Day by Day

12 days Ethiopia & Djibouti

History & whale sharks


Visit the best sites of the Historic Route in northern Ethiopia and explore the unknow, yet wonderful Djibouti in only 13 days; this trip combines both historical and natural highlights of both countries! 

The best travel time for this trip is November - early February due to whale shark season


  • Comfort with domestic flights
  • Hike in Simien Mountains N.P.
  • Snorkeling with Whale sharks
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Day by Day: 12 days Ethiopia & Djibouti


Day 1: Welcome to Ethiopia!

Upon arrival in Ethiopia, a representative from Matoke Tours will be waiting to pick you up at the airport and take you to your guesthouse, which is located just 5 km from the airport. Here you will be briefed on your upcoming trip and receive all necessary information.

Depending of your arrival time, you may have time to explore the capital and visit sites like the National Museum (home of the world-famous human ancestor fossil Lucy), the Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Ethnological Museum, which will give you an insight into the history and culture of Ethiopia.


In the evening you will have the opportunity to sample the famous Ethiopian cuisine and see a cultural show at a restaurant in town before returning to your guesthouse for the night. (Today's activities and meals in Addis Ababa are at your own expense). 

Journey time 15 mins
Accommodation Arequ Guesthouse
Meal plan No meals included today

Day 2: Explore the highlights of Gondar

In the early morning your guide will pick you up at the guesthouse and drive with you to Bole International Airport to catch a domestic flight to Gondar.

Departure Addis Ababa: 
08.10 AM   
Arrival Gondar: 09.20 AM

Upon your arrival you will transfer to the lodge before embarking upon a fascinating exploration of the royal and ancient city of Gondar.


First you will pay a visit to the fortress city Fasil Ghebbi, also known as the Royal Enclosure. This 70,000-sq meter UNESCO World Heritage site was once the seat of emperor Fasiledes and his successors in the 16th and 17th century. The numerous castles and palaces that remain within the walls of the enclosure are a testament to the royal capital’s former splendor.


The cultural tour continues with a visit to Fasiledes’ Bath. Emperor Fasiledes built this rectangular pool to convince the people that he was a true believer of the Orthodox faith. Although the complex was used for bathing it was also used for religious celebrations, some of which carry on to this day. Once a year, during the Timkat festival, the pool is filled with blessed water and devotees are invited to swim and frolic in the pool in a ceremonial replication of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River.

Before heading back to the lodge in the late afternoon, you will visit the Debre Berhan Selassie church with its beautifully painted ceilings.


In the evening you will enjoy a nice dinner and some welcome rest at tonight's accommodation, Mayleko Lodge. The lodge is situated 30 minutes outside of Gondar, surrounded by beautiful nature and the Dilha Mountains in the background. The lodge features a swimming pool and an in-house restaurant offering excellent meals.

Journey time 1h10 flight + 10 min to lodge + 30 min to Gondar
Mayleko Lodge
Meal plan Breakfast

Day 3: Hike in Simien Mountains N.P.

After breakfast at your lodge your journey continues north to the spectacular Simien Mountains National Park.

These high-altitude landscapes are home to exotic wildlife unique to the area, such as the iconic Walia ibex, the Gelada baboon, several birds of prey and the extremely rare Ethiopian wolf, which has an estimated population of 50 in the Simien Mountains (out of 400 in the entire country). The rareness of the species residing in the Simien Mountains led to the formation of the National Park and its listing as a World Heritage site as early as 1978.


Along your journey you will pass through the park headquarters in Debark where your guide will arrange for your permits and collect the mandatory guide and scout for your hike. 

Depending on your interests and fitness level, your hike can take from one to six hours. Along the way you will experience the beautiful landscapes of the Simien Mountains, enjoy a packed lunch at one of the best viewpoints and most likely run into the endemic Gelada baboon. These red-chested baboons are pretty sociable so you will be able to get quite close to them.


After the hike you will drive to your accommodation for the night. Limalimo Lodge is perched on the edge of an escarpment offering incredible views of the Simien Mountains.

The guest rooms are incredibly comfortable featuring lovely daybeds and big windows with views of the surrounding mountains. Delicious meals are served in the restaurant and there are several activities on offer, including early-morning yoga, massages and nature walks.

Journey time 3 hours to trailhead, 45 mins to lodge
Accommodation Limalimo Lodge
Meal plan Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Day 4: Nature walk and return to Gondar

Today you can enjoy a leisurely morning surrounded by beautiful scenery. If you enjoy wildlife you can take a nature walk along the escarpment edge and enjoy the panoramic views and watch birds of prey circling above and below you. If you are lucky bands of Gelada baboons may wander over and bid you a good morning. 

After lunch at the lodge you will drive back to Gondar for another night at Mayleko Lodge. Be sure to get an early night here as you will be up bright and early tomorrow to catch a flight to Lalibela.

Journey time 3 hours
Accommodation Mayleko Lodge
Meal plan Breakfast and lunch

Day 5: Visit of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

In the early morning you will be picked up at the hotel and driven to the airport in time for your domestic flight from Gondar to Lalibela. 

Departure time Gondar: 09.00 AM
Arrival time Lalibela: 09.20 AM

Lalibela is regarded as one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities (second only to Axum) and is an important center of pilgrimage. Religious rituals are central to the life of the town and there are often processions of priests and crowds of singing and dancing devotees. This in combination with Lalibela’s extraordinary history and architecture gives this small town a timeless and biblical atmosphere. 


The most famous attractions in Lalibela are the monolithic rock-hewn churches, which are the biggest monolithic temples in the world, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

After checking-in to your hotel the rest of today will be dedicated to exploring these architectural wonders. 

The most iconic and visually spectacular of these churches is the Bet Giyorgis (St. George’s). The 15-meter high structure is carved out of rock, excavated externally and internally into the shape of the Greek cross. This church is often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and is therefore a must see on this trip! You will have a local guide showing you around who will be able to tell you everything you want to know about these historic buildings. 


At the end of the day you will return to your hotel for some rest and a nice dinner.

Maribela Hotel is located in the Lasta mountains in the outskirts of Lalibela. The design of the spacious and modern rooms is inspired by the rock-hewn churches that have made Lalibela famous, and all rooms have breathtaking views of the Lasta mountains and Abuna Josef peak (4,260m).

Journey time 30min flight, 30 min transfer 
Accommodation Maribela Hotel
Meal plan Breakfast

Day 6: Culture and Coffee in Lalibela

There are several fascinating churches and monasteries carved into the landscape surrounding the town of Lalibela itself, and today we will go on an excursion to visit one of them. After breakfast, you will drive 50 km outside of Lalibela to the beautiful Yemerehana Christos Monastery, one of Ethiopia’s best-preserved late Aksumite churches. In contrast to the other churches you have seen on this tour, this 11th century monastery is constructed using both stone and wood. Be sure to go inside to look at the walls that have been painted with murals depicting scenes from the Bible.

You will have a packed lunch with you on the trip, which you can enjoy as you gaze at the incredible mountain views.


In the afternoon, you will return to Lalibela to experience a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. This is one of the most important parts of the Ethiopian culture and therefore a must-do on your trip to the country. The ceremony will take you through all of the steps of preparing and brewing coffee. Be sure to savor the flavors of the coffee during your tasting. 

Tonight, you will enjoy a nice dinner and another night at the lovely Maribela Hotel.

Journey time 2 hour round-trip
Accommodation Maribela Hotel
Meal plan Breakfast and packed lunch

Day 7: Via Addis Ababa to Djibouti

After an early breakfast you will be picked up at your hotel and taken to the airport for your domestic flight back to Addis Ababa. 

Departure Lalibela 09.40 AM
Arrival Addis Ababa 10.40 AM

From Addis Ababa you will connect with your international flight to Djibouti.  If you wish we can help arrange for a day room so that you can store your luggage and use shower facilities before connecting with your flight to Djibouti

Departure Addis Abeba 16.00 PM
Arrival Addis Djibouti 18.20 PM

Upon arrival to Djibouti City a representative from Matoke Tours will be waiting to pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel.

Depending on the time of your arrival you will have the opportunity to explore the city. The hotel is conveniently located about 5 minutes’ drive from down town and a 10 minutes’ drive from the central market. In the evening you will have the chance to discover Yemeni food at a traditional restaurant in town. (Activities and meals in Djibouti City today are at your own expense).


For the next two nights you will stay at Les Acacias Hotel, located in the heart of Djibouti, within walking distance of Djibouti Palace. The hotel sits on a small stretch of private beach, overlooking the warm turquoise sea. You can enjoy the sea view from the hotel's private pool. 

Journey time 30 mins
Accommodation Les Acacias Hotel
Meal plan Dinner

Day 8: Snorkeling with Whale Sharks

After breakfast today, you will be picked up and driven down to the port where you will board a private boat. Your journey will take you 1.5 hrs down the shoreline to Arta Beach where you will get the amazing opportunity to swim with whale sharks

Snorkeling amongst the giant, yet gentle, whale sharks is an experience of a lifetime. During the peak season between November and early february visitors are almost always guaranteed a sighting of these stunning aquatic primates. 

You will have lunch on Arta Beach and return to your hotel in Djibouti City in the evening. 

If you are not interested in snorkeling with the whale sharks let us know and we can arrange for snorkeling in another area near Arta Beach. 

Journey time 3 hours return boat trip
Accommodation Les Acacias Hotel
Meal plan Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Note : The best travel time for this activity will be between November and early February, due to the Whale Shark season in Djibouti. Get in touch with one of our agents to discuss alternative activities for this day, if you wish to travel between February and October by sending an email to


Day 9: Overnight trip to the salt lake "Lac Abbé"

After breakfast you will start your journey to the salt lake Lac Abbé.

Your approach to this geological phenomenon is like stepping off a spaceship onto a different planet. Lac Abbé is one in a chain of six connected salt lakes situated on the Djibouti-Ethiopian border, in the hot Afar depression which has been created by the earth’s tectonic plates pulling away from each other. Here vast salt plains stretch for kilometers, dotted with towering steam-spewing limestone chimneys, of which some are 50 meters tall. Views of the otherwise rather flat landscape is interrupted by the dormant volcano Mount Dama Ali, rising up 1,069 meters on the horizon.


Tonight, you will dine and sleep in traditional Afar huts at Asboley camp. The campsite is perched on a plateau by the lake with superb views of the moonscape-like surroundings. Don’t miss the afternoon sunset when the light creates surreal silhouettes of the limestone chimneys.

Journey time 5 hours
Accommodation Asboley Camp
Meal plan Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 10: Visit to Lac Assal & on to Plage des Sables Blancs

After watching the sunrise and having an early breakfast you will depart on the 4-hour drive to one of Djibouti’s national treasures; Lac Assal.

This crater lake sits 155 meters below sea level, making it the lowest point on the African continent and the third lowest point in the world. The hot environment (with temperatures exceeding 50C degrees in the summer) has evaporated some of the water, leaving a wide white salt bed around the green-blue waters. 

The lake was linked to Ethiopia through caravan routes created by salt trading Afar nomads. Salt extraction from the shores of the crater lake is still carried out to this day.

If you are keen you can get in and float on the surface of this extremely salty lake.



Your next stop is about 1.5 hours away in the city of Tadjoura. Tadjoura is the cultural center of the Afar Sultanate and the city is known for its gleaming white buildings and its many mosques.

You will end the day at your hotel 20 minutes down the shoreline from Tadjoura on the white sandy beaches of Plage des Sables Blancs. Your hotel is located right on what is considered to be the best beach in all of Djibouti. Here you can relax at your hotel, have a swim in the sea and admire the beautiful sunset over the Red Sea.

Journey time 6 hours
Accommodation        Hotel Bungalows
Meal plan Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 11: Les Sables Blancs and return to Djibouti City

After a stunning sunrise and breakfast at the hotel you have some free time on the beach to swim or do any of the beach activities offered by the hotel.

The mesmerizing underwater life around the coral reef close to shore makes Les Sables Blanc an unforgettable experience for snorkeling and scuba diving. The area has magnificent corals and diverse species of colorful (and inquisitive) fish.

Snorkeling is included in the package.

Optional activity : Scuba diving
The cost for this activity is $450 for max. 4 people,
+ $60 per person for one dive or,
+ $85 per person for two dives
This price includes the boat, fuel, diving equipment, and an English-speaking dive instructor.


After lunch on the beach and a final swim in the sea you will start your return journey to Djibouti City around 3pm. After a dinner in the city you will stay at Les Acacias Hotel again for your final night in Djibouti.

Journey time 3 hours
Accommodation Les Acacias Hotel
Meal plan Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 12: End of trip and return flight home

After breakfast your guide will drive you to the airport to catch your international flight back from Djibouti to Addis (included)

departure from Djibouti  11:00 AM
Arrival Addis Abeba 13:15 PM

In Addis you will connect with your flight back home. Please contact Matoke Tours if you want an additional night in Addis (including program) or if you wish to have a day room. 

Journey time 30 mins to Djibouti Airport      
Accommodation     No accommodation today
Meal plan Breakfast


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This is the end of your trip to Ethiopia!

Don't want the fun to end?

If you want to see more of this beautiful part of Africa, you can decide to extend your trip to another country in the region. 

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12 days Ethiopia & Djibouti