Lake Tana & Gondar Castles
From Addis Ababa, we head north to Bahar Dar on the banks of Lake Tana. Here is the source of the Blue Nile and Tississat Falls, a 45m drop which is the start of a 1000-mile journey to Khartoum. On the lake itself we discover historical islands which have been used as places of refuge over the centuries protecting Christian emperors and their riches and might even have played host to the Ark of the Covenant. Small well-protected churches still contain religious treasures within their sanctuaries, including crowns and chalices. In the lively market town of Gondar we'll visit 17th century castles before we head north to pause at a Felasha village, home to a Jewish sect thought to have come into Ethiopia at the time of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Sacred Axum & Yeha
From the spectacular Simien mountains, home to the Gelada baboon and rare Simien fox, we reach the sacred city of Axum, capital of a once great civilisation and famed for its giant stelae (obelisks), palaces and churches as well as being the claimed final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Turning east we reach the site of Yeha, probably dating back almost 3,000 years and containing a temple dedicated to the moon god Ilmuqah. We also visit the town of Adwa, set amidst rugged mountains. It was here that the Ethiopians became the first African nation to repel a colonial power when they defeated the Italian army in 1896. Since then, Ethiopia has been a symbol of African independence, free from European control.
Tigray & Lalibela Churches
Our journey next takes us to the remote rock-cut churches of Tigray, architectural gems created prior to the 16th century and unknown to the outside world until the 1960s. We explore both the Gheralta and Atsbi church clusters including 12th century Mikael Imba with its impressive façade and illuminated interior. Continuing to Lalibela we discover Tigray's more famous counterparts and one of the world's most remarkable archaeological sites. Buildings here are hewn from granite leaving rock-cut churches isolated from the surrounding strata, yet still part of it. We explore several of these 800 year-old works of art before ending our journey with a mule trek to a remote mountain church affording stunning views over Lalibela and the surrounding peaks.
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