16 Days – Explore Semien Mountains with Lalibela.
Duration: 15 Nights / 16 Days
Accommodation: Standard Hotel, Lodge and Camping
Tour Starts: Addis Ababa
Tour Ends: Addis Ababa
16 Days – Explore Semien Mountains with Lalibela Highlights
- Addis Ababa city sightseeing
- Visiting Gondar
- Semein Mountains exploring
- Trekking to the mountains
- Lalibela- Rock Hewn Churches.
16 Days – Explore Semien Mountains with Lalibela Trip Summary
The Simien Mountain range is one of Africa’s largest and many of its peaks rise above 4000m. The highest point here (and in the whole of Ethiopia) is Mount Ras Dashen (4,620m), the fourth highest on the continent. The designation of National Park has been assigned to the western side of the range and a single dirt road runs through to Sankaber. These mountains are best enjoyed on foot with mules, which is what we will be doing. Whilst in the mountains we will be looking for three of Ethiopia’s largest endemic mammals.
The Gelada Baboon (with longer hair than its southern relatives and the males sporting an impressive red chest!), has a stronghold in these mountains where they graze and there are estimated to be around 20,000 individuals living in troops that can number up to 400. In much smaller numbers, the endangered Walia Ibex is only estimated to number around 200 but they are often seen by hikers. The Simien Fox (or Ethiopian Wolf) is a very attractive creature but sadly very rare in the mountains where it’s numbers have fallen very low. The birdlife in the mountains include many raptors, some of which nest on the cliffs, the most impressive of these being the lammergeier.
On arrival in Addis Ababa you will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel. Addis was founded in 1886 by Menelik II, and situated at an elevation of around 2438m which makes third highest capital city in the world. Addis Ababa enjoys an excellent climate all year round, with an average temperature of 25°C. we will start our site-seeing by National museum which houses some of the country’s historic treasures. The collection of fossils and bones of early hominids discovered in Ethiopia include the 3.5 million year old remains of ‘Lucy’, the oldest hominid every found. Proceed visiting to the two major highlights of the city, the Ethnographic Museum and the church of the Holy Trinity, Ethiopia’s main cathedral and home to the remains of the last emperor, Haile Selassie.
Today we fly north to Bahar Dar, capital of the Amhara region situated on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country. Bahir Dar is one of the best well-planned cities in Ethiopia. This morning we take a boat trip on the lake to learn the secrets held by the monasteries and churches on the islands. We will visit Ura Kidane Mihret church on Zeghie peninsula. Under the thatched roof are some distinctive colourful paintings of religious scenes, and an impressive display of illuminated bibles written in Ge’ez, the religious language from which Amharic is derived.In the afternoon we will visit Tississat Falls, Amharic for ‘water that smokes’ located about 32km south of Bahar Dar. Due to a nearby hydro electrical power scheme, the waterfalls can no longer be guaranteed to be in full force.
This morning we drive for the 3-31/2 hour (185km) north to Gondar, the former capital of Ethiopia. Gondar has now become one of Ethiopia’s largest and most impressive cities, with its walled Royal Enclosure. Gondar’s most famous monuments are its exceptionally well preserved 17th century castles. The largest and best is that of King Fasilidas. It is a stone-built construction with round turrets and wooden balconies. The king also built a remarkable bath a mile or so outside of town known as the ‘Pavilion of Delight’. The Bathhouse of Fasil at which thousands of Ethiopians celebrate Timkat festival every January. This whole complex of buildings is unique in Ethiopia and unlike anything found elsewhere in Africa. This afternoon we’ll also make a visit to the Debre Birhan Selassie church (Light of Trinity) with its sensational angelic ceiling and mural.
This morning we drive from Gondar to Debark, to start our 10 day trek in the Simien Mountains National Park. En route we’ll stop for picnic lunch on escarpment, admiring the wonderful views of the highest chain in Africa – hopefully we will get to see Lammergeyer vultures, Gelada Baboons and bushbuck. After lunch, we’ll take a short introductory trek to Sankaber Camp site through the breathtaking beauty of these mountains and via Buyit Ras . Our days in the Simiens will be spent walking between the altitudes of 3500m & 4000m. Overnight in Sankaber Camp.
At Sankabar we pack up our gear and meet our muleteers before commencing the trek to Geech. After about 1 and half hours walk we see and cross the Jinnbar River and falls( particularly the falls impressive after the rainy season). After crossing the river, we travel along the escarpment before dropping down to get views of the spectacular Geech Abyss. The scenery is wonderful, and heard of the endemic Gelada Baboon can be seen on our way. Overnight Camp at Geech Campsite (3600m).
A spectacular day – in the morning we walk to Imetgogo (3,926m). Situated at the end of a long ridge, which disappears on either side to the lowlands below, there are outstanding views of the gorge and mountain range. It is possible to see a vast expanse of lowlands and gain some perspective of this incredible mountain range. After a short stay here continue walk to Seha, the other terrific viewpoint in the National park. We will have our picnic lunch and we continue to the last viewpoint, Quedadit. After some stay we walk back to Geech camp site. The most common animal in this area is the gelada baboon, unique to Ethiopia. Klipspringers and grey duikers may also be seen in this area but it is usually only a glimpse as they nimbly spring across the rock face. . If we are lucky we might have the chance to see mammals like the Simien wolf and Walia Ibex – an Ethiopia’s endemic species. We return to the same camp and enjoy an afternoon at rest.
We continue trekking the length of the escarpment to Chennek, which is bounded by a semi circular ring of cliffs . After picnic lunch we walk on the edge of Enatye escarpments (4000m. above sea level), which is another breathtaking view in the national park. This dramatic views continue all the way down to our camp at Chennek, which is the best place to see the endemic Waliya Ibex and more Gelada Baboon. Also noted for cliff-nesting birds of prey, in particular the large and powerful Lammergeyer. These birds have a wing span of almost 3 metres and are frequently seen performing aerial acrobatics above us.
We walk to Ambiquo climbing Buhit (14530ft/4430m) Mountain the 2nd highest peak next to Ras Dashen in Semien Mountain ranges, giving excellent views over the whole area. A memorable and an enjoyable walking but hard day’s trekking of ascents and descents. After,refreshment at the summit of Buhit, we descend towards Chero Laba crossing the Mesheha River, we will reach to Ambiquo and resting for the night here, before the big day on Ras Dashen. Overnight Camping at Ambiquo – (10496ft/3200m).
In the early morning start walking toward mount Ras Dashen and this trek will be probably the most challenging day of our trekking in the semien. To reach the summit can take up to 6 hrs. You will head up the valley from campsite to the small village of Mizma, from where you will climb steeply up wards, eventually reaching an impressive amphitheatre made up of three major buttresses of expanded rock, one of which is your goal, Ras Dashen, which is the fourth highest peak in Africa (14901ft/4543m). After taking in the impressive views descend to our campsite at Ambiko. Overnight Camping at Ambiko – (10496ft/3200m).
Walk from Ambiquo to Sona through the magnificent landscape. From Ambiquo the path leads us back down to the Mesheha River (2800ms). After plenty of ups and downs we might be able to stop for some local coffee in the small village of Arquaziye before continuing to our camping site at Sona. To day we will have a good opportunity to meet local people in the fields, on the trails and in the villages. Overnight camping in sona 3600 metres.
Today, we descend into the lowlands. Our day begins with a 1,100m descent into the Ansiya valley, where we have a relaxed lunch break. We then move onto our camp, near the village of Mekarebya. This is an excellent day for seeing birds and there are very good views up to the Simien Mountains. Looking back up towards the escarpment, we can see exactly where we have been over the last five days. Overnight Camping at Mekarebia.
The day is filled with plenty of opportunities to interact with locals and learn a little about their lifestyles. The final 2 hours of the day involve a hot 400m of ascent, to our final campsite at Mulit. Here with our campsite, we are completely surrounded by fantastic views all around us. Walking time – approx 5 hours. Overnight in Camping at Mulit.
Our final day’s walking takes us to Adi Arkay from where we drive with our private vehicle, via Debark to Gondar. We will check in to our Hotel.
We take a short flight to Lalibela and visit the first cluster of rock- hewn churches in the afternoon. Lalibela, the ‘New Jerusalem’, is thought to have been constructed some 800 years ago by King Lalibela. Lalibela was his capital city, but today it is a small village. Although churches carved in rock are found in other parts of the world, those found in Ethiopia are particularly interesting. Generally, they were excavated on all sides of a rectangle, leaving a large block of granite isolated in the centre. This rock was then shaped and formed both inside and out and the carvings show extremely skillful workmanship and they have been classified as one of the wonders of the world . Each church has a unique architectural style and superbly carved. There are 11 rock-cut churches of which the most impressive is Bet Giorgis. It is carved in the form of a Greek cross and it is exceptionally well preserved.
Today we will visit the church of Yimrhane Kristos. This exquisite church,a masterpiece of Axumit wood and stone construction is renowned for its interior decoration, it’s beautiful wooden coffer ceiling inlaid with hexagons and medallions with both figurative and geometric motifs. Drive back to Lalibela. In the afternoon, we will visit the remaining rock-hewn churches of Lalibela that include the churches of Bete Gabriel and Rafael, Merkorous, Emanuel and Abba Libanos. Bete Emanuel is the best in this group and exceptionally carved with unique Axumite building features, such as the indentations on the walls, symbols of the multi-storey building taken from the stelae of Axum, monkey heads and false windows. The rest of the day is spent absorbing the atmosphere of this extraordinary town with its Tukul or round houses.
This day we will fly back to Addis. This afternoon is free for last minutes shopping and exploring the city. In the evening we will have a fare well dinner in one of the Ethiopian restaurants for traditional dinner and live stage dances from the different ethnic groups. Then transfer to the airport for your departure to Home or to your next destination. Tour End!