8 nights based on twin sharing

8 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches,      8 Dinners

Includes all transfers, guides and porters

Intermediate
5/7 hours per day

Sun 5th – Mon 13th
January 2020

£1,399

  • Explore 13th Century rock-hewn churches
  • Join Christmas parades & celebrations
  • Hike in the awe-inspiring Gheralta Mountains
  • Visit villages and spend time with local people

Ethiopian Christmas ‘Genna’ (7th January 2020) is the most important religious festival in the second country in the world to become Christian. This adventure provides the unique opportunity to experience the elaborate and highly stylised rituals and parades alongside the thousands of Ethiopian pilgrims who flock to the 13th Century rock-hewn churches in Lalibela. After this amazing celebration we will travel up to the Gheralta mountains for hiking in stunning rural surroundings. 

Optional extras: Single accommodation 

Not Included: Flights, visas, insurance (mandatory), airport taxes, tips, beverages, souvenirs

Full Itinerary for Genna Festival, Lalibela & Gheralta Mountains Adventure

Day 1: Journey begins in Addis Ababa 

Our adventure begins with a tour of this liveliest of cities including its Cathedral, National Museum and Merkato. In the evening we will watch traditional musicians and dancers performing different tribal dances in a culture house before dinner at a restaurant and a jazz club or two for any interested parties.

Day 2: Addis Ababa to Lalibela

We hop on our short one-hour national flight to the historic town of Lalibela where we will begin our guided tour of the ancient 13th Century rock-hewn churches, easily the most famous of all the monuments across this enormous country. Our professional local guide will lead us through the intricate system of underground passages that link the incredibly beautiful eleven churches in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 3: Genna Festival

We will spend the day and evening walking around the churches and surrounding area to witness the colourful parades and rituals with music, feasting and dancing! We will share food with the local people and perhaps even partake in some of their delicious honey wine ‘tej’ which is always drank throughout the festival.

Day 4: Lalibela to Axum

It is up to a 12-hour drive from Lalibela to the Gheralta Mountains so instead we will take the short flight to the ancient capital city of Axum to view its 4th Century  24-metre-tall granite stele and explore its charming markets and town centre. After a relaxing lunch we will drive for a couple of hours to our lodge in the Gheralta Mountains for dinner and a rest before our trekking adventure begins!

Day 5: Begin rock church mountain trek

We will hike up to view inside the delightful Abuna Abraham rock church, which requires a good climb in order to reach it; the views both inside and out are simply breathtaking. Tonight we will camp under the biggest sycamore tree in the region, a wonderful spot where many of the local exotic birds flock to nest in its branches and we can meet local people from the surrounding villages. 5 hours walking

Day 6: Sycamore tree to Agoza camp

On the way we can climb Mt. Kemmer, the highest mountain in the Gheralta range affording 360° views of the surrounding mountains and desert plateau of Tigray. We will also pass by a tiny rock hermitage carved into the mountainside before reaching our camp in Agoza village, where we will camp in the grounds of the local school, chatting with the villagers that often congregate there. 7 hours walking

Day 7: Agoza to Koraro camp

Our hike takes us up to beautiful Abuna Gebre Michael rock church carved deep into the mountainside and adorned with magnificent frescos. We then follow the priest down a narrow natural defile cut through the rock of the mountain which leads to our campsite. This is situated in the lee of an enormous natural cave with a sandy floor for our tents. We celebrate with a barbecue of fresh meat and beer brought up from the nearest village, a campfire and dancing! 5 hours walking

Day 8: Journey ends in Addis Ababa

We will drive from Koraro to visit either the world-renowned Abuna Yemata or the beautiful Mariam Koko rock churches; depending on your preferences as the climb to Abuna Yemata is rather steep, requiring simple ropes and a harness for one particular spot as you ascend the giant stalagmite. This being said, for those who brave the climb it is one of the most incredible things you will ever see! We then drive to Mekele Airport for our flight back to Addis Ababa for our final group dinner at one of the best restaurants in town.

Day 9: Fly out from Addis Ababa

During Genna the clergy lift their voices in the same hymns they have used for over 1500 years, culminating in the spectacular procession of the Tabot (the Tabot is symbolic of the Ark of the Covenant) carried on top of their heads, as the procession makes its way three times around the church amidst ululation and chiming church bells, dazzling umbrellas and colourful attire of the clergy and a throng of Christians who follow the procession with lighted candles.

After this we will be camping and hiking in the picturesque Gheralta Mountains where we will pass through local villages, meeting the people who live there to experience their timeless way of life, as well as visiting rock churches carved high up into the mountainsides amidst the beautiful natural landscape and wildlife.

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Flight Information:

International and national flights are not included in the adventure price. Clients will need to purchase three national flights for this adventure: Addis Ababa to Lalibela, Lalibela to Axum, & Makale to Addis Ababa. Up to a 50% discount is available for these flights if clients’ international carrier is also Ethiopian Airlines; which will bring the total cost of these three national flights to only £122.