of Lalibela.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

On our first day in Lalibela, we will have an included full-day guided tour of the world-famous 13th-century rock churches of Lalibela. Our guide will be able to explain the fascinating history of Lalibela and its churches, and there will be plenty of time to explore, absorb the haunting atmosphere inside the churches, and take plenty of photographs of the incredible architecture and the religious rituals within.

On the second day, we will have a free day for further exploration or optional activities. We will have opportunity to hike up the nearby mountains to the Asheten Monastery, visit the Yemrehana Kristos cave church outside the town, or freely explore the Lalibela churches again at your own pace.

In Lalibela we will stay in a local hotel.

05

Day 9: Mekele

Leaving Lalibela behind us, we have a full days drive through increasingly mountainous scenery to reach the town of Mekele.

We will stay in a decent local hotel in Mekele.

Estimated Drive Times - 9-10 hours

06

Day 10-11: Danakil Depression

After breakfast meet your 4 x 4 vehicles and drive to Hamed Ella. On the way you will pass through the beautiful Tigre Villages and the escarpment of the Afar depression, this is commonly known as the cradle of mankind is part of the Great East African Rift Valley. Along the way you will see camel caravans going to the traditional salt minin or to the North Eastern highlands of the country, loaded with salt bars in the old traditional way. We will also stop at Brehalle where we will get our permits and scouts for the trip into the Danakil Depression. 

On the second day we drive to Dallol. Here in Dallol you will visit the beautiful land covered by salt, sulfur and different minerals that gives the area a spectactular colour. We will then continue on to Lake Asale to watch the Afar and Tigre men cut the salt into bars and load up their camels before they head to the highlands of Ethiopia. 

We will wildcamp at Hammed Ella both nights for this excursion. The final day we will then make our way back to Mekele visiting villages along the way. 

07

Day 12: Mekele

Today we will make our way back to Mekele where we will stay in a basic hotel overnight. 

08

Day 13-14: Axum

Today we will visit one of the famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray (either the Abraha Atsbeha or Wukro Chirkos church), then continue through the increasingly breathtaking mountain scenery of the Adwa mountains to reach the ancient town of Axum in the far north of Ethiopia.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.

The next day we will have an included half-day guided tour of the incredible historical sites of Axum, the capital of the once-mighty Axumite Empire - included in this tour will be seeing the Stelae Field, the Tomb of King Kaleb, and the Palace of the Queen of Sheba. We will have a free afternoon to make optional visits to other places such as the Church of St. Mary of Zion, the supposed resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

In Axum we will stay in a basic local hotel.

09

Day 15: Debark

Leaving Axum behind us, we continue our journey with a full day of driving through the foothills of the Simien Mountains to reach the small village of Debark. The roads here are very tough, but we are rewarded with more truly breathtaking scenery!

Debark is the gateway to the Simien Mountains National Park, and on arrival we will have a briefing from our local mountain guide explaining the various trekking options that we will have during our excursion starting the following day.

Here we will stay in a basic hotel.

Estimated Drive Times 9 - 10 hours.

10

Day 16-18: Simien Mountains National Park

Today marks the start of our 3-day excursion into the Simien Mountains National Park. The area is home to some of Africa's most jaw-dropping mountain scenery and is a great opportunity to enjoy some incredibly beautiful treks and breathtaking views!

The area is also home many indigenous animals, and during our time here we hope to spot Lammargeyer vultures, geladas, Walia ibex, and (if we are very lucky) klipspringers and Ethiopian wolves.

We will spend 3 nights in the incredible Simien Mountains National Park. On each day we aim to provide an option for a long trek (of 5-8 hours), a short trek (2-5 hours) or no trekking.

On our first day we aim to wild camp at the area of Sankaber. On our second and third days we aim to wild camp at the area of Chenek (underneath Ras Bwahit, the second-highest mountain in the Simiens, which we hope to get the opportunity to summit).

Please note that we must keep a flexible itinerary in the Simien Mountains, as our options will largely be determined by the weather. 

Please also note that the camping areas in the national park are very basic, and are essentially wild camps with long drop toilets. Please also note that the food and provisions available in Debark and the National Park are very limited, and it is also likely to be very cold at night (often dropping below freezing), so please be prepared!

11

Day 19-20: Gondar

Today we head back out to the mountains to Debark, and then finally join the tarmac road again to reach the ancient royal city of Gondar! 

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

On the next day, we will have an included half-day guided tour of the historical sites of Gondar, including Gondar Castle, the King Fasilades' Baths and the Debre Birhan Selassie church. 

In Gondar we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

12

Day 21: Gondar

Border Information: If you are finishing in Gondar, you will most likely exit Ethiopia at Gondar Atse Tewodros Airport (IATA code: GDQ).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Gondar. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

For passengers continuing their journey north on to Khartoum, the trip will continue on to Gedaref in the Sudan today. For passengers continuing south back to Addis Ababa on the Ethiopia Loop, we will leave today to reach Bahir Dar.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Overland journey north of Addis Ababa, passing through the immense Blue Nile Gorge
    • Boat trip on Lake Tana from Bahir Dar to visit the monasteries
    • Explore the stunning Blue Nile Falls just downstream of Bahir Dar
    • Guided tour of the ancient rock churches and monasteries at Lalibela
    • Journey out on an incredible 3 day/2 night excursion to the Danakil Depression. 
    • Guided tour of palaces and temples in historic Axum
    • Guided treks in the Simien Mountains National Park
    • Learn all about medieval Ethiopia on a half-day guided tour of the castles, churches and baths of Gondar
    Tour Staff
    • 2 crew, local guides as necessary
    Accomodation
    • 25% Camping - 75% Hotels
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Tour Highlights:
  • Adventure Activities
  • Hiking & Trekking
  • History & Culture
  • Nature & Wildlife


Reviews (10)
Jens j. Posted on: 

Both of the crew did way more work than you could expect from a tour leader.

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Robert W. Posted on: 

Our local guides were all very good throughout the trip. They were knowledgeable and able to tell us about the sites and history of the area. Their English was always acceptable.

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Marissa Y. Posted on: 

Very helpful, and really skilled drivers.

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Danuta O. Posted on: 

Both Anja and Domingo were very good leaders. The roads in Ethiopia are not the easiest but they were very good drivers. Organization of camps was very good and they both were very helpful with all aspects of the trip.

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Michale O. Posted on: 

I really liked this trip - it was my first and I was very happy with everything.

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Margaret W. Posted on: 

Tom and Michaela were among the best tour leaders I have ever had. Michaela was patient with some of the more difficult members of the group, and Tom was an excellent and careful driver in some very scary driving conditions. Both took great care to maintain the truck properly. They were enthusiastic and interested in the areas we visited. I would travel with both or either of them again.

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Ruth B. Posted on: 

Neill and Sinead are fantastic ambasssdors. I am so pleased to have met them and shared a wonderful experience with them.

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Steven P. Posted on: 

Yves was an excellent leader and managed some challenging situations in a calm and collected manner.

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Katharine S. Posted on: 

Both leader and co-driver were excellent behind the wheel. Some of the roads were extremely difficult to navigate, but never once did I feel unsafe. Both were also really friendly and participated/interacted with the rest of the group.

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Alfred C. Posted on: 

Truck never felt as if it was going to get stuck or not go where it was asked to - could be the excellent drivers! Always felt secure and comprehensively kitted

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