I just wanted to say a huge thank you for organising my trip to Northern Ethiopia so efficiently. Everything ran like clockwork. What an extraordinary country to visit….dramatic mountains, rolling green hills, open plains dotted with pristine thatched roofed villages, interesting towns, fascinating markets, culture, history, religion, wildlife (the first time I have had a wild hyena on my back….!), and the friendliest people. I would recommend Ethiopia to anyone and would definitely recommend Tesfa Tours to help organise your trip. I am planning to come back next year to visit another part of the country and hope Tesfa can assist me once again. Thank you! Angela Rumble, UK, visited in March 2013
I thought I should just write and let you know how much we enjoyed the Tesfa trek in Tigray … it was all just perfect. We loved it all from the accommodation, the routes, the views, the variety of scenery, the drops, the degree of challenge, the sunsets and very important the guide was superb. As VSOs working in Ethiopia, we know Ethiopia very well and we all live fairly close to Adigrat, yet he pitched his guiding really well. All the accommodation was good and we felt very well received at all three places. We have probably enough photos to give you material for the next five years’ calendars!
I just wanted to write and thank you for the most wonderful trip to Ethiopia. I had an absolutely fantastic time and can’t get over how beautiful the country is and how lovely and friendly the people.
Thank you again for all your hard work in organising the trip. I would definitely recommend Tesfa Tours to anyone thinking of visiting Ethiopia and hopefully will be able to come back again myself and do another trip with you.
I spent 6 days on a TESFA trek in the Lalibela region, and then 3 days in the Tigray region, in November 2012. I thought it an excellent experience, which vastly heightened my appreciation of Ethiopia. TESFA treks are not for the faint-hearted: they are tough at times and at quite high altitude. Temperatures are high in the daytime and can be very cold at night. Accommodation is in simple village huts, without electricity or running water. But the scenery is magnificent and trekkers enjoy a proximity to pastoral village life, and to animals and birds, that tourists who stick to the classic historical circuit of Northern Ethiopia would not experience. Although you will visit some of Ethiopia’s famous ancient churches on these treks, they are not primarily designed as “church spotting” excursions: you need to spend extra time, before or after the treks, visiting churches in Lalibela and Tigray. Comparing the two regions, Lalibela has the grander scenery, the harder trekking and the simpler accommodation (in mud and grass tukuls). Tigray scenery is rather gentler (though still striking), the treks are generally easier, and the accommodation is in stone buildings that are generally a bit more comfortable.
We did the “rugged trek”, starting in Yadukulay and finishing in Geneta Mariam, over 4 nights/5 days. We would highly recommend this tour to anyone who is interested in seeing great landscapes, life in rural Ethiopia and staying in accommodation with breathtaking scenery.
Each day started with a hearty breakfast at around 7am, after which we began walking for about 4-7 hrs, depending on each leg, with our luggage being carried by donkeys and a generous stop for lunch. The walking ranged from very easy along the top of an escarpment, to being a little challenging technically on the descents, but always safe and certainly manageable for those who do a bit of walking or running.
There was plenty of good injera, water, as well as toilets with some of the best views we’ve ever seen!
The communities took great pride in looking after us, from warm bucket showers to a beer in the evening on top of cliff, with sunset views across an amazing and rugged landscape. Eating around the fires in the big Thukul was very atmospheric and polished off with some amazing views of the night sky before falling into comfortable beds.
We really enjoyed walking through rural Ethiopia with our chatty guide and would love to come back some time to enjoy more of the amazing countryside and warm hospitality that we encountered.
Thank you for a great tour!
Just back from a 3 week trip to Ethiopia. The highlight of the trip was our Tesfa 4 day walk. We stayed at Mequat Miriam, Wajela and Aterow. It was a fantastic experience and we loved every bit of it. The scenery was breathtaking, the people welcoming and friendly and our guide was excellent. It was great to see a good harvest in the fields and happy well nourished children.
The information on the walk on Tesfa Tours website was very helpful in planning which sites to visit. We chose the easiest walking sites and found it fitted our fitness level, which is reasonable but not super fit.
The food the women prepared was very good, nice home-cooked simple food.
I would thoroughly recommend this community walk.
Since our trek in April 2011, I have been recommending TESFA tours to all my friends and anyone that cares for transformational travel experience. Words are not enough to describe our TESFA trek in Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Thanks to Mark Chapman and his crew at TESFA, we had a wonderful and unique experience, which remains a treasure in my family. My husband Ted, who is well traveled in Ethiopia and around the world, told me that the TESFA trek will remain one of his most memorable trips.
With our two sons Shakaa and Tumai in tow (ages 11 and 8, but a year younger at the time of travel) we trekked through eastern Tigray, walking days on end, partaking beautiful and serene scenery. Through vast plains, treading on purple rocks, and climbing rocky hills, we breathed along and became one with the trek!
Stayed at the Gohgot and Enaf sites. Like all TESFA sites, they are built at the top of hills to allow for breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment upon getting there after the long climb. According to the guestbook at the sites, my youngest son Tumai became the first 7 year-old to climb the ‘three fingers’ rocky hill! The staff at the sites were amazing – hospitable and attentive. Food is simple and delicious. Next time I would carry extra warm clothing for the nights which tend to get very cold.
Compliments to our Guide Binyam – who not only understands his terrain but enjoys doing what he does. Ted and I admired Binyam for his professionalism – he managed to keep us moving for days without him seeming forceful or intrusive. He let us be.
The entire trip was meticulously planned and the trekking routes are very well thought out. I’m looking forward to my next trek with TESFA because I know it will take me places!
The 4-days trek through tigray mountains was one of my highlights in Ethiopia. Last year I have been to Simiens but now the Tigray region becomes to my favourite place in Ethiopia. The impressive view down the valleys and the vast panorama was amazing. The whole atmosphere in the mountains is completely different from other places i experienced. The people are really open and friendly. Having lunch together with a local family might be unique in Ethiopia as much as the hospitality. Furthermore our guide (Berhan) was well prepared and grew up in Tigray so she was an expert in telling as everything about the region and the people. Thanks to Tesfa Tours and the Communities for this well organized trip!
I would like to request all future visitors to keep in mind that every visitor is responsible to keep this treasure! Everything what we are doing is affecting the people! Just think about if giving money to individuals is the proper sign to show them your gratitude. The connection between Tourists and locals is much deeper and not based on money and the people are honestly friendly and helpful. So be creative in being thankful!
After all the communities profiting from the fees anyways!
Wow…where to start. I had such a wonderful trip visiting Lalibella, Boya and Aina Amba. I am so glad we booked this trip via Tesfa Tours. We witnessed such gorgeous views and scenery and the whole trip was very relaxing (if a bit tiring for a novice trekker like me who forgot her trekking shoes). Our local guide G was fantastic and mature beyond his years, he really was a great guide and is doing good work. Our local church guide was also great. It was equally lovely meeting the locals during our trek, even if we could only say ‘salam’ and talaste’llen or amasagenallo. Everyone was amazingly welcoming. The accommodation was simple and perfect with breath taking views and oh my what a loo with a view ! I didn’t want to leave the toilet, ha ha.
Not a bad word to say. I will definitely be recommending tesfa tours to my friends and family. If you are reading this and considering using Tesfa Tours, I would say go for it, you will not regret it.
The trek itself was almost beyond description- 4 days and three nights of an experience which has touched us all very deeply and will stay with us forever. Our luggage was loaded on to donkeys and the days are spent walking along a steep escarpment looking on to a valley from staggering heights with views that are unimaginable or at other times took us across farmland and rocky paths where the children came running down to meet us and to shake hands- these people are mainly subsistance farmers eaking out an existence for their families to survive There is no electricity or running water- the houses are huts made of mud and straw, farm implements consist of sickles and scythes and ox driven ploughs yet every person we came across without exception smiled and waved and were just beautiful in every way.
Although we had a big bag of packets of sweets, pencils, hair slides etc we were told very firmly by our guide not to give out gifts- this seemed very harsh and it was hard to resist at first until it was explained to us that if all foreigners were associated with gifts or money it would before long reduce these lovely dignified people to begging.
It says more about us than anything else that when it boils down to it we just wanted to see the look on their faces as we gave them some cheap pencil ( how awful!!)
Instead our guide sorted through everything we had and divided it up between the communities .
Each of the 3nights was spent with a different community staying in basic traditional tukuls or huts three in each site which slept three people and a tukul where we had a simple meal each night cooked by the lovely women from the local village on an open fire and served by the light of a fire on the floor in the middle of the hut. A crate of beer and other drinks to lubricate the dusty throats were produced. After dinner on two of the nights we persuaded the girls to sing- one used an empty water canister as a drum and the dancing commenced.
Not to be outdone 4 of us did a very bad version of the Walls of Limerick and so it went on- one Ethiopian song to one Irish song- It was very very special.
It is the purity that really gets to you on this trip . Nobody is “on the make” You are never ever hassled or harangued. These are the most obliging and dignified people imaginable. They cannot do enough for you while at the same time there is no element of deference or there is no feeling of wanting something in return. They were genuinely happy to spend time with us. Each morning as the donkeys were being packed up hugs and kisses were exchanged , a lump in the throat and a wobbly bottom lip made the leave taking hard.
At one point after walking through fields for a few hours we again came up onto the cliff edge where two men were shouting at the tops of their voices down into the valley-someone in their community had died and the news and funeral arrangements were being relayed. We were told that this news would then be shouted from valley to valley in the same way.
Almost unbelievably we came upon that very funeral the next day –people dressed in their best congregating in a field. The costumes, the coloured parasols the horses dressed in medieval type costumes. The crowd circling the decorated coffin singing and swaying to music. You couldn’t have planned it in a month of Sundays and again you had that feeling that this experience was very very special and every second had to be savored and committed to memory.
After three hours walking on that last day a jeep picked us up in the middle of nowhere to drive us the 20 minutes or so back to the main road to pick up our mini bus. As we bumped along across the fields, the children calling and waving, someone in the back broke into “the long and winding road” and that was when the lump and the wobble became too much and the tears came.
If you only do one adventurous thing in your life………….
Our party of 6 guests took the first trek from Meket to Lalibela. The trip is about 160 km/100 miles and included the Abune Yosef summit (+/-4,300m). A week after returning I’m still not quite sure where to start describing the trip, it was so much more than we expected.
It may make sense to begin with the people of the Ethiopian highlands who guided us, cooked for us and generously welcomed our group to their country. I’ve lived in urban West Africa and hadn’t experienced anything like this before. The children were delighted to see us and wanted nothing more than to see their photograph, despite having so little.
The trekking was generally quite easy although we didn’t break any speed records and finished in the dark one evening. Only once did we get above the highest farmed land which I’m guessing was about 3,500m! The highlands are amazingly beautiful, enormous volcanic structures supporting fields that are worked by hand and ox.
Tesfa tours can customise your trip and we finished by visiting the churches of Lalibela, which can be recommended even for people who wouldn’t normally visit one, let alone 11 churches in a day. I will recommend a trip such as ours to many friends. It really was a special place, and I am sure we will never forget our time there.
We stayed at all 5 sites and it was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anybody coming to Ethiopia. The scenery is truly breathtaking and varies every day with stunning views from every site. We would not want to miss any of the sites! During the trekking we saw lots of wildlife, amongst others hundreds of Gelada baboons and even Ethiopian wolves on AbuneYoseph! What made our experience unforgettable, however, were definitely the warm and welcoming people of the villages, the fun we had with the children and of course, our excellent guide who made sure that we were perfectly looked after on every day of the trek.
If the sites in Meket were amazing, AbuneYoseph was beyond expectations! The site of the new tukuls of Ad MedhaneAlem with its view on Lalibela is truly stunning and so is the landscape and wildlife on this unique mountain. At the same time it was obvious how important and valuable this project is for providing sustainable income to farmers in order to ensure the conservation of this fragile afro-alpine ecosystem and of the habitat of the rare Ethiopian wolf.
Congratulations for your work on this innovative project which is a perfect model for responsible tourism-programmes in Africa! Trekking in Meket and on AbuneYoseph was definitely the highlight of this trip to Ethiopia!
Having been superbly looked after on my recent trek I’m writing to say important your work is in both the context of Ethiopian tourism, but also far wider as an example in tourism destinations in developing countries.
Having made a recent study of 150 worldwide community tourism projects with US NGO Conservation International I found your project to be one of the most successful, and replicable projects that I’ve come across.
Congratulations on your work, its vital that you continue to make it a success as it’s the model for so many others to follow.
Many thanks indeed for an absolutely exceptional couple of days walking in the highlands of Ethiopia and meeting the communities. It was the best experience I have had since arriving in Ethiopia and I learned a great deal. As I said to you at the time I think you are catalysing a genuine positive difference in the lives of the communities and have done very well so far to get them to own the initiative. The sites you have chosen are also really beautiful.
The adventures of Hannah and Kirsty – Oct 2005 (extracts & photos courtesy of Hannah &Kirsty – from their web journals)
Without a doubt, this Community Trek has been the highlight of our trip so far. We saw not only spectacular scenery, but also felt so extremely privileged to see the different stages of development of this Community Tourism Project. Most of all though, we enjoyed the privilege of seeing and interacting with the villagers in their own natural environment. Anyway who has the opportunity to visit Ethiopia, do it!
I am a 53 year old woman from Canada, travelling alone, and I made a three-day visit which included a trek through highland terrain between two farm villages. My memories of Meket are infused with the sense of having been genuinely welcomed by the entire villages — from the fire lit coffee ceremony in Wajela to the warm gestures, smiles and handshakes during a visit by the committee of farmers who oversee the MequatMariam site. This imaginative project seems to me to have been set up so that both the “visitor” and the “visited” experience an abundantly fair and non-exploitive exchange.
We had reached the edge of the world. The flat ground abruptly stopped as we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of a precipice so high and beholding such a vast panorama that we could do nothing but gape, awestruck, at villages thousands of feet below us, mountains stretching out in the distance to the horizon. It was an unforgettable moment. The sun was low in the sky, casting a pale orange glow on the mountains, the smoke from cooking fires drifting up into misty sheens around settlements far below. We looked along the edge of the precipice, stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions, and saw where we were to stay that night.
Stone, thatched tukuls or huts provided bedrooms and dining room some steps from the edge, a toilet just feet from the precipice, with a view that would win awards were they given for dramatic locations, and even a shower al fresco – a bamboo cubicle with heated water poured into a bag above a shower head. On arrival we were given delicious snacks washed down with ginger tea. Then we simply gawped at the view as the sun sank behind the mountains. We were served gin and tonics as we watched a majestic sunset, convinced there could be no place nor any moment more beautiful.