back to Ethiopia


Ethiopia & Simien Mountains

Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian countries, predating Constantine’s conversion of the Roman Empire, and the Tewahedo Church is the world’s largest Oriental Orthodox Church. We visit the rock-cut churches of Lalibela, the African Jerusalem.

Axum is the land of the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant was brought here from Jerusalem. At Gondar, the Camelot of Africa we visit medieval castles. At Bahir Dar, we sail on Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile. Four flights within Ethiopia are included and for logistical reasons each party is restricted to eighteen travellers. Our travels also include encounters with the flora and fauna of this beautiful country, particularly when we spend time to explore the Simien Mountains.


  1. Travel to Addis

    Overnight Ethiopian Airways direct flight departs Heathrow at 2130 to Addis Ababa.

  2. Addis Ababa

    0630 arrival. After checking in to our hotel with some time to relax, we take an orientation tour and visit the St Mary’s Church, the National Museum where we are introduced to the three million year-old bones of ‘Lucy’.   We also visit Trinity Cathedral, where Emperor Haile Selassie is buried and the Merkato (market). Overnight in Addis.

  3. To Mekele

    This morning, a 90 minute flight to Mekele. We drive to Wukro to visit its striking sandstone church and on to the cruciform church of Abraha Atsbeha. After lunch we drive on to Adigrat. Overnight in Adigrat.

  4. Axum

    We continue to Axum, ancient capital of the land of the Queen of Sheba. Visit to the obelisks at Stele Field, Dongar Palace and the reputed resting place of the Ark of the Covenant in the Cathedral church of St Mary of Zion. Overnight in Axum.

  5. To Lalibela

    A 30 minute flight to Lalibela, one of the wonders of the world and called the ‘African Jerusalem’. We begin our visits to a group of 12th century rock-cut churches said to have been built ‘with the help of angels’. Time permitting, we will drive out to the little cave church of Na’akuto La’ab. Two night stay.

  6. Lalibela

    We visit the Yemrehane Christos monastery in a beautiful isolated location, and then the second group of churches south of the Jordan river, representing the heavenly Jerusalem.

  7. The Simien Mountains

    30 minute flight to Gondar and drive up to the Simien Mountains Nature Reserve through spectacular scenery where as well as the Gelada baboon we also we see an abundance of bird life. One night stay.

  8. The Simien Mountains

    We walk through the Reserve where we hope to see Gelada Baboons, Walia Ibex, Simien Wolves and maybe even Red Foxes. In the afternoon we drive back to Gondar. Two night stay.

  9. Gondar

    Today we explore Gondar, ‘the Camelot of Africa’ famous for its medieval castles and churches. Our scenic tour features the Royal Enclosure of Fasil Ghebbi. We also meet Ethiopian Jews in a Felasha village and visit their cemeteries.

  10. To Bahir Dar

    We drive to Gorgora on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. Here we visit the monastery of Debre Sina Mariam and sail to Dek island to visit Narga Sillasie monastery, continuing to the Zeghie peninsula to visit Ura Kidane Mihret. We then walk through the forest to visit Azwa Maryam Monastery before sailing on to Bahir Dar. Two night stay.

  11. Blue Nile Falls

    This morning we travel to the magnificent Blue Nile Falls, locally known as ‘smoking water’ because of the steam clouds and rainbows it creates.   Afternoon flight from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa where we have our final farewell dinner accompanied by Ethiopian music and dance. Overnight stay.

  12. Homeward Bound

    Ethiopian Airways departs Addis at 0900 arriving back at Heathrow at 1400.

Essential Information

The price you pay 

2019 Price: £2,975

Single Supplement: £445, Travel Insurance Premium: £89/£178

The only extras you need to budget for are drinks and shopping. 


Flights, Hotel accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, porterage, a full sightseeing programme, entrance fees, guiding and gratuities to guide, driver and hotel staff.

All meals are included. Lunches will feature local specialities, with a more international choice in the evenings.

Not included

Travel Insurance, Single Room supplement, Visa on arrival ($50)

Travel Insurance

The McCabe recommended insurance policy is designed for the older traveller. The premium for this pilgrimage to Ethiopia is £89. Travellers over 75 pay £178. We also recommend that older travellers obtain a note from their doctor stating that they are fit to travel. Do feel free to shop around as there are many suitable insurance options including annual policies on the market. We do insist that all travellers take out medical insurance.

A key feature of our recommended policy is that there is no requirement to call a Medical Help Line as most pre-existing conditions are covered.

You can read the full policy wording here.

Passports, visas and health

British passport holders require a visa which is issued on arrival at Addis Ababa Airport. The cost is currently USD 50 for British Passport holders and payable in cash on arrival. Please make sure your passport has six months validity and two blank pages. No inoculations are required but do remember to take any regular medications.


Direct flights from Heathrow to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines. Duration 7 hours. Ethiopia is only 3 hours ahead of UK time, so jet lag is not usually a problem. We recommend a Thursday departure, but other days are possible.

The following local flights are included in the tour price:

ET 112 Addis Ababa to Mekele / 0800 - 0925

ET 123 Axum to Lalibela / 1145 -1225

ET 123 Lalibela to Gondar / 1245 - 1315

ET 143 Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa / 1450 - 1550


Addis has excellent hotels and we stay in a four star property close to the airport at the beginning and end of our holiday. Outside Addis we stay in best available hotels, all of which are of a very acceptable standard. Rooms have private facilities.

You can click on the hotel websites below:

Sapphire Addis Hotel in Addis Ababa

Agoro Lodge in Adigrat  

Sabean Hotel in Axum

Mezena Lodge in Lalibela

Simien Lodge in Simien Mountain National Park

Mayleko Lodge in Gondar

Kuriftu Resort in Bahir Dar

How strenuous

You do not have to be super fit to participate in this tour, but expect a good deal of walking on uneven terrain and stair climbing. Be aware that Addis Ababa sits at an altitude of 2,500 metres: walking at altitude can be very tiring. If you have any heart or respiratory problems, please do ask your GP if this tour is suitable for you.

Ethiopia is not conducive to large groups of travellers so we will be a party of 18 pilgrims escorted by the tour leader and a local guide.

We will avoid arduous coach journeys by taking short local flights on small planes over the most difficult terrain.


Hotels generally cater well for western guests offering local as well as familiar dishes. Lunches are simple, perhaps wat (stew) accompanied by injara a unique type of Ethiopian bread, which looks like a pancake and is made from tef, a type of cereal found only in Ethiopia. Most dishes are lamb or beef based, but vegetarians are catered for, though the choice may be limited. Pasta and spaghetti dishes are also commonly available. Wednesdays and Fridays are traditional fasting days and restaurants usually only serve vegetable dishes. A popular Ethiopian dish is kitfo, which is minced meat that has been warmed, but not cooked. This is considered a delicacy in Ethiopia.

If you have special dietary requirements, let us know and we will do our best to satisfy these, but we cannot guarantee that this will always be possible.

Practical information

Travelling Alone

Many of our passengers travel alone and object to expensive single room supplements. McCabe Pilgrimages will accept individual bookings on a 'guaranteed share' basis. We charge the basic price and accommodate you with a person of the same sex also requesting shared accommodation. If we do not find someone to share with you, you will be accommodated in a single room at only 50% of the usual single room supplement. For single travellers who do require single accommodation this should be requested when booking and, if available, the normal supplement will be payable.

The McCabe Educational Trust

For many, meeting the ‘Living Stones’ of The Land becomes a real highlight of their pilgrimage. The McCabe Educational Trust is an independent registered charity with the aim of helping inspiring people we meet on pilgrimage. On your pilgrimage you will meet some of these people. As ‘the haves’ encounter the ‘have nots’ the Trust has become a practical tool for one to help the other.

McCabe Pilgrimages invite all travellers to become partners in this work. A £15 voluntary donation to the Trust’s work is added to every pilgrim’s invoice and all money raised in this way is given in full to the projects the Trust supports. This scheme is voluntary and confidential with nobody put under any pressure to participate.

Full Financial Security

All money paid to McCabe is fully secure. Holidays including flights are covered by our ATOL license from the Civil Aviation Authority, and holidays without flights are protected by our membership of the ABTOT bonding scheme. If a pilgrimage is cancelled, for instance through lack of numbers or for political considerations, McCabe will promptly refund all monies paid.

AITO Quality Statement

McCabe Pilgrimages is a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators. The Association represents Britain’s leading independent tour operators and encourages high standards of quality and service. McCabe abides by the Association’s Code of Conduct and adheres to the AITO Quality Charter.

You can read McCabe reviews on the AITO website HERE

Read reviews


Upcoming Pilgrimages

We have no tours scheduled to this destination at present. Please contact us if you would like to lead or join a tour.

Send to a friend

    On the trail of the Ark of the Covenant

    Prices from £3,195 pp

    Read more

    Travel club

    A portfolio of tours with our regular travellers in mind

    Read more