Ethiopia: mountains, churches and wildlife

Ethiopia - Abuni Yosef, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and exploring the Bale Mountains

We've always wanted to go to Ethiopia & would love to experience the culture and wildlife. We enjoy walking and would love to get into the mountains. We have a couple of weeks - what do you recommend?”

Lying halfway between Addis and the Bale Mountains, Lake Awassa made sense as a the place to kick off the trip. A few days here to relax and unwind after the flight was an ideal introduction to Ethiopia; beautiful views, plenty of great birdlife around the lake and a chance to witness the local fishing scene in action.

Driving between Awassa and the Bale Mountains gives a sense of what rural life in Ethiopia is like, taking you through villages where farming methods haven't changed for centuries.

Crossing the Senatti Plateau at times feels more like Scotland than Africa, but for the numerous Giant Lobelia. The forest here is home to a number of primates and birdlife and the endemic Ethiopian Wolf is often seen, especially on the plateau. 

The Bale Mountains themselves are scenically beautiful and there's the opportunity for good walking as well as (among other things) the chance to sample excellent local honey.

The Abune Yosef Trek is relatively new and we recommended it as the perfect way to appreciate how the mountain people live. Little has changed in these parts for generations so it feels at times almost biblical.  

One of the highlights of this trip is to stay in a village hosted by an Ethiopian family; while accommodation is understandably simple, this is a rare privilege.  Stunning scenery and the acheivment of getting up to 14,000 add to the experience of this element.

Lalibela was next on the itinerary - the main hub of Ethiopia's religious culture. Taking time to explore the extraordinary rock-hewn churches, most of which are still regularly in use for religious services, is a must.

From Lalibela we suggested continuing to Gondar, capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1855, where many of the magnificent castles and churches from its rich past are still possible to explore.

The final stop before returning to Addis was the Simien Highlands, home to the fourth highest peak in Africa and a land where steep river valleys lie between soaring plateaus and there are views north to the Eritrean plains. One of the highlights here are the remarkable gelada monkeys as well as breathtaking scenery.

The journey

(2 nights)

Bale Mountains


Bale Mountains National Park is a high altitude plateau that is broken by numerous spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, beautiful...

(1 night)

Addis Ababa


This is a new city compared to other cities in Ethiopia. It was chosen by Empress Taytu Betul and the city was founded in 1886 by...

(2 nights)



Lalibela is small dusty rural town, perched at an altitude of about 9000ft (2630mts), surrounded by craggy mountains. This is...

(1 night)



Gondar deserves at least half a day to explore this extraordinary faded European-like town. This city in northwestern Ethiopia....

(1 night)

Simien Mountains


The Simien mountain massif is one of the major highlands of Africa, rising to the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dejen 4543m, which...

(1 night)

Addis Ababa


This is a new city compared to other cities in Ethiopia. It was chosen by Empress Taytu Betul and the city was founded in 1886 by...

This holiday exceeded all expectations - seeing a relatively small part of the country just makes me want to go back again. The Ethiopians are not only effortlessly beautiful, but so friendly. It's another world and being in the mountains with no Western influence was a highlight. Breathtaking scenery, fascinating history and culture as well as seeing so much endemic wildlife – the perfect holiday!”

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Catherine Ronan
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Our team

Our experienced travellers include:

Catherine Ronan
Rod Tether
Andrea Hulme

It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary. All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.

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