From visiting the ancient rock churches of Lalibela to encountering the unique indigenous cultures of the Omo Valley, from scaling active volcanoes in the Danakil Depression to getting lost in the tiny cobbled streets of Harar, Ethiopia really is the hidden gem of Africa.
A dazzling land of diversity, put quite simply, there is never going to be enough time to see and do everything you’d like to in Ethiopia.
Add in the fact that this country is HUGE and that getting around it can be, well… an adventure, and it’s easy to understand why having a rough itinerary ahead of your visit there really can help you get the most out of your trip.
And to make things even easier, especially is this is your first time visiting Ethiopia, I’ve compiled my top detailed itinerary – split into 2, 3 and 4 week lengths of time – to help you craft the perfect trip.
Giving you plenty of scope when it comes to constructing your ideal Ethiopia itinerary, I hope this plan will ensure you really do see the best of this spellbinding country.
- EVERYTHING You Need to Know About Travel in Ethiopia
- The 10 Best Things To Do in Ethiopia
- How Much Does It Cost to Travel Ethiopia?
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- Itinerary Schedule
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2 WEEK ETHIOPIA ITINERARY
Day 1: Addis Ababa
STAY: MR MARTIN’S COZY PLACE
A great backpackers in Addis Ababa with free breakfast, tons of hot water and spotlessly clean rooms. Check out my full review of Mr Martin’s Cozy Place here.
9 times out of 10, it’s likely you’ll be arriving into Ethiopia by plane, meaning Addis Ababa will be your first stop.
The 4th largest city in Africa and the 5th highest in the world, Addis Ababa can be a chaotic, crowded and heady introduction to any Ethiopia itinerary!
Nevertheless, it’s almost certainly worth a day of your time to explore, with some good parks and a collection of museums offering more than enough amusement for a day.
Top of the list is the National Museum of Ethiopia – which contains the plaster cast skeleton of Lucy (one of the earliest humans ancestors ever found at 3.2 million years old) and Mezcal Park – a great place to head in the late afternoon when tons of locals turn out to complete their exercise regimes!
In the evening, you must get to Fendika – Addis’ leading cultural hub, where nightly concerts are a great introduction to the progressive Addis arts scene spearheaded by the wonderfully talented and lovely Melaku Belay.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Addis Ababa
Day 2: Bahar Dar
STAY: SOLYANA HOTEL
An BRAND NEW luxury accommodation choice available for near budget prices, the Solyana Hotel is the perfect opportunity to splurge a little during your time in Ethiopia and be treated like royalty! Check out my full review of Solyana Hotel here.
The commercial centre of Ethiopia’s northwestern Amhara region, Bahar Dar is a busy city of around half a million people, but with a definite laidback feel that I found really friendly.
Possibly this has something to do with the fact that the city is set on a lake (us water folk are always more chilled) and sits at a lower altitude than many of the other destinations in this Ethiopia itinerary.
Yep at roughly 1800m above sea level, Bahar Dar is low-lying in Ethiopian terms and as such the balmy climate and palm tree lined streets certainly impart a holiday feel.
If you’re on a short time frame, the best idea to is fly from Addis Ababa to Bahar Dar, where the airport is just a short shuttle ride from the centre of town.
Otherwise, regular buses ply the 10 hour route from the capital, which although long and arduous, does have some fantastic scenery to lighten the load!
After your arrival into Bahar Dar, spend the day exploring this fun city, including enjoying some of the top eating spots of Wude Café, Lakeside Restaurant and Misrak, which all offer you the chance to sample some delicious local coffee and food.
In the evening, there are 2 traditional houses that offer the perfect place for a beer accompanied by traditional music and dancing (way more fun than it seems and generally full with locals rather than tourists!). My favourite is Checheho.
The next day, get ready for a full day sightseeing as you head out to Bahar Dar’s 2 main attractions – Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls.
To learn more about these 2 great destinations in Bahar Dar, check out my post on Exploring Ethiopia’s Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls with ETT.
Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls are 2 separate trips, but if you take a tour, they normally combine them into 1 full day excursion – you’ll take a boat trip and monastery tour early in the morning (before the wind and the waves pick up) and then head out to the Blue Nile Waterfalls in the afternoon.
Both places are remarkable and well worth exploring for their cultural and natural value.
Day 3: Gondar
STAY: L-SHAPE HOTEL
A really well-located budget accommodation option in Gondar is L-Shape Hotel, who offer ensuite rooms with delightfully hot water!
A land of Medieval mystery, Gondar was once the centre of an important trading empire and the faded remains of this time, as well as the friendliness of the city, make it a great destination to include on any Ethiopia itinerary.
Only a 3 hour drive from Bahar Dar, catching an organised shuttle or public minibus between Gondar and Bahar Dar is easy and straightforward and means you’ll arrive close to the city centre.
If you set off early from Bahar Dar, you’ll have enough time to check out Gondar’s main attractions – the 16th Century UNESCO Royal Enclosure in the afternoon.
Essentially an enclosed group of crumbling castles, it’s this place that earns Gondar its title as the Camelot of Africa and is well worth a few hours of your time.
With a 200 birr entrance fee, guides are optional here, but can be found at the entrance gates if required.
Otherwise, the Ethiopia Lonely Planet has a good level of information that allows you to wander around and check out the castles by yourself – although do be warned there’s little additional signage!
In addition to the Royal Enclosure, you can also visit Fasiladas’ Baths (included in the same entrance free) and Debre Berhan Selassie (additional entrance fee of 100 birr) a beautiful church in a peaceful setting a 10-15 min walk from the centre.
After your sightseeing afternoon, I recommend heading to the Goha Hotel for sunset views, before making it to the excellent Four Sisters restaurant for dinner.
Here you can eat like a King, or Queen, for just a few dollars, with an excellent chance to enjoy some Ethiopian honey wine too.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Gondar
Day 4: Simien Mountains National Park
On Day 4, I suggest staying another night in Gondar, but heading out on a trip to the nearby UNESCO Simien Mountains early in the morning.
One of Ethiopia’s first established national parks, the Simien Mountains offers some incredible hiking and wildlife opportunities, including a chance to see the endemic Gelada Monkeys.
It’s a good idea to set off early to the Simien Mountains, as the park is a 2.5hr drive from Gondar.
It also sits at a high altitude – over 3000m – and, as such, can get cold even in the day here, so make sure you pack accordingly with long sleeved top and trousers.
That said, you’ll be treated to some stunning views as you walk gentle paths which take you higher and higher up the range, as well as end your day at a great waterfall lookout.
You must have a guide and scout accompanying you during any trip to the Simien Mountains and organising a tour from Gondar is the best and cheapest way to do this – with lunch, transport to the park and your entrance fee thrown in.
Prices start from around $150pp for a day trip, but haggle well enough and you should be able to swing one for half that price, especially if you arrange it the day before!
READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Simien Mountains
Day 5: Axum
STAY: ATSE KALEB HOTEL
The most central budget option in Axum, Atse Kaleb has a great courtyard / garden area and free wifi. The rooms are a little faded, but you can’t quibble at the prices given you’ll have an ensuite bathroom and double bed.
The beautiful and very safe town of Axum is one of my favourite in Ethiopia and another must-see of any Ethiopia itinerary.
The centre of one of the great ancient civilisations of the world (who knew?!) Axum is full of historical sites, many which date from as long ago as the 1st Century, including the supposed tomb of Balthazar – one of the 3 Kings present at Jesus’ birth and the possible ruins of Queen Sheba’s palace!
With many, strong religious practices still upheld by the locals here, wandering the cobbled streets of Axum is a little but like stepping into a living museum – one without queues, other tourists or gift shops!
Again, if you’re short on time, I recommend flying between Gondar and Axum, otherwise the long and hair-raising bus journey offers more great mountainous scenery for a fraction of the price.
Once in Axum, head straight to the Northern Stelae Field to explore the ancient towering obelisks and ancient underground tombs, which make up the main historical attraction in town and are located right in the centre.
The entrance ticket here is 100 birr, but is valid for 3 days and includes a number of other sites in town including Queen Sheba’s Bath and Palace, King Ezana’s inscription and King Kaleb’s tomb.
Paying for a guide (600 birr), who can be found at the entrance, will definitely enhance your experience in Axum, but isn’t strictly necessary if you’re on a tight budget.
You can also pay to explore the St Mary’s Church Complex in Axum (200 birr) although access for women is restricted and no one can see the Ark of the Covenant Chapel which supposedly houses the famous tablets on which the 10 commandments relayed to Moses are written!
In the evening, the great Antica Cultural Restaurant offers a super selection of local food and the chance to see some of the bonkers Ethiopian dancing, which is a must on any Ethiopia itinerary.
LEARN MORE: The Complete Guide to Visiting Axum in Ethiopia
Day 6: Tigray Churches to Hawzien
STAY: VISION HOTEL
Super well-priced and with some lovely staff, Vision Hotel is easily the best budget accommodation in the small town of Hawzien.
Hopefully you will have got an early night in Axum, because an exploration of the Tigray Churches can be an energetic and adrenaline-filled day to say the least!
Some of Ethiopia’s most impressive religious buildings (and that really is saying something!) there’s over 150 Tigray Churches to choose from, but the main ones you must see are Daniel Korkor, Maryam Korkor and Abuna Yemata.
All 3 of these are located at a great height in the mountainous landscape here and largely hidden in caves, which is why you’ll need a guide, a scout and some transport to reach them.
There’s a quite a bit of uphill hiking involved, as well as some fairly terrifying barefoot rock climbing (!) but make the effort and you’ll be rewarded with some an insight into some of the most remote churches in the world, filled with religious murals and ancient artefacts that are yet to even been recognised by UNESCO!
READ MORE: Trekking to Ethiopia’s Tigray Churches
It really is worth taking a tour to see the Tigray churches from Axum rather than having to try and orchestrate the whole thing independently.
Finish your night in the nearby village of Hawzien, as you’ll probably be just about ready to collapse!
Day 7: Mekele
STAY: AFEWORKI GUESTHOUSE
I love this family-run guesthouse which has super modern-looking bedrooms, and is unbelievably comfortable and clean. Well-located, with free wifi and ensuite rooms with their own balcony, this is a no-brainer when it comes to budget accommodation in Mekele.
Mekele is a big student town and a really fun Ethiopian city to explore, which felt safe and offered some lovely cafes and bars.
Driving here from Hawzien is possible in a few hours, then there’s a museum, monument and church you can explore.
Most people just use Mekele as a base however in order to prepare for their Danakil Depression tour and a day of rest and re-cooperation here is probably a good idea!
Day 8, 9, 10 & 11: Danakil Depression
Without a doubt one of Ethiopia’s Africa’s most dramatic destinations, the Danakil Depression is one of the lowest, hottest, driest places on earth and the highlight of many people’s Ethiopia itinerary.
A huge expanse of volcanic landscape set some 100m below sea level, due to security reasons – both political and geographical – you must take a tour to the Danakil Depression almost all of which leave from the city of Makele and last either 3 or 4 days.
As a brief intro however, you can expect wild adventure travel, rough sleeping under the stars, salt lakes, active volcanoes and bubbling sulphur pools in this otherworldly landscape amidst a mind-blowing tour you’re unlikely to ever forget!
Return to Mekele on the last night of your 4 day tour to enjoy a hot shower and sleeping in a bed in Afeworki Guesthouse…. You’ll need it!
LEARN MORE: My Experience of the Danakil Depression
5 MUST-HAVE ITEMS FOR TRAVEL IN ETHIOPIA
#1 Headlamp – Necessary for those all too frequent power cuts! I love my Black Diamond Storm headlamp.
#2 Travel Scarf – Be it covering your shoulders in churches or covering your face from the dust, a good travel scarf is a godsend in Ethiopia.
#3 Ethiopia Lonely Planet – This is the perfect companion to your travels in this crazy country!
#4 Hiking Boots – From the Simien Moutains to the Tigray Churches and the Danakil Depression, some good quality hiking boots like KEEN Targhee II’s will be invaluable for this itinerary.
#5 Long Trousers – Dress standards are conservative in Ethiopia and in most of the country, it gets cold at night. A pair of good hiking trousers, like these from Columbia will cover all bases.
Day 12 & 13: Lalibela
STAY: RED ROCK HOTEL
This superb budget hotel in Lalibela offers the best views in town from its incredible private balconies as its elevated position give you the most spectacular sunrise and sunset snaps. There’s also a great restaurant and garden here, as well as free breakfast and free wifi included in the deal. The owner Shimi and his sister are wonderful too! Check out my full review of Red Rock Lalibela Hotel here.
Yet another UNESCO-listed site on this Ethiopia itinerary, the town of Lalibela is famous for its ancient churches, which are truly magnificent.
Carved out of the rock and filled with ornate paintings and ancient artefacts, there’s 2 main groups of churches very close to town (the north group and the south group), plus the iconic St George’s Church or Bet Giyorgis as it’s known.
All of the churches can be viewed in a long day – with the best day to do so being Sunday as you’ll get to see the incredible morning mass then too.
Entrance is a pricey $50 USD to see all the churches, but trust me, it’s worth the splurge as the spectacle of these churches really is unforgettable.
The ticket is also valid for 5 days so you can go back and visit the churches anytime within the period.
That said, I would advise getting a guide on the first day at least so the significance of the rituals, symbols and motifs can be conveyed to you.
Highly recommended is Mulu who led me around Lalibela and whose excellent English and incredible knowledge truly added to the experience. He can be contacted on via Whatsapp or calling +251 93 543 8503.
Mulu can also organise tours for you to visit the other churches or top hiking spots outside of Lalibela the following day if required too.
While you’ll have to pay extra for this, as well as additional entrance fees, it will undoubtedly give you even more of a chance to see the stunning Ethiopian highlands and the magic of the ancient mythology that inhabits them.
READ MORE: The Complete Guide to Visiting Lalibela
Day 14: Addis Ababa
On your last day of your Ethiopia itinerary, return to the capital ahead of your departure and enjoy your final taste of Ethiopian cuisine and culture at the much celebrated Habesha 2000.
Make sure you pay your respects to Haile Selassie in one of the city’s most beautiful churches – Trinity Cathedral – too!
READ MORE: The Top 5 Day Trips from Addis Ababa
LOOKING FOR A BUDGET TOUR IN ETHIOPIA?
If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in Ethiopia with guides you can trust, then email me at [email protected] with details of where you want to go and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!
3 WEEK ETHIOPIA ITINERARY
With 3 weeks up your sleeve, I suggest completing the above Ethiopian itinerary, followed by a week long tour to the incredible Omo Valley region.
Filled with incredible African wildlife, including hippos and crocodiles, Omo Valley is also famous for its indigenous culture and visiting different traditional communities to view their cultural practices is a key part of exploring this area.
Tours normally depart from Addis and involve a flight to Arba Minch or Jinka from where you travel by road around the region.
At the minimum, I suggest a 5-day tour to Omo Valley as this will give you enough time to visit around 5 or 6 of the various ethnic groups in this area and to view the wildly different ways in which they live.
Some of the most popular communities to visit include: The Mursi, The Hamer, The Ari and The Konso.
Heading to a few of the weekly local markets these people hold is also really worthwhile.
Try to find out whether there is a Bull Jumping Ceremony taking place that you can attend too – you won’t forget it in a hurry!
READ MORE: Why the Omo Valley is Like Nowhere Else on Earth!
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4 WEEK ETHIOPIA ITINERARY
With 4 weeks to play with for your Ethiopian itinerary, follow the 3 week programme above, giving yourself 4 days to hike in the Simien Mountains, rather than just a day trip.
Overnight trips in the Simien Mountains can easily be arranged from Addis, Bahar Dar or Gondar and include sleeping in various lodges within this national park, hiking between them during the day in some of Ethiopia’s most stunning nature.
After your return to Addis – either before or after the Omo Valley – you could then take a flight to the city of Dire Dawa and from there catch a minivan or taxi to the UNESCO walled city of Harar for a few days.
Here you can feed wild hyenas, get lost in the winding cobbled streets and visit some of the best markets in Ethiopia.
For more ideas about what to do in Harar, check out my guide to the city here.
Again I do advise taking a guide to get the most out of your time in this great Ethiopian city and the wonderfully bright and cheery Adisu – a local Harari with incredible English comes highly recommended. Contact him on +251 94 299 6221 and he’ll come and meet you!
In terms of budget accommodation, it’s hard to go past Anisa’s Guesthouse. Situated right in the centre of the old town, this traditional house has the perfect location and the ladies who work here are lovely. Call to reserve a 400 birr room on +251 9 15 33 00 11.
With the Djibouti border not far away, continue on to this little discovered country or make your return to Addis.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it, my ultimate Ethiopia itinerary.
Have I convinced you to visit this incredible country yet?
Let me know when you’re heading there in the comments box below…
80 thoughts on “Ideal Ethiopia Itinerary: Seeing The Best of This Spellbinding Country”
Thanks, i enjoyed reading your The idesl Ethiopian Itinerary. You have convinced me to visit dalol. On day 5 Axum you discussed about Mekele not Axum, is that deliberate. I also thought including some figures like ages or years would add to your convincing your audience. Great job!!
Oh my goodness Daniel, thank you so much for the heads up – it seems a whole 3 days of the article had somehow been deleted! (Probably me working too late into the night and making silly mistakes!) Anyway, Day 5 6 & 7 have now been restored to the post, so you’ve now got the full itinerary again! So happy I’ve convinced you to visit Dallol as well, you won’t regret it! When you say ages or years, so you mean how old things are in Ethiopia or ???
Hi Steph – would you suggest going to Bale Mountains? Or is Simein enough?
In all honesty Nadia, I haven’t been to the Bale Mountains. Keep trying to go, but every time I’m in Ethiopia the security situation prevents me from travelling there. May be best to check the situation on the ground now before planning your trip and also consider time and your interests. If you love hiking and wildlife, then probably Bale and Simien would be great. However if you’re short on time and want to see historical / cultural destinations too (plus maybe the Danakil) then a variation of places in Ethiopia might be nice. Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂 Best Steph 🙂
Have always wanted to go to Ethiopia and this has convinced me to spend a month there. Great blog
That is music to my ears Olivia. So happy to hear you like the blog and even more delighted to know you will be heading to Ethiopia!
Hi – please can I also ask. Did you do the Omo tour independently or with a group?
I was paired with a small group by ETT – there was actually just 3 of us, so it was perfect! Request a small group when you book is my advice!
Hi there. I loved reading your posts on Ethiopia. I’m planning to go there soon, but only for a 6-day trip. What would you suggest I kick out from the 2 week itinerary? (A really tough question, I know!) but really grateful for your help!
Hi Zahabia, great to hear from you so happy you are enjoying my Ethiopia content. With 6 days, I’d cut out Addis and Makele, and then decide if you are more interested in nature / hiking or history / culture. With nature in mind, I’d highly recommend the Danakil and Simien Mountains; and for history, Axum, Gondar and Lalibela are a must. If you are travelling there soon, just do check the weather as it’s rainy season right now and this might also affect your itinerary. Do let me know if you want any contacts for tours and guides in Ethiopia and I can hook you up 🙂
Hi, thanks for your story. I first had some doubts about going to Ethiopia for a holiday, but reading your story really makes me excited. I am planning to go end of September and first week of October for three weeks. How many flights did you take in Ethiopia? And what would be a good budget for a week. Can imagine some tours are a bit more expensive, but drinks, food and accomodation do not seem to be too expensive, right?
Hi Frank, thank so much for your great questions and delighted you are heading to my favourite African country. Your budget will wildly vary depending on how many tours you take. There are some big ticket ones like Omo Valley and the Danakil Depression that will hit your budget hard – by hundreds of dollars! Food and drinks are cheap and accommodation is so-so – starting at around $20 USD per night for a private room, but it’s no South East Asia! Your budget will also be affected greatly by how much you fly vs get the bus and whether you fly internationally with Ethiopian airlines into the country and therefore secure the local rate for domestic flights. I’ve written a post about the 57 things you need to know before you travel Ethiopia – I’d definitely check that out for more info on all of the above 🙂
Great two week itinerary, however how did you incorporate travel time in to getting to all the destinations. Everything is very far apart and I dont see how to follow the itinerary even if you fly.
Hi Nirja – if you fly you’ll find this itinerary totally doable, although it will be JAMPACKED with some early starts and late finishes! Just check the domestic flights too – not every route operates every day in Ethiopia (something to watch out for)
Steph, this is great! We are looking at 15 days in Ethiopia over Dec 20-Jan 5, and are certainly interested in some guides and insider tips. Hmm… thoughts about going there over Christmas? I wish we could stay for the Orthodox Christmas, but unfortunately cannot.
Jenn, superb – December / Jan is a great time to visit and you will love it! 15 days is also a super amount of time – long enough to see quite a lot of the country. Shame you will miss the Orthodox Christmas and Timkit, but I’m sure you’ll love the experience anyway. If you want my guide recommendations (I’ve tried and tested all those I recommend and generally promote them because of their top service and reasonable price tags) then please send me an email – [email protected] – where I can fill you in with more details. Happy travel planning 🙂
Thank you Steph for all these details !! We plan to go there second week of October from Nairobi. We will spend 6 Days so we are following your 12days travel and removing Axum & Mekele & unfortunately Danekil.
Are you aware about fligt between Lalibela and Bahar dar or Gondar ? Asante sana
Hi Manu, thanks for your comments and delighted to hear you are heading to Ethiopia soon… so exciting! Ethiopia airlines don’t fly direct from Lalibela to Bahar Dar (you’ll have to transit in Addis for this) but the flights are short and frequent so it’s more than possible and shouldn’t take you too long. There is one direct flight per day from Lalibela to Gonder by the looks of the Ethiopia Airlines website – otherwise again Addis transit is easy. Road transport between Bahar and Gondar is the best option as it’s only around 3 hours by bus or car. If you take a tour in Bahar Dar and Gondar they usually throw in the ride between the cities for free. Hope that answers your question – don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any more 🙂
HI Steph. I am getting very excited reading your great descriptions of your trip and suggested itinerarys. We are going at the end of December for 4 weeks. We are going to spend the first couple of weeks north of Addis and then the second half of the trip down south. We are hoping to do a trek in the Bale Mountains. I have heard mixed reviews about the Omo Valley tours and how they have now become like a ‘human zoo’ with groups coming to look at the tribes. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this? Also, is there any places in the south of Ethiopia that you would recommend after the Bale Mountains. Thanks. Gillian
Hi Gillian, delighted to hear you are heading to Ethiopia soon – you are going to love it! Your itinerary sounds good. Personally, I think there is more to see and do in the north and I enjoyed my time there more, but it’s good to get a contrast and view the south as well because it’s very different. The Omo Valley trips are ethically loaded for sure and it really does depend on where you visit. Some villages certainly can offer touristy, artificial and quite worrying interactions, other places like local markets can offer totally genuine experiences where you may be the only tourist – it just totally depends, because we are talking here about many different communities spread over a vast area so experiences can differ greatly. After the Bale Mountains have you thought about travelling to Harar for a couple of days? Again I found this town a fascinating contrast. There is an article on my blog about my time there which you can check out for more ideas. Happy travel planning 🙂
I’ve been reading your posts about Ethiopia lately and I am getting so excited! Travelling there in less than 2 weeks! 🙂 Would you recommend me any travel agency to book my tours with? I believe I will follow your 2-week itinerary! Thank you very much!
Hi Ivan – wonderful to hear you are heading to Ethiopia soon. I’m excited for you!
I recommend Easy Ethiopia Tours. You can find them at http://www.bigworldsmallpockets.com. They are run by my friend Gashaw. Thanks and hope you have a wonderful time.
Hi steph, I’m thinking of doing a couple of tours with Easy Ethiopia Tours because their prices are really competitive. But I don’t see any reviews online, just none, so I’m a little sceptical about the company. They also ask to pay 50% upfront via paypal. What was your experience with them? Did you also have to pay in advance?
Hi Iggino, Easy Ethiopia Tours were great in my experience. Gashaw has been running trips for a long time, but only recently made it official with his own company and website, hence why there isn’t anything online. He’s a friend of mine and I trust him, which is why I recommend him. If trips are busy or it’s high season he asks for a deposit, yes. This is because he has had experience with people not turning up or paying at all. Sad but true
Hi Steph, very exciting itineraries mapped out. Thank you for the ideas contained in them. Sadly, I think the most time I will have will be between landing lunchtime in early Jan (Wed 2nd / Thu 3rd / Fri 4th) and leaving nine days later (Fri 11th / Sat 12th / Sun 13th) . So in the country for ten days with nine nights. Will not be arriving with Ethiopian Airways but other major airline. What would you recommend for that time span. I will of course look at your itinerary again above but would like it too if you could suggest something for me! I like the idea of contrasts and don’t mind early starts and late nights and so on if need be to fit stuff in.
Hi Sim – in order to make the best itinerary it would be good to know if you’re more interested in nature / hiking or history / culture.
For nature / hiking, I’d suggest Day 1: Addis, Day 2: Bahar Dar, Day 3: Gonder, Day 4&5 Simien, Day 6: Makele, Day 7,8,9: Danakil Day 10: Return to Addis.
For history culture, I’d suggest Day 1: Addis, Day 2&3: Lalibela, Day 4&5: Makele and Tigray Churches, Day 6: Axum, Day 7&8: Gonder & Simien, Day 9: Bahar Dar, Day 10: Return to Addis
This will be a very tight schedule and I’d suggest flying to get the most time out of your itinerary, you will see a lot this way but it will be pricey if you don’t have Ethiopia Airlines discount. If you want a diversity of stuff, then mix and match these 2 itineraries. Any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Best Steph
Hi Steph, thanks for the great post, it’s been so helpful while I try to play my two week trip to Ethiopia! Just one question, how did you get from Mekele to Lalibela?
Hi Maro, so happy you are enjoying the piece. I actually visited Lalibela first (because I didn’t know what I was doing so much then!) and then flew direct from there to Makele. As such, I’m guessing you would be able to do the opposite. There’s also the bus option – not direct, you have to spend the night somewhere – but an option.
Useful info. Fortunate me I found your site
accidentally, and I am surprised why this accident didn’t happened earlier!
I bookmarked it.
Yay! This makes me happy. Thank you 🙂
Thanks for your great posts. My partner and I are looking forward to going to Ethiopia for 3-4 weeks in February. The US State Dept. has designated the “Danakil desert (including Dallol)” as a high-risk area and that all travel there should be avoided due to ” military operations, armed insurgeries and banditry.”
We would appreciate any thoughts you have on this matter.
Hi Linda, I tend to use the gov.uk foreign office advise, which I find way more accurate when it comes to realistic assessments of dangers and threats. It’s less conservative than the US one, and I found to largely be better. The Danakil does have its risks, no point denying that, and incidents have occurred in the past. But I felt safe there and many people travel there each day. Unfortunately, I can’t say for sure and you will have to make that call. Would I go? yes, but is it 100% safe? no.
Thank you Steph. Your response was pretty much what I was hoping for…individual comfort level. Also will check UK gov website.
Great Linda, glad I could be of some help
SOOO glad I ran across your blog. There are so many great posts you have done about Ethiopea. My adult daughter and I are traveling there end of February for two weeks and we are so excited! Definitely will lean on your advice and routes! Thank you for sharing your adventures 🙂
Hey Jamie, amazing! Thank you so much for these kind words and delighted you’re finding the Ethiopia stuff useful. Hope you guys have an amazing time there and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any specific questions I can help with. Happy travel planning and thanks again for bigging up my work! 🙂
Hi, I was considering a trip to Ethiopia for a month and now started realizing how I really should use that month wisely. I was wondering about the budget I should keep in my mind. I usually stay quite low budget with accomondation, food and transfer but am okay with spending more on the interesting things. How much would a tour to the Omo valley cost? And the other tours you mentioned? Would love to hear back from you! I am thinking about going in July after my trip to South America to be blown away by a total different country with such an interesting culture!!
Hi Naomi, amazing to hear you are heading to Ethiopia soon – good choice! Just check the forecast for July before you go as often it can be rainy at this time of year and I’d hate for you to be disappointed! Ethiopia can, sadly, be more expensive than you think. The real thing that bumps these costs up is the tours – however some of these are must-see places and well worth the splurge in my opinion. I know Omo Valley tours cost around $500-$600 with Easy Ethiopia Tours. Danakil is a must-do and this is normally between $300-$400 – but again do check the options for the low season of July. Do let me know if you have any more questions – more than happy to help wherever I can 🙂
I’m planning to go there soon, but only for a 8-day trip. What would you suggest I kick out from the 2 week itinerary?
Oh gosh, now there’s a question. Honestly, if push came to shove, I’d miss out Bahar Dar and Addis and keep your time in Axum and surrounds short. That’s really hard though!
Hi Steph – great blog. Just wondering how you got from Axum to Hawzien and saw the churches all in one day? Any of the tours I’ve seen has been for 2 days as you need almost one full day to get to Hawzien. Also wondering if it is cheaper to taxi to Hawzien separately and then pick up a tour of the Churches from Hawzien?
Hey Aoife, so happy you like the blog and thanks for taking the time to leave a question. If you set off from Makele very early, you can see the churches of Maryam Korkor, Daniel Korkor, Abune Yemata and then drive onto Axum all in one long full day. Tour companies should offer this option if you ask them. Technically you should, therefore, be able to do this in reverse from Axum to Makele, but this won’t give time for Yeha or Debre Damo (although the latter isn’t open to women anyway). I’m not sure about picking up a tour in Hawzien – you could find a guide there, but not sure about transport, which you’ll need to get to the different churches. Hawzien is tiny and I’ve never heard of anyone doing this. Please let me know if you are successful however, so I can relay to other travellers 🙂
Just stumbled across your great blog! I am looking to plan a trip at the end of the year and this is an excellent itinerary. Just curious to know how you got around in each of the place when you weren’t on a tour?
Hi Veronica, great to hear you’re travelling to Ethiopia soon – I’m just in the final throws of putting together my eBook on this country actually, which details how I got around, but essentially a mix of domestic flights and buses between cities and within towns, mostly walking or tuk-tuks. Hope that helps 🙂
Thank you so much for all the information in your blog. It’s very useful and inspriring.
I’m leaving to Ethiopia in two weeks and I got 3 weeks to travel around the country. The only thing I booked so far is my return flight (with Turkish Airlines) and two nights in the guesthous that you recommended in Addis.
My idea was vaguely the same than your 2 weeks itinerary…
I got a few questions that haven’t been answered so far for me, and I’d really appreciate your opinion to that…
– Did you feel safe as a woman traveling on you own? (I assume you were traveling solo?) Is there anything that has to be known, apart from behaving and dressing respectfully of course?
-Did you book the tours in advance or when you were in Ethiopia already?
-How much cash would you recommend taking? I got a Visa card but I heard a lot of stories that it can be tough to find an ATM…
-Did you meet some other solo travelers on your trip or is it mostly organised groups?
Thank you so much already!
Hi Christina, many thanks for your kind comments and delighted to hear you will travel to Ethiopia. In answer to your questions…
– I’ve written a whole post about solo female travel in Ethiopia so please search that via the blog to learn more – in short though yes, I’ve always felt safe there.
– A mix i.e. some of the big ones like Danakil in advance and small tours like city / day tours on the ground
– Visacard is fine in Ethiopia, it’s Mastercard that can be more of a problem. There are ATMs in all towns and cities, although with power cuts they don’t always work. It’s hard to give an idea of budget without knowing how many tours you are going to take and whether you will fly or bus around the country, but you should budget at least $50 USD a day BEFORE TOURS / FLIGHTS if you want to stay in cheap private rooms and enjoy many cultural sights and good food.
– Loads of solo travellers out there now, you will meet many in Addis especially as this tends to be a backpacker hub.
Hope that helps!
Thank you so much for your quick response, Steph! You definitely helped me a lot. Once again… Your blog is great and the information you’re providing is more than useful! Cheers! And… Safe travels for you all the time!
Thanks Christina, truly delighted to hear I’m helping some people explore more of this world and thanks for your well wishes and kind words 🙂
Hi Steph! Me and my boyfriend are going to Ethiopia for 15 days in December/January. We will be there during Orthodox Christmas Day so would you recommend some special place that we should visit or avoid this particular day? And my other doubt is: is it possible and safe to rent a car and travel on your own or an ethiopian driver is a must? Thank you!
Hi Laura, around Ethiopian Christmas (7th Jan) and Timket (20th Jan) travel in Ethiopia can be difficult and busy – so book accommodation etc in advance, especially if you are in the major celebration areas i.e. Lalibela for the Christmas and Gondar for Timket. Whether you want to rent a car will be based on your courage and experience with driving in poorly regulated / low infrastructure countries.
Thank you for such an informative itinerary! I’m planning a trip for next month and was wondering if you think planning a trip around being in Lalibela on a Sunday is worth it? Is there significantly more activity on this day than on other days? Thank you!
Hi India thanks for your kind comments. It’s definitely worth going to Lalibela on Sunday – and I explain why in the designated post I wrote about this destination which you can find by searching the blog. Thanks, Steph 🙂
Hi Steph, This is a great blog, it convinced my partner in a way I was not able to….so thank you! We are will be in Ethiopia from 5 – 20Jun but would like to take in Harar in that time and your 2 week suggested itinerary sounnds great. We are also happy to fly where possible to save on journey time and would appreciate any suggestions you may have given the time of year and time we have there. Cheers, Cynthia
Wow Cynthia this is such wonderful feedback to receive, thank you so much! Delighted to hear I’ve helped propel your Ethiopian adventure forward and you are going to have time for Harar too – nice one! Honestly, the best advice I can give at this stage is to check out all the posts on Ethiopia I have written, as almost everything I know is included in them (I think there’s around 15-18 articles at this stage). Otherwise, please drop me a line – [email protected] – if you’ve got any more specific questions you need help with. Best, Steph 🙂
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on so. Regards
Thanks for stopping by to read them, Margareta! Happy travels 🙂
Hi Steph….I just read your two articles on Ethiopia and you have definitely made me excited to see some of what you have seen. I have to be in Victoria Falls on October 25th so I was thinking of going to Ethiopia before then (although I could also hit it up after my trip to V Falls ends on the 31st). Anyhow….after reading all your notes, I think I am most interested in the Omo Valley but would also love to see the Danakil Depression. Is it possible to do both (yes, I know flights would have to be included) in a 10 day or less period? Any advice you could share would be so appreciated. Oh – by the way, I see you are originally from Jersey. Guess what? I am headed there in a week and a half and I can’t wait.
Ha ha no way, can’t believe you are going to Jersey first up! That’s brilliant – hope you enjoy “the rock” as we call it!
Now, back to Ethiopia! Thanks for the kind words about the blog and excited to hear you’re travelling to one of my fav countries soon. October is a great month to visit there – just start of the high season – weather drying out and warming up – good choice!
Yes you could experience both the Omo Valley and Danakil in 10 tight days as follows:
Day 1: Fly Addis
Day 2-5: Omo Valley (Fly to either Arba Minch or Jinka from Addis)
Day 6-9: Danakil Depression, accessed from Makele (fly back to Addis from either Arba Minch or Jinka and then connect to Makele)
Day 10: Return Addis
Just remember to get the international flight with Ethiopian Airlines into Addis so you can access the local rate for the domestic flights (up to 2/3rds cheaper!). Also save by booking domestic flights online or through Ethiopian Airlines app.
Hope this helps 🙂
Hey! What is the driving like in general in Ethiopia, but particularly between Bahir Dar and Gondar? My mum is very scared of heights and hates hair raising cliffs etc. The roads look very mountainous, but I’m not sure?
Hi Sam, between Bahar Dar and Gonder the road is not too mountainous, but this is Ethiopia so the roads can be in bad condition and the driving is definitely hair-raising if you go by public minivan!
Hi Steph, thanks for such great posts and useful information! Ethiopia is on my bucket list (I LOVE Ethiopian food!); my husband and I are thinking about going there in late December/early January for about 2 weeks. We have a little boy who would be about 5.5 years at that time; do you think it’s manageable with such a young child? Is the culture generally accepting of kids at restaurants and sites? Thanks in advance!
Hi Tina, thanks for your comments and delighted you’re finding the Ethiopia content useful! I love the food too!
In terms of travelling with a young child, you’ll obviously want to bear in mind, Ethiopia is an economically disadvantaged African country, where travel can be a bit wild to say the least! Ethiopia is a very child-friendly culture, in that they love kids, but obviously local people (outside of Addis) do not really eat in restaurants with kids in that way we would in the west. This would only be for tourists and there are not many children travelling in Ethiopia it must be said.
I never travel with children, nor do I know your style of travel which makes your questions a little bit difficult to answer. Have you travelled off the beaten track / in Africa before with your child? Is your child interested in historical sites or hiking? There are certainly countries that are more child-travel friendly out there, but it doesn’t mean it’s a no, just make sure you think carefully on it.
My friend and I are going to Ethiopa for 2 weeks (the last week of August & first week of September). We were hoping to do the Danakil Depression but I wasn’t sure if it’s too hot to visit that time of year.
I wanted to use our time to also see some churches in the Tigray region as well as visiting Harar.
Would this be do-able in the time we’re there?
Hi Tahmina – in 2 weeks you could certainly have time for the Danakil, Tigray Churches and Harar. The problem, as you point out, is the weather. Sometimes the Danakil is actually inaccessible during these times and there’s no way of knowing, per say, until you’re in the country I’m afraid because the situation changes a lot. Sorry I can’t be more definitive in my answer but that’s the truth!
I love your posts! I have a week to travel somewhere in Africa on my way back to the US from Cape Town in January (unfrotunatley that’s all the time I have) and am deciding where to stop. I’ve wanted to go to Ethiopia for years and have been saving it for when I have more time, but I’m thinking now why not go, I can always go back! Do you have suggestions of what to do with just 1 week? I’m not so interested in doing Danakil or Simien Mountains on this trip, much more interested in history and culture. I was thinking about possibly Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lalilbella, and/or Harar. But, open to other suggestions as well! Thank you!
Hi Dani, great to hear you would like to travel Ethiopia. With just a week and with history / culture at the top of the list, why not fly into Addis and straight out to Bahar Dar. Spend 1 day there to see the Monasteries / Blue Nile Falls and next day take a minibus to Gonder. Spend the day / night there to see the Royal Enclosure and Churches, then fly to Axum. Spend a day / night there to see the obelisks and other historical sites. Then fly to Lalibela for 2 nights to see the town churches and those around and then return to Addis. This should be a good week. Harar may be hard to squeeze in as you have to fly back to Addis, then Dire Dawa and then a minibus to Harar, but can be done with an extra day and less time in Lalibela – a lot of travel though!
Hi Steph – loved your blog. Thanks. I am doing Kilimanjaro on 19th July and fly to Africa from New Zealand the week before. I want to do Ethiopia but travel agent says not recommended so I was so happy to read your comments. I arrive in Addis early morning on 15th and then fly to Arusha midday on 19th so only have 4 nights. I was thinking of doing day trips from Addis but it may be too much driving. Really want to see Blue Nile and some hiking to keep fitness up but not sure Simien Mts are close enough, what do you think is best way to spend 4 days? Thanks
Hi Anne, Bahar Dar is a quick and easy flight from Addis and after a night there, you could then take a local minibus to Gonder and explore this city. You may be able to squeeze in a day trip to the Simien Mountains from there and then fly Gonder to Addis. A tight squeeze, but potentially possible. Otherwise, if you want to take things slower and allow yourself to get over the jetlag from NZ, maybe stick to Addis and Bahar Dar. Hope you enjoy it 🙂
Thanks – may take things slower and stick to Addis and Bahar Dar – appreciate your input
No problem Anne, enjoy 🙂
Hi Steph, Your informative blogs have really helped me in planning a 11 day trip together with my two girlfriends from the end of Feb to beginning of March. Sadly, I think we have to skip Omo Valley as I have tried to get a reasonable price for our 3 night/3 days trip starting and ending in Jinka, but non of the tour companies or guides I have been in contact with for a price offer, have come below $600 per person- even sharing a room. Unless you have a good recommendation I can contact, we will leave out the Omo Valley and focus on the north instead. We are thinking of flying from Addis to Bahir Dar and do a half day boat trip to some monasteries. Do you know if it is easy to book that boat trip when we arrive, or is it possible/better to pre-book it? Do we need to pay guides to enter the monasteries or is no guide needed? Do you know a good guide who could take us on the boat trip and then maybe also drive us up to Gondar after? Or how often do the mini busses run and is it possible to travel in those with suitcases…? In Gondar we will explore by ourselves and then take a full day trip to the Simien mountains and back. What do you recommend us not to miss on this day tour? The Janbar waterfall for sure, but other nice viewpoints..?
We are still not sure if we should include Aksum or not in our itinerary… It seems to be a long way ‘just’ to see the stelae obelisks… churches and castles we will see in Gondar and Lalibela. It seems like the history of Aksum is still very unclear…What do you think, is it as impressive as Lalibela and Gondor? What were your hight-lights there?
Regarding Dallol, how long time are you actually allowed to spend by the sulphur pools? I read somewhere as the air is full of minerals and acids is dangerous if you stay longer than an hour…? How long did you spend near the pools?
Sorry for all my questions Steph, I’m just trying to get everything together us – we are soo looking forward to this adventure 🙂
Hi Karin. There’s a lot to get through here, so I will bullet point to make it easier…
#1 You can book Bahar Dar tour on arrival if you get there early enough or night before. Monastery tours normally start around 10-11am and then Blue Nile Falls in the afternoon. The guide will be included in price. See my article about Bahar Dar for more info.
#2 Minibuses run regularly to Gonder and are an adventure. Suitcases might be pushing it! Private transfer can be arranged in Bahar Dar.
#3 The day tour itinerary for Simien mountains will be set by the tour company and include all the top spots. You don’t get a choice in this, unless you take an expensive private tour. See my article about the Simien for more info.
#4 Axum is on the way to Lalibela from Gonder, so if you can spare one night, I would do it. See my article about Axum for highlights etc.
#5 I think we spent an hour by Dallol – it’s enough in the 40 degree heat!
Please check out all my Ethiopia articles (there’s over 20 on the blog) for specific info about each destination. Most of the Q’s you asked are covered there.
Many Thanks and congradulations. I have wandered Ethiopia on two separate trips in the past and I’m looking forward to my third upcoming. IF YOU HAVE NOT BEEN TO ETHIOPIA, listen to Stephanie. The itineraries and synopsis provided is really outstanding. I love that you include Harar and of course, visiting the South. Just wanted to say that, in my opinion, you’ve done a real service by sharing here.
Wow Dylan, thank you so much. Means a lot to read comments like this from such an experienced Ethiopia traveller and delighted to learn you love this country as much as I do. Wishing you very happy travels. Best, Steph
I am an Ethiopian tourism professional. It was wonderful reading your blog about Ethiopia. All what you said is very clear & will help any prospective traveler.
Thank you for telling the world about the opportunity of touring in Ethiopia
Thank you so much and delighted you are enjoying my Ethiopia posts. From a local, that is high praise indeed. Best wishes, Steph 🙂
Feedback on the web seems to be mixed as to whether its worthwhile to visit Erta Ale as part of a Danakil Depression tour. What are your thoughts?
Hi Daniel, my thoughts are definitely yes go to Erta Ale – but check the lava flow situation first. When I went there was lots of lava but I understand, in recent years, this hasn’t been the case so much and that may affect how worthwhile seeing the volcano is.
Happy travels, Steph 🙂
Super informative and insightful post. The landscapes look otherworldly. Ethiopia is worth a visit – definitely in my plans.
Great to hear that 🙂