NATIONAL PARKS SAFARIS ETHIOPIA

HIGHLIGHTS, WHERE THEY ARE AND HOW TO VISIT THEM


 

 

 

ROCK HEWN CHURCHES OF TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA

 

 

Rock Hewn churches of Tigray, Ethiopia

While the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are the most dramatic buildings, the cliff churches of Tigray show the most dramatic landscapes and the longest Christian tradition. Unknown to the world outside, these churches were first described by the British explorer Ivy Pearce as ‘the greatest of the historical-cultural heritages of the Ethiopian people’. It was not until some 4 decades ago that there were some 200 rock hewn churches, and even more may still be unknown. Most better-known churches are found in  the following clusters: Gheralta, Taka Tesfay, Atsbi, Tembien and Wukro.

 

Why consider booking our our Ethiopia Culture & National Parks modules? Because for the same price, our tour gets you to ALL cultural places Ethiopia is so famous for, and on top of that, you get to see up to 12 National Parks/Reserves accompanied by a conservation forester. There is nothing similar on the market. As Ethiopia can be combined with other East African countries, we organize tours in modules. Destinations Overview: Historical Circuit; Danakil Depression; Eathern Route; Simien Mountains; Bale Mountains; Southern Parks Safari; Gambella; Addis Ababa BUT WAIT: if you buy your international ticket with Ethiopia Airlines, they will sell the internal flights at a price that you can't even ride the bus for. But you MUST plan it all in one package and making changes will be very costly. So let us help you plan your entire trip for an incredibly low price!

 

The churches are usually semi-monolithic - a part is cut out of rock, while another part is built with masoned rocks - or hewn out of caves. Many of them relatively easily accessible, but some can only be reached by climbing up difficult terrain or even a cliff. Being hidden in mountainous areas, the many of these churches are in surroundings of breathtaking landscapes.

Usually rather primitive in design, many of the churches have some classics inspired columns and they usually are divided into three spaces:

  1. the most holy part, only accessible to the priest, where a replica of the stone tablet with the 10 commandments - is kept;

  2. The inner ambulatory, which is used by communicants at mass; and

  3. the outer ambulatory, which is accessible to anyone.

Like elsewhere in Ethiopia, in many churches one is expected to take off one's shoes and some churches and monasteries are only accessible to men.

While the ages of the churches are usually unknown they seem to predate those at Lalibela, though few churches in Tigray are as immediately impressive as the ones in Lalibela.

 

Debre Maryam Korkor Church

Debre Maryam Korkor is one of the better known rock hewn churches. Only accessible by a steep path, one needs to be in a decent contdion to reach this church, but it is well worth the effort.

Maryam Korkor rock hewn church Gheralta entrance. Maryam Korkor rock hewn church Tigray entrance.

The facade of the Debre Maryam Korkor church has been built out of stone masonry, while most of the church has been cut out of the rock behind it.

 

Maryam Korkor rock hewn church Gheralta enterior Maryam Korkor rock hewn church Tigray holy interiro

The interior ambulatory. The columns, though rather primitive in design are obviously inspired by the classics.

 

Behind the second curtain is the holy part, only accessible to the priest.

 

Ceiling debre Maryam Korkor rock hewn church Tigray Arches Maryam Korkor rock hewn church Tigray
Frescos Maryam Korkor rock hewn church Tigray. Animal frescos in Maryam Korkor rock hewn church.

The walls of the church are covered with hundreds of years old wall paintings.

 
Climbing to Debre Damo rock hewn church by rope. Climbing the cliff to Debre Damo rock hewn church, Tigray.

The extremely old Debre Damo is 25 meters up a cliff, and can only be reached with a rope 25. A safety rope is supposed to prevent one from falling when slipping. This church is only accessible to men.

 

The Daniel Korkor rock hewn church is located at about 100 meters over a passable ledge, from the Maryam Korkor church. This charming little church gives a fabulously beautiful view of the Gheralte landscape. Behind the little door in the rock facade lies a relatively small space with primitive murals.

Priest at Daniel Korkor Church, Gheralta doorway to ledge on rock face of Daniel Korkor rock hewn church
Ceiling Daniel Korkor rock hewn church, Gheralta, Tigray Interior of the Daniel Korkor rock hewn Church at Gheralta
 

Abuna Yemata Guh Church

The Abuna Yemata Guh Church is one of the most beautiful rock hewn churches in Tigray. Be prepared though for a rather strenuous ascent though. It is good to know that there are always young men eagerly waiting to help you for a few Birr, and they are very good.

Abuna Yemata Guh Church is one of the most beautiful rock hewn churches in Tigray. Be prepared though for a rather strenuous ascent though. On the way to the Maryma Korkor rock hewn church in Tigray.
I always wondered, why somebody has not yet replaced this "bridge" by something a bit more solid on the way to Abuna Yemata Guh Church. The door to the Abuna Yemata Guh Church.

I always wondered, why somebody has not yet replaced this "bridge" by something a bit more solid.

The door to the Abuna Yemata Guh Church.

 

 
The interior of the Abuna Yemata Guh Church is one of the most beautiful rock hewn churches of Tigray, but be prepared for a steep ascent along some straight down cliffs. The murals of the Abuna Yemata Guh Church may be considered the most artistic rock hewn churches of Tigray, but getting there is not for those with fear of hight.

Inside the Abuna Yemata Guh Church.

 

Mikael Imba rock hewn church

The Mikael Imba church is one of the larger and easier accessible rock hewn semi-monolithic churches with many pillars inside. Predating Lalibela, it may have served as an example for those churches in the south. 

Exterior Mikael Imba Church.

Priest at Mikael Imba Church.

 

Abreha We Atsbeha church

Regarded by many experts as the finest church in Tigray, the Abreha We Atsbeha church is an important pilgrim destination on the 14th October. The carved ceiling is supported by several decorated arches. The church's guards many treasures, among them a prayer cross supposedly having belonged to Abba Salama, the first Bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

 

Medhane Alem Kesho Church

The Medhane Alem Kesho Church is one of Tigray's older and more beautiful churches. A four-wheel-drive track takes you within a very doable 10 minutes walk from the church. Inside, the church has

 

Wukro Chirkos Church

This semi-monolith church is te most accessible rock hewn church in Tigray.

 

Mikael Melehayzenghi rock hewn church, Tigray

One of Tigray's most concealed and oldest rock hewn churches, the Mikael Melehayzenghi church has fabulous relief carvings on the walls and ceilings.

Mikael Melehayzenghi rock hewn church, Tigray

Exterior Mikael Melehayzenghi rock hewn church.

Ceiling Mikael Melehayzenghi rock hewn church, Tigray.

 

HISTOR CIRCUIT

MODULE

ETHIOPIA HISTORIC CIRCUIT. DISCOVER ETHIOPIAN MONUMENTS & NATIONAL PARKS with former professional to Ethiopian Park Service

Ethiopia Historic Circuit by car

9 days. Price: $1249. Hotels, meals, transportation, fees, non-alcoholic beverages, tee/coffee at meals included. Minimum 2 passengers.

Ask for group discount.

Ethiopia Historic Circuit by plane

7 days. Price: $2195. Hotels, meals, transportation, fees, non-alcoholic beverages, tee/coffee at meals, included. Prices may vary depending on fluctuating air fairs. Minimum 2 passengers.

Ask for group discount.

Day 1: ADDIS ABABA - BAHIR DAR, road distance ± 580km;

  1. Stop at the bridge across the Blue Nile Gorge, comparable in size to the Grand Canyon in the USA and supposedly the largest canyon of Africa;

  2. In the evening visit the Blue Nile falls if arrival before dark;

  3. Sleep at simple but beautifully located Ghion Hotel at the waterfront of Bahir Dar.

Day 1: ADDIS ABABA

  1. Airport pickup;

  2. Hotel in Addis Ababa;

  3. Afternoon rest, visit Crafts and Art market street or a museum of choice.

Day 2: LAKE TANA - BLUE NILE FALLS, road distance ± 35km

  1. Day excursion by boat on Lake Tana to visit several of the famous Lake Tana churches and monasteries;

  2. Visit of the Blue Nile Falls;

  3. Sleep at Ghion Hotel.

Day 2: ADDIS ABABA - BAHIR DAR by plane

  1. Visit of the Blue Nile Falls;

  2. Sleep at Ghion Hotel.

Day 3: BAHIR DAR - GONDAR, road distance ± 175km

  1. The Devil's Nose Rock, is a basaltic monolith or hoodoo, located near the village of Addis Zemen, 75km north Bahir Dar on the road to Gondar. On its top is an important roost and possibly nesting place for Ruepell's and other vultures.

  2. Check in in the hotel at Gondar after which a visit to Mentewab's Castle and/or Fasimile's Bathroom depending on available time;

  3. Hotel in Gondar.

Day 3: BAHIR DAR

  1. Day Excursion by boat on Lake Tana to visit several of the famous Lake Tana churches and monasteries;

  2. Sleep in Ghion Hotel.

Day 4: GONDAR - AXUM, road distance ± 350km

  1. Early in the morning visit the Royal Enclosure, Fasil Ghebbi;

  2. Road trip to Axum;

  3. Coffee ceremony;

  4. Hotel in Axum.

Day 4: BAHIR DAR - GONDAR by car

  1. Visit Royal Enclosure Fasil Ghebbi;

  2. Visit Mentewab's Castle, Fasimile's Bathroom and Fasil Ghebbi, the Royal Enclosre;

  3. Hotel in Gondar

Day 5: AXUM - MEKELE, road distance  ± 250km

  1. Visit the famous beautiful Stellae at Axum

  2. Visit Emperor Kaleb's Palace;

  3. Ride to Mek'ele;

  4. On the way, visit Yeha Temple;

  5. Hotel in Mek'ele.

Day 5: GONDAR - LALIBELA by plane

  1. Visit Lalibela Church Treasury Museum;

  2. Visit Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches;

  3. Hotel Tulkul in Lalibela.

Day 6: MEKELE - WUKRO - MEKELE, road distance  ± 45km

  1. Visit Rock Hewn Churches in Wukro;

  2. Visit Palace Emperor Yohannes IV;

  3. Hotel in Mek'ele.

Day 6: LALIBELA - AXUM by plane

  1. Visit Stellae;

  2. Visit Emperor Kaleb's Palace;

  3. Coffee ceremony;

  4. Hotel in Axum.

Day 7: MEKELE - LALIBELA, road distance ± 430km

  1. Leave early in the morning for Lalibela;

  2. Church treasures museum Lalibela

  3. Hotel Tulkul in Lalibela.

Day 7: AXUM - ADDIS ABABA by plane

  1. Time permitting before connecting international flight: Visit Crafts and art market, museum or Mount Entoto;

  2. Transfer airport for international flight or to hotel.

Day 8: LALIBELA - DESSIE, road distance ± 300km

  1. Visit the churches of Lalibela;

  2. Drive to Dessie;

  3. Hotel in Dessie.

 

Day 9: DESSIE - ADDIS ABABA road distance ± 340km

  1. last day of the Ethiopia Historic Circuit and return trip to Addis Ababa;

  2. Transfer to hotel.

 

Rock Hewn Churches in Tigray, Ethiopia are among the oldest churches in the world.

       

Ethiopia modernizes and changes more rapidly than any other country in Africa. Many features may not be there anymore in the near future. If you want to see it the way it was for thousands of years, see it now before it has changed forever! Compose your own once-in-a-lifetime Ethiopia-Africa-Adventure from our affordable modules:

Famous Ethiopia Historical Circuit

Simien Mountains trek or car visit

Danakil Depression and Erte Ale Volcano Expedition

Awash Babile Harar Safari Tour

Ethiopia Central and Southern Parks & Tribes Safari Tour

Bale Mountains National Park and Sof Omar Caves Tour

Gambella National Park Safari

Addis Ababa City Tour & Airport Transfer

All Ethiopia modules and prices together

We designed our itineraries in such a way that you can compose a 2 to 4 weeks journey from different modules that can show you the entire country or just the parts that interest you, all depending on your personal preferences, available time and budget. Email us on your interests and we can discuss a custom program with you by phone (we have phone lines from the USA and Europe) or skype. So, weather you have a great ethnic affinity, are a birdwatcher or want to go on safari, contact us and we work out a customized program that focuses on YOUR interests.

Blue Nile Falls, EthiopiaSt. George Church, LalibelaStellas, Axum, EthiopiaTukuls, Lalibela, EthiopiaElephant bull, Babile, EthiopiaEthiopian Wolf, Bale National Park

Gelada, Simien Mountains National ParkFacilides Bathroom, Gondar, EtiopiaWabia Ibex, Simien MountainsChurch, Lake Tana, EthiopiaErica trees, Bale Mountains National Park.Facilides Castle, Gondar, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is home of Ethiopian Airlines, featuring Africa's youngest fleet of the latest intercontinental jet airplanes - including 2 Dreamliners - as well as short-distance Bombardier turboprops for very comfortable, affordable and reliable in-country flights servicing all major cities of Ethiopia. The second best airline of Africa, will fly you non-stop from the USA and Europe to Addis Ababa. Take our 1-week Ethiopia Cultural Monuments Tour and than continue for your Kenya or Tanzania safari - or any other East African capital - thus completing your journey. IF YOU BUY YOUR INTERNATIONAL TICKET FROM ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, YOU WILL GET MOST INTERNAL FLIGHTS FOR $25 - $35 PER LEG! BUT CHANGING AFTERWARDS IS EXPENSIVE, SO WORK OUT A SCHEDULE WITH US TO GET A FABULOUS DEAL FOR FLYING THROUGH THE COUNTRY IN STEAD OF SPENDING ENDLESS TIME ON THE ROAD!!!

 

Ecotravel Worldwide is a brand name of the World Institute for Conservation & Environment, registered in the Netherlands with headquarters in the USA, a social responsibility and conservation company. About CO2 emission offset for your travels.

Phone USA:

(++)(1) 304 - 581 - 7740

Phone Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (++251) (0) 911 440 915
Email: niks

Talk or chat with us on Skype in English, Spanish or French. Our Skype name:

ecotravelworldwide

A picture is worth a thousand words. We have hundreds of high resolution pictures on this website, that you can see enlarged by clicking on them. Read our disclaimer.