The well-trodden path through Ethiopia’s famous and fascinating historic sites takes you through a scenic, magnificent world of fairy-tale names such as Axum, Gondar, Bahar Dar, Lalibela and Harar. Traveling the route by plane, car or both will offer you a glimpse into a truly remarkable past. As well as many priceless historical relics, you will also see the castles at Gondar, the churches of Lalibela- hewn out of living Rock, the Mysterious giant stelae at Axum, the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s palace, and the monastery at Debre Damo, whose access is limited to men and then only by way of a rope lowered by friendly monks above.
- Length: 14 days and 13 nights
- Route: Bahar Dar, Gondar, Axum and Lalibela
- Transport: By car & Air.
Day 1: Arrive Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and Transfer to Hotel.
Day 2: After breakfast drive to the town of Bahar Dar. O/N (over night) Bahar Dar.
Day 3: Early in the morning drive to Blue Nile Falls and visit the Blue Nile Falls “Tiss Issat” (smoking water), up on return, and make a sightseeing of Bahar Dar. After lunch, boat trip on Lake Tana, to visit the Monasteries of Ur kidane Meheret and Kibran Gebriel. Overnight in Bahar Dar.
Day 4: After breakfast drive to the town of Gondar. Overnight in Gondar.
Day 5: Visit the city of Gondar, the Castle compound, Emperor Fasildas bath and Debre Birhan Selassie church. Overnight in Gondar.
Day 6: Having your early breakfast drive to Axum. Overnight in Axum.
Day 7: City Tour of Axum, the Stelae, the church of st. Mary of Zion, Museum, Tombs (Kalab and Gebre Meskel) and Queen of Sheba’s bath. Overnight in Axum.
Day 8: After breakfast drive to Mekella en route visit Yeha Temple and Rock-hewn churches of Abraha Atsebaha and Wikro. Overnight in Mekella.
Day 9: After breakfast, drive to Lalibela via Sekota. Overnight in Lalibela.
Day 10: Visit 12th century Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. Morning visit the first group and after lunch visit the second group. Overnight in Lalibela.
Day 11: Early in the morning trekking to Asheton Mariam Church (Church of Marry) and the view of the village. After lunch you leisure time. Overnight in Lalibela.
Day 12: After breakfast, drive to Lalibela via Sekota. Overnight in Lalibela.
Day 13: After breakfast drive to Addis Ababa and en route stop at “Ghemasa Ghedel” (Robit Valley) enjoy the view and troops of Gelada Baboons Endemic to Ethiopia. Overnight in Addis.
Day 14: City Tour of Addis Ababa, Transfer to Bole International Airport for final departure
Yeha (Ethiopia’s ancient temple): Yeha is a historic site less than an hours drive, through some dramatic scenery from Axum. If you travel on the Adwa- Adigrat highway, yeha is situated 26 km from the town of Adwa and only 5 km from the turn–off. Yeha is famous for its huge and remarkable Temple. The Temple is believed to date back to the 5th century B.C. however, according to the 19th century German scholar Heinrich Miller, the Temple is thought to date back to about seven or eight hundred years before the birth of Christ. The imposing ruins of Yeha’s Temple though roofless still stand. It was a large pre-Christian Temple consisting of a single oblong chamber. The area of the remains of the Temple measures 18.5 m. by 15 m and its height stands at 12 m. The Temple is believed to be the oldest standing building in the country.
Axum: Much more is known about the historic highland city of Axum, once a great commercial center, trading via the Red sea port of Adulis and founded perhaps 500 years after the decline of Yeha. Axum stands in the highlands of North-Western Tigray, commanding spectacular views over the nearby Adwa hills. This ancient settlement is frequently referred to as “the sacred city of the Ethiopians” a description that adequately culture as a centre of Orthodox Christianity. Many remarkable monuments here attest to the great antiquity of religious expression in this country, and as a former capital that has never lost its special appeal to the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians. Axum is renowned for its Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, where legend has it; the original Ark of the Covenant is housed. Axum is also famous for its seven mysterious monolithic stelae, hewn from single pieces of solid granite.
The most notable are carved to resemble multi-store houses; several weigh more than 500 tones and stand twenty meters high. They seem less like prayers of stone and more like lightning –rods of heaven. Axum’s greatest significance, however, is as the epic centre of the Queen of Sheba’s dynasty, up on which rests the notion for the sacred kinship of the Semitic peoples of Ethiopia- a notion that links the recent past to ancient times. The former Emperor Haile Selassie claimed to be the 225th monarch of the Solomonic line. His death in 1975 marked the end of an era and the beginning of an entire way of life.
Debre Damo Monastery: There are numerous ancient churches all over Ethiopia set in the most dramatic surroundings with intriguing architectural designs and religious artifacts. The most outstanding ones are in Tigray and are most definitely worth a visit. Debre Damo is among the most prominent of these both literally and figuratively. Situated a top a 3,000 m high Amba (Tableland), and accessible only with the aid of a leather rope operated by the monks, the founder Abune Aregawe, one of the nine holy men who immigrated from Syria- was carried up the 15 m. high cliff by a flying serpent ,so the legend goes. Built in the 6th century, Debre Damo is the oldest monastery in Ethiopia while its stone church is said to be the oldest still standing. It lies 9 km north of the Axum- Adigrat road with the turn of 6 km east of the town of Biset. The monastery is off limit to females.
The Tigray Rock-Hewn Churches: The 1868 English expedition against Emperor Tewodros and to take Meqdels, the biggest such campaign of the British Empire, was shown as “astonishing church carved in to a rocky out crop”. For a while this was assumed by the outside world to be the only one of its kind in Tigray. As recently as 1963, when supposedly a full list of Ethiopia’s rock-hewn churches was published, only nine churches were recorded for Tigray. Since then, no less than 123 have been discovered, three-quarters of which are apparently still in use as normal parish churches of monastic communities. Most of these are found a long the Adigrat Mekele road or else they can be reached from it. At least a week is required to visit the most interesting of them.
Bahar Dar: Bahar Dar located on the southern shores of lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, with its ancient island monasteries and both the Blue and the white Niles most spectacular feature, the "Tiss Issat (smoking water)" water falls (Blue Nile Falls). On the island of Dega Estefanos, you will find the church of saint Stefanos, which has a priceless collection of icons and manuscripts and houses the mummified remains of a number of Ethiopian Emperors. For the modern traveler, the starting point of any visit to the Blue Nile falls, or to the islands of Lake Tana, is the bustling market town of Bahar Dar on the lake’s south –eastern shore.
The colorful markets and a variety of handicraft and weaving centers also make it a comfortable base for excursion by land or water. Bahar Dar port provides access by boat to a number of historic lakeside churches and monasteries near and far. Most date from the seventeenth century and have beautifully painted walls. Many such places of worship now have fascinating museums, at which the visitor can see priceless illustrated manuscripts, historic crowns and fine royal and ecclesiastical robes. Some monastic islands are forbidden to women, but others can be visited by both sexes. Visitors to Bahar Dar can also see Tankwas, locally made canoes, made out of the papyrus reeds growing by the lake shore, as well as an historic old building erected, in st. Georges church compound, by the 17th century Spanish Jesuit, Pero Paes.
Gondar: Gondar founded by Emperor Fasilidas in 1635. The city was Ethiopia’s capital until the reign of the would – be reforming Emperor Tewodros ll, also known as Theodore. During its long years as a capital, the settlement emerged as one of the largest and most popular cities in the realm. It was a great commercial centre, trading with the rich lands south to the Blue Nile, as well as with Sudan to the west, and the Red sea port to Massawa to the north–east. Gondar is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches. The earliest of the castles was created by Fasilidas himself and is still in such an excellent state of repair that it is possible to climb its stairs all the way to the roof, which commands a breathtaking view over much of the city. Besides the famous palaces, visitors should inspect the so-called ‘Bathing palace of Emperor Fasilidas, which is used for the annual Timket or Epiphany celebrations, and the abbey of the redoubtable 18th century Empress Mentewab at Qwesquam, in the mountains just outside Gondar.
Lalibela: Lalibela is famous for its architecture. Lalibela is a city carved from legend a medieval settlement in the Lasta area of Wolllo that is the site of eleven remarkable rock-hewn monolithic churches, believed to have been built by king Lalibela in the late 12th or early 13th century. These notable structures are carved inside and outside of the solid rock, and are considered among the wonders of the world. Each building is architecturally unique, and several of them are decorated with fascinating rock paintings. The unadulterated biblical atmosphere and vivid local color of the Timket celebrations provide an ideal opportunity to see Lalibela as a sacred center whose roots go back to man’s very early years.
Harar: No journey along Ethiopia’s fabled historic route would be complete without a visit to the medieval walled city of Harar, which stands amid green mountains on the east wall of the Great Rift Valley. Harar’s heritage is almost entirely Muslim and oriental. The most dominant features, apart form its strong encircling walls, is its rich and exciting market place-probably the most colorful in Ethiopia, with its 90 mosques and shrines, Harar is considered to be the fourth most sacred centre of the Islamic world. Its Islamic character is best expressed in the Grand Mosque (Al Jami), which dominates the town. Harar, which has no airport, is 523 km from Addis Ababa, 332 km. from Awash station and 55 km. from Dire Dawa (Town have an Airport). It can be reached by a good, scenic asphalt road.
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