Ethiopia’s earliest known capital, Yeha, is less than two hours’ drive from Axum through some dramatic highland scenery. As the birthplace of the country’s earliest high civilization, it is well worth visiting. The ruins of this large, pre-Christian temple, erected around the fifth century BC, consist of a single roofless oblong chamber.
Ethiopia’s most ancient city, and capital of one of the most glorious empires of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the Historic Route. The Axumite Empire (1st Century BC – 9th Century AD) was one of the four great empires of the world- it had great control over trade routes of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean; an economically, politically, and socially stable state stretching from Saudi Arabia to Central and Southern Africa.
Tigray Rock Hewn Churches:
Tigray Region hosts a number of Ethiopian Orthodox churches, from the most numerous cluster of churches, about 30 are carved out from the rocky faces of the mountains in the Gerhalta area. Almost all of them are semi-monolithic type of churches and mainly recognized by their multiple domes. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church believes that the Ark of the Covenant rests in the courtyard of the Axum Zion church. This makes Aksum the holiest ground in Ethiopia.
This small town, founded back in the 12th Century in the middle of the Lasta mountain chains, is a hub of wonders and religious devotion. Proposed as the 8th wonder of the world by the UNESCO, the 11 Rock-Hewn Churches are the main attractions of Lalibella. It is claimed that angels participated in the construction of these churches. Other attractions in Lalibella include built up caves and semi rock-hewn churches. King Lalibela is credited with the foundation of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th century dubbed one of the world’s most incredible man-made creations.
Gondar was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia, and is notable for its Medieval Castles and churches. The city’s unique Imperial compound contains a number of Castles built between 1632 and 1855 by various Emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic Castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions.
The city of Harar is an ancient and holy city. Harar was an important trading center. The city is famous for its ancient buildings, its great city walls and as a center of Islamic learning (the city has 99 mosques). It is believed to be the fourth holiest city for Islam after Mecca, Medina & Jerusalem. The city is well known for its superb handicrafts that include woven textiles, basket ware, silverware and handsomely bound books.
Bahir Dar is a pleasant city located at 1,800 meters above sea level on the shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. The lake is endowed with 37 islands out of which 20 of them have got monasteries to some of which female are not allowed to visit. These islands serve as a repository of the wonderful 16th century mural paintings, crowns, crosses and many old church treasures. Bahir Dar is the ideal centers from which to explore Lake Tana, the island monasteries, and the Blue Nile Falls.