NATIONAL PARKS SAFARIS ETHIOPIA

HIGHLIGHTS, WHERE THEY ARE AND HOW TO VISIT THEM

Home Up Addis Ababa Northern Ethiopia Danakil Depression Lake Tana Ethiopia Safaris Lalibela Eastern Route


 

 

 

LAKE TANA MONASTERIES

LAKE TANA MONASTERIES: SOME MONASTERIES ARE ONLY OPEN TO MEN; DISAPPOINTING FOR WOMEN! BUT NOT TO DESPAIR: THESE BEAUTIFUL ONES ARE OPEN TO ALL

Lake Tana Monasteries

Lake Tana, at a distance of 550k from capital Addis Ababa, is the source of the Blue Nile and with its size of about 66km long and 84km, 350,000ha, the largest lake of Ethiopia. At an elevation of 1,788masl, and located in the largely Ethiopian Orthodox Amhara Region, the 14m deep lake with about 45 islands - depending on the level of the lake - 8 of which are the home to historical monasteries and churches.

 

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 Tana area is the traditional home of the Amhara, primarily adhering the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The area also used to be the homeland of the falashas who practised a form of Judaism, but after centuries of persecution, most of them were airlifted to Israel in 1991.

 

As Tigray, the original center of the Ethiopian Church with its rock hewn churches became in decline, a new church architecture was developed on the rocks and islands of Lake Tana, between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries,  based of the designs of regular round houses with conical thatched roofs. During this period, new religious arts was developed for the decoration of these churches.

The interiors of the Lake Tana Monasteries and churches have of a three-part division:

bullet

an outer ambulatory, qene mehlet, accessible to anyone;

bullet

an inner ambulatory, qiddist, used by communicants at mass; and

bullet

the inner sanctum, maqdas, where the ten commandments, tabot, is kept, where only priests may enter.

The monasteries and churches are believed to have been built over earlier religious sites. They include the fourteenth-century Debre Maryam, and the eighteenth-century Narga Selassie, Tana Qirqos (said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant before it was moved to Axum), and Ura Kidane Mehret, known for its regalia.

 

Some Lake Tana monasteries are only accessible to men; very disappointing to women. However, not to despair, some beautiful ones are open to all. Daily excursions are organized out of Bahir Dar to two churches (Betre Maryam on the Zege peninsula and one on Dek Island) where both sexes are welcome to the inner and outer ambulatories and the treasure rooms. In those treasuries are many ancient manuscripts and precious pieces of religious art as well as royal jewelry and other representative objects.

 

The Lake was formed about 5 million years ago when lava blocked the about 60 streams and rivers of which , Megech, Gumara, Rib Rivers and Gilgel Abbay (Little Nile River)are the main tributaries. The latter, is attributed to be the source of the Blue Nile (Abbay River), the longest of the lake’s tributaries, as it drains Mount Amedamit, south of the lake. Over the last few centuries the lake's water level  has fallen about 2m  but is now regulated with a control dam where it discharges into the Blue Nile and falls over the Blue Nile Falls, some 40km down stream.

 

Since there are no upstream waters that link the lake to other waterways, the lake became ecologically isolated when it was obstructed, causing the evolution of the fish fauna of the lake and its tributaries to go its own independent way. As a result. 19 species of endemic fish, live in the lake, the larger of which (Barbs) are offered in restaurants in Bahir Dar. As fish stocks are still more or less ok, there is no conservation objection eating those fishes. According to the Ethiopian Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, 1,454 tonnes of fish are landed each year at Bahir Dar.

 

Among the mammals, the Hippopotamus is the most eye-catching species, often seen in the wetlands of the discharge into the Blue Nile River. Obviously, numerous wetland birds, such as the great white pelican and African darter, reside at Lake Tana. It is also an important wintering ground for many Palearctic migrant waterbirds. There are no crocodiles, but the African softshell turtle has been recorded near the Blue Nile outflow from the lake. There are fifteen species of molluscs, including one endemic as well as an endemic freshwater sponge.

 

The Ethiopian churches are the custodians of both religious and royal treasures such as royal crowns, ancient bibles, historical art, sacred relics, including the remains of royals, etc.

The tourist jetty at Lake Tana from where excursion boats depart for the island churches and monasteries.

Shaded excursion boats take visitors to churches and monasteries accessible to both men and women.

   
Entrance gate to Betre Maryam Church court yard, Lake Tana Betre Maryam Church at the Zege Peninsula, Lake Tana

Inside the Lake Tana churches have three spaces:

bullet

the outer corridor, the "qene mehlet", accessible to anyone;

bullet

an inner circular corridor called the "qiddist" which is used by the worshippers at mass; and

bullet

the holiest room, the "maqdas" in which the "tabot" - a stone tablet with the 10 commandments. Only priests may enter.

Left above: entrance gate to Betre Maryam Church court yard.

Above: Betre Maryam Church.

Left: the outside bamboo wall.

Below left: Interior of the outer corridor, the qene mehlet.

Below right: the interior roof of the inner corridor.

Interior of the outer corridor of churches at Lake Tana, the qene mehlet. The interior roof of the inner corridor of Lake Tana Churches
Interior roof of the outer corridor of Lake Tana churches, qene mehlet. Murals at the adobe walls of the inner ambulatory of the Betre Maryam Church, Lake Tana

Interior roof from the outer corridor, qene mehlet.

Murals at the adobe walls of the inner ambulatory of the Betre Maryam Church.

   
Inner ambulatory, qiddist, of the Betre Maryam Church at the Zege peninsula, Lake Tana. Entrence to the holy room, the "maqdas", of Betre Maryam Church at the Zege peninusula, Lake Tana.

Inner ambulatory, qiddist, of the Betre Maryam Church at the Zege peninsula, Lake Tana.

Entrance to the holy room, the "maqdas", of Betre Maryam Church at the Zege peninusula, Lake Tana.

   
Treasure room of Betre Maryam Church at the Zege peninsula, Lake Tana. Centuries old bibles in the treasure room of the Betre Maryam Church, Lake Tana.

Treasure room of Betre Maryam Church at the Zege peninsula, Lake Tana.

Centuries old bibles in the treasure room of the Betre Maryam Church, Lake Tana.

   
Crowns of various famous emperors of Ethiopia, including Emperors Tewodros, Yohannes I, Fasil, Teklegiorgis, to mention the most famous ones. Doors to the holy room, the "maqdas", of Betre Maryam Church at the Zege peninusula, Lake Tana.

Crowns of various famous emperors of Ethiopia, including Emperors Tewodros, Yohannes I, Fasil, Teklegiorgis, to mention the most famous ones.

   
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo worshipers on their way to mass at Betre Maryam, Lake Tana Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians on their way to a funeral.

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians on their way to mass.

 

Tankwa Lake Tana

A tankwa is a canoe shaped papyrus raft, similar to the ones found on hieroglyphs in ancient Egypt, which is not surprising as both countries are connected by the same river as well as the Red Sea. Tankwas are not water-proof as they float on the papyrus stemps; they are used for fishing, ferrying people and supplying the inhabited islands.

A tankwa is a canoe shaped papyrus raft at Lake Tana. A tankwa is a canoe shaped papyrus raft at Lake Tana similar to the on the Nile in Egypts
A tankwa is a canoe shaped papyrus raft used for fishing at Lake Tana.

Endemic Megastoma fish from Lake Tana served in restaurants

Endemic Megastoma fish served in restaurants in Bahir Dar.

A tankwa is a canoe shaped papyrus raft, here used as a ferry on Lake Tana. A tankwa is a canoe shaped papyrus raft, floating on the hollows of the papyrus stems

Various uses of tankwas.

   
Along Zela Peninsula and the Blue Nile River Outlet, enormous Papyrus marshes line Lake Tana. Hippopotamus are common on the lake, and one can often see them resting in the waters near the Blue Nile outflow.

Along Zela Peninsula and the Blue Nile River Outlet, enormous Papyrus marshes line Lake Tana.

Hippopotamus are common on the lake, and one can often see them resting in the waters near the Blue Nile outflow.

   
For birdwatchers, Lake Tana is a Paradise. Tens of thousands of waders and water birds can be seen along the shallow shores. Ducks and other water birds in the marshland waters along the shore of Lake Tana.

For birdwatchers, Lake Tana is a Paradise. Tens of thousands of waders and water birds can be seen along the shallow shores, even when one travels north towards Gondar.

Ducks and other water birds in the marshland waters along the shore of Lake Tana.

   
Goliath Herons are the world's largest heron, which can be seen in the marshes of Lake Tana. Saddle-billed storks in Lake Tana's marshy meadows.

Goliath Herons are the world's largest heron, which can be seen in the marshes of Lake Tana.

Saddle-billed storks in Lake Tana's marshy meadows.

   
The Silver Heron, a virtually cosmopolite bird can be seen along the shores of the lake. The Maribou Stork is found along most fresh water bodies in Ethiopia, including Lake Tana.

The Silver Heron, a virtually cosmopolite bird can be seen along the shores of the lake.

The Maribou Stork is found along most fresh water bodies in Ethiopia, including Lake Tana.

   
The Hammerkop is a very common heron species occurring almost everywhere in Ethiopia. Another cosmopolite bird which is always a pretty sight is the Snowy Egret.

The Hammerkop is a very common heron species occurring almost everywhere in Ethiopia.

Another semi-cosmopolite bird which is always a pretty sight is the Snowy Egret.

   
White-breasted cormoran at Lake Tana. Great White Pelicans at Lake Tana are quite a common sight.

White-breasted cormoran at Lake Tana.

Great White Pelicans at Lake Tana are quite a common sight.

   
African spoonbills are not a common sight along the shores of Lake Tana. With a bit of luck, one can see a flock of Crowned cranes along the shores of the lake.

African spoonbills are not a common sight along the shores of Lake Tana.

With a bit of luck, one can see a flock of Crowned cranes along the shores of the lake.

   
Common in the gardens of the hotels along the lake, weavers are known to build very artistic nests in colonies, Lake Tana. Beautiful purple flowers found in the gardens of the monasteries beautify the surroundings of the islands of Lake Tana.

Common in the gardens of the hotels along the lake, weavers are known to build very artistic nests in colonies.

Beautiful purple flowers found in the gardens of the monasteries beautify the surroundings.

   
The garden of Ghion hotel is a wonderful and quiet place right on the shore of Lake Tana. The restaurant of Hotel Ghion has the most beautiful view of all hotels over Lake Tana.

The garden of Ghion hotel is a wonderful and quiet place right on the shore of the lake.

The restaurant of Hotel Ghion has the most beautiful view of all hotels over the lake.

   
Bungalows of the most scenic hotel on the shore of Lake Tana. Lovely lake-side garden with swimming pool at hotel, Lake Tana.

Bungalows of the most scenic hotel on the shore of Lake Tana.

Lovely lake-side garden with swimming pool at hotel.

 

Devil's Nose Rock

Not mentioned by name in any of the guides, we asked local what they call it and the gave a name which translates into "Devil's Nose Rock". So, that is what we call it here. It is a single hoodoo-type basaltic rock halfway the Road Bahir Dar - Gondar. It is quite a landmark 75km north of Bahir Dar and 10km west of Lake Tana. What is significant about is that it is at least an important roost for Rüppel's Vultures and probably a nesting place.

Devil's Nose Rock, 80 km North of Bahir Dar has Ruepell's vultures. Devil's Nose Rock, Addis Zemen, 10 km West of Lake Tana is and important roost for has Ruepell's vultures.
Top of Devil's Nose Rock, 10 km West of Lake Tana with Ruepell's vultures and other birds of prey. Devil's Nose Rock, nesting and roosting site for Ruepell's vultures, North of Lake Tana.
Ruepell's vultures, at Devil's Nose Rock, near Addis Zemen, West of Lake Tana.

The Devil's Nose Rock, a basaltic hoodo, near Addis Zemen, 75km north Bahir Dar halfway to Gondar. Great stop for birders as it is an important roost and possibly nesting place for Rueple's and other vultures.

 

Below: a satellite image of Lake Tana.

 
Map Lake Tana
 

Lake Tana is part of this fabulous travel itinerary:

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.

 

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.