Trek Abune Yosef, Ethiopia’s sacred chains of Mountains

Trekking from the ancient village of Genete Mariam up to the top of the Abune Yosef summit is a rare experience. Over a couple of days, you climb gradually from 2,600m to the summit of Mount Abune Yosef itself at 4,260m, passing through tiny villages and exploring ancient churches. Although the views are truly impressive, visitors are often more awed by the culture and the lifestyle of the people who live in this mountainous region.

  • Ethiopian Wolf
  • Galada Baboon
  • Local Transport
  • 4300m/ASL High

You start your expedition in the tiny village of Genete Mariam at 2,300m above sea-level. Before you set off you visit the 13th century rock-hewn church of Genete Mariam, with its vivid frescoes. It’s a contrast to the cool interior of Mekina Medhane Alem, a 6th-century church in a mountain cave that sits at 3,500m further along your route.  Both are tiny compared to the expansive natural cave of Yemrehanne Kristos, one of the country’s most well preserved 12th-century churches on the slopes of Abune Yosef. The cave’s wood-panelled dome and ceiling is carved with elaborate and brightly painted geometric patterns, and frescoes cover the walls. You include it on your trek, or can do a day-trip from Lalibela to see it, depending on your route.

On route to the summit of Abune Yosef you pass through dozens of villages. The walking is hilly and each day you cover up to 12 miles, crossing Afro-alpine wilderness, small forests and fields of barley, lentils and onions. The people who live here are farmers and herders who welcome you into their homes. You share meals with them and are invited to help with the ploughing. Here everything is still done as it was thousands of years ago.

With its altitude and clear air, Mount Abune Yosef is one site currently being considered for an international observatory, and is great for star-gazing.

Besides the Ethiopian Wolf, other animals you’re likely to see include troops of gelada baboons and spotted hyenas, and if you’re lucky the illusive mountain leopard. With over 220 species of birds, the birdwatching is impressive. Here you may see golden eagles, lappet-faced and bearded vultures, and the rare blue-winged goose.

Trek Abune Yosef, Ethiopia’s sacred chains of Mountains

This is a sample tour that includes this experience. It gives you an idea of cost and what you could expect to see and do in 7 days in Ethiopia. It’s aimed at the those who would like to combine a short but challenging mountain trek with a visit to Lalibela.


  • 2 days exploring Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s historic capital
  • 2 days wandering through Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches
  • 3 days trekking to the summit of Abune Yosef, and visiting Yemrehanne Kristos one of the country’s most well-preserved 12th-century churches, en route down

Starting from $1,295 per person* on double occupancy basis (excluding all  flights)
Single supplement: $125

*Minimum group size 4

This includes:

  • All accommodation and meals
  • All airport and road transfers
  • Entry fees and a local tour guides at all the historic sites and national parks
  • An expert guide to accompany you throughout your tour

A few suggestions for tailoring your tour

  • 1 day (1 night) in Gonder, exploring its UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • 2 days (2 nights) in Bahir Dar exploring the island monasteries
  • 2 days (1 night) in Axum and 2 days (3 nights) visiting the remote monasteries in the Gheralta Mountains in Tigray


This is a challenging hike, and we recommend that you give yourself at least 2 nights and 3 days as you need the time to acclimatise as you climb.

When to hike up Abune Yosef

The best time to visit is between October and the end of June.

Our top tip for Abune Yosef

“Trekking Abune Yosef or the Lasta Massif during the Meskel festival in late September is something special. The night of Meskel, bonfires twinkle across the hills and valleys all around you.”


Although it’s not related to trekking in the Lasta Massif, a good novel to keep you entertained during  your Ethiopian travels is Cutting for Stone by Ethiopian author Abraham Verghese.


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Yemrehanna Kristos – close to my heart

Sefiw Hailemariam is one of our most experienced Ethiopian travel guides. He was born in Lalibela, not far from the mountain-side church of Yemrehanne Kristos, one of Ethiopia’s most well preserved 12th-century churches which predates the more famous rock-hewn churches in the town of his birth. Today, even though he has ...



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