TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: The northernmost of Ethiopia's regions, Tigray is the cradle of Ethiopia's ancient culture & history


Tigray Region Culture

The northernmost of the country's nine ethnic regions Tigray Region Ethiopia is the cradle of Ethiopia, the name of the latter first being mentioned as an alternative name to the kingdom of Axum, the then the epicenter of power of the Red Sea and second only to the Roman and Persian empires, with which it had a very active trade of ivory and salt.


A picture is worth a thousand words. Most of our hundreds of pictures are favored in Google! Why? Because no other website has so many beautiful high resolution pictures, all taken by ourselves. Our pictures not only show you the beauty of Ethiopia, but they also show that we have been everywhere when we researched all parks for the Ethiopian Wildlife Autharity, photographing wildlife, plants, people and culture. Read our PDF report to the Government on Parks an Culture! So why consider booking our our Ethiopia Culture & National Parks modules? Because only we combine the culture of Ethiopia with its nature. We don't mislead you like many tour operators do. When the Blue Nile falls are dry.... we tell you. When fog clouds the lava lake of Erte Ale Volcano? We let you know. Just drop us a mail info@nationalparks-worldwide.com  and we will check it out for you.

Our tours take you to ALL famous cultural places of Ethiopia, and on top of that, you get to see up to 20 large parks accompanied by a conservation professional, not a mere guide. There is nothing similar on the market. Check out our tours in modules like: Historical Circuit; Danakil Depression; Eastern 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 may be very costly. So let us help you plan your entire trip and book your local flights for an incredibly low price after you booked your international flight with Ethiopian Airlines! Also: Ethiopia can be combined with other East African countries, we organize.


The first known kingdom to arise in what is now Tigray, was "D`mt" about 800 BC - from which period the Yeha Temple remains -, later to be replaced by the Aksumite Empire, which lasted from at least 400 BC to the 900 AC. Spreading far beyond modern Eritrea and Tigray, the empire and left many historical monuments like majestic stelae, the ruins of many palaces whose archaeology still remains to be studied and the famous rock-hewn churches. The Tigray-Tigrinya have a rich heritage of music and dance, using drums and stringed instruments tuned to a pentatonic scale. Secular music are performed by traditional artisan castes, while religious music and iconic art is performed by the Ethiopian Orthodox cast.


The Tigray people are descendants of early Semitic-speaking peoples who date back at least 4000 years, making the region the oldest continuously inhabited place of Africa South of the Sahara. Ethiopian tradition has it, that the Ethiopian nobility, which originated from Tigray, trace their ancestry to king Menelik I, the, sun of the Queen Sheba and King Solomon, as do the priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Menelik I would become the first king of the Solomonic line of rulers which only ended with the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 by the brutal communist Derg Regime, distroying much of Tigray's culture & history. The latter remained in power until a an uprising against the totalitarian regime started in Aksum starting a seventeen years of war which ended with of the Derg by a federal system for Ethiopia and while Eritrea became independent in 1993 by the help of Tigray people.


Through its Red Sea ports of Massawa and Asseb, the Axum empire became the region through which trading caravans reached all the way out to Persia and beyond trading salt and ivory. The present day camel caravans in the Danakil Depression are the last but fast disappearing reminder of this rich trade, while the castles at Gondar remind us of the traditional ties with India. Due to war and threat from Muslims who had conquered Somalia and Yemen, the new capital was built in Gondar further away from the Muslim armies. After it lost the coast to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, Tigray lost both wealth and status. Yohannes IV (1872?89) moved the seat of governance back to Tigray, settling in Mekele, but after him, the seat of power was permanently moved to Addis Ababa.


The Battle of Adwa - a insignificant village in North Tigray - in 1896 between the Ethiopia and Italy near the town of Adwa, secured Ethiopian sovereignty, thus making Ethiopia the only African country to never have been colonized - not counting a brief occupation during the Second World War - while its legal government led by Emperor Haile Selassie was in exile in London.


The present day capital of Tigray is Mekele, a fast growing city in the North-east. Read all about the culture of Tigray: 96% Orthodox, 4% Muslim; Houses are from rock, dirt, and poles and blend in with the rocky landscape.


TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Mekele Airport, Tigray

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Mekele, capital of Tigray

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Palace Emperor Yohannes IV, Mekele, Tigray

Left above: Mekelle airport.

Above: A fast growing city at about 2100 m above sea level, Mekele in an important hub for exploring Axum, the rock hewn churches and the Danakil Depression.

Left: Royal palace.


Mekele can be reached with daily flights from Addis Ababa, while further connecting tourism destinations like Axum and Gondar.


Rock Hewn Churches of Tigray

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?.


The churches are usually semi-monolithic (only partially separated from the congregation rock) or hewn out of caves. There are more than 200 of such cliff churches between Gheralta and Adwa, many of them relatively easily accessible, but some can only be reached by climbing up difficult terrain or even up cliffs.


TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Maryam Kordor cliff church, Tigray, Ethiopia

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Gheralta rock hewn church interior, Tigray

Entrance of a rock-hewn church in Gheralte, Ethiopia

Interior of a cliff church in Gheralte, Tigray


TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Yeha Temple of the Moon, Tigray, Ethiopia

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Basket shop Axum, Tigray, Ethiopia

The tower of the Yeha Temple of the Moon.

Basket shop in Axum, Tigray



The city of Axum is home to the world famous Stelae Field, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tsion Maryam Church, the "Vatican of the Ethiopean Church and a great number of unexplored or poorly explored ruins of palaces and other archaeological buildings, many resting under modern day buildings and infrastructure.


TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Axum UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tigray

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Emperor Kaleb's Palace, Tigray

Axum, Stellae field, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Emperor Kaleb's palace at Axum, Tigray.


TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Tsion Maryam Cathedral, Tigray

Mai Shum, Queen Sheba's Bath, Tigray

Tsion Maryam Cathedral in Axum is the holiest church of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, comparable to the Vatican for the Roman Catholic Church.

Mai Shum, reservoir, locally referred to as Queen Sheba's swimmingpool. 



Landscape and roads of Tigray

While the roughed  landscape of Tigray has kept it relatively safe over the millennia, it also isolated the region from the rest of the world, impairing its development and progress. Throughout the country, the Government of Ethiopia has been building brand new roads based on international standards, interconnecting city after city; Tigray not being an exception. Now all tourism destinations can be reaches over decent roads.


TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Canyon land Tigray, Ethiopia


Dramatic canyon landscape in Tigray.


Brand new hairpin roads connect more and more cities in Ethiopia.


Terraces Tigray

Torch Lilly, Tigray

Terraced agriculture in the mountainous highlands of Tigray have conserved the soil for thousands of years.

Torch lilies decorate the rough Tigray landscape with its countless cliffs, home of hundreds of cliff churches.


Traditional architecture in Tigray

Unlike elsewhere in Ethiopia, traditional rural houses and farms are mostly square stone houses behind stone enclosures, showing a long standing relationship with other regions of the world, where houses were built out of stone.


TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Stone farmhouse Tigray


An essential part of Tigray's culture & history are the stone farmhouses with enclosure and earth covered roof to keep the heat out.


Frankincense and Myrrh

With about 10 different species of Frankincense and Myrrh trees, Ethiopia is the home of biblical Myrrh and clerical incense for the Catholic and Orthodox churches.


Incense forest Tigray

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Incense flowers, Tigray

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Basket of Frankincese and Myrrh in Ethiopia Orthodox Church

Left above: Wild frankincense forests like the one above are heavily threatened, because they are mismanaged, overgrazed and incessantly burnt. These forest no longer rejuvenate. 

Above: The flower of an incense tree.

Left: incense resin.

According to the Ethiopian Coptic Church, the biblical wise men came from Ethiopia, bringing frankincense, myrrh and gold, greatly valued products from Ethiopia. Frankincense comes from trees of the genus Boswellia, while myrrh comes from the Commiphora myrrha tree, both native to Ethiopia. 

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Frankincense from Ethiopia

TIGRAY REGION CULTURE: Myrrh from Ethiopia

Incense resin.

Myrrh resin from Ethiopia





Ethiopia Historical Monuments by car

9 days. Price: $890 per person, minimum 4. Hotels, meals, transportation, fees, non-alcoholic beverages, tee/coffee at meals included. Minimum 2 passengers.

Ask for group discount.

Ethiopia Historical Monuments by plane

5 days. Price: $890 per person approximately, pending flight costs. Transportation, entry fees, meals, etc. Prices may vary depending on fluctuating air fairs. The itinerary will be adjusted according to flights Minimum 2 passengers.  Longer itineraries at additional hotel costs allow for a more relaxed program.

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. Hotel in Bahir Dar.


  1. Morning Flight to Bahir Dar

  2. Visit Blue Nile Falls and Portuguese Bridge;

  3. Hotel in Bahir Dar.

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 Hotel.

Day 2: BAHIR DAR - GONDAR - by car

  1. Early morning half day excursion by boat on Lake Tana to visit several of the famous Lake Tana churches and the origin of the Blue Nile to watch Hippos;

  2. Afternoon drive to Gondar;

  3. Visit Royal Enclosure with the palaces of 6 kings, including Fasilides Castle;

  4. Visit Fasimile's Bath;

  5. Hotel in Gondar.

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 Dining Room (Kusquam) and/or Fasimile's Bathroom depending on available time;

  3. Hotel in Gondar.


  1. Time permitting Visit Mentewab's Castle very early in the morning;

  2. Morning flight to Lalibela;

  3. Church treasures museum Lalibela;

  4. Visit the Northern and Southern rock hewn church complexes;

  5. Hotel in Lalibela.


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

  1. Early in the morning visit the City fortress with the palaces of 6 kings;

  2. Road trip to Axum;

  3. Coffee ceremony;

  4. Hotel in Axum.


  1. Early morning excursion to the Southern Complex;

  2. Flight to Axum;

  3. Visit the Stelae compound;

  4. Visit the Tsion Mariam  Church where the Arc of the Covenant is held and the 16th century church on the same complex, which is much more interesting;

  5. Visit Emperor Kaleb's Palace;

  6. Coffee ceremony at a ceremony in a friend's home

  7. Hotel.


Day 5: AXUM - MEKELLE, road distance  ? 250km

  1. Visit the famous beautiful Stellae at Axum;

  2. Visit Queen Sheba's Palace (officially Dongar Palace);

  3. Gudit Stelae Field opposite the palace;

  4. Debre Liqanos Monastery;

  5. Queen Sheba's Pool (May Shum);

  6. Enzana Enscription, a 3-lingual stone describing a battle of King Enzana

  7. King Basen's Tomb;

  8. Ride to Mekelle;

  9. On the way, visit Yeha Temple;

  10. Hotel in Mekelle.


  1. Visit Queen Sheba's Palace (officially Dongar Palace);

  2. Gudit Stelae Field opposite the palace;

  3. Debre Liqanos Monastery;

  4. Queen Sheba's Pool (May Shum);

  5. Enzana Enscription, a 3-lingual stone describing a battle of King Enzana

  6. King Basen's Tomb;

  7. Flight to Addis Ababa.


Day 6: MEKELE - WUKRO - MEKELLE, road distance  ? 45km

  1. Visit Rock Hewn Churches in Wukro;

  2. Visit Palace Emperor Yohannes IV;

  3. Hotel in Mekelle.


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

  1. Leave early in the morning for Lalibela;

  2. Church treasures museum Lalibela

  3. Hotel in Lalibela.


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 Historical Monuments and return trip to Addis Ababa;

  2. Transfer to hotel.



Tigray culture & history

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 1 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 affordable and reliable in-country flights servicing all major cities of Ethiopia. The 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 then 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 $40 - $70 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!!!


What makes us different from so many other tour operators?

Just look at the quality of our high resolution pictures. We took them all ourselves. We have thousands of high resolution pictures on this website, that you can see enlarged by clicking on them. These pictures show that we have been everywhere in the country of your interest and really know the details. We are professional explorers and biologists with MSc and PhD.


National Parks Tours Worldwide, a social responsibility and conservation company, is a brand name of the World Institute for Conservation & Environment, registered in the Netherlands with headquarters in the USA.


Phone USA:

(++)(1) 304 - 901 - 0718


Phone Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

(++251) (0) 911 440 915





Skype: ecotravelworldwide