Leon Varley Walking Safaris

Walk Africa Expeditions

Special Itinerary: Ethiopia Expedition

24th November – 15th December 2019

Ethiopia: A huge country full of colour and contrasts, from high mountain to semi-desert, from unique endemic wildlife to fascinating human cultures and historic monuments - including rock-hewn ancient churches and medieval castles. Climbing to the high points with the possibility of ice and snow and down to one of the lowest places on earth with souring temperatures, the history, the culture, the incredible scenery, fauna and flora, Ethiopia will not leave you disappointed.

Ethiopia Expedition

Discover Ethiopia with Leon Varley Walking Safaris

Itineraries shown for tours are indicative only and subject to change.

Pleasse contact us for availability

Day 1–2: Addis Ababa

We meet up in Addis at our hotel. The second day is a free day to get over jet lag or for those who wish to explore the city.

Day 3: Debre Markos

Following breakfast we make an early start. Along the way there are many places of interest. The Canyon on the Blue Nile, claimed to be the biggest gorge in Africa. We stop for lunch at Zengena, a crater lake that has a healthy population of Black-and-White Colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza).

black and white colobus black and white colobus

Black-and-White Colobus

We stop over for the night at Derbra Markos which is about half way to Bahir Dar. There is not much to see at Debra Markos, its main claim to fame is as the site where some 14,000 Italian troops surrendered to a 300 strong division of the combined Ethiopian–Allied army in April 1941, precipitating the collapse of the Italian occupation.

Day 4–5: Bahir Dar

Today we drive to Bahir Dar a little town on Lake Tana. The town is relaxed with colorful road side markets and generally easy to walk around and explore.

On the second day we will do a half day cruise on the Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, with incredible bird watching opportunities - pelicans, herons, egrets, kingfishers and many others. The lake's 30-odd islands also support around 20 monasteries, many of which are very ancient and built over pre-Christian religious sites.

Egret Pelican

Lake Tana - Egret and Pelcians

We take a drive to the Blue Nile Falls – with a short walk bird watching in the riverine forest along the way.

Day 6: Gondar

Today we take a short drive to Gondar. Steeped in history Gondar is a fascinating place to explore, studded with fairy tale medieval castles and venerable churches.

Gondar Gondar


Day 7–10: Simien Mountains National Park

Today we have an early start to the Simien Mountains National Park for the start of our 4-day backpacking trek.

Simien Mountains National Park Gelada baboon

Simien Mountains National Park

The Simiens is a World Heritage Site, a high plateau of ancient volcanic rock incised with tall precipitous cliffs and chasmic river valleys. The range includes Ras Dashen, the highest mountain in Ethiopia (4,533 m) which we will attempt to climb.

The Simiens incorporates many different types of different habitats at the different levels with breath taking scenery and is also an important sanctuary for endemic wildlife, being one of the few remaining strongholds for the Walia ibex (Capra walie), Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) and Gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada).

Gelada baboon Ethiopian wolf

Gelada baboon and Ethiopian wolf

Our hike will be fully backed up with mules, and camp cook and staff who will carry our equipment and supplies to our night camp sites.

Day 11–12: Axum

Today we drive out and down the mountains towards Axum. The drive is an incredible scenic road made up of multiple hairpin bends and scenes of terraced mountains and deep valleys.

Axum, where we spend the next two nights the spiritual home of orthodox Christianity. Here there is a wealth of startling relics, skyscraping stelae, and dank subterranean catacombs, the legendary Queen of Sheba’s swimming pool and a 4th Century church claimed to house nothing less than the Arc of the Covenant.

Day 13–14: Mekele and Danakil Depression

To we drive on to Mekele where we will base up for our day tour into the Danakil.

The Danakil straddles the Eritrean border, an area of true desert, it ranks as one of the lowest places in the world dropping to 116m below sea level. Also known to be one of the hottest places on earth, December is winter and temperatures will not be unreasonable.

The area is quite an amazing geological fascination, with desert landscape studded with volcanic calderas, sulphur-caked hot springs in florescent colors, vast blinding salt flats that stretch for up to a kilometer below the surface the whole area is like something out of our world.

Danakil Depression Danakil Depression

Danakil Depression

Day 15-16: Lalibella

Today we drive to Lalibela.

Another World Heritage Site, Lalibela is often cited as an unofficial 8th 'Wonder of the World,' a stunning cluster of 13 medieval rock-hewn churches and chapels that today function as a kind of living shrine to King Lalibela, the saint accredited to excavating them in the 12th century.

Lalibela Lalibela


With the size of these massive churches, carved beautifully out of rock, inside and out is almost hard to comprehend the amount of work that went it to perfectly sculpt them. What is even more fascinating is that the churches, centuries later, still function as active Christian spiritual centers for the people the town and surrounds.

Day 17: Kombolcha

From Lalibela we drive on to Kombolcha. Kombolcha is a nice little town and a convenient stop over on our way to Guassa Plateau.

Day 18–20: Guassa Plateau

Today we take a winding drive up the Guassa Plateau and the Guassa Community Conservation Area.

From here we will spend the next 2 days hiking the area. Stunning scenery, 114 bird species, and 14 being endemic, great opportunities to see the Ethiopian wolf. Other mammals include Gelada baboon, leopard, common jackal, spotted hyena, rock hyrax, klipspringer and grey duiker.

Guassa Guassa


At Guassa we will also take the opportunity to visit a traditional stone and thatch village.

Day 21-22: Addis Ababa

A very early start back to Addis where we will spend our last night and our ends.

View our full gallery of Ethiopia Expedition images here.

Ethiopia Expedition

Discover Ethiopia with Leon Varley Walking Safaris

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