Ethiopia Inspire me

2 Weeks Exploring Ethiopia's Northern Circuit

Moritz & Margarete contacted Outposts Travel Africa to help them organise a 2 week holiday to Ethiopia. As a relatively undiscovered destination, we were delighted to put together a programme for them together with our in-country experts to explore the historical wonders of the north. Ethiopia is a culturally and scenically distinct nation and you must be prepared to travel long distances and stay in mid-range accommodation in order to experience all it has to offer.

Their holiday highlights:

  • Obelisks of Axum 
  • Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
  • Ancient castles and palaces of Gondar
  • 'Injerra' - traditional food 
  • Local knowledgable guides

We would absolutely recommend to visit Ethiopia. It is such an interesting and beautiful country. We cannot stop talking about this great trip, it was such an adventure.

Itinerary: Day 1 & 2

Addis Ababa • Debre Markos 

Arriving one day earlier in Addis was very good for Moritz since he had to get used to the altitude. The first hotel, Jupiter International, was the best hotel we saw on our trip. Of course one has to say that Ethiopian hotels are not as good and well run as European hotels and every hotel had some things that made them very special. They also had some disadvantages but we knew what to expect.

From Addis, the couple travelled to the city of Debre Markos crossing the Blue Nile Gorge, which is comparable in scale with the Grand Canyon in America. They visited the Debre Libanos Monastery (13th century AD), the largest in the country and encountered one of the endemic mammals of Ethiopia - the Gelada Baboon or ‘bleeding heart baboon’.

Our driver was a very nice, reliable, sympathetic guy who really told us his opinion about things instead of just telling us what we wanted to hear. He had a very good sense of personal distance and different styles of traveling. For instance he found a very good mixture of being with the locals, doing local things (what I like) as well as knowing when to keep a distance and avoid crowds (what Moritz likes).

Day 3 & 4

Debre Markos • Bahir Dar • Gondar

From Debre markos, they travelled to Bahir Dar, a town on the shore of Lake Tana – the largest lake in Ethiopia and made a trip to Tis Isat to visit the famous Blue Nile Falls. They enjoyed a boat trip on the lake to visit the island monasteries of Ura Kidane Mihret (16th century AD) and Azwa Mariam (16th century AD).

They then drove north to Gondar, the 17th and 18th Century Capital of Ethiopia and did some sightseeing in the town visiting the ‘Royal Compound’ with many majestic castles constructed in the architectural style of the European middle ages and the Bath of Fasiladas (bathing palace).

We really enjoyed being by ourselves most of the time because it was low season. On the other hand the dry season really looked dry and we could only imagine how beautiful the landscape would be in October after the rainy season. But I have to admit I would favour being the only tourist.

The landscape was absolutely amazing anyway and it changed every day, so being in the car for long hours was never boring.

Day 5 & 6

Gondar • Simien Mountains • Axum

Moritz & Margarete travelled north east from Gondar to the Simien Mountains National Park home to unique wildlife and breath-taking views on a landscape shaped by nature and traditional agriculture. The mountains are criss-crossed with tracks made by local people travelling from village to village or moving their animals to fresh pastures. The combination of these tracks and spectacular scenery make for excellent walking. 

Being driven around without having to organize anything, no meal, no hotel, no transport was very luxurious!

We would have enjoyed to do more hiking and therefore stay one night longer in the Simien Mountains to enjoy the spectacular view and just get some exercise after sitting in the car for such long hours. I sometimes missed just sitting in a cafe to have some time to chat with the local people, to get a feeling for the town and maybe take some pictures after the people were used to us. But that was not the style of the trip and would have been impossible to realize. It is just my personal interest!

Day 7 - 9

Axum • Mekelle • Lalibela

From the Simien Mountains the couple travelled to Axum, the ancient capital of Ethiopia. They visited the Archeological Museum of Axum, the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion which is believed to be the last resting place of the Original Ark of the Covenant, and the famous ‘Stele field’ (4th Century AD and UNESCO World Heritage Site). They also visited the ruin palace and tomb of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel (5th and 6th Century AD) and the residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba (9th century BC).

They travelled from Axum to Mekelle through the Tigray Mountains and the bloodiest battle field, Adwa, on which Ethiopians beat the Italian Colonizers. En route they visited the Yeha Temple (5th Century BC), the rock hewn churches of Abreha Atsebeha (10th Century AD) and Wukro Cherqos (10th Century AD).

From Mekelle, they made the long journey to Lalibela, home to the incredible rock hewn churches of King Lalibela in the 12th and 13th century whom the town is named after. 

We noticed that the local guides who were picked by our driver instead of just random choices were always so much better and we therefore had some very, very interesting and smart guides. 

The most amazing places were clearly Axum and Lalibela. Axum is where the arch of the covenants are supposed to be and Lalibela is the place with the rock churches that were built by King Lalibela in the 13th century to rebuilt Jerusalem. We could really get a feeling for the great culture and skills the people had in that time. Religion and culture were present everywhere and we felt people have a much stronger religious belief compared to us. They tend to not question anyone in authority, like priests. 

Day 10 - 12

Lalibela • Woldiya • Awash

From Lalibela, the couple visited the Neakuto Le’ab church before heading to Woldiya.

People are extraordinarily friendly and interested. Everybody would talk to us and ask questions and we never felt any discomfort or fear.

After some days even Moritz tried to eat the local food (Injerra). It tastes a bit sour and you have to get used to it first. But it is very healthy and is served with different sauces and meat. The “Western food“ was alright most of the time and the best breakfast we had was in Addis at the Jupiter Hotel. Moritz did not eat at lunch times when we stopped at places that looked very simple although the traditional food was always good.

We would really recommend eating traditional food since it was always better than any other dishes.

Day 13 - End

Awash • Addis

The couple visited Awash National Park, the oldest and most developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia which occupies around 830 square kilometres (320 miles) of dry savannah in the middle of the Rift Valley. Temperatures in the park can soar to 42°C and the couple didn't feel Awash was really special enough to compensate the exhausting drive. After their final game drive in the park, they returned to Addis for their return flight home.

All in all we learned so incredibly much about Ethiopia and we would love to travel there again to see more of the country. I am sure we will keep in contact with our new friend Bale, our driver.

- Moritz and Margarete, Ethiopia 2015

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