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Blue Nile and Lalibela ET

Visiting: Ethiopia
Tour Duration 14 Days

Reviews for Blue Nile and Lalibela

Travellers were asked to provide a review of the trip, including highlights and tips.

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Blue Nile & Lalibela reviews verified by Reevoo

47 reviews

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Blue Nile & LalibelaScores 8.7 out of 10 based on 47 reviews
(9 out of 10)


This trip was fantastic and highlighted how diverse Ethiopia is. We were able to experience this diversity across the country from the Qat market, stunning countryside, Addis's museums, out of place Castles in Gondar and the amazing Lalibela at Easter.
Sue Guthrie our tour guide was outstanding, her level of knowledge about the country is second to non and it is all credit to her that she received the Wanderlust Award in 2015. Injections about the country's history or it's relationship with the surrounding neighbours were so interesting and helped put things into perspective. The local tour guides were great and it was definitely interesting to have input from someone who lived in the area we were visiting.
Some of the hotels were basic but we had been told this in advance. The decision to give a few additional hours in the splendour of the Goha Hotel in Gondor was a great one.
My only minor criticism would be the length of time give to look around the 2 museums in Addis, it was too short for the amazing amount of information they contained.
All in all a trip I would highly recommend and it delivers exactly what was in the brochure and if you are lucky enough to have Sue as the leader you will have an even more amazing trip.
Thank you
Confirmed traveller: 02 May 2016
Published on: 20 May 2016
(8 out of 10)


This is a wonderful introduction to a fascinating country which has a relatively low presence on the world stage. The country boasts stunning scenery, World Heritage site churches and delightfully unspoilt, very religious and charming people. Considering that this is not a rich country, the lack of begging is very noticeable and our Tour Leader - the wonderful Sue - more about her later! - was very strict, & rightly so, about not giving out handouts to the children and this policy makes for sweet, shy children who take delight is just shaking your hand.

The hotels range from lovely to fine & all are clean & functional so fit the bill perfectly. There were a couple that were brilliant with huge showers & TVs but all the hotels had delightful staff who couldn't do enough to assist you.

The food is based on the injera - a large, soft, sour, spongy pancake - not the most brilliant of tastes, but you can easily substitute rice or potatoes. They do do, however, lovely sauces, but watch for the chilli content - when they are hot, they are super hot. Otherwise there is masses of international food.

As to the trip itself. This is an excellent introduction to this fascinating country more than ably led by the indomitable Sue. Explore should be down on their knees in gratitude that Sue is on their books - she loves, loves, loves Ethiopia & has its very best interests at heart. Wherever we went, there were constant cries of Sue, Sue, Sue and she has a huge amount of friends amongst the guides, drivers, hotel staff and even the Airport Manager, who are all delighted to see her & her tour party as well. She knows Ethiopia so well - she has been there for 15 years - and is so knowledgeable that the all her bits of information further increase your knowledge of this country.

Meals with Sue were always a treat - she is feisty, interesting, funny, crazily generous and was a delight to have amongst us - she added a wonderful dimension to our conversations and of course helped with our meal choices. Her choice of guides and drivers was faultless and all knew their stuff well.

I would add just one note. I took out a lot of little treats for the children. Within minutes Sue has disavowed that notion. It is difficult to stop yourself from giving them things & I think Explore should inform future clients not to take out anything bar pencils, pens & blank books, as there is a charity called Pencil Case that aims to help whole schools with writing equipment. Had I known that I could have bought far more of those items and ditched the ones that I bought.

This is a lovely holiday - interesting, varied, new & an excellent way to see Ethiopia, with everything done for you easily and seamlessly.
Confirmed traveller: 01 May 2016
Published on: 09 May 2016
(4 out of 10)

Confirmed traveller

Summary of the tour: gorgeous landscapes in the North; Ethiopian coffee is simply the best in the world; the Churches, esp. around Lake Tana and at Lalibela are fascinating; the saving good grace and humour of my fellow travellers made this a trip worth doing. Just about. However, more negatives than positives overall. In my opinion, this tour would benefit from being half the duration; from the groups being smaller, and from the hotels being held to account on price gouging.
Confirmed traveller: 11 January 2016
Published on: 15 April 2016

We absolutely agree that the local coffee is always outstanding, and the churches are beautiful – especially at Lake Tana and Lalibela. On reviewing the customer feedback on this trip, most rate the itinerary, length and group size to be excellent. In light of your comments, however, we will keep an eye on things. We discussed your comment about hotel ‘price gouging’ with the Operations Manager for this area, and we’ll also monitor this aspect to ensure the prices correctly reflect the accommodation type offered locally.

Samantha, Customer Relations

(8 out of 10)


This trip far exceeded my expectations ! For me, as a keen birder the highlights were the sheer number of birds & species – especially the lammergeiers at Lalibella and the early morning boat trip on Lake Tana. Sitting amongst the geladas in the Simien mountains, the procession around the church at Axum and Lalibella – the scenery, the churches & Ben Abeba restaurant were also amazing experiences.
Sue Guthrie was a brilliant tour leader. Being English but also having an amazing knowledge of the country, its people and history gave us an excellent insight through a westerner’s eyes in a way that no local leader could have done.
The hotels and food are pretty basic at times but always clean & the locals always tried hard to correct any issues that they could. A cold beer was always available ! The pool , good food & home-made ice-cream at the hotel in Gondar were a highlight, even if for only one night.
I will always remember the striking faces of the people & their smiles – they have so little but always seem happy.
Confirmed traveller: 20 March 2016
Published on: 13 April 2016
(10 out of 10)


We expected to be impressed by the rock cut churches in Lalibela but Axum was a unexpected surprise. The walk in the Simien Mountains and sitting with the Geladas was a highlight. There was a lot of travelling but overall the trip was fantastic.
Confirmed traveller: 06 March 2016
Published on: 21 March 2016
(10 out of 10)


The tour leader is poised, professional, efficient, knowledgeable, good natured, experienced, and a model of good relations with the local people as her knowledge of Amharic is excellent. Her ability to move a group of people from place to place, fly to new location with ease proves the use of the "kitty money" to be of excellent value.

The hotels are just as described in the website, some better than others, but all clean. The stopping places while traveling by bus are well-chosen, carefully vetted, and clean.

The itinerary is jam-packed with wonderful places, historic sites, and scenic overlooks. The hikes are very do-able and I was able at age 76 to complete them.

The briefings we had before each visit enhanced their impact.

I have traveled with explore between 15-18 times, and appreciate the great value for the money!
Confirmed traveller: 05 March 2016
Published on: 13 March 2016
(10 out of 10)

Confirmed traveller

This is an absolutely amazing tour, fantastically well run by the local operator Green Land Tours, and the tour guide Dawit made the tour.

The tour is well structured- doing the east and Harar first and then doing the Northern circuit, Lalibela being a good climax. Don't be put off by the number of internal flights, they are definitely needed and all in right places. Ethiopian Airlines were on time each internal flight and provide good service.

The tour has a really good mixture of historical sites as well as scenery and seeing the country with token wildlife watching at Lake Tana, the Simiens and Awash.

Ethiopians are generally thoroughly friendly, hospitable people. For example in the village of Mieso, passed through on the drive to Awash, we were randomly offered sugar cane by local kids!

Overall, thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Found some days long - particularly driving days (Harar to Awash day saw the driver drive 10 hours!). There is a run of early starts round the middle of the trip so you get quite tired round there. Some hotels- particularly in Debark were a bit basic, whilst it was surprising to see a late change in hotel in Aksum. However, the experience was still great. Best tour guide I have ever had anywhere.
Having a local tour guide makes a huge difference. Even if English tour guides can speak the language fluently and know locals, I still think it better to employ Ethiopians for this tour. This is because Dawit was very good at dealing with mischievous little kids trying to get candy - telling them to go to school and get an education instead so they can become like him which I think a non-Ethiopian would find more difficult to do. Prepare for airport bureaucracy. Ethiopian airports you go through security twice. Don't be put off by last day- you get a day room and don't spend whole last day in Bole airport. However early morning in Bole airport wasn't a good way to end the tour- but nothing can really be done about this.
Don't give to beggars. Most kids begging we encountered didn't think themselves beggars and were simply trying their luck with tourists, plying for guilt so they could get candy or cash. Don't give in and they are more likely to go to school and get an education.
Prepare for variable temp. You might wonder why you brought cold weather clothing until you reach the Simiens! That hotel was freezing!
Hotels not best. Don't expect good breakfasts. Aksum hotel Yared Zema kept on making mistakes overpricing dinners etc. But a couple of the hotels are really really nice - e.g. Gonder.
Confirmed traveller: 01 November 2015
Published on: 12 March 2016
(10 out of 10)

Confirmed traveller

Ethiopia is a charming country, welcoming and generous of spirit. It smells of incense and roasting coffee. The famine was thirty years ago. Things have changed since the days of the Dergue Regime. They say Ethiopia is the birthplace of mankind. It's hard not to feel welcome here.I feel privileged to have spent two weeks in Ethiopia with Sue Guthrie as a tour leader – it’s been an experience made so much richer thanks to her phenomenal knowledge, and love of the country. She promotes responsible tourism and constantly set us an example of how to spread ‘love and kindness’ to those less fortunate. Sue is a fantastic ambassador for Ethiopia. She also looks after her tour members. No request was too much – she speaks fluent Amharic and seems to know everybody! Camel caravans would stop to speak to her. Her approach is also flexible. Once we were stuck in a traffic jam. No problem! She suggested we walk instead. In the process we crossed a bridge and unexpectedly saw hippos swimming in the river below. Sue is an example to us all. She makes every-one feel special. And as a tour leader, well, wow!
Confirmed traveller: 01 June 2015
Published on: 12 March 2016
(8 out of 10)


The middle and end of the tour were 1st class. Axum was an excellent venue for Timkat. The Simien mountains were superb. Sue was a wonderful leader: very informative, enthusiastic and efficient and helpful. Sue was able to add in seeing St George's day in Lalibela, which was wonderful The hotels in Bahar Dar and Lalibela were very good and the one in Debark was the first to have everything working!
I think there is a question about whether the trip to Harar, and the Awash National Park is worth the heavy amount of travelling required to get there.

This is maybe not the place to speak of the Explore headquarters, which was not up to scratch, but it needs saying. The wait to speak by phone was very long. We received an out of date itinerary (others didn't) and only online. We did not get a list of hotels so my companion didn't bring a bathing costume. Sue did not have my passport number though I was the one to book the holiday. It looks as if admin standards have slipped a bit.
Confirmed traveller: 29 January 2016
Published on: 17 February 2016

We’re sorry to hear that you were unhappy with the service you received prior to your trip. Unfortunately we can experience high volumes of calls at certain times of the day, but we are continuously working on our service levels and we have recently hired a number of new staff members to help deal with the volume of incoming calls.

We do recommend downloading a set of trip notes online before you depart, but we also will always send you your final documentation 3 weeks prior to your departure – this will include a copy of the itinerary and a list of the accommodation details.

We’re glad you enjoyed your overall trip experience despite these issues and we really appreciate your comments for your Explore Leader Sue.

(7 out of 10)


The Highlights were the old city of Harar, walking through the Sunday market at Gondar, the Simien Mountains and walking to the Monastery above Lalibela. Be prepared for some long, not to say exhausting days. For example the first twenty four hours included a seven hour flight, transfer to Addis, museum, flight and drive to Harar. Also don't rely on changing money back at Addis Airport.
Confirmed traveller: 22 January 2016
Published on: 26 January 2016