Early morning, depart south from Addis Ababa to Lake Ziway, one of the chain of lakes found in the Great Rift Valley. Here you will take a boat trip on Lake Ziway to the island of Tullo Gudo. The island hosts the church of Maryam Tsion which, according to tradition, once housed the Ark of the Covenant to hide it from invaders. After the visit, return to shore, enjoying the bountiful birdlife on this lake and possibly some hippos. Return to Addis Ababa late afternoon.
Archeological sites of Tiya, Adadi Maryam and Melka Kunture
After breakfast, depart south from Addis Ababa to visit these archeological sites of interest. Tiya is an ancient stellae field, with anthropomorphic statues marking burial grounds. Tiya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adadi Maryam is a rock-hewn church, similar to those in Lalibela. Melka Kunture is a pre-historic tool-making site. Return to Addis Ababa late afternoon.
Early morning departure west from Addis Ababa to Lake Wenchi, a crater lake in a stunning location. There are many options for activities in the area including hiking, horseback riding or a boat trip to the island monastery of Kirkos and the hot spring valley. After the visit, return to Addis Ababa.
Depart from Addis for a short drive to Debre Zeit, home to several crater lakes and a popular weekend getaway spot for Addis Ababa residents. You can spend the day visiting the lakes or doing some light hiking (circling Lake Hora takes 1 ½ hours). The area is very popular for birdwatching. There are several lake-side establishments for lunch and even a spa. Return to Addis Ababa, late afternoon.
Very near to Debre Zeit is Mt. Zuqualla, an extinct volcano that offers beautiful views of the surrounding areas. Here you can visit the monastery of Mt. Zuqualla Maryam, which may date back as far as the 4th century. The nearby crater-lake is considered holy by the monks of the monastery. Time permitting, you may stop for a rest in Debre Zeit before returning to Addis Ababa in the afternoon.
Menagesha National Forest
Departing west from Addis Ababa, drive to the Menagesha National Forest for some hiking. Here you will enjoy the wildlife, such as the colobus monkeys and endemic Menelik’s bushbuck, as well as birds, including the endemic Ethiopian oriole and Abyssinian woodpecker. You can also stop at the Gefersa Reservoir, which supplies water to Addis Ababa, and is a nice birdwatching and wildlife spot. Return to Addis Ababa in the afternoon.
Adadi Mariam Rock-Hewn Church & Tiya
A pleasant drive 38 kilometers south of Addis 38 is the Adadi Mariam church—a 13th century rock-hewn church— known as Ethiopia’s southern most church of this type. The rock-hewn church of Adadi Mariam is much like the Lalibela churches and the locals believe it to have been built on King Lalibela orders on his visit to Mount Zuquala in 1106. The church was damaged during the wars with Ahmed Gragn in the 16th century, but was reopened in the time of Menelik II. Not far from the church is the historical site of Tiya with its enigmatic field of stele adorned by unusual engravings. Tiya has been named one of Ethiopia’s seven UNESCO “World Heritage Sites.”
Debre Libanos Church & Portuguese Bridge
Drive 110 kilometers north of Addis Ababa over the Entoto Mountains passing through the Sululta Plains to the Monastery of Debre Libanos, founded in the 13th century by Abune Tekle Haymanot. Overlooking the Jemma River Gorge, a tributary of the Blue Nile, this Monastery owns ecclesiastical, cultural and historical relics, and boasts a rare grove of trees that have disappeared from elsewhere in the region. Also visit a 16th Century bridge still in use today and said to have been built by Portuguese.
Menagesha Forest & Addis Alem Mariam Church
Menagesha Forest is a jewel near the bustling city where large mammals such as the duiker, Colobus monkey and endemic Menelik bushbuck can be seen. Bird life is abundant in this densely wooded area where Rougets’ rail, blue-winged goose and black-headed siskin are among Ethiopian endemics to be noted while taking a leisurely walk.
Follow the visit up with a visit the Addis Alem Mariam Church, originally built as Emperor Menelik’s palace and known for its murals. The church owns many important relics and artifacts bequeathed to the church by the Emperor and on display in the church museum.
Addis Alem Mariam Church & Wonchi Crater Lake
Drive 35 kilometers west of Addis to visit the Addis Alem Mariam Church and then proceed driving to Ambo and then to the village of Wonchi where you will enjoy a short trek to the shores of the Wonchi Crater Lake. By boat, you can reach the island of Cherkos. You can return later that evening or spend the night in the scenic beauty of the crater.
Debre Berhan & Ankober
Drive 130 kilometers northeast of Addis Ababa to one of the oldest towns in the country, Debre Berhan. After visiting the Debre Berhan Selassie Church where many interesting historical relics are kept, drive to the nearby town Ankober, which is the birthplace of Emperor Menelik II. Ankober is situated on the edge of the escarpment and offers an extraordinary view of the region and down into the Great Rift Valley.
Mount Zuqualla Monastery & Crater Lakes of Debre Zeit
Drive south from Addis to Mount Zuqualla to visit the Zuqualla Monastery. Situated at the top of the mountain, visitors must hike to the Crater Lake on top of the mountain. The lake is surrounded by beautiful woods and considered to be holy by Ethiopian Christians. Later relax on the shores of one of Debre Zeit’s Crater Lakes.
Melka-Kunatre archeological site and Tiya steales
The Melka-Kunture Prehistoric Site lies near the Awash River Gorge and is one of the most important archeological sites in Ethiopia. Here researches have uncovered hand axes and other implements from prehistoric times. Then drive to Tiya—a UNESCO heritage site—where dozens of engraved, grave-marking standing stele are believed to have been erected between the 12th and 14th centuries.