Gishen Mariam
Yearly on October 1” is celebrated St. Marry’s day in Gishen Mariam. It is such a historical cross-shaped landscape. The 15th century Ethiopian king, Emperor Zerea-Yaekob is said to have brought the piece of the “True Cross” here. Thousands of pilgrims come here to commemorate the occasion. You have to drive west of Dessie and mount the zig-zag road after crossing the Bishlo River to reach here. (Tour itinerary)

Ahmed AL Negash
Among the most popular Muslim Shrines, the tomb and the mosque of Ahmed Al Negash is worth seeing. Negash is known as the Earliest Muslim settlement in Africa; a seventh Century cemetery has been excavated inside the village boundaries. It is located in Geralta, Tigray Province. This Saint is believed to have been the friends of the Prophet Mohammed. His shrine is comparable to Mecca serves as a pilgrimage center.

Yeha is situated in the northern mountainous section of the Tigray region. Although today this small settlement survives as a shanty town, it was once a site of great pre-Axumite civilization.

Believed to be Ethiopia’s first capital, Yeha was first uncovered in a complex archeological excavation around a courtyard at the beginning of the 20th century. The first settlers of this area, the Sabeans, were the founders of the Axumite kingdom.

The temple of Yeha, with one side of its walls in ruin, is otherwise still itact and testifies to the advanced level of the people of those times. There is no trace of mortar being used to build the temple of which the inside of the walls was believed to be have been paved with gold.

The archeological excavations made in 1909, 1947 and 1973 respectively, reveal that this beautiful temple was destroyed by fire. Treasures such as gold rings, golden lions, stone –engraved inscriptions written in Sabean, stone-carved animals like the Waliya Ibex (one of Ethiopia’s endemic mammals), pottery works and others were uncovered. Some of these findings are displayed in the 4th century church museum found in the same compound as the temple while others are displayed at the National Museum in Addis Abeba. The twelve underground formations and four other very deep cave structures (which seem to lead to Yemen, Lalibela, Jerusalem and Axum), increase the area’s importance in terms of both archeological research and tourism. (Tour itinerary)

Debre Damo Monastery
The ancient monastery of Debre-Damo dates back to early Axumite period and is considered to be the oldest church in the country. Unlike other monasteries and churches, Debre-Damo is built on the edge of a cliff accessible only by a rope. The relic, 2800m above see level lies 184 km far from Mekelle and 41 km from Adigrat towns.

The flat-topped “Amba” (plateau) is surrounded by sheer cliffs. A scent to the mountain top is only possible by using the 15m plaited leather rope (the “Jende”) that is hanging down from the summit. The church is dedicated to its founder, Abune Aregawi (Zemikal), one of the ‘nine saints’ who taught gospel in the country in the 6th century. According to local tradition, Abune Aregawi is believed to have been taken to the top of the Amba with the help of a serpent that was commanded to do so by God. Today the ‘Jende’ symbolizes the miraculous serpent. Visitors need to be tightly tied up around their waists by the supplementary rope as a means of additional safety. Female visitors are not allowed to the church.

The monastery of Debre Damo possesses many treasures including ancient manuscripts, crosses, etc. visiting the monastery emotionally takes you back to the distant past of Ethiopian religious life, or as Professor Richard Pankhurst rightly concludes, “it takes today’s traveler into a past age and leave him with a deeper understanding of Ethiopia’s age old and unique civilization than mere words can give.” (Tour itinerary)

The Monastery of Gunda Gundo
The monastery of Gunda Gundo accessed from the town of Edagaahamus, 100 km after Mekelle, has an area that lies between a sheer side cliff in the west and an escarpment that drops towards the Afar depression.

The monastery has a church that bears its name Mariam Gunda Gundo, devoted to St. Marry. The church, the combination of tow old mud houses consists of four cruciform pillars and 12 arches.

The aging –church is well noted for its time-honored parchment, crosses and crowns. Its annual festival occurs every year on Tir 21/Jan 29 or 30 most of the time/. (Tour itinerary)

The Palace of Aba Jiffar
The palace of Aba Jifar is one of the most significance cultural attractions in Western Ethiopia. The palace is situated on the mountain top, north of the town of Jimma, and from here visitors can take a panoramic viewof the town and the surrounding mountain chains. The palace is built of wood and wooden material. Jimma museum, which is at the center of the town houses different traditional equipments of the region, such as furniture, and dresses of Aba Jiffar.

Haiq Estifanos
It is found north of Dessie (in Wello). The famous church was so popular with religious scholars and great contributors to the reformation of the Solomonic dynasty in Lalibela in the 13th century. Only monks are serving and living in it. The monastery preserves wooden and stone relics of the days of its foundation.

Meqdela is a place were Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia committed suicide in 1868, after being defeated by the troops sent by Queen Victoria of United Kingdom. Besides its beautiful scenery, one can visit the Sebastopol cannon, the old church and his grave yard. This is one of the best places for both trekkers and for history studies.

Sheik Hussein
This religious shrine in Bale province, located on the edge of the Wabe Shebele river gorge, is considered by Ethiopian Muslims as the second Mecca. Muslim pilgrimages gather from all over the country, usually in March and April for prayer, to partake in a ceremony organized in memory of their religious leader, who taught and preached Islam at this very site 800 years ago. (Tour itinerary)

Sof Omar Cave
Sof Omar natural cave located 120 kilometers east of Goba in Bale region, is the most spectacular and extensive underground caverns in the world formed by the Web River, which made a course through the limestone hills. The river forms relatively long underground water with halls and columns of limestone inside the cave. The cave is considered as one of the world’s most extensive underground caverns for a distance of one and half kms. The dry, cool caves contain many marvels of natural architecture, including soaring pillars of stone 20 meters high, flying buttresses, fluted archways and tall airy vaults. Finally the river itself is reached, flowing through a deep gorge. The Sof Omar cave is an enchanting place for adventure tourists, geomorphologies and cave scientists. There are over 15kms of associated passages, which require skill, time and special equipment for a full exploration. You can explore the caves on foot, without special climbing equipment, but proper precautions have to be taken. Torches or other lighting are needed and another must is a map. However, a friendly local guide will show you enough to take your breath away and make the trip worthwhile, for an hour or for as long as you care to spend. The most direct route through the first part of the caves takes about an hour. The large central hall of Sof Omar, the ‘Chamber of Columns’- so named after the colossal limestone pillars that are it’s dominant feature- is one of the highlights of the cave system.

A cool dip in the clear river afterwards refreshes you for the return drive. Sof Omar is also a place of worship for Ethiopian Muslims. (Tour itinerary)

Lake Tana Monasteries & Bahir Dar: Ethiopia’s Lake Tana is the source of the fabled Blue Nile River and that the Lake is dotted with island monasteries. Because of their isolation they were used to store medieval art treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country. Such as Kibran Gebriel,Church of Ura Kidane Meheret, Narga Sellassie, Dega Estifanos, etc.

Tis isat Falls(Blue Nile Falls); a sight which inspired the 18th Century Explorer Robert Bruce to Say “…Fall in one sheet of water, without any interval, above half an English Mile in breadth, with a force and a noise that was truly terrible, which stunned and made me for a time perfectly dizzy”

Bahir Dar, Lake Tana, and Tis isat Falls
Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake, stretching 52 miles in length and covering some 1400 square miles in West Gondar.
At 5700 feet altitude it is nearly surrounded by chains of extinct volcanic mountains. Dozens of small streams feed Tana, including the Blue Nile(Abay), which originates in a swamp called Ghish Abbai, about 85 km southwest of the lake. Some say that this swamp is the actual source of the Abbai or Blue Nile, which is Tana’s main outlet.

Tana is teeming with fish, with some catfish weighing up to 30 pounds. Birds also abandon especially pelican, ibis, stork, cormorant, fish eagle, kite, hornbill, starling, and weaver species.

Bahir dar does not itself have a lot to offer tourists other than its picturesque market and its excellent view of the lake and head of the Abbai (Blue Nile) from the Imperial Villa 8 km east of town.

The biggest attraction, however, is nearby Tisisat falls, which are about 35 km due south of Bahir dar, En route you pass typical tukuls, round huts whose walls are made of cow dung, grass, and clay whose pointed roof is formed from strong grass. The falls best live up to their reputation during September- December, after the heavy rains have swollen the lake and river. The falls’ three characters together do stretch half a mile across, and the divided river bed plunges down in two stages nearly 140 feet, creating, indeed, when the river is high, a deafening , “smoking:, misty waterfall. In the distance are the chains of mountains forming a beautiful backdrop, and lush vegetation lines the riverbank and gorges sheltering pythons, monkeys, and colorful birds.

Lake Tana’s second attraction is its 30 or so islands with their churches and monasteries. Most of Tana’s monasteries were founded in or just after the 14th century, several under Emperor Amda Tseyon (1314-44). The monasteries protected the libraries and treasuries of the imperial churches, especially during the invasions of Muslims led by Gragn(the left-handed) from Harar.

Today several of the islands can be visited and their churches and treasures admired, though on some women are unfortunately forbidden entrance. The island monastery closest to Bahir Dar is Debre Mariam, built during Amda Tseyon’s reign, rebuilt by king Tewodros II (1855-68). Now a large but unimpressive straw hut, it was once a famous monastery with 50 churches under it. The church owns a manuscripts of the Tetra-Gospels, once of the oldest hand-illustrated Ethiopian manuscripts, that dates around 1360-1380.

Kebran Gabriel Island is about 40 minutes by boat from Bahir dar, and is one of those closed to women,. The church, first built in the early 14th century, was reconstructed in red stone in the late 17th century by Iyasu the Great” for love of the Angel Gabriel because he had been his guardian angel since his infancy.” The cubed sanctuary, which inside has many different painting styles, on the outside is encircled by 12 stone pillars, each symbolizing an apostle. Nearby is the tower of Iqa-beit, which houses a 50 volume library, including other manuscripts of Tetra-Gospels, this one dating from about 1420 and contains 36 illuminated pages about the four evangelists, 13 pages of the Canons of Eusebius, and 19 pages on the life of Christ.

Zeghie Peninsula, 1 ½ hours by water from Bahir Dar, has a good Friday market, coffee and gesho(used to make tej) growing wild, and Uhra Kidane Mehret, a17th century monastery church, with its vivid “recent” paintings. The large island of Dek, 3 ½ hours from Bahir dar, has several churches and semi-mummified remains of king Fasiledes and his infant son in an open sepulcher. One church, Arsima Sematat, named after St. Ripsime, a virgin martyr who was stripped naked and beheaded along with her 27 companions by order of King Dertades, has a manuscript from 1430. On nearby wooded Nargha a stone walkway, is joined to Dek’s western shore in the dry season by a season by as tone walk away, is Selassie Church, built by Queeen Mentwab in 1746 and featuring a portrait of her lying at the feet of the Virgin mary. Also near Dek is Daga
Estifanos Island with its perfectly conical hill and its monastery of Daga on top-no female of any species are allowed near.

Mariam Ghemb Sysenyos is an hour west of Gorgora, Tana;s northern town, and at its crest are the ruins of the castle and cathedral, built along the lines of a European Covent for the Portuguese Jesuits during Emperor Susenious reign (1607-320). Debre Sina is in Gorgora near the landing pier, and its paintings have been preserved since commissioned by the queen of Iyasu the Great (1682-1706). (Tour itinerary)

Prehistoric Paintings
In Ethiopia prehistoric man left a wealth of cave paintings!
Ethiopia with its varied relief and its variety of climates offered a home to man during all the periods of his development. Early man was also an artist of considerable ability. Vivid drawings of daily life are to be found in caves in several places in southern Ethiopia, particularly in limestone caves at the bottom of the escarpment to the west of Dire Dawa. That some of these paintings, like those near to Dire Dawa, have been dated as being 40,000 years old. Form these early beginnings painting become a major art form in ancient and medieval Ethiopia. Parchment scrolls dating back to the 11th century can still be seen in Ethiopia’s museums, churches and monasteries. Contemporary Ethiopian artists are building upon this rich tradition and moving with it into today’s art scene.

Wonchi Crater Lake
The beautiful Wonchi crater-lake located 32 km south west of Ambo is the most spectacular natural scenery near to Addis Ababa. Evergreen chains of mountain peaks surrounded the lake. The hot spring at the foot of the mountain, the peninsula and the islands in the lake are some of the striking features.

Dallol and Mount Erta Ale
Dallol is at the northern most extension of the Great Rift Valley. It acts like a cauldron, trapping all the heat. Dallol is a field of phreatic craters in the salt plain northeast of the Erta Ale Range in one of the lowest and hottest areas of the desolate Danakil depression and home to the Afar people. Colorful hot brine springs and fumaroles deposits are found in the Dallol area. This is special because it is one of the lowest points on earth not covered by water. There are hot yellow sulfur fields among the sparkling white salt beds.

Mount Erta ale is the world’s only active land volcano with colored landscapes, incredible mineral deposits, sulphur lakes and bubbling sulphur springs. These are sights not to be missed by the adventurous tourists.

Yemrehanna Krestos (“Christ shows us the way”)
This remarkable church is located six hours by foot and mule to the northeast of Lalibela, on the mountain ridge the peak of which is Abuna Yosef. It is a built-up cave church in Axumite wood and stone construction. The church has become famous for the decoration of its interior. The flat-spa roof displays paneling richly adorned with geometrical designs. Note the beautiful coffer ceiling with inlaid hexagons and medallions with either figurative of geometric motifs. The ceiling over the sanctuary is domed and displays carvings and paintings. The founder of the church is said to have been king Yemrehanna Krestos, a predecessor of king Lalibela.

Arbatu Entzessa (The Four animals/beasts)
Arbatu Enttzessa can be reached from Yemrehanna Krestos proceeding to the southwest. This tiny monolithic sanctuary is detached from the surrounding rock on two sides. It shows remains of old ornaments; pillars, capitals nad doors are chiseled in Axumite style. The name suggests that the church is dedicated to the “four beasts”, symbols of the Four Evangelists following the vision of St. John. The Ethiopian synaxarium dedicates the 8th of Hedar (November) to these four beasts.

Bilbala Giorgis (St. George in the Bilbala district)
Proceeding from Arbatu Entzessa to the west you find Bilbala Giorgis, of which only the façade is visible. The other sides are surrounded by a tunnel: the roof is not separated from the rock. A frieze with emblems of the vault of heaven decorates the façade. Legend says that holy bees live under the roof in niches.

Bilbala Cherqos (Kyrikos in the Bilbala District)
West of Bilbala Giorgis you find this semi-monolithic church, which, as a matter of fact, can be reached in the Bilbala district one day’s travel by mule to the northwest of Lalibela. The church is properly orientated and has been worked from a piece tuff from east to west. The careful stone masonry on the façade is reminiscent of the façade of Bet Gabriel-Rufa’el and the admirable murals depicting saints and the Evangelists in the interior are of particular interest to the visitor.

Sarsana Mika’el (St. Michael of Sarsana district)
The most western church of this tour is this tiny monolithic church, lying in a grove of euphorbia trees in the Sarsana plains and scarcely visible in its bed of rock. Through aa passage you reach a deep trench running round the church. Three sides are exposed revealing influences of the Axumite style. Next to a door the priests will show you a dark block of stone which is said to kill sinners on the spot once they touch it. Another legend is connected with the torrent nearby; a big snake is said to live there which has devoured four sinners during the last hundred years.

Makina Medhane Alem (Redeemer of the world in Makina)
Like Yemrehanna Krestos, Makina Medhane Alem is a built-up cave church in Axumite style. It is east of Lalibela, set in a huge gaping cavern on the eastern slopes of Makina, a spur of Abuna Yosef. You may teach it by two hours climb above Gennata Maryam(see below). Although an example of Axumite wood and stone construction the church exhibits a unique modification: polished wall sections of leveled-off rubble between layers of dressed blocks of reddish tuff. The interior has rich painted decoration displaying geometric motifs as well as figurative ones. You may admire the portrayals of saints as well as the sun and the moon symbols above the main entrance. A lovely little picture of fighting cocks next to the sun gives glimpse into the interest of the painter for details.

Gennata Maryam (The Paradise of Mary)
Gennata Maryam is near the 90km point on the track from Kobbo or Waldiya to Lalibela. It can be reached from Lalibela either by one hour’s drive or by four hours ride. Gennata Maryam is a true monolithic rock church on a high plinth. Unlike the Lalibela churches which are hidden in their pits this church is not surrounded by the walls of a trench: you may see it from far away- a block of pink tuff in the midst of green euphorbia’s and opuntias. Like Medhane Alem it has a colonnade of rectangular pillars. Note the fine reliefs of Latin crosses in blind arcades on the top of the pitched roof. In the interior the rich painting displays a style which might be described as “archaic”. Authorities claim that they originate from the thirteenth century, the probable period of creation for that church. The range of colors is limited: brown, ochre, green and a shining light blue. Motifs include saints from the Coptic synaxarium as well as angels, the sun and the moon and crosses of various shapes that we find so often in this area.

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