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The Historic Route

Background of the tour

This encompasses four major historic sites: Axum, Lalibela, Gondar, and Bahir Dar. 

Axum was the seat of an empire which extended across the red sea to Arabia, traded with India and China, had its own alphabet and notational system, constructed great engineering works and dams and which was reckoned in the 4th century to be one of the four great powers of the ancient world.

 Today the visitor can see stelae (the largest single pieces of stone erected anywhere), the tombs and castles of Kings, Axum Museum and Mariamtsion Church, built on the sit of Ethiopia’s first church. A chapel within the church compound is believed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to house the Ark of the Covenant (see Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal). A visit to Axum can be extended to take in the 500 BC pre-Axumite temple of Yeha.

At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries King Lalibela of the Zagwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches, the New Jerusalem, rightly reckoned to be one of the wonders of the world. There are 11 churches within the town named after him and outlying churches that can be visited on a second day.

Gondar was the capital of the Ethiopian Empire from the 127th centuries and is distinguished by its castles and imperial compound and by its churches, particularly Debre Berhan Selassie; the walls and ceiling of which are covered in murals. On a second day, visitors could take in the very fine and recently restored medieval church of Debre Sina Mariam at Gorgora, at the northern end of Lake Tana, or take vistas of the Simien Mountains.

Bahir Dar is situated on Lake Tana, which is dotted with island monasteries (most are closed to women). South of the Lake is the Nile, which feeds into Lake Tana and exists north of Bahir Dar to create the spectacular Blue Nile Falls some 30 Kms. downstream.

The easiest and fastest way to get Around is by air, although that means missing out on some stunning scenery. Below are two itineraries for air and road travel - a combination could be made or the itineraries altered to take in other sites or activities en route, such as the markets of Senbete and Bati the rock hewn churches of Tigray, some days walking in the Simien Mountains, or crossing Lake Tana by boat.






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Last modified: November 09, 1999