Genna Festival in Ethiopia

Genna Festival in Ethiopia

12 Days From



Genna Festival in Ethiopia

12 Days Starting and ending in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Visiting: Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Simien Mountains National Park, Simien Mountains, Gondar, Meket, Ethiopia, Wajela, Ethiopia, Lalibela, Harar

Tour operator:

YellowWood Adventures

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 12

Physical rating:

Low, 3: Entry Level

Age range:


Special diets catered:

Please advise requests

Tour operated in:


Trip Styles:

Small Group, Special Events



From: $4399 $4260 Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$139

NB: Prices correct on 24-Jul-2024 but subject to change.

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Tour Overview

Join the Genna Festival or 'Ethiopian Christmas', amidst the thousands of devout pilgrims who flock in their white shammas to the stunning 13th Century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.


  • Genna Festival amidst 13th Century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

  • Discover the historic cities of Gondar & Harar

  • Walk through stunning mountains staying with local communities

  • Walk in the Simien Mountains

  • Visit the Blue Nile Falls


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Day 1: Arrive Addis Ababa. Transfer To Hotel

Location: Addis Ababa

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Dinner

On arrival meet your guide and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day will be your leisure time to spend at your hotel; optionally, you can have a visit to Holy Trinity church and Ethnological museum.Founded in 1886 by Emp. Menelik II, Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia and the seat of the African Union (AU). Addis Ababa is the third highest capital in the world and one of the largest cities in Africa with a population well over 5 million. It is located at 2500 m above sea level at the foot step of the highest peak of Entoto Mountain chain (3200m above sea level), and enjoys an excellent climate all year round; with an average temperature of 160C. Addis Ababa is a pleasant city with wide avenues of Jacarandas, interesting museums and one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, known as Merkato.Ethnological Museum: It is found in the main campus of the Addis Ababa University by the Institute of Ethiopian Studies with the aim to preserve the country's historical and cultural heritages. It has complete collections that describe almost all the tribal groups in Ethiopia. Here you will have an overview about the history, culture and traditions of the people of Ethiopia. The collections include the nomadic tribal groups that are now living just as man's forefather lived thousands of years back.Trinity Cathedral: a beautiful church with a baroque style of European architecture which is unique to both Ethiopia and Africa and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Here you will find scripts of the imperial families, statues done by a Greek sculpture, Stained glass window paintings from the Old and New Testament in the Bible and coffins of Emperor Haile Silassie-I; the founder of the church, and his wife.Overnight: Caravan Hotel or Similar Hotel []

Day 2: Fly To Bahir Dar. Visit Lake Tana Monastery And Blue Nile Falls.

Location: Bahir Dar

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, drive to the airport and catch your flight to Bahir Dar. Later, visit Lake Tana Monastery and Blue Nile Falls (drive time approximately 1hr30).Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia, measuring approximately 84km long and 66km wide, and is also the source of the Blue Nile. The lake contains 37 islands; however, their visibility varies according to seasonal water fluctuations, which are regulated to measure inflow to the Blue Nile Falls. The islands accommodate 20 monasteries, which are used to store religious artefacts due to their remote location. The Blue Nile Falls, also known as Tis Abay, mean 'smoking water' in Amharic. They start as a gentle river flowing 5,223km north of the Mediterranean Sea before joining the impressive falls. The waterfall itself is around 150ft high and half a mile wide, which is just spectacular to witness. Surrounded by immense natural beauty, the falls attract parrots, bee-eaters, white-throated seedeaters and vervet monkeys, just to name a few.Overnight: Jacaranda Hotel or Similar Hotel

Day 3: Drive To The Simien Mountains

Location: Simien Mountains National Park

Accommodation Name: Lodge

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today you drive to Sankaber, the headquarters of Simien Mountains National Park. Despite it only being 280km, the drive will take approximately 6hrs. It is stunning: you pass through rural villages and crossing mountain passes with stunning vistas, but be prepared to experience the "African massage" at times along the road. The Simien Mountains National Park occupies a surface area of 180 km sq. The park, situated between 4,430 and 1,900 meters (6,200 - 4,500 feet), boasts varied flora with three marked botanical areas. The highest parts have meadows with little vegetation, characteristic of afro-alpine zones. Here we can find the endemic lobelia rhynchopetalum, small groups of perpetual flowers, helichrysum, and the striking kniphofia foliosa. Late in the afternoon, walk near your lodge to spot the endemic gelada baboon and appreciate the breathtaking scenery.Overnight: Simien Lodge or Similar Hotel

Day 4: Explore The Simien Mountains, Drive To Gondar For Overnight.

Location: Simien Mountains

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, you can choose to relax at the lodge or you may enjoy exploring more of the legendary Simien Mountains and its unique inhabitants. The landscape in the area is remarkably picturesque with panoramic vistas overlooking the deep gorges of the Escarpment. Our main interest will be the endemic gelada baboon and the great scenery. Amidst beautiful alpine meadows punctuated with giant lobelias and flowering “red hot pokers” (kniphofia’s), we will find ourselves surrounded by massive troops of extremely well-habituated and photogenic gelada Baboons. The mountains are also home to 16 bird species endemic to Eritrea and/or Ethiopia as well as an important population of the rare and beautiful Bearded Vulture that can frequently be seen gliding along the cliffs here.Overnight: Simien Lodge or Similar Hotel []

Day 5: Drive To And Tour The Ancient City Of Gondar

Location: Gondar

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Gondar is the first capital of the Ethiopian empire, founded in 1635 by the Emperor Fasilidas. Gondar is best-known for its collection of 17th century castles and palaces. Spend the day exploring the Royal Enclosure and its buildings. The fortress, which is surrounded by a 300-foot-long wall, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest and most impressive structure in the compound is the two-story palace of Emperor Fasilidas, built of solid basalt stones. Other royal buildings of interest include the library of Emperor Yohannes I, the House of Song where royal ceremonies took place, the elegant reception and banquet hall of Emperor Bakaffa, and the palace of the king's wife. Also visit the nearby bath of King Fasiledes, where modern-day Timkat ceremonies are performed. Finally, view the Church of DebreBirhan Selassie, an imposing structure with brightly coloured ceilings.Overnight: Goha Hotel or Similar Hotel

Day 6: Tesfa Walking Tour Day One

Location: Meket, Ethiopia

Accommodation Name: Guest house

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Drive: Gondar to Tesfa TrekkingDistance:310 KmETD: 6hrs. And 30 Min.Road Type: Asphalt [steep road]Walking (easy grade) time: 2/3 hours.Filakit is the administrative centre for Meket (woreda) district. It is here that you start your trek to Mequat Mariam Community site, after a quick lunch in one of the local 'hotels' of enjara and wot. 'Tesfa' means 'hope' in the local Amharic language and this community trekking route is a fantastic way to give back to the local communities. Donkeys will to carry your bags (hence why soft suitcases are in order), and from here you trek across plateaus and through the agricultural landscape of the highlands following well-worn paths. At the newly renovated church of Hanna Mequat, with acacia trees dotted around the church compound, you will get a glimpse of the escarpment edge that will be with you for much of the trip. Beyond the church, you will join it and follow it around to the tukuls at Mequat Mariam. The walk time is about 3 hours plus stops. The staff - all members of the local villages - will meet you and serve snacks - perhaps a 'Meket Pizza' with tea or coffee, or perhaps you will be ready for a beer. As you enjoy this you can watch the birds soaring on the thermals - ravens, the odd vulture, perhaps a lammergeyer, and innumerable others. There is a shower, with water warmed by the sun - though do go a bit easy on the water. Don't miss the sunset on the 'rock bar' with a sundowner drink.The community will serve a good meal - simple western food - after dark in the dining tukul, and if you would like will prepare a traditional Ethiopian-style coffee ceremony.The community has built specially designed tukuls bedrooms - traditional style with thatched roofs, and stone walls. However, the beds are comfortable mattresses, with clean bed linen and blankets.

Day 7: Tesfa Walking Tour Day Two

Location: Wajela, Ethiopia

Accommodation Name: Guest house

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Walking (easy grade) time: 2/3 hours in the morning, 2/3 hours in the afternoon.A breakfast of either eggs or pancakes, with tea or coffee will get you ready for a good day's walk. The walk from Mequat Mariam to Wajela winds along the escarpment for much of the way with staggering views of the river systems and farmland below. There is a good chance to see gelada baboon along these escarpments, and if you are lucky rock Hhrax, even a klipspringer. After a few hours the Mequat community hand over to the Wajela community - a fresh donkey for the luggage. Here you can eat a simple picnic lunch, maybe with a soft drink carried by one of the community. Some of the route cuts across the plateau top and there are some shortcuts if you want to reduce the walking, but if you feel fit much of the time you can follow the escarpment edge.Towards the middle of the afternoon you will reach the church of Kura Anbessa Giyorgis, perched on the rock edge, with Olive (Olia Africanus) and other indigenous trees around. Kura means crow
aven and Anbessa Lion! If you meet one of the priests ask for an explanation of the name. It is possible to take another route and come across the carpet weavers, but there is not time to do this and the church.After Kura Anbessa you cross the road and head north across the plateau to the Wajela site. Again a warm welcome and snacks will await you at Wajela with its cosy tukuls overlooking a wooded escarpment. If you are early there is a 2-hour round trip to a church and cave structure below. You can also rinse off in the shower. Dinner as in Mequat is served in the dining tukul, sometime after sunset.

Day 8: Drive To Lalibella, Visit Nakuto Leab Church, Genna Preparations

Location: Lalibela

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today you are heading to Lalibela, one of the most important religious and historical sites in all of Africa and the entire Christian world. The drive time is approximately 2hrs30 minutes.There are no less than 200 churches in the Lasta Region of Lalibela, some hidden in enormous caves, but it's exceptional to find 11 churches of such master craftsmanship in one locale. These brilliant feats of engineering and architecture are often referred to as the "Eighth wonder of the world".  The churches are said to have been constructed during King Lalibela’s reign during the 12th and 13th centuries when Lalibela (then known as Roha) was the capital of the Zagwe dynasty.On the way to Lalibella, Visit Nakuto Leab Church, Situated around 7km from central Lalibela, the Na’akuto La‘ab Monastery is found inside a natural cavern in the highlands surrounding the town. A wonderful monastery that pre-dates the more popular churches in the centre of the town. You will also witness the thousands of pilgrims who have travelled from all over the country, and the preparations being made for the Genna Festival. Overnight: Sora Lodge or Similar Hotel []

Day 9: Genna Festival & Visit The First Group Rock Hewn Churches Of Lalibella.

Location: Lalibela

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

In the morning, participate on the celebration of Ethiopian Christmas also known as Gena. Your guide will make sure you are present for the main ceremonies to be able to experience the ancient traditions passed down for centuries from the second country in the world to officially proclaim itself Christian after Armenia. In the afternoon, visit the first group of churches which represent the earthly Jerusalem. This group includes Bete Medhanialem (Savior church), Bete Miriam, BeteDenagel, BeteMeskal, Debra Sina, and Bete Golgotha. Standing 38 feet tall with seventy-two pillars, Medhane Alem is not only the largest in Lalibela, but it is the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world. Bet Golgotha houses remarkable reliefs of figures, early Christian art rarely seen in other parts of Ethiopia.Overnight: Sora Lodge or Similar Hotel []

Day 10: Visit Asheton Mariam And The Second Group Rock Hewn Churches

Location: Lalibela

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, the group will choose between two options: either you can visit the Asheton Maryam which involves a 30-minute drive to the start of an approx 1 hour-long trek to the 13th-century rock-hewn monastery of Asheton Maryam (over 3000 meters high). It's a rewarding walk with views of beautiful scenery. It’s easy to understand why the priests at this church believe they are the “closest to God.” OR you could enjoy a morning learning how to cook some Ethiopian traditional dishes. The class will take place at one of the community houses in Lalibella.In the afternoon, you can visit the second group of churches representing the heavenly Jerusalem. In this group are the Bete Gabriel & Raphael, Bete Merquorios, Bete Emmanuel, and Bete Abba Libanos Finally, visit the most interesting cross-shaped church of Bete Giorgis (St. George), which is said to be the symbolization of Noah’s ark. The cruciform-shaped Bete Giorgis is the most perfect and beautiful church here; its interior is dominated by depictions of Saint George killing the dragon.Overnight: Sora Lodge or Similar Hotel

Day 11: Fly Back To And Tour Addis Ababa

Location: Addis Ababa

Accommodation Name: 3 star hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, catch your flight to Addis Ababa.There are options for today: you could visit the Hamlin Festula center or the Merkato, as part of a shortened Addis Ababa city tour. Merkato is the largest open-air market in Africa. Here you will be presented with confusing, but fascinating, glimpse of the vast range of goods and artefacts available from all parts of the country and you will enjoy the Ethiopian trade exchange tradition in the open air, you can purchase anything you desire here.  In the evening, you will have a farewell dinner, after which you will be transferred to the airport to catch your departing flight. You may also choose to spend an extra night in Addis - we can help with those arrangements also.About the Hamlin Institute: Founded over 63 years ago, by pioneering Australian surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin and her surgeon husband Dr Reg Hamlin, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is dedicated to treating Ethiopian women who have suffered the most horrific childbirth injury: obstetric fistula. More info: will then have a delicious group dinner in the city.Overnight: Caravan Hotel or Similar Hotel

Day 12: Your Return Flight Home, Or Continue With Optional Harar Add-On Adventure

Location: Harar

Meals Included: Breakfast

For clients continuing their adventure to Harar, please see the Add-On adventure below. If this isn't for you it is time to return home revitalised from your thrilling Ethiopian adventure!

What's Included

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as detailed

  • Airport Transfers at Destination


  • Meals

    Meals as detailed

  • Fully Guided

    Supporting you throughout your holiday will be an experienced, approachable, knowledgeable and fluently English speaking professional guide from our local partner agency. They offer us qualified, experienced and excellently reviewed guides.

What's Not Included

  • Additional Services

  • Insurance

  • International Travel


We fully believe in, and practice Responsible Tourism, using hotels run by locals. We put time and effort into building our relationship with them to ensure you have a a great trip.

We choose hotels based on cleanliness, comfort, safety, proximity to our route (to avoid unnecessary extra travel), and a warm client welcome, as well as reliability in their service to us. Some hotels will be basic, and in modern buildings and or in towns. Wherever we can, we will choose smaller more characterful, individual hotels, but in areas where tourism is still developing, this may not be available.

An aspect of our adventures is to escape the ‘trappings’ of modern Western lifestyles and to experience new things which are exciting and memorable, and reflects the countries we are visiting.

This is adventure travel and on occasion the advertised services at a hotel (eg wifi, or hot showers!) may not be functional on our arrival. This tends to occur in the smaller, more remote hotels. Very rarely a hotel lets us down and we are required to find alternative suitable accommodation that might not be our first choice.

Check out our Q&As

  • Do you require a visa for this holiday?

    Before you take your transfer however, you have a couple of jobs to do!

    1. Purchase your Visa on arrival, if you haven’t already got an e-visa: the visa desk is clearly signposted (see later section for details).

    2. Exchange Currency: The easiest way is probably to use the ATM in the arrivals lounge, however there is also a bank to change money near immigration and baggage claim (see later section on Currency Exchange). For convenience, we would recommend changing currency at the airport rather than doing this in Addis Ababa.

  • Is there any free time to explore places during the tour?

    As detailed in Itinerary.

  • What is the standard of the hotels on this tour?

    As detailed in Itinerary.

  • What is the maximum group size?

    The max group size is 12 people.

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    Yes, Your YellowWood adventure starts at the airport in Addis Ababa. Bole International Airport (Addis Ababa) has reassuringly tight security measures and for this reason they do not allow any non-passengers into the airport. We will of course arrange your hotel transfer.

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes, Supporting you throughout your holiday will be an experienced, approachable, knowledgeable and fluently English speaking professional guide from our local partner agency. They offer us qualified, experienced and excellently reviewed guides.

  • Is there a supplement for solo travellers?

    Yes, Unless you have booked a single room (where they are available) and paid the single room supplement for those nights, you will be sharing a twin room with another client (of the same gender).

  • Are flights included in this tour?

    No, Flights are not included in the cost of your holiday, and we are happy to help advise you on this. We recommend that you use a comparison tool when searching for flights, such as or We will send you a Flight Information Sheet with further pointers on which flights to book for your adventure.

  • What is the fitness level required to do this tour?

    Our thinking behind this itinerary is to offer you the opportunity to explore the cultural jewels of Ethiopia but whilst limiting the hiking element of the adventure. You are visiting a couple of mountainous areas in Central Ethiopia and so some of the gently paced, guided walking, will be on uneven terrain, and at altitude. There will be options to do shorter walks, or opt out of hiking if you wish, but all walks will be at a steady pace with frequent stops. You will not be required to carry anything except for your water and you will want your camera / binoculars! Guides will accompany the group. To get the most of out of this adventure, you therefore need to be confident walking on rough paths, and be in good physical condition to take on short climbs at a very steady pace.

    Training: As with all active holidays, the fitter you are the more you can relax and enjoy the stunning route, and the better you can cope with challenges such as the outside elements, and unfamiliar terrain. Clients are therefore advised to get in as much regular walking before the trip as convenient.

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2015

  • Risk Assessment

    YellowWood operates a Safety Management System which encompasses a planned, researched, implemented and reviewed approach to your Health & Safety. A risk assessment is a careful examination of what could cause harm (hazards) and the assessment of likelihood of hazards occuring, as well as the severity of the outcome of a hazard.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Please contact us for our latest Covid-19 policies

  • Experienced Leaders

    On all of our adventures you will benefit from the daily presence of an experienced, English speaking local guide. You will also have additional guides at various points during the trip (see itineraries for details).

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    As a visitor to a foreign country, we inevitably leave our mark. At YellowWood Adventures, we are determined that this ‘mark’ will be a positive one. Tourism is not always beneficial and we are conscious of treading lightly in the lands we explore.

Reviews of this operator




From guiding us through the crowded alleys of Lalibela at Genna to clambering up the dizzy heights of Abuna Yemata this was a trip that surpassed all expectations! Yellowwood hits the right balance of organised small group travel with adventurous, 'off the beaten track' experiences all the while making you feel as if you've travelling with a small group of your friends. Ethiopia is truly a beautiful country with wonderful friendly and generous people throughout. I highly recommend this trip and am already planning for my next Yellowwood adventure!

Ethiopia Adventure, 2020

Absolute trip of a lifetime


This trip was one of the best I've ever done. Getting into the Tian Shan mountains was really quite magical; experiencing the scenery and feeling isolated from the rest of the world, thanks to the personalised feel of the trek, was unrivalled. The quality of the food was also a highlight, and I was catered for as a vegetarian (in a very non-vegetarian place!). Kyrgyzstan is a relatively undiscovered gem, and it was lovely to do a road-less-travelled style trip. Thanks to Sam and YellowWood for taking us on a genuine adventure with a fantastic itinerary. I look forward to joining some more non-traditional trips when possible!"

Kyrgyzstan Adventure, 2019

People and Landscapes of Oman Adventure


Every day was a highlight for me, no specific favourite. Oman deserves all the superlatives it gets -magnificent scenery, safe, friendly environment, welcoming and engaging people. YellowWood delivers a winner on this trip! Kudos to all.

Oman Adventure, 2022

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    Up to 57 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 56 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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