Ethiopia has a wealth of cultural sites to visit – churches built into the rocks in Lalibela; castles in the former capital of Gondar; and remains from the ancient Axum empire.
Lalibela sits high up in the Ethiopian highlands and is host to 11 rock hewn churches. they were carved out of the rock in the 12th century during the reign of King Lalibela. Legend has it that one of the churches was built overnight with help from a team of angels.
In the surrounding countryside there are several other rock hewn churches including Ashetan Maryam which can be reached on foot from Lalibela.
As the capital of Ethiopia for over 200 years until 1885, Gondar and its UNESCO listed sites are an important part of the country’s history. The royal enclosure with several castles from different emperors – each wanting to make their mark; Fasilidas’ bath where the annual Timkat (Epiphany) festival is celebrated in January; and the stunning Debre Birhan Selassie church – one of the oldest in the region.
Axum was the centre of the Axumite empire, its peak around the 5th century. Today you can see the towering stellae remembering its influential kings. The city is also very important for the Ethiopian Orthodox church as it is believed that the original ark of the covenant is kept in one of the churches in the city.
An hours drive outside Axum is Yeha, thought to be an important centre for the Sabaeans around 3000 years ago. The temple which stands there today is thought to have been built in the 7th century BC.
Hidden in the Gheralta mountains of Tigray, carved out of the caves, are ancient churches. Some are easily accessible, some require a hike, others require rock climbing.
Bahir Dar sits on the southern tip of Lake Tana and from here you can visit some of the lake monasteries. The monasteries on the Zege peninsula are some of the more accessible and older monasteries. On the lake you can watch the fisherman in their traditional papyrus boats and spot hippos and pelicans.