Ethiopian Highland Explorer Tour
On this tour, you get to appreciate the Ethiopian Highlands from your saddle, with plenty of time to relax and sightseeing too. We have at least one guide for every four cyclists, which means we can accommodate different paces. If there is a big variation in pace, we can break up into smaller groups. The riding is for enjoyment, and we help everyone in our tour group cover the distances.
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 to the 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: Visiting the rock-hewn churches
Today you visit Mariam Korkor, one of the astonishing rock-hewn churches carved into sheer sandstone cliffs in Tigray. Many of them have existed for over fourteen hundred years. Following a 20-minute car journey to the foot of the red cliffs, we start off up the mountain. It’s a challenging 2-hour walk with a bit of scrambling, but well worth it for the magnificent views, not to mention the ancient church, the interior of which is richly decorated with murals. The priest gives us a tour, and we spend some time appreciating the view. We return to Gheralta Lodge in the afternoon, where the guides lead a leisurely ride of 1-2 hours out and back from the lodge to make sure everyone is ready for our first long ride the following morning.
Day 3: Cycle Gheralta Lodge (Hawzen) to Adigrat – 60km
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 4: Cycle Adigrat to Enticho – 65km
This morning’s ride starts with a long, challenging 12km climb (5-10% gradient) out of Adigrat town centre which takes us high into the mountains and to the summit in Mugulat. The breath-taking 20km descent into Bizet makes it all worthwhile, and we stop here for a short rest. Over the next 20km, as the jagged Adwa Mountains come into view, the road undulates, leading us into Enticho, where we stop for lunch. From here we drive to Axum where we stay at the Yared Zema International Hotel.
DAY 5: SIGHTSEEING IN AXUM
No cycling today. Instead you get to enjoy some of the treasures of Ethiopia’s ancient capital, Axum. The main sights of Axum date from the 4th to the 13th century, the most impressive being the royal tombs and the monolith obelisks, known as stelae. One of our expert guides accompanies you to visit the stelae park, the Queen of Sheba’s bathing pool, and the Tsion Mariam Church (Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion) where, according to legend, the Ark of the Covenant is kept.
Day 6: Cycle Adwa to Work Amba: 75km
Your final day of cycling starts in Adwa, the site of the famous 1896 victory by Ethiopian troops over the Italians. A short 2km climb out of the town is followed by a stunning downhill section of snaking bends as we head south back to Mekele. 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 returning to the Gheralta Lodge by car.
Day 7: Visit Abune Yemata church
Today you get your second chance to see one of the region’s spectacular rock-hewn churches – Abune Yemata. The start of the walk is a short drive from the lodge. Abune Yemata is sometimes called the world’s most inaccessible church, and when 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. Having been given a tour of the church’s highly decorated interior, we return to the lodge by late afternoon, in time to relax before another delicious Gheralta Lodge dinner.
Day 8: Return to Addis Ababa for sightseeing and relaxation
We leave the lodge in the morning and head to Mekele airport for a 1h 20 minute flight back to Addis Ababa. Arriving at your hotel in the early afternoon, you have the remainder of the day to relax there or sightsee at your leisure. A vehicle and guide are on hand to take you around the capital. If you’re flying out that evening, we arrange your transfer to the airport.
- 11 March 2018
- 4 November 2018