Ethiopian Highland Endurance Tour

8 days in Ethiopia | 6 days cycling | Total 587km

As the title of the tour suggests, this itinerary is for those who want to test themselves over some tough climbs combining two different circuits to the north and south of Mekele. Spectacular mountain scenery from beginning to end.

Day 1: Arrive in Ethiopia and travel to Tigray

Your cycle tour guide welcomes you at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, where you meet your fellow cyclists. We fly north to Mekele, the capital of Tigray, arriving in the early afternoon. From the airport it’s a 1 ½ hour drive north to Hawzen, where we check in at Gheralta Lodge. There’s time to build your bike (our team will be on hand to help), and do a short ride before dinner if you would like to. The lodge has earned a reputation for its excellent food, so dinner is sure to be a highlight. A briefing meeting follows.

Day 2: Cycle Gheralta Lodge (Hawzen) to Adigrat – 60km

start altitude 2105m – end altitude 2457m

Our first full day of cycling is also our shortest, so you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast before we set out. The first 20km we travel east across a relatively flat plain, the red sandstone stacks of the Gheralta Mountains looming around us. When we meet the main Mekele-Adigrat road, we turn north and ride an undulating route to Adigrat. Tonight we stay at Agoro Lodge, perched on a hilltop a few kilometres short of the town centre. Agoro is a social enterprise which helps the local community benefit from international tourism.

Day 3: Cycle Adigrat to Axum – 130km

start altitude 2457m – end altitude 2131m

This is the most challenging and longest ride of our tour. We start with a long 12km climb (5-10% gradient) out of Adigrat taking us high into the mountains and to the summit in Mugulat. The breath-taking 20km descent into Bizet makes it more than worthwhile though. The next 20km are undulating, the jagged Adwa Mountains coming into view as we approach Enticho, our half-way point where we stop for lunch. After lunch we tackle a series of hills on the road to Adwa itself (105km). The final 25km from Adwa to Axum includes another challenging 5km climb (10%) before the town comes into view. The evening meal at Yared Zema International Hotel in Axum is well deserved.

Day 4: Cycle Axum to Work Amba – 100km

start altitude 2131m end altitude 1905m

Your third day of cycling takes you first back to Adwa, where you turn south and climb out of the town on the road back to Mekele. The middle part of the ride is largely downhill on snaking roads and through mountain passes. The final 10km includes a tough climb into Work Amba (12-15%) involving multiple peaks before a short descent into the town. We have lunch here before being transported by car back to Gheralta Lodge.

Day 5: Visit the rock-hewn churches

Today gives you chance to visit one of the region’s spectacular rock-hewn churches which have existed for over fourteen hundred years. You have a choice of church. A visit to Mariam Korkor involves a challenging 2-hour walk with a bit of scrambling, but is well worth it for the magnificent views, not to mention the ancient church, the interior of which is richly decorated with murals. The alternative is Abune Yemata, sometimes called the world’s most inaccessible church, and as we reach the near perpendicular ascent you soon appreciate why. The ledge that makes up the final approach overlooks a sheer and quite spectacular drop of 200m. We return to the lodge in the afternoon and from there drive to Planet International Hotel in Mekele.

Day 6: Cycle Mekele to Maychew – 125km

start altitude 2084m – end altitude 2479m

Our fourth day of cycling day takes us out of Mekele to the south. The first half of the ride through Adi Gudom and Betmara is relatively straightforward without any long climbs. After Hiwane we pass through a steep-sided gorge, which marks the start of a tough 20km climb taking us up high into the mountains. The reward: a 10km descent into the small town of Imba Alaje for a well-earned break. The final section of the route includes another long ascent towards Maychew, where we stay at the Tadele Hotel.

Day 7: Cycle Maychew to Alamata – 62km

start altitude 2479m – end altitude 1520m

Today’s scenic ride is less punishing then the previous day. We make our way through the mountains and ride along the shores of Lake Hashenge with the green slopes of the Hashenge Forest Reserve stretching out to the west. After passing through Korem you can enjoy the truly spectacular descent into Alamata on the switchbacks of Gra Kassu mountain. After lunch in town, we are driven on the alternative faster road back to Mekele.

Day 8: Cycle Mekele to Hagere Selam – 110km; return to Addis Ababa

start altitude 2084m – end altitude 2084m – climbing to 2759m

Our final ride of the tour is an out-and-back route. We head west from Mekele, this time on the road to Hagere Selam. After 35km there is a 20km climb which brings you into Hagere Selam where we stop for a short break before making the ride back to Mekele. The first 20km of the return journey on a superb stretch of fast asphalt road is a just reward for all the climbing that has gone before. We arrive back at the hotel in time for lunch and then depart for the airport later in the afternoon, arriving in Addis Ababa in the early evening.

Total cost (excl. flights): £1,975
Single supplement: £200

Departure dates:

  • 21 October 2017
  • 29 January 2018

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We would love to talk to you about your planned tour of Ethiopia.
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