Ethiopian Highland Challenge Tour
Our Highland Challenge tour also takes place in the heart of Ethiopia’s rich Christian culture. The tour includes a tough ride through the Adwa mountains, but also includes two rest days with opportunities for visiting remote mountain monasteries and ancient historical sites.
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 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. It starts with a long 12km climb (5-10% gradient) out of Adigrat town centre taking us high into the mountains and 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 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’s meal at Yared Zema International Hotel in Axum is well deserved.
Day 4: 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 5: Cycle Axum to Work Amba – 100km
start altitude 2131m – end altitude 1905m
Our third day of cycling takes us first back to Adwa, where we 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%) conquering multiple peaks before a short descent into the town. We have lunch here before being transported by car back to the Gheralta Lodge.
Day 6: Visit Abune Yemata church
Today you get a chance to see one of the region’s spectacular rock-hewn churches – Abune Yemata. The start of the walk comes after a short drive from the lodge. Abune Yemata is 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. 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 7: Cycle Hawzen to Mekele: 105km
start altitude 2105m – end altitude 2084m
Our final day of cycling takes you back to Mekele where we landed at the start of the week. We begin with a relatively flat 20km stretch to Frewenyi where we re-join the main road between Mekele and Adigrat. From here we pass through the towns of Negash, Wukro and Agula before Mekele comes into sight. The countryside is less mountainous, but we’re in the Highlands, and there are still hills We stay at the Planet International Hotel this evening.
Day 8: Return to Addis Ababa for sightseeing and relaxation
We 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.
- 19 November 2018