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One of Ethiopia’s primary attractions is her abundance of historical sites, unique in sub-Saharan Africa. While much of the history is impenetrably bound up in myth and legend, a great deal of it is well documented. The path to Ethiopia’s famous and fascinating historic sites takes you through magnificent scenery to places with names, which could be out of a fairy tale.

In general the historic route that covers all the historical attractions of Ethiopia includes:

  • The archaeological & religious sites of Axum
  • The ancient city of Sabeans, Yeha (5th BC)
  • The rock churches of Tigray
  • The 13th century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela
  • The 17th century castles of Gondar
  • Lake Tana and its island monasteries near Bahir Dar
  • The 1000-year-old Muslim Town of Harer and the nearby town of Harar-Dire Dawa.
Haiq Estifanos

North of Dessie lays the famous monastery of Haiq Estifanos, built in the 13th century. In former times the church was a great supporter of the Solomonic dynasty of Lalibela. Only monks live and serve here. The monastery preserves wooden and stone relics of the days of its foundation.

Bahir Dar

In a scenic location, on the southern shore of Lake Tana at 1830 m altitude, lays Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara people. The wide avenues lined with palms and flamboyant trees as well as its relaxed atmosphere and lake side resorts make Bahir Dar a charming resort destination.

One of the gates in Harer Located in the East of Ethiopia, about 530 km from Addis Ababa, lays the Islamic city Harar, which has recently been registered by UNESCO as a World heritage site. Perched on a gentle hill on the Ethiopian highland plateau at an altitude of 1850 m, with a mild climate and fertile soil, as well as enough water to establish a sustainable agriculture system Harar had favorable conditions for development.

According to legend Lalibela was born as the brother of the ruling Zagwe king in the 12th century. As a child he was covered by a swarm of bees, which his mother saw as a sign of his later reign. His brother, not happy with the prophecy, tried to poison him, but did not succeed. Still, Lalibela spend three days in a deep sleep, time during which he was carried away to heaven and instructed to build the rock town he has seen there. At the same time his brother had a vision in which Jesus ordered him to resign in favor for his younger brother.

Fasilades Castles in Gondar 1 Some 180 km from Bahir Dar, on the northern shore of Lake Tana, lays Gondar, famous for its spectacular castles, also known as Africa’s Camelot. Emperor Fassiledes, hoping for a better residence during the raining season, founded the city in the 17th century with the construction of his first castle and the developing village. During the following decades, Gondar became the capital of the empire and remained so until the middle of the 19th century. The city was an important hub between caravan routes of the north and the south of Ethiopia.

Over 125 rock-hewn churches are recorded in Tigray alone. These churches date from the 4th-15th century. Most of them lie scattered around the Gera-Alta mountain chain. Next to some pre Christian templates Abreha We Atsbeha and Wukro Cherckos, hewn in the 4th century, are the two most famous and most accessible churches, which can be visited within two or three days in addition to the historical route itineraries.

Axum Axum, the holy city of Ethiopia and resting place of the Arc of the Covenant, reached its height between the 1st and 10th century. It was a kingdom of great wealth and sophistication, controlling the caravan routes from the hinterland of Africa trading with ivory and slaves. Its kings minted gold coinage when almost no one else in the world was rich enough to afford it or sophisticated enough to require it. The Axumite kingdom's conversion to Christianity in 333 AD, during the rain of King Ezana, made Ethiopia since then a land of innumerable churches and monasteries.