Located in the horn of Africa between Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Somaliland. Ethiopia is famous for its incredible coffee, unique Orthodox Christian traditions and breathtaking natural landscapes, there is a great deal to discover in this ancient and fascinating country.
Originally founded in 980 BC, Ethiopia is the oldest independent nation on the continent with remnants of some of the most ancient human beings on earth dating back millions of years, making it one of the most important archaeological areas in the world. The most popular of Ethiopia’s historic sites include the famous Churches of Lalibela, the beautiful Gondar castles, and the ancient city of Axum. It is a fascinating journey tracing the ‘Historic Route’ through Ethiopia exploring Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Gondar, the Simien Mountains with its unique biodiversity, Lalibela and Axum and the stunning wildlife of the Bale Mountins.
Lake Tana (City of Ancient Monasteries)
Bahir Dar is a pleasant city located at 1,800 metres above sea level on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. Lake Tana has 37 islands and 30 of them have churches and monasteries of considerable historical and cultural interest. Enjoy a boat trip to visit an ancient monastery with colourful depictions from the bible and various interpretations of biblical stories. Also in the area is the Blue Nile River, once locally known as Tis Isat – “Smoke of Fire”. The Blue Nile Falls offers a spectacular view of the falls cascading down 45 meters (150 feet), and that used to stretch across some 400 meters wide.
Gondar (The Camelot of Africa)
Gondar was the first capital city of the Ethiopian empire, which began in 1632 with the reign of Fasilidas. Located on top of a hill, the ruined compound of the Imperial Mentiwab & Empress Kuskuam Palace resides, once a magnificent and impressive monument but sadly now just a shadow reminiscence of a time of power. The main castle has various rooms, including a bathroom and toilet room. It also has a section where the Scottish explorer James Bruce stayed in the 1770’s for some years. Emperor Fasilidas built the first castle with each of his successors building a palace during their period of reign, a total of eleven palaces are located in one compound. There is also a beautiful church known as Debre Berhan Selassie (Light of Trinity Saint) that is famous for its ceiling murals of winged angels and other painting and relics.
Lalibela (The Eighth Wonder of the World)
Lalibela is located at an altitude of 2,600 metres above sea level with incredible views across the magnificent landscape that stretches into the distance. The city contains 11 monolithic churches that were built in the twelfth century and are carved down into the pink granite rock. Each church has a unique architectural style; all are superbly carved and most of them are decorated with well-preserved paintings.
The churches are divided into two groups characterizing the location of River Jordan and are interconnected by underground tunnels. Lalibela is classified as the eighth wonder of the world and protected by UNESCO. It is considered a holy shrine city by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church followers and the rock-hewn churches are still places of active worship.
Axum (Mysterious Monoliths)
The legends narrated in the Kebre Nagast (‘Book of Kings’) recount how the city of Axum as early as the 10 th century B.C was already the city in which the Queen of Sheba resided. It is recounted that the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to Axum and it remains there to this day, preserved in a sanctuary. Only one priest is allowed into the building where the Ark is located, ostensibly due to biblical warnings of danger. Famous long before the time of Christ, Axum was the capital of the long Axumite reign, one of the oldest African empires, and represented a crucial connecting-point between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years. There are also various ruins still visible in Axum and that stand as a testimony to an exceptionally high level of civilization, notably the stone monoliths that are dotted throughout the city and are among’ the most mysterious monuments
in the world. The largest monolith in the world, which weighs 500 tons and is 33 metres long, is still on site. In recent years one of the stelae, which was stolen by Mussolini of Italy in the 1930s, was returned to Axum.
Are you fascinated by history and ancient civilizations? Ethiopia has an incredible past with wonderful treasures to be explored. To find out more and the best time to travel, we can organise a tailor-made guided trip to this beautiful country, please contact Simon Ball at Bespoke Safaris in Nairobi, Kenya.