Coffee Caravan Route

The section of the coffee caravan route from Ankober to Awash Saba, passing through Awash National Park, is around 140km and takes up to seven hours by 4x4, allowing for stops. It is possible to continue onwards to Djibouti or Harar (onward accommodation can be arranged) or alternatively travel back to Addis, via Metahara and Nazret/ Adama. The journey can also be followed from Awash up to Ankober.

The route is not passable in wet weather; please check with the lodge before making your plans. Experienced guides and drivers are available; please ask our staff for details of availability and charges.

Coffee Caravan Route

The stone cobbles of this ancient caravan route from Ankober to Zeila on the Red Sea are still visible when you cross the hill adjoining Ankober Palace Lodge. This historic route lost its importance with the building of the Addis to Djibouti railway in the 1900s and the moving of the capital from Ankober to Addis Ababa. However, it is still an important trading route for local communities, as can be seen quite clearly on market days when the mainly Christian highlanders drive their laden donkeys to join the mainly Islamic lowlanders and their camel caravans at Aliyo Amba.

Experience the contrasts in lifestyles, religions, climate, flora, fauna and landscape on this fascinating route from the heights of the central highlands down to the Rift Valley and the low Afar plains of eastern Ethiopia.

  • Travel from the cool, clear mountain air of Ankober at nearly 3,000m down to Awash Saba, close to sea level on the hot arid plains of Afar
  • View the Rift Valley in all directions as you descend, and then look back up at the mountains from below
  • Pass from the green highland farms growing tef (the grain used to make enjera) down to the lower valleys growing coffee and papayas before finally reaching the arid scrub pastureland where camels graze
  • Visit ancient markets where Christian highlanders meet with Islamic pastoralists to trade as they have done for centuries
  • Enjoy the adventure of travelling down this important heritage route along unsurfaced and unmapped trails well off the beaten track (not yet in any guide books!)
  • Trek part of the route along the original stone trail from Ankober to the ancient Customs Centre at Aliyo Amba (optional)
  • Explore the Awash National Park: swim in the natural oasis of hot springs, climb the rumbling Fantale Volcano and stalk the wildlife
  • Spot up to 450 bird species in the Awash National Park, as well as two endemic species en route: the Ankober Serin and the Yellow Throated Serin, at Dulecha or Fantale
  • Watch the distinctively dressed (but photo-phobic) Afar people drive their huge camel herds across the dusty plains or tend their goats and sheep
  • Wander through small villages and enjoy the hospitality of a genuine coffee ceremony in a simple coffee house