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Gondar to Arba Minch

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: 162933
Starts: Gondar, Ethiopia Finishes: Arba Minch, Ethiopia
You will Visit
  • Gondar
  • Simien Mountains National Park
  • Debark
  • Axum
  • Adi Arkay
  • Mekele
  • Woldiya
  • Lalibela
  • Bahir Dar
  • Dejen
  • Addis Ababa
  • Lake Ziway
  • Bale Mountains National Park
  • Wendo Genet
  • Awassa
  • Arba Minch
  • Omo Valley Region
  • Konso
  • Moyale
  • Samburu Village

Itinerary

01

Day 1-2: Gondar

Border Information: if joining in Gondar, you will most likely enter Ethiopia at Gondar Atse Tewodros Airport (IATA code: GDQ).

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. If you are continuing to Kenya or beyond, your leader will need to check the validity dates of your Ethiopian visa.

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. 

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Gondar 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 Gondar.

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

02

Day 3-5: Simien Mountains National Park

Today marks the start of our 3-day excursion into the Simien Mountains National Park. We will first drive to Debark, where we will have a briefing from our local mountain guide explaining the various trekking options we will have during our excursion, before heading into the National Park.

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!).

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!

03

Day 6: Debark

Today is our final day in the Simien Mountains National Park, and we make our way back to Debark for the night.

In Debark we will stay in a basic local hotel.

04

Day 7: Axum

Leaving Debark behind us, we continue our journey with a full day of driving through the foothills of the Simien Mountains to reach the ancient town of Axum in the far north of Ethiopia. The roads here are very tough, but we are rewarded with more truly breathtaking scenery!

In Axum we will stay in a basic hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

05

Day 8: Axum

Today 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 have the time to optionally visit other places such as the Church of St. Mary of Zion, the supposed resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

06

Day 9: Mekele

Today we will continue through the breathtaking mountain scenery of the Adwa mountains and visit one of the famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray (either the Abraha Atsbeha or Wukro Chirkos church) near to Mekele.

In Mekele we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

07

Day 10-11: 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 you 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. 

 

08

Day 12: Mekele

Today we will finish our time in the beautiful Danakil Depression. We will make our way back to Mekele to stay in a basic hotel overnight. 

09

Day 13-15: Lalibela

Today we will have a full day drive to the town of Lalibela. 

Estimated Drive Time - 9 - 10 hours.

On our first day in Lalibela, we will have an included full-day guided tour of its world-famous 13th-century rock churches. 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 our 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.

10

Day 16-18: Bahir Dar

Today we will drive to Bahir Dar, a small town on Lake Tana, the source of the mighty Blue Nile.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-9 hours.

On our first 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 full 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 visit 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.

11

Day 19: Debre Markos

Today we will continue our journey south towards Addis Ababa. We will break the journey with a nightstop in a basic local hotel in the small town of Debre Markos en route.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

12

Day 20: Addis Ababa

Today we will complete our journey to the bustling Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. En route we will drive to the bottom of the dramatic Blue Nile Gorge and up the other side!

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

Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

 

13

Day 21: 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.

The rest of the day before this meeting will be free to explore Addis Ababa and visit the city's many museums - we recommend that you arrive early (or the night before) if you would like the chance to fully explore the sights of Addis Ababa. 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.

14

Day 22: Lake Ziway

Today we will leave Addis Ababa 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 - 3-4 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!).

15

Day 23-25: Bale Mountains National Park

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

Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 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 fourth-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.

16

Day 26-27: Wendo Genet

Today we will head north to the small town of Awassa, where we will have an included visit to 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 - 4-6 hours.

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

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

17

Day 28: Arba Minch

Today we will travel to 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 - 7-9 hours.

18

Day 29: Arba Minch

Today we will have a free day to relax and explore the scenic area, or to take an optional boat trip on Lake Chamo to the view the crocodiles that reside there.

19

Day 30-32: 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. 

In the Omo Valley we will camp in basic campsites on each night without the 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.

20

Day 33: Konso

Today we will arrive in the town of Konso, marking the end of our time in the Omo Valley region.

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

21

Day 34: Moyale

Today our group will split between those finishing in Arba Minch and those continuing towards Nairobi.

Those ending their trip in Arba Minch will have a local transfer back to Arba Minch today, where you stay in a local hotel. 

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

Those continuing south will have a full drive day across the Kenyan border to Moyale, where we will stay in a basic local hotel or camp in a local campsite.

Border Information: Exit Ethiopia at Moyale, enter Kenya at Moyale.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.

 

 

22

Day 35: Arba Minch

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

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Arba Minch. 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.

Those continuing towards Nairobi will travel to the Samburu region today.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Learn all about medieval Ethiopia on a half-day guided tour of the castles, churches and baths of Gondar
    • Head out on 3 days of guided treks in the phenomenal scenery of the Simien Mountains National Park
    • Take a guided tour of the ancient 4th-century tombs and palaces of the Axumite Kingdom in Axum
    • Journey out on an incredible 3 day/2 night excursion to the Danakil Depression. 
    • Take a full guided tour of the 12th-century rock-hewn churches and monasteries at Lalibela
    • 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 boat trip across Lake Ziway to Tulu Gudo Island, and explore the old Coptic monastery on the island
    • 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
    • Relax in the hot springs at Wendo Genet
    • Visit the Dragoman-supported Awassa Children's Project, a home for orphaned children from the area
    • Journey through the remote Omo Valley, visiting several tribal communities along the way (possibly including the Hamer, Banna, Mursi, Ari, Konso or Danesesch tribes)
    Accomodation
    • 30% Camping - 70% Hotels
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