Tailor-Made Holiday

Ethiopian Highlands Holiday Including Lalibela

Wonders of the northern circuit

11 days

from £2,395pp (excluding flights)

With an intoxicating mixture of spectacular scenery and fascinating culture and heritage, Ethiopia offers unrivalled diversity. Rock hewn churches, monasteries and castles – this holiday takes in some of the best highlights of a truly incredible country.

  • View the ancient Christian churches of the Ethiopian highlands
  • Visit the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant in Axum
  • Walk through the new Jerusalem and the rock hewn churches of Lalibela
  • Explore the island monasteries of Lake Tana and the castles of Gondar

Travel to Ethiopia may not be glamourous and accommodations not up to the level of luxury elsewhere in the world but the people are wonderfully welcoming, the scenery is simply breathtaking and the opportunity to learn about its fascinating past is phenomenal. Find yourself on a journey back in time where the history of the people and the land merge, and where at times, it is difficult to determine myth from reality. All sightseeing tours are included in this extraordinary trip, we can’t recommend it highly enough.

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Price Excluding Flights £Flight cost from 
£ 2395 £ 600
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • All accommodation
  • Internal flights
  • International flights as detailed
  • Sightseeing with private guide as per the itinerary
  • Transfers as detailed

what is excluded

  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Addis Ababa overnight

Day 2

Half Day Visit to Mount Entoto
After settling in, join your guide to explore Mount Entoto, the highest peak overlooking Addis Ababa. This eucalyptus-covered mountainside is the site that King Menelik chose to build his palace when he founded Addis Ababa.

Parts of the King's mud palace have been restored, whilst a small museum next to the Church of Bet Maryam exhibits a variety of artefacts - including traditional and religious costumes - from the time of King Menelik.

Afterwards, visit the church of Archangel Raguel, which is notable for its colourful Christian murals. Have the chance to get a glimpse of the iconography and practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox church.

Meaning 'New Flower' in Amharic, the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa contrasts strongly with preconceptions of this supposedly drought-ridden and barren country. Sitting on the temperate Abyssinian Plateau, the city's balmy climate makes it more tropical than desert-like.
A booming centre of commerce, Addis Ababa - often known merely as 'Addis' - is a city that seems to be constantly on the move.
Whilst it is full of culture, history and fine gastronomy, the city is also teeming with people which can at times seem overwhelming, but the more time spent exploring, the more the city will win you over.

You will be staying at Nexus Hotel, Full board

Day 3

Fly Addis Ababa to Axum

Walking tour of Axum
After check-in, join your guide on a walk through Axum's fascinating Stelae Park, beginning at the earliest sites and moving forward through time. Examine the park's towering 'stelae' - ornately carved stone obelisks that were erected in the third and fourth centuries. The largest of these is the 24-metre-high 'Obelisk of Axum'.

En route, visit the trilingual stela of King Ezana and Mai Shum, the reputed bathing place of the Queen of Sheba.

Beneath the ground, explore the fascinating tombs that date from the same period. Despite being looted centuries ago, these tombs remain packed with secrets. The unique Tomb of Remhai is the undoubted highlight and contains an intriguing false stone door. Finish with a visit to the site's museum, with exhibits finds from within the stone tombs.

Axum is Ethiopia's most ancient capital and the holiest city of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Huge stone stelae, thought to be grave markers, tower over small, stone churches and ancient king's tombs, while biblical legends of Queen Sheba, King Solomon and the Ark of the Covenant are very much part of this town's fascinating story.

The Royal Tombs and Mary of Zion Church
In the afternoon, explore the elaborate royal tombs of King Kaleb and his son, King Gebre Meskel. Built in the sixth century, these sophisticated underground chambers are walled by massive, exact-fitting granite blocks.

Drive on to the modern Mary of Zion Church, built on the site of Axum's first Christian church. An incredibly holy place for Ethiopian Christians, it is said the location was chosen by God. Nearby, stands the chapel in which the Ark of the Covenant is allegedly housed.

Men can also visit the site's 17th century church, which is the holiest church in Ethiopia and is decorated with beautiful frescoes. (Unfortunately, women are not permitted to enter.)

You will be staying at Yeha Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 4

Visit Adwa and Yeha
Depart Axum through impressive mountain landscape to the site of Yeha, famous as the birthplace of the country's earliest known civilisation. Yeha contains a stunning array of ancient ruins, the most striking building is a 2,500-year-old Sabaean temple, whose architecture has strong Yemeni influences. Built from huge inscribed sandstone blocks, the temple's 12-metre-high walls are still standing. Nearby, a small museum houses Judaic relics and other artefacts that have been discovered.
Return to Adwa, famous for the Ethiopians' defeat of the Italians here in 1896.
Visit the command post used by Italian forces during World War II and explore the 17th century 'Forto', built by Portuguese Jesuits during their conflict with Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.

You will be staying at Yeha Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 5

Fly Axum to Lalibela

Ethiopia's second holiest town, after Axum, Lalibela contains the most stunning Christian architecture in Africa. Often referred to as 'New Jerusalem' and 'The Eighth Wonder of the World', the town's eleven beautiful rock-cut churches draw pilgrims from all over the country.

Built during the 12th and 13th century, these religious monoliths are carved from the red volcanic rock. Unique for having been cut into living stone, their construction required the removal of vast quantities of rock.

A small rural town, Lalibela sits in the hills of the Amhara region and affords views over vast mountain landscapes. Cobblestone streets and a lack of cars make Lalibela a relaxingly peaceful place.

Afternoon Visit to Northern Group Churches and Bet Giyorgis
Spend the afternoon exploring the five rock-hewn churches that make up Lalibela's northern group.

Located to the north of River Jordan, the churches within this cluster are connected by a network of trenches and tunnels. The highlight is undoubtedly the gigantic Bet Medhane Alem, which resembles a Hellenic temple and is said to be the largest church of its type in the world.

Finish with a visit the outlying Bet Giyorgis, arguably Lalibela's most beautiful church. Carved into the shape of Greek cross and perfectly preserved, this masterpiece is best appreciated in the late afternoon sunlight.

You will be staying at Mountain View Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 6

Spend Half a Day at Yemrehanna Kristos
Travel to the remote church of Yemrehanna Kristos, sitting within a vast cavern in the side of Mount Abuna Yosef. Constructed in Axumite style, this medieval church uses a combination of alternating layers of granite and wood, covered with distinctive white gypsum.

Built by its namesake, King Yemrehanna Kristos, the church is exquisitely preserved and incorporates a number of distinctive architectural features, such as its cruciform carved windows and coffer ceiling.

A memorable and eerie place, the cave behind the church is reputed to contain the remains of as many as 10,000 pilgrims who travelled here to die. A visible jumble of assorted skeletons provides macabre proof to back-up this unlikely tale. There maybe some walking involved as close access to the church is not always guaranteed.

You will be staying at Mountain View Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 7

Fly Lalibela to Gondar

Founded by Emperor Fasilides around 1635, Gondar was once the imperial capital of Ethiopia and a proud city of medieval castles, palaces and churches. Historical religious quarters, the emperor's Royal Enclosure and reminders of the Italian occupation are also highlights of this city.

A trip to Gondar is essential to understanding Ethiopia's fascinating history.

Gondar sights
Spend the day visiting Gondar's sites. Containing six castles, this fascinating complex is littered with tunnels and raised walkways. The most impressive of the buildings is undoubtedly the 17th century Fasilidas' Castle, which exhibits Portuguese, Axumite and Indian influences.

Afterwards, visit the peaceful Bathing Pool of Fasilidas, before exploring the elaborately decorated Debre Birhan Selassie Church. Built in the 17th century, this beautiful building owes its survival to an angry swarm of bees, which chased off Sudanese invaders in the 19th century. One of the most beautiful churches in the country, its cherub-covered ceiling murals are a highlight.

Prepare for an early departure tomorrow.

You will be staying at Goha Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 8

Travel from Gondar to Bahir Dar

The road to Bahir Dar from Gondar is impressive as it snakes its way along the eastern shore of Lake Tana offering glorious views of the lake and of the giant rock formations which are characteristic of this area.

Sitting on Lake Tana's southern shore, the balmy tropical city of Bahir Dar has earned the unusual moniker 'The Ethiopian Riviera'. Super yachts and celebrities are conspicuous only in their absence, but palm trees and sparkling blue waters mean that the city is not short on seaside - or lakeside charm.

A peaceful city, particularly by Africa's hectic standards, Bahir Dar is ringed by sites of national importance. The source of the Blue Nile lies nearby and treasured religious sites dot the islands of Lake Tana, whilst various temporary Ethiopian capitals were established within the vicinity of the city.

You will be staying at Abay Minch Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

Day 9

Visit to Blue Nile Falls
A morning excursion to see the Blue Nile Falls via the Portuguese bridge (Agamm Dildi) built in 1620. The nearby hydroelectric plant has diverted much of the water from the falls, so the strength and volume of the waterfall varies considerably depending on the time of year.

Continuing on after the viewpoint, walk along the banks of the Nile and then cross the river by "tankwa" or ferry before arriving at the Tis Abbay Monastery. Return to your hotel. The afternoon at leisure.

Boat trip on Lake Tana

After lunch, depart on a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit two of the most beautiful churches and monasteries: Ura-Kidane Miheret and the 14th century Azua Mariam. It is believed that the paintings of all the Lake Tana churches and monasteries originate from Azua Mariam and the church is therefore also called 'The Painting House'.

You will be staying at Abay Minch Lodge, Bed & Breakfast

Day 10

Fly Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa

You will be staying at Nexus Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 11

Fly Addis Ababa to London

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Ethiopia

Bridget Cohen, Travel Expert

"Bridget had a great knowledge of the areas being looked at and given I have spent time in both countries, it required someone who completely understood the type of camps preferred."

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Illona Cross, Travel Expert

"Illona was quite simply brilliant. She listened and carefully noted what we thought we wanted, made suggestions and came up with an itinerary which suited us down to the ground."

"Excellent personal service; well-informed local knowledge; dependable outcome; quality of experience."

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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