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Arba Minch to Gondar

This incredible overland route between Gondar and Arba Minch will take you from the historical splendours of Ethiopia's north to its remote tribal villages in the south. The wonderful country of Ethiopia is an extraordinary land with a unique cultural heritage of opulent monasteries, stunning churches carved out of the mountains, and incredible scenery. You'll visit all the historical sites, trek in the spectacular Simien Mountains, explore the bustling capital of Addis Ababa, and meet the unique tribes of the remote Omo Valley region.

  • Duration: 35 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Active/Adrenaline
  • Physical rating: Demanding
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Tour code: 162934
  • Starts: Arba Minch, Ethiopia
  • Finishes: Gondar, Ethiopia
You will Visit
  • Arba Minch
  • Moyale
  • Konso
  • Omo Valley Region
  • Wendo Genet
  • Awassa
  • Bale Mountains National Park
  • Lake Ziway
  • Addis Ababa
  • Debre Markos
  • Bahir Dar
  • Lalibela
  • Mekele
  • Woldiya
  • Axum
  • Debark
  • Adi Arkay
  • Simien Mountains National Park
  • Gondar

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Arba Minch

Border Information: If you are joining in Arba Minch, you will most likely enter Ethiopia at Arba Minch Airport (IATA code: AMH).

Welcome to Ethiopia! Today is the arrival day for those joining in Arba Minch, and will be a free day to explore the town. There will be a short informal meet-and-greet with our local Omo Valley guide at 6:00pm today - please note that if our truck is travelling up from Nairobi, you will not meet our regular Dragoman crew until your arrival in Konso tomorrow (as they will be travelling to the town of Moyale today).

In Arba Minch we will stay in a basic local hotel.

 

 

02

Day 2: Konso

Today we will travel to Konso, home to the local Konso people and our gateway to the very remote Omo Valley region of southern Ethiopia.

If our overland truck is travelling up from Nairobi, those joining in Arba Minch will take a transfer in a locally-chartered vehicle, and will meet our Dragoman crew this afternoon in Konso - there will be an important group meeting with your leader at 6:00pm this evening.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 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!).

In Konso we will camp in the grounds of a basic lodge.

03

Day 3-5: Omo Valley Region

Over the next 4 days/3 nights we will be exploring the remote and rarely-visited tribal areas of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia.

We will keep these days on a flexible itinerary so that we can react to news of special events being hosted by particular villages or tribes; as such, we cannot provide an exact itinerary for these days. However, we will aim to visit various tribal villages in the area, such as villages of the Hamer, the Mursi and the Konso tribes. 

We will camp in basic campsites on all these nights without possibility of upgrades, and we will try to spend at least one of the nights camping in one of the tribal villages (this is not guaranteed to be possible on every trip). 

Estimated Drive Times - between 4-9 hours each day.

Please note that we will be travelling through very remote areas with rough roads and basic conditions on these days. Please also note that it is absolutely vital that you follow your tour leader's directions regarding responsible tourism in these regions, especially with regards to giving things away for free and taking photographs of the locals. 

04

Day 6: Arba Minch

Today we will exit the Omo Valley region and arrive in the town of Arba Minch, a small town overlooking Lake Chamo. 

In Arba Minch we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

05

Day 7: Arba Minch

On the next day, we will have a free day for some well-earned rest after the Omo Valley, or to take an optional boat trip on Lake Chamo to the view the crocodiles that reside there.

06

Day 8-9: Wendo Genet

Today we will head north to the small town of Awassa, where we will visit the Awassa Children's Project in the afternoon. This is a home for local children orphaned by the HIV epidemic, and we will be shown around and see how public donations and the support of Dragoman goes towards feeding, sheltering and educating the children.

After our visit we will head to Wendo Genet, a small town in the hills above Awassa, where we will stay for the 2 nights.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

On the following day we will have a a free day to explore the region, go on an optional walk to some nearby waterfalls, and take a dip in the nearby hot springs.

In Wendo Genet we will camp in the grounds of a small local hotel.

07

Day 10-12: Bale Mountains National Park

Today we will leave Wendo Genet and drive to the stunning Bale Mountains National Park.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

We will enjoy 2 full days to explore the National Park. We will keep one day completely free to head out for optional guided walks - there are several possibilities for routes, including highland routes up the hills and moorlands searching for mountain nyalas, or lowland walks through the forest areas to look for Bale monkeys! On the other day we will drive in the truck up to the Sanetti Plateau, all the way to the second-highest point in Ethiopia (the 4359m summit of Tulu Dimtu) to explore the primeval landscape and search for Ethiopian wolves.

In the Bale Mountains we will stay in dorms in a basic lodge near the entrance to the National Park.

08

Day 13: Lake Ziway

Today we will leave the Bale Mountains and head to the small town of Ziway.

After lunch we will take an included boat trip across Lake Ziway to Tulu Gudo Island, where we will have a short guided tour of the ancient monastery there and view some of the old religious manuscripts.

In Ziway we will stay in a small local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

09

Day 14: Addis Ababa

Today we will travel to the bustling Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, where we will have a free afternoon to explore the city.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

10

Day 15: Addis Ababa

Border Information: if you are leaving in Addis Ababa, you will most likely exit Ethiopia from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (IATA code: ADD).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Addis Ababa. 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.

11

Day 16: 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.

12

Day 17: 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!).

13

Day 18-20: 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.

14

Day 21-23: 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.

15

Day 24: 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

16

Day 25-26: 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. 

17

Day 27: Mekele

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

18

Day 28-29: 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.

19

Day 30: 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.

20

Day 31-33: 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!

21

Day 34-35: 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.

22

Day 36: 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
    • Journey through the remote Omo Valley, visiting several tribal communities along the way (possibly including the Hamer, Banna, Mursi, Ari, Konso or Danesesch tribes)
    • Visit the Dragoman-supported Awassa Children's Project, a home for orphaned children from the area
    • Relax in the hot springs at Wendo Genet
    • Head out on various walks through the forests, moors, and mountains of the beautiful Bale Mountains National Park
    • Head up to the incredible Sanetti Plateau on a day trip with our overland truck, stopping to explore the area on foot and search for Ethiopian Wolves
    • Take a boat trip across Lake Ziway to Tulu Gudo Island, and explore the old Coptic monastery on the island
    • Overland journey north of Addis Ababa, passing through the immense Blue Nile Gorge
    • Head out on a boat trip on Lake Tana to visit the ancient Coptic churches and monasteries nearby
    • Explore the stunning Blue Nile Falls just downstream of Bahir Dar
    • Take a full guided tour of the 12th-century rock-hewn churches and monasteries at Lalibela
    • Journey out on an incredible 3 day/2 night excursion to the Danakil Depression. 
    • Take a guided tour of the ancient 4th-century tombs and palaces of the Axumite Kingdom in Axum
    • Head out on 3 days of guided treks in the phenomenal scenery of the Simien Mountains National Park
    • Learn all about medieval Ethiopia on a half-day guided tour of the castles, churches and baths of Gondar
    Accomodation
    • 30% Camping - 70% Hotels
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