What makes this special?
Community trekking in rural Lalibela combines the stunning viewpoints and sweeping plateaus that characterise northern Ethiopia with the hospitality and simplicity that define the local way of life. The life of many farmers in Ethiopia is difficult, and community trekking is a way to learn more about their way of life, and take a moment to reflect and enjoy the beauty of this country.
The local hospitality is wonderful, and the views along the trek are staggering. There's nothing quite like waking up to fresh coffee in a rural guesthouse perched on the plateau edge, and taking a moment to enjoy breakfast overlooking the incredible vistas.
How to include a community trek in your itinerary
Community trekking is the perfect add-on to northern circuit in Ethiopia, and is usually included just before or after a tour of the rock churches in Lalibela.
Community treks typically last 2-4 days, and the routes can be adjusted to match your fitness levels and time constraints. If you don't have enough time for a full community trek, there is a shorter route that takes you up to Hudad Lodge. The trek is 3-4 hours each way, and you only need to spend one night in the lodge.
For more information on how to plan your trip to Lalibela, and how to book with us, visit our Lalibela Tours page.
On the rolling hills surrounding Lalibela, there are a total of 11 guesthouses set up, each offering incredible views of the valleys and farmland that stretch out for miles. Which guesthouses you stay at depends on the length of your community trek and your fitness levels. There are three main regions for community trekking in Lalibela: West Meket, East Meket, and Abuna Yoseph.
Trek Start to Mequat Mariam
Mequat Mariam is where community trekking all began back in 2004. If you’re coming from central Lalibela, you’ll first be driven to the drop off point, the local village of Werkhaye Mariam. You will pick you up your community trekking guide en route.
After a local lunch at Werkhaye Mariam, you begin the trek to Mequat Mariam. It’s a 3 hour walk over gentle terrain, dirt roads and farmland to reach the guesthouse. You will learn a lot about local life on the walk and get to know your trekking guide. As you approach Mequat Mariam, you pass through thick farmland and the distant mountains mark the edge of the horizon. Mequat mariam is perhaps the most impressive of all the community guesthouses in Lalibela - the views are extraordinary.
On arrival at Mequat Mariam, the local team will prepare fresh coffee/tea and bread. There is a table and a bench set up by the plateau edge, and the views are so impressive that you’ll likely spend the time before dinner admiring the view, reading a book, or talking with your trekking guide.
Mequat Mariam to Wajela
Mornings on a community trek are magical. Waking up to freshly brewed coffee and bread with the sun casting light and shadow across every valley, crevasse, and hilltop for miles around. It’s a real highlight of any trip to Ethiopia.
The trek from Mequat Mariam to Wajela is about 7 hours, including lunch breaks and rest stops. The hike is not particularly difficult and the terrain is flat, but you will be on your feet for most of the day so you need to be prepared for this. The local village of Meskal Mikael provides lunch on the trail. Much like Mequat Mariam, the views from Wajela are beautiful. The visibility isn’t quite as impressive at Mequat Mariam, as Wajela sits amongst large Juniper and acacia wood which obscures some of the views. On arrival at Wajela, you’ll once again be treated to fresh coffee and local bread before dinner is served around 7pm. There are soft drinks and beers available at the guesthouses.
Take a moment to enjoy a few beers with your trekking guide, learn about local life and marvel at the incredible starlight in this part of the country.
Wajela to Aterow
The trek from Wajela to Aterow is around 5 hours, including lunch and rest stops. Aterow is the end point for most community treks in West Meket, but there is another guesthouse (Yadukulay) a little further along for those wanting to maximise the experience. Aterow is the best place to spot Gelada Monkeys in these highlands, although unlike those in the Simien Mountains, these monkeys aren’t too comfortable around humans so will dash off if you get to close
There is a pretty waterfall near Aterow, you can follow the past towards Lalibela road and visit the falls en route. A vehicle can meet you along Lalibela road in this case.
Aterow to Yadukulay
Yadukulay is the transition site between West Meket and East Meket, and is usually only visited if you are continuing to trek onwards into East Meket.
The trek from Aterow to Yadukulay is about 4 hours, starting with a steep descent that soon levels off and begins to climb as you begin the ascent hike towards the guesthouse. The views at Yadukulay are fantastic, it is built on a twin peak and so offers panoramic views of the surrounding highlands.
Aterow to Yadukulay is the shortest of the West Meket treks, so you can spend the afternoon relaxing around the guesthouse, or head off with your trekking guide to meet the local people in the surrounding villages (you might just get treated to some home brewed spirits!).
Yadukulay to Boya
For those trekking the east Meket circuit, the natural starting point is the guesthouse of Yadukulay (2600 metres). Yadukulay is around an hour's drive from central Lalibela. The views from Yadukulay are fantastic. Sitting on a peak that juts out of the escarpment, the guesthouse has panoramic views of surrounding lowlands.
The trek from Yadukulay to Boya takes 5-6 hours, and begins with a relatively steep ascent that brings you to 2800 metres. You will stop for lunch at the local village of Dufti (a traditional Ethiopian affair). The afternoon walks takes you through fields and farmland before reaching the plateau edge and the Boya community guesthouse.
Boya to Aina Amba
Boya has some of the more impressive views along the East Meket trail. Sitting at 3,200 metres, the guesthouse offers great views to the west - much like Mequat Mariam in the western trail.
The trek from Boya to Aina Amba is more gentle than previous days. The trail follows flat land across the plateau with great views all around - particularly of the Abuna Yoseph peak to the north which towers at 4300 metres. Lunch will be served by the Ware Mikael community. The trail towards Aina Amba is a great route to spot troop of Gelada Monkeys.
Aina Amba is a particularly pretty guesthouse that sits on the edge of the escarpment with great views towards Geneta Mariam ridge and Abuna Yoseph peak. Aina Amba is a common end point for easterly treks in Meket, but it is possible to continue hiking east towards the lunch stop Melkidefer - this trail has beautiful views and a nearby road means you can be picked up here to end your community trek and return to Lalibela.
Kurtain Washa is the most easterly guesthouse of them all. The terrain here is more rugged and mountainous than previous sites, which makes trekking more difficult but the surrounding views, wildlife, and flora are magnificent. The guesthouse sits at around 3600 metres, and there is a good chance to seeing Gelanda Monkeys in this area.
The drop off point for Kurtain Washa is the small community of Ahun Tegene. From here, it is a 1 hour walk to Kurtain Washa.
The guesthouse of Geneta Mariam is in a fascinating little pocket of rural Lalibela. There are a number of amazing rock churches carved in this area, with decorative frescoes that tell the story of the construction and history of the churches. Mekina Medhane Alem is a famous church in the area - often overshadowed by her big sister Yimrehane Kristos closer to town!
Genata Mariam is accessed via a 45 minute drive from central Lalibela. You can also get dropped off nearby and hike most of the way (~45 minutes) - with a short drive at the end. Genata Mariam remains open all year, even during the rainy season.
From Geneta Mariam, you can continue westwards towards Meket, or continue east towards Abuna Yoseph, and some tougher hiking trails.
Tadios Amba and Agaw Beret
Two relatively new sites, Tadios Amba and Agaw Beret sit in stunning remote locations in a rugged and impressive area of these highlands. At Agaw Beret, it’s possible to find Ethiopian Wolves. These guesthouses make for great stops before a hike up Abuna Yoseph.
Ad Medhane Alem
Ad Medhane Alem is the base camp for trekking the Abuna Yoseph peak. The guesthouse sits on the escarpment edge at a dizzying 3,500 metres.
The trek to Abuna Yoseph can be done from Lalibela, passing first through farmland and forest before reaching a passage full of Giant Erica trees. As you continue your climb, you might spot Gelada Monkeys and Hamadrus Baboons.
After a couple of hours climb you reach Ad Medhane Alem, and are rewarded by the beautiful views all around.
If you’re starting from basecamp at Ad Medhane Alem, the trek starts early and passes through the small village of Wedebiye. After 3 hours of trekking, you’ll reach the Afro-alpine meadows where fantastic flora grow on the escarpment edges. There is an optional hike here up the Zigit peak (4,030m).
Continuing on, you’ll then pass an area for big groups of Gelada Monkeys - numbering hundreds in a troop. Ethiopia Wolves also live around here, but are rarely spotted. As you continue the trek, you’ll soon reach the Abuna Yoseph peak at 4,300 metres. The view from up here is simply staggering.
Ready to do some trekking?
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