HISTORIC ROUTE-NORTHERN ETHIOPIA
The North - Historic route is "The heart Land of Ethiopian world Wonders". Four of the seven Ethiopian Sites recorded as World Hertiage by UNESCO are found here; and so for every traveler to Ethiopia, the north is a must. High lights of the major attractions are as follows.
Formerly known as Roha, Lalibela now bears the name of king Lalibela, a member of the Zagwe dynasty (1181-1221 A.D.). Lalibela lies at an altitude of 2630m in the Lasta Mountains and its rock-hewn churches are among the greatest religious and historical sites in the Christian world. These churches are exceptional for different reasons.
- They are not carved in to the rock, but freed entirely from it
- They are so refined and of unique architecture
- They are so many in such a small area. These towering edifices seem super human in scale, workmanship and concept.
More than mere monuments, the churches in and around Lalibela are a living link with the past and testing to the power and spirit of an ancient Christian faith. Seeing all 11 monlithic Churches of Lalibela may take longer time, but they are well worth visitors effort.
One of Ethiopia's most attractive towns, BahirDar, is the starting point to visit the Blue Nile falls and Lake Tana.
THE BLUE NILE FALLS
32 km South east of Bahir Dar, the Blue Nile falls, is one of the most spectacular falls in Africa. The Blue Nile falls locally known as Tis Isat (Smoking water) has a width of 400 meters and plunges forty-five meters down a sheer chasm producing rainbows & spray of water that can be felt one kilometer away. Bird life include: love birds, parrots, bee eaters and others. Hippos and crocodiles can also be seen along the river in the outlet of the falls.
covering more than 3,600 square kilometers, Lake Tana is Ethiopia's largest lake. The Blue Nile river flows out of this lake. Lake Tana contains 37 islands. Twenty of these island shelter churches and monasteries of tremendous historical and cultural interest. To mention some:
- Kebre Gabriel, the nearest monastery known to contain a magnificent manuscript of the four Gospels dating back to the late 14th century.
- Urakidan Mehret - painted with scenes from Biblical lore
- Kebran Gabriel, Narga Selassie, Zege peninsula monasteries and many more monastries decorated with beautiful wall paintings. Some monasteries are forbidden to women visitors.
"the camelot of Africa"
Once the Ethiopian capital around 1635 Gondar, with its series medieval castles and churches, major handcrafts, arts, poteries, music, is one of the major attractions of the historical route. Perhaps Ethiopia's most famous church, Debre Berhan Selassie, which has a ceiling decroted with winged angels is found here. Other sites of interest are, Fasiladas' palace, Fasilads' bath, Ras Mikael Sehul's place, Kweskwam complex and some beautiful old Italian villas.
Other wise called "The Roof of Africa" The semien mountains massif are among the most beautiful mountains in Africa. They are simply marvellous and breath taking. Home to a variety of endemic mammals, birds and plants. The semien mountain park is declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Endemic wild life include Walia Ibex, the Red Jackal known otherwise Ethiopian wolf, Gelada Baboou.
Some of endemic bird species here are wattled ibis, white-backed black tit, black headed siskin, thick-billed raven lammergeyer and others.
Ras Dashen, the 4th highest mountain in Africa, and the surrounding Majestic mountains of the massifs of Semien offer an ideal trekking not to be missed.
This is the birth place of Ethiopian civilization.
Another world heritage site by UNESCO, Axum is one of the most important and spectacular ancient sites in Sub-Saharan Africa. Axum, with a history that dates back 3000 years, was the first civilization to adopt Christianity as a state religion. The oldest church in Africa, the first St. Mary of Zion's Church originally built around the 4th century, is believed to house The Ark of Covenant brought by Queen of Sheba's son Menelik. The epicentre of the Queen of Sheba dynasty upon which rests the notion of the sacred kingship of the semetic peoples of Ethiopia is Axum's greatest significance. Axum is known for its world's tallest monoliths or obelisk. The tallest standing stelae measuring 23 meters is about 2000 years old.
The monastery of DebreDamo is perched on a 2800 meters high flat topped mountain surrounded by vertical cliffs. Access to the 24 meters high cliff is by rope. More than 80 monks live here, some of whom never went out of the monastery for more than 40 years. Female visitors are not allowed here for religious reasons.
THE DENAKIL DEPRESSION EXPEDITION
The Dankil Depression found in Eastern Tigray region, is one of hottest places on earth. Some parts are 100 meters below sea level and temperature can reach up to 50oc during the daytime. This is the site of a dry salt lake where bars of salt are obtained both for consumption and commerce. The active volcano site of Erte Ale, with a temperature of the active volcanic lake soaring over 3000 degrees celius, the symentrical crater of jira volcano which rises out of the Danakil Desert, are of tremendous interest. Trekking in this area can be memorable and a challenge of your life.
THE WONDEROUS ROCK HEWN CHURCHES OF TIGRAY|
Hundreds of churches dating from 9th to 15th centuries lie between the town of Adigrat & Mekele. Many are inaccessible for they are sculpted in to "Ambas" - cliffs. The group churches of Geralta, Hatsbi, Tembien, Hawzien, Takatisfi and others, are all of tremendous architectural interest; and offer a nice walking, climbing and trekking.
Preceding Axum, Yeha is believed to be Ethiopia's first known capital. The 5th century BC temple with its perfect geometry, blocks fitted together, reflects the country's earliest civilization.