Exclusive Ethiopia - Northern

The historic north is home to what are arguably Ethiopia’s most popular sites. The legendary historic route includes Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, Lalibela and Gheralta. The region also includes Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, and the Simien Mountains, with Ethiopia’s highest peaks and most diverse wildlife.


Overview

Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, is the largest lake in Ethiopia and was formed by volcanic activity. In 2015, Lake Tana was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The lake has distinctive fish species, about 70% of which are endemic, and numerous wetland birds including flotillas of great white pelicans. The islands and peninsulas of the lake are the sites of a number of 14th century monasteries, many of which might have been built on the sites of earlier churches. In these can be found extraordinary Biblical artwork, libraries of old ecclesiastical books and the remains of former Ethiopian emperors. On the southern shore of Lake Tana is Bahir Dar, an attractive town and the place most visitors stay while visiting the monasteries.

Gondar was the capital of the Ethiopian Empire, and has the remains of several royal castles, leading it to be nicknamed the ‘Camelot of Africa’. Emperor Fasilides founded Gondar in about 1635 and built a collection of palaces, castles and churches here, a trend that was followed by subsequent emperors. Highlights include the Royal Enclosure, a striking collection of ancient buildings, and Fasilides bath, site of many of the most dramatic episodes in the TimKat – or Epiphany – celebrations.

Axum, or Aksum, was the marine trading power of the Aksumite Kingdom, and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Africa, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The major monuments are the stelae – obelisks around 1,700 years old – which have a dramatic history of being removed, broken and reinstalled. Also here is the Cathedral of St Mary of Zion, believed to have housed the Arc of the Covenant, and the ruins of the palace of the Queen of Sheba, from whose union with King Solomon of Biblical fame all Ethiopian emperors are descended.

Lalibela, believed to be the jewel in the crown of Ethiopia, is where the famed monolithic rock-hewn churches are found. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, these extraordinary churches were designated a UNENCO World Heritage Site in 1978. The 11 churches are close by each other, some are linked by tunnels and trenches, and are a pilgrimage site for Orthadox Christians who believe the site to be the African Jerusalem.

The Tigray rock churches are some of the most spectacular sites in Ethiopia. Cut into towering rocks, many churches are reached by a hair-raising climb up sheer rock faces. The churches are still in use, and the vision of white robed worshippers processing up the orange rocks, then celebrating mass at these altars in the sky, must be some of the most memorable images of this country.

The Simien Mountains are one of Africa’s largest mountain ranges, and their peaks, many of which are over 4,000m, provide wonderful trekking studded with viewpoints from which the world appears to drop away before you. With tumbling waterfalls, dramatic cliffs and unusual wildlife such as Walia and Gelada baboons, and a wealth of birdlife, it’s not surprising the Simien Mountains is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Highlights In The Northern Region

Formed before the formation of the Rift Valley, the Simian Mountains were created by an outpouring of lava after a volcanic eruption between 40 and 25 million years ago, while the dramatic escarpment was created by an extended up-thrust that could have happened as much as 75 million years ago. The mountains are...

On the southern shore of Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake and the source of the Blue Nile, Bahir Dar is an attractive palm-lined town. Lake Tana is dotted with islands, some of which have monasteries containing the remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian church....

Once the capital of the Axumite Empire, Axum, also known as Aksum, was once a major trading centre with ties to Persia, Arabia, India and Rome. The Empire’s heyday was from the 1st to the 7th centuries AD, during which time the kingdom became known as Ethiopia. In...

The most famous site in Ethiopia, and the one that arguably no visitor should miss, is Lalibela. Sometimes called the Eighth Wonder of the World, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, visited as a pilgrimage site by many Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. ...

The jutting rocks and cliffs of Tigrey region are striking formations in themselves, made even more remarkable by the churches cut into many of their peaks. Some of these churches are dated to even earlier than those of Lalibela, possibly from the 4th century AD. The region, once known for...

Established as the capital by Emperor Fasiladas in 1636, Gondar was the Royal Capital of Ethiopia until the 1860s. The castles and palaces built during these years have led Gondar to be referred to as the Camelot of Africa, and to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since the demise...


Listings In The Northern Region

The name Mayleko comes from the home of the ancient kings and queens of Ethiopia. This eco-lodge is situated against the backdrop of the Dilha Mountains, and looks down on Gondar. The 31 en-suite rooms are made up of standard and bungalows. The lodge is traditionally constructed using sustainable and recycled ...

The idea for this family run lodge came when a French TV crew arrived to film ‘Rendez-vous en terre inconnue’, a documentary about distant peoples and cultures starring Slovak supermodel Adriana Karembeu. Malkamu, who facilitated the making of the programme, was inspired by it to start his own hotel. The 8 ...

Saint Yared, born in Axum, was a legendary Ethiopian musician who invented Ethiopia’s system of music notation. He composed the sacred music of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and established the music traditions still in use in the church to this day. He is particularly esteemed for creating the chants – ...

On a promontory of Lake Tana, Tim and Kim Lodge is a lovely little hideaway. The cottages are dotted around attractive gardens sloping down to the lake. The 10 cottages are made up of 7 en-suite stone rondavals and 3 mud houses. All cottages have thatched roofs, and are made up of doubles, ...

Zobel, Emperor Fasilidas’ favourite horse, has given his name to this resort. Designed by an experimental architect, the resort stands in circles with the rooms in the outer ring, ensuring that every room has a striking view. The resort was established in 2018. The 73 en-suite rooms are made up of 19 singles, 22 ...

Lalibela Lodge was established in 2012, and is located walking distance from the centre of Lalibela. The 10 en-suite rooms are each in separate bungalows. All rooms have a balcony with a view of the surrounding hills, and have thatched roofs and solid brick walls. They are furnished with chunky wooden armchairs ...

In the spectacular Simien Mountains, Limalimo Lodge aims to promote sustainable tourism and support conservation in a unique and sustainable environment. The owners, Shiferaw Asrat and Meles Yemata, promote sustainable and community focused tourism in the Simien Mountains National Park. The 12 en-suite rooms are dotted around the forested grounds. They ...

Panoramic View Hotel has, as its name suggests, a panoramic view of the valleys and mountains around Lalibela. The 35 en-suite rooms have double or twin beds, and are adorned with locally crafted furniture. Their balconies overlook the sweeping valley. The rooms are equipped with Wifi, hair drier and plug adapters. ...

This large hotel is set in spacious grounds on the outskirts of Lalibela. The 100 en-suite rooms are located in a collection of 2-floor stone buildings and 65 bungalows. All the rooms were designed to suit the architecture of Lalibela, and offer views of the valleys and mountains around the town. The ...

In the centre of Axum, Armah International Hotel offers comfortable accommodation with easy access to the shops, restaurants and sites of Axum. There are 29 en-suite rooms, made up of 21 doubles, 4 twins and 4 singles. All rooms have Wifi, and are furnished with wooden furniture. The restaurant serves Ethiopian food and a ...

Mt Choke, at 4,070m, is the third highest mountain in Ethiopia. High on the mountain’s slopes, Mulu Eco Lodge is a small and friendly lodge with stunning views. There are 6 traditional houses sleeping up to 22 pax. Hoppi Gojo, meaning passion flower, has coloured glass bottles in its walls according ...

In the centre of Gondar, within walking distance of some of the historic sites of the town, AG Hotel offers convenient accommodation in the Camelot of Africa. The 45 en-suite rooms are made up of standard, queen, king and presidential. All rooms have TV, intercom telephone and Wifi. The restaurant serves ...

Looking out over the views of Lalibela, Hotel Maribela is high in the mountains surrounding Lalibela. Maribela, meaning honey-eater in Amharic, was a name given to King Lalibela, who oversaw the building of Lalibela and of many of its churches. According to fable, bees surrounded him on the day of ...

As it’s name suggests, Cliff Edge Hotel perches on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sweeping valley and mountains beyond. The 32 en-suite rooms have double or twin beds, and are furnished with table and chairs. Their balconies have lovely views over the valley. The hotel has Wifi, and ...

Located in front of St Pentelion Monastery Church, Consolar International Hotel is conveniently situated in the centre of Axum. The 33 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, twins, doubles and royal standard king rooms. All rooms are equipped with TV, electronic safe, Wifi and minibar, and some of the doubles ...

On the lakefront of Lake Tana, Kuriftu Resort is the place to relax and enjoy your surroundings in Bahir Dar. The 28 en-suite rooms include two presidential suites. All have private verandas with views of the lake. The restaurant serves Ethiopian food and a selection of international dishes. Wines are supplied ...

This Italian owned lodge faces one of Tigrey’s most spectacular rock formations, bestowing on guests the changing colours of this view throughout the day. The 8 en-suite cottages are glass-fronted to maximise the stunning view, and can be single, double, family or twin as required. With cream walls, wicker furniture, ...

Axum is the home of the famous Stele Field, believed to have been carved in the 4th century AD. The 72 en-suite rooms are made up of twins, doubles and kings. All rooms have TV, Wifi, minibar and safe. The meeting room can accommodate 150 pax, and has aircon and sound system. ...

Hudad, meaning Big Farm, was named by King Lalibela in the 11th century when he first visited the area. It’s said he chose to join the local communities and to farm the land with them; the stone he tied his mule to can still be seen today. The lodge ...

Sora Lodge is an Ethio-German, family-run hotel that was established in 2013. Sora has a number of meanings. It refers to a beautiful hill on the outskirts of Lalibela; it’s also a local song and dance; and, according to legend, it’s the name of King Lalibela’s golden carpet. ...

Lalibela Hotel is centrally located in Lalibela town, making it convenient for visiting the sites of this famous destination. The hotel was renovated in 2012. The 13 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, twins, doubles and triples. All rooms have satellite TV and Wifi. The garden is available for those who ...

The Dubai-based Constellation Hospitality Group is a developer and manager of luxury hotels and resorts across Africa. The Avanti Blue Nile Hotel, Constellation Hospitality Group’s first Avanti in East Africa, opened in 2012. The hotel is located on the shores of Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, and has ...

In the grounds of Emperor Menelik’s palace, AnKober Palace Lodge is built in similar traditional style to the original palace. Ankober, the ancient capital of Shoa, is high on a hill and the lodge offers spectacular views over the Great Rift Valley. The lodge is on the ancient coffee ...

On the top of a hill in the region of Tigrey, Wukro Lodge has astounding views of the rocky hills into which many rock churches are set, and of the lovely valleys between them. The eco-lodge is built in traditional style, using local techniques including stone walls with no cement, ...

Styling itself the highest hotel in Africa, at 3,260m, Simien Lodge sits on the edge of the escarpment with views that have to be seen to be believed. The 26 en-suite rooms and 2 family rooms are divided between the tukuls – traditional Ethiopian circular buildings – and the main building. All rooms have ...

On an escarpment overlooking the sweeping valley and the mountains beyond, Mountain View Lodge is exactly what its name suggestions. The 46 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles and twins. They are furnished with dressing table, coffee table and chairs, are equipped with intercom telephones and are adorned with ...

This friendly, family-run hotel stands on the escarpment overlooking the valley and the mountains beyond. As its name suggests, the hotel has 12 rooms. These en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles and twins, and all have balconies with spectacular views. The rooms are furnished with armchairs and coffee tables, ...

Established in 2017, Zagwe Hotel offers comfortable accommodation near the churches and sites of Lalibela. There are 20 en-suite rooms, made up of 8 doubles and 12 twins. The rooms are adorned with arts and crafts made by local artisans. All rooms have satellite TV, mini-bar, digital safe and hair dryer, and have balconies ...

The town of Bahir Dar sits on the shores of Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile and home to notable monasteries. Jacaranda Hotel is near the Old Stadium in Bahir Dar. The 47 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles and king size. All rooms have TV, safe ...

This Italian-owned lodge, set high on a hill, has super views of the rocky mountains that make Tigrey so striking. The 34 en-suite rooms are dotted around the hillside, 2 to each cottage. All the cottages are built according to local tradition, with stone walls held together without cement. All rooms have ...

Sona Hotel is in Debark, near the park entrance and headquarters of the Simien Mountains. This affordable hotel is in a convenient location for visitors wishing to walk, trek and camp in the Simien Mountains. The 32 en-suite rooms are made up of single, double, twin, triple and family rooms. All ...

In front of the international stadium - the largest stadium in East Africa - Delano Hotel is a friendly and comfortable hotel. The hotel overlooks a park with football, basketball, volleyball and handball courts. The 53 en-suite rooms on 7 floors are made up of singles, doubles, twins, and delux. All rooms ...

Roha Hotel’s building was constructed in 1976, and was built to reflect the monolithic churches of Lalibela. In 1992, under the management of the government-owned Ghion Hotels Enterprises, it was converted to a hotel. Ayat Share Company, a leading Ethiopian property developer, took over the hotel in 2009. The 64 en-suite rooms are ...

Set in attractive gardens, Abay Minch Lodge offers accommodation near the centre of Bahir Dar. The name Abay Minch is derived from the Amharic for the Blue Nile. The 45 en-suite rooms are made up of single, double, twin and family. All rooms have TV, Wifi and fruit basket. The restaurant ...

On the slopes of Ethiopia’s third highest mountain, Degosach Mountain Eco-Lodge offers extraordinary views and an authentic experience. The lodge is on the Lasta Plateau, surrounded by Afro-Alpine meadow and Afro-Montane species of flora such as Giant Lobelia. The four round tukuls are built from traditional materials and have ...

Located near the University of Gondar, Florida International Hotel is a distinctive green and white 4-floor building in Gondar. The 60 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles, executive suites and presidential suites. All rooms have a desk, and are equipped with Wifi, satellite TV, fridge, safe and a card ...

Mezena, meaning a landscape that’s flat and fertile, is set on a lush plateau outside the town of Lalibela. Mezena Lodge opened in 2017, and is designed to combine classic Ethiopian architecture with modern facilities. The 30 en-suite bungalows are spaced out around the spacious grounds. All bungalows have verandas with ...

Haile Gebrselassie is arguably the best runner Ethiopia has ever produced – and that’s quite a feat! With two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship titles and too many marathon wins to count, Haile has broken national and international records time and time again. Now President of Ethiopian Athletics, the ...

Set high on a hilltop, Goha Hotel has stunning views over Gondar and beyond. The 82 en-suite rooms are made up of twins, doubles, suites and family rooms. The rooms, along long corridors, are adorned with traditional art and furnished with desk and intercom telephone. The suites include a living area, ...

With attractive views of Lalibela, Tukul Village considers itself more of a village than a hotel. Conveniently located near the centre of town, the hotel is within walking distance of many of the ancient churches of Lalibela, including the famous Bete Giyorgis, otherwise known as the Church of St George. ...

Axum is the home of the famous Stele Field, believed to have been carved in the 4th century AD. On a hill overlooking the town, Yeha Hotel has 63 en-suite rooms, all equipped with TV and desk. The restaurant serves Ethiopian and some international dishes, and the bar has a selection ...

Taye Belay Hotel stands opposite the Fasiladas Castles, making it an ideal location to explore the wonders of Gondar. The hotel opened in 2010. The 79 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles, twins and suites. All rooms have Wifi, and heating and cooling systems, and are equipped with safe, hairdryer ...

Close to the famous monolithic rock-hewn churches in the centre of Lalibela, Red Rock Lalibela Hotel is a small, family-run hotel. The 14 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles, twins and triples. All the rooms have balconies with views of the market or general village scenes. There’s Wifi ...

Established in 2019, Gondar Hills Resort is high on a hill with 360° views of the town and its surroundings. The resort, at the end of a winding cobbled drive, has been designed so its cottages, restaurant, swimming pool and gardens all have eye-catching views. The 33 en-suite spacious stone cottages are set ...

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