Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Tourism Destinations of Amhara Region -The Most Popular Attractions.

1. Blue Nile Falls

The 18th-century Scottish traveler James Bruce described the Blue Nile Falls as ‘a magnificent sight, that ages, added to the greatest length of human life, would not efface or eradicate from my memory. Particularly in the rainy season, the waterfall known locally as Tis Isat (Water that Smokes) is a sensational sight, kicking up a thunderous wall of spray as it crashes over a 45-meter high cliff before being channeled into a frothing gorge. From the village of Tis Abay, a splendid series of full-frontal viewpoints can be reached along a 1.5km footpath across the 17th century Alata Bridge. Birders should check the riverine forest here for endemics and near-endemics such as blue-breasted bee-eater, white-cheeked turaco, black-winged lovebird, and Yellow-fronted parrot.

Blue Nile Falls

What to See?

The road to the Blue Nile fall is picturesque. Enjoy the staggering landscape along the route to the fall. Different bird species of soar over the fall. One of the oldest bridges in Ethiopia also found at the nose of the waterfall.

Practical information before your trip to The Blue Nile falls

Getting There

The Blue Nile fall is accessed from the city of Bahirdar which found 484 km from the capital Addis Ababa. Daily Ethiopian airlines flight connects Addis Ababa and Bahirdar. The Bule Nile fall is found 30 km away from Bahirdar which can be accessed with a drive on a tarmac road.

Getting Around

As the place is blessed with staggering scenic views, hike around near the waterfall. The landscape, the sound of the blistering waterfall, and the droplets of the plunging fall will make your experience unforgettable.

2. Shonke Village

A village that is set on a hill; the Shonke village is located 23 km east of the town of Kemisse. The village of Shonke is inhabited by ethnic Aroggobas. According to local tradition, the Argobbas settled in this area by the 12th century AD. The origin of the name ‘Argobba’ has two assumptions. First, the elders of Shonke Amba say that Argobba means Arab gebba (Arabs have entered). The second is Har gubba which means silk that is seen on the mountain. The villagers are entirely Muslims and traced their ancestors to Arabs. The reason for their migration to Ethiopia by the 12th century AD is fleeing from a war in the Gulf region.

Shonke Village


The Argobbas are Muslim, self-sufficient agriculturists, traditional cloth weavers, and merchants. One of the drawing factors that trigger tourists to visit the Shonke village is the 900 years stellar houses. The house and the Amba-based settlement are the identities of Argobba people because the settlement has preserved the culture and religion of Argobba for more than 9 centuries.

3. Fasil Ghebbi- the Camelot of Africa

Dubbed as the Camelot of Africa, the city of Gondar — the capital of Ethiopia from 1636 until the mid 19th century — combines a modern veneer with an architectural sensibility harking back to the Middle Ages. The city’s physical and architectural centerpiece is Fasil Ghebbi, a stone-walled Royal Compound containing half a dozen fairytale castles including the three-story original built by Emperor Fasil in the 1630s. The Fasil Ghebbi UNESCO World Heritage Site also incorporates several more remote constructions, most notably the Church of Debre Berhan Selassie, with its beautifully painted interior.

What to See?

  • Enclosed by tall stone walls, the central Fasil Ghebbi is a 7-hectare ‘Royal Compound’ housing six fortified stone castles built from the 1630s onward. The most striking is Emperor Fasil’s three-story castle, which stands 32 meters high, and displays a blend of Portuguese, Indian, and indigenous Aksumite influences typical of the Gondarine style.
  • Consecrated in 1693 under Emperor Iyasu I, Debre Berhan Selassie (‘Mountain of the Enlightened Trinity) was the only major Gondarine church to survive the Mahdist attack of 1888 unscathed – thanks, legend has it, to the intervention of a virulent bee swarm. The ceiling, adorned with 17th-century paintings of 80 cherubic faces, is probably the most famous ecclesiastic artwork in Ethiopia.
  • The sunken Fasil’s Pool, overlooked by a two-story building attributed to Emperor Fasil, is where Gondar’s legendarily colorful annual Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany) celebrations take place on January 19 (a day later in Leap Years).
  • Named after a Coptic convent in Egypt, the 18th-century Kuskuam Palace was constructed on the slopes of Debre Tsehay (Mountain of Sun) for the charismatic Empress Mentewab, wife of Emperor Bakaffa, and regent to their son Iyasu II and grandson Iyaos I.
  • On the northern outskirts of Gondar, an abandoned synagogue at Woleka evokes the story of Beta Israel, a ‘lost tribe’ of Ethiopian Jews whose last 10,000-or-so adherents were airlifted to Israel during the 1980s.
  • Old Gorgora, on the Lake Tana shore 65km south of Gondar, houses the most remote of the sites that comprise the Fasil Ghebbi UNESCO World Heritage Site: a ruined castle and Catholic church called Maryam Gimb.

Practical information before your trip to Gondar

By road

Gondar stands about 730km north of Addis Ababa, 176km north of Bahir Dar, and 355km southwest of Aksum. The drive from Aksum takes you through the very scenic Simien Mountains National Park.

By air

Daily flights connect Gondar to Addis Ababa, Lalibela, and Aksum (www.ethiopianairlines.com). The airport is about 17km south of the town center off the road to Bahir Dar. Most hotels offer a free airport transfer service, and taxis are also available

Getting Around

Taxis are widely available in the town center, and affordable. Several local operators offer day tours of the town and longer excursions to the Simien Mountains. When visiting Fasil Ghebbi, a knowledgeable local guide – optional but highly recommended – can be obtained at the guides association kiosk next to the ticket office.

Accommodation

A good selection of hotels catering to all budgets can be found in the town center like Gondar hill resorts, Herfazy resort, Zobel Resort hotel, Goha Hotel, Haile resort Gondar, Kassahun LodgeAG Hotel, Florida International Hotel, Jantekel Hotel, Taye Belay Hotel and others. For those who prefer to stay out of town, at least one good hotel or lodge can also be found at Kossoye (near Wunenia), Azazo (near the airport), and more distantly at Gorgora and in the Simien Mountains.

Annual Events and Festivals

Gondar is renowned as the best place to be during Timkat, with its unique cultural performances. Timkat is the Ethiopian Orthodox equivalent to Epiphany, celebrated on January 19 (a day later in Leap Years). The festival culminates in a crowded and colorful afternoon reenactment of the first baptism, held at the 17th century Fasil’s Pool, which is filled with water for the occasion.

Things to do

One of the cool thing any visitors to Gondar can do is, visiting the cultural night clubs in the night. It could be one of the highlight of your trip to Gondar.

Fasil Ghebbi

4. The Rock hewn churches of Lalibela

Comprising eleven churches and two chapels, Ethiopia’s labyrinthine ‘New Jerusalem’, excavated by King Lalibela in the 12th century and still in active use today, has been dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. Hand-carved into the rock flake by painstaking flake, a process that would have required around 40,000 man-years to complete, Lalibela represents the apex of an Ethiopian church-excavating tradition that dates to the arrival of Christianity circa 350 AD.

The Rock hewn churches of Lalibela

What to see?

  • Many of Lalibela’s churches are subterranean monoliths, created in two stages. First, a quadrangle of trenches up to 15 meters deep would be hand-cut into a horizontal rock surface. Only then could the artisans commence work on the actual church, which was excavated into a massive freestanding central block enclosed by the artificial trenches.
  • The church of Bete Medhane Alem, set in one such subterranean courtyard, is the world’s largest rock-hewn excavation, supported by 36 internal and 36 external pillars.
  • The most iconic church at Lalibela, Bete Giyorgis is a free-standing monolith carved in the shape of a cross and dedicated to its namesake Saint George. Legend has it that Saint George was so delighted when he saw his church that he rode his horse right over the entrance tunnel, leaving behind hoof prints that are still visible today.
  • The impact of Lalibela is not limited to its architecture. This is also one of the very few UNESCO World Heritage Sites of comparable vintage that functions as a living shrine, one whose ancient stone churches have remained in active use since their excavation almost nine centuries ago.
  • The countryside around Lalibela is studded with many other ancient churches. These include Yemrehanna Kristos, one of the finest surviving examples of Aksumite architecture, constructed in the 11th century with alternating layers of wood and gypsum-faced granite.

Getting There

Lalibela lies 170km from Weldiya, 300km from Bahir Dar, 360km from Gondar, and 390km from Aksum by road. All routes are mostly surfaced but involve some travel on gravel. The shortest road distance between Addis Ababa and Lalibela is 680km via Dessie and Weldiya. Lalibela Airport, 25km from the town center along a surfaced road, is serviced by daily Ethiopian Airlines flights from Addis Ababa, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Aksum (www.ethiopianairlines.com). All flights are met by private operators offering transfers into town.

Getting Around

The complex of 11 churches in Lalibela town can only be explored on foot. A guide is strongly recommended and can be obtained at the ticket office outside the Northern church cluster. Transport and logistics for visiting other churches further afield can be handled by most hotels and guides, local tour operators or the Community Tourism Guiding Enterprise.

5. The Semien Mountains National Park

Ethiopia’s premier trekking and walking destination, the 412km2 Simien Mountains National Park was inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site in 1979, whereupon UNESCO lauded it as “one of the world’s most spectacular landscapes, with jagged mountain peaks deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500m”. In addition to the splendid scenery and hiking opportunities, the Afromontane meadows and moorlands of the upper Simiens also form one of Ethiopia’s most important biodiversity hotspots, populated by an alluring wealth of endemic plants and animals including Walia ibex, gelada baboon, and Ethiopian wolf.

The Semien Mountains National Park

What to See?

  • The bedrock of the Simien Mountains comprises a vast and ancient basaltic dome molded into a series of jagged pinnacles and buttresses by glacial activity and precipitation. More than a dozen of its peaks top the 4,000m mark, including the 4,533m Ras Dejen, which is Ethiopia’s tallest mountain.
  • The Afromontane vegetation of the Simien Mountains includes more than 1,200 plant species, of which three are endemic to the national park. Above 3,700m, the dominant vegetation type is open grassland punctuated by spectacular giant lobelias that stand up to 10m high. Giant heather trees and other ericaceous plants are the main vegetation type between the 3,000m and 3,700m contour.
  • Simien protects an alluring selection of endemic wildlife. It is the last remaining stronghold of the impressively horned Walia ibex, the only goat indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa. Large troops of gelada baboon are rendered unmistakable by the male’s flowing lion-like mane and heart-shaped red chest patch. A population of around 50 Ethiopian wolves is the world’s second-largest after Bale Mountains National Park. Other large mammals include Anubis baboon, Hamadryas baboon, grivet monkey, Menelik’s bushbuck, klipspringer, common jackal, spotted hyena, and leopard.
  • Simien Mountains National Park is one of northern Ethiopia’s key birding sites, with a checklist of 180 species that includes five Ethiopian endemics and 12 near-endemics. However, many would say the true avian star of the Simien is the magnificent lammergeyer, a cliff-loving vulture with a 2-meter wingspan and the only bird in the world with a specialized diet of bone marrow.
  • The best way to explore the Simien Mountains is on foot or mule back Several overnight options are available. The 3-day trial connecting Sankaber, Gich, Imet Gogo, and Ayna Meda is recommended to those whose main interest is endemic wildlife. For peak-baggers, the ascent to the summit of Ras Dejen could be undertaken as a 3-day hike from Chennek. For those with limited time, it is possible to drive east from Debark to Chennek along an all-weather road and to exit the car for short walks.

Practical information before your trip to the Semien Mountains National park

Getting There

By road

Debark, the junction town for the national park lies 830km from Addis Ababa, 275km from Bahir Dar, and 100km from Gondar along a surfaced road. It is 250km southwest of Aksum along a zigzag road and a newly asphalted road. The 100km drive from Gondar to Debark takes up to two hours. Transport can be provided by any operator in Gondar and taxis are also available to do the run.The entrance gate at Buyit Ras is 14km east of Debark. Transport there, or to any of the lodges or camps, can be arranged through the national park office in Debark or using local tour operators located in the main towns.

By air

The closest airport is in Gondar. This is connected to Addis Ababa, Lalibela, and Aksum by daily flights with Ethiopian Airlines (www.ethiopianairlines.com)

6. Lake Tana Monasteries

Lake Tana’s beauty can only be truly appreciated when you get out beyond the city to enjoy azure waters, a lush shoreline and rich birdlife. But even the lake’s natural beauty plays second fiddle to its centuries-old monasteries, full of paintings and treasures, and some pretty impressive numbers. The islands and peninsulas of the lake host 19 monasteries and more than 35 churches, most of which were built during the 14th century, though some are possibly as old as the 3rd century. These are old repositories of the invaluable historical heritages collected from different corners of the country and skeletal remains of the medieval Ethiopian Emperors.

Lake Tana Monasteries

Southern Monasteries of Lake Tana

Debre Maryam

Debre Maryam is located near the Nile outlet from Lake Tana. Abune Tselalesh founded the monastery there during the reign of Amde Tsion (1315-1345). The Monastery of Debre Maryam can be reached by boat for about 20 minutes northeast of Bahir Dar. It is also possible to reach there by crossing the Blue Nile River using a boat after driving towards Abay Bridge. It is an ideal site to experience the Nile outlet and a hippo colony. What is more, there are many historical heritages found in the church museum.

Kibran Gabriel & Entos Eyesus monasteries

Kibran was founded in the 14th century during the reign of Amde Tsion and rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Iyasu I (1682-1706). It is the closest monastery from Bahir Dar that lies on a tiny, forested crescent presumably part of the rim of an extinct volcano.

The Zege Peninsula

Ura Kidane Mihret

The forested Zege Peninsula is studded with medieval churches of which Ura Kidane Mihret ranks not only as the most impressive of the southern monasteries but also possibly the most beautiful church anywhere in the Lake Tana region. A saint called Betre Mariam founded the monastery in the 14th century. However, the circular church was built in the 16th century. Its architectural style is a typical example of the Ethiopian Orthodox church having mud-plastered round walls with a conical thatched roof.

Azwa Maryam

In the Zege peninsula, there are other monasteries such as Azwa Maryam, Mahil-Zegie Giorgis, Betre Maryam, and Yiganda Tekle Hayimanot. These monasteries on the peninsula are open for both men and women. The monasteries in the peninsula can be accessed either by boat or by road from Bahir Dar using private vehicles or public transport.

Central Monasteries

Tana Qirkos monastery

Tana Qirkos, one of the oldest monasteries in Ethiopia, is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Tana where one can observe life and rituals that have hardly been changed since the Old Testament. This monastery had been used as one of the four places of ancient Judaic worship where sacrificial stones are still found. The sacrificing stone testifies to the island’s importance as a Judaic religious shrine in Pre-Christian times. It is believed that the Ark of the Covenant had been kept there for 800 years. The founder of Ethiopian church music, St. Yared, wrote his first book of songs called Degua at this monastery. The museum collection of the monastery has preserved several valuable and unique treasures, which inspire visitors. The monastery is not open to women. It takes about three hours to drive by boat from Bahir Dar to reach there.

Monasteries on Deq Island

Deq is the largest island in Lake Tana. It is located 37 kilometers north of Bahir Dar and takes about 3 hours by boat.

Daga Estifanos

Daga Estifanos lies on a small wedge-shaped island immediately east of the larger part of Dek Island. It takes about three hours boat sailing from Bahir Dar. Based on local sources, Daga was founded by Hiruta Amlak during the reign of Emperor Yekuno Amlak. The main point of interest at Daga Estifanos today is the mausoleum, which contains mummified remains of at least five Ethiopian medieval Emperors namely Yikuno Amlak, Dawit I, Zer’a Yakob, Susneyos and Emperor Fasilidas. The church symbolizes the biblical ark of Noah (Noah’s ship). Certainly, Daga Estifanos was a popular retreat for several of the above-mentioned kings and its tranquility was also favored by Tewodros II, who took communion there on several occasions. Several other treasures associated with these kings are stored in the mausoleum; old crowns, parchment manuscripts with some line drawing date back to the 14th century, and two immaculately preserved 15th-century paintings of Madonna with uncharacteristically detailed and non-stylized facial features.

Narga Sillassie

Empress Mintewab founded the monastery in the 18th century Narga Sillassie is situated on the western shore of Dek island and takes three hours of sailing by boat from Bahir Dar. Its architectural style has resemblance to the buildings of Gonder. Narga is the most ornately decorated monastery. As with Ura Kidane Mihrte, the inner walls are covered from top to bottom with an amazing and absorbing collection of paintings dating back to the 18th century.

Credit: Visit Amhara

By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use caalaadd2@gmail.com as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of www.ethiopianstoday.com.

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