Ethiopian Christmas ‘Genna’ (7th January 2019) 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.
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.
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.
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.
It is a full day’s drive from Lalibela to the Gheralta Mountains but the views along the way are incredible and make the whole journey worthwhile. When we reach the mountains our first night will be spent in a lodge with fantastic vistas of its formations. We can explore the surrounding area and town before settling in to a fantastic dinner prepared by the lodge.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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