Lake Tana and its Monasteries

  • Covering over 3500 sq km Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest Lake and has long been known to the outside world – the Egyptians called it Choloe palus, the Greeks knew it as Pseboe. The Lake is known as the home of the Monasteries founded on some of the 20 of its 37 Islands.
  • Most of the monasteries were founded between the 14th and 17th Centuries and some were founded earlier and may even have been the site of Pre Christian Shrine.
  • Many have long provided a safe sanctuary for royal treasures and tombs.
  • Many of these monasteries were practically unknown to the outside world prior to Major Robert Cheesmans pioneering 1930 expedition.
  • It is inhabited by variety of bird and fish species

Kibran Gebriel

  • Lies on a tiny, forested crescent, provides sanctuary to as many as 40 monks and was founded in the 13th C by Abuna Ze Yohannis.

Lake Tana and its Monasteries

It is the closest island monastery to Bahir Dar and one of the most beautiful and atmospheric of the Lake Tana Monasteries. It is of particular interest for its Library of almost 20 old books. It is allowed only for men visitors. It can be visited in conjunction with Ura-Kidane Mihret.

Ura-Kidane Mihret

  • Most famous of the Zege peninsula Monasteries with a very beautiful setting and finely decorated maqidas (holy of holies) and a museum displaying important collections of old crosses crowns and books.
  • It was founded in the 14th C by a saint known as Abuna Betre Mariam (Rod of Mary).
  • The circular church was built in the 16th C. The walls are covered by murals painted between 100 and 250 years ago. The most recent were executed by an artist called Engida during the dying years of the reign of Menelik II.

Azuwa Maryam

  • This monastery is another interesting monastery on the peninsula. It lies close to Ura-Kidane Mihret and also boasts several animated 18th c paintings
  • Other point of interest to tourists on the Zege Peninsula is the monastery of Mehal Zege Giorgis and Beta Maryam

Narga Silassie

  • It is situated on the Western shore of Dek, the largest island on Lake Tana. It lies some three hours boat ride from Bahir Dar. Narga Silassie is one of the most ornately decorated monasteries of the lake. It was built in the 18th c for princes Mentwab.
  • The stone walls surrounding the compound, with their doomed turrets are typically Gondarine.
  • The inner walls are covered from top to bottom by paintings with pictures of saints, Mary and Baby Jesus etc.Lake Tana and its Monasteries

Daga Istifanos

  • It is the largest Monastery on the Lake, home to as many as 200 monks. According to tradition the Monastery was founded by Hiruta amlak in the 13th c
  • The Church on the islands conical peak is relatively not old- it was rebuilt after the original burnt in the 19th C. Tradition has it that Daga Istifanos is where the Ark of the Covenant was hidden during Ahmed Gragn s 16th c Occupation of Axum.
  • The main point of interest at this monastery is the mausoleum which contains the mummified remains of at least five Ethiopian Emperors: Yekuno amlak, Dawit, Zara Yacob, Susenyos and Fasiledes.
  • Daga lies some three hours by boat from Bahir Dar

Tana Kirkos

  • One of the most mysterious monasteries and very important historically – the Ark of the covenant is said to have been hidden here for 800 years before it was finally taken to it final resting place Axum. The present modern church is built in the 19th C and can be reached from Bahir Dar in about two and half hours boat ride.
  • It has a trio of hollowed sacrificial pillars that stand along side it testifying to the islands importance as a Judaic religious shrine in Pre Christian times
  • Other places of interest to tourists on Lake Tana are the monasteries of Mitsel Fasiledes, Debre Maryam, mandaba Medhane alem, Birgeda Maryam etc

Blue Nile River Falls

Blue Nile River Falls

  • The Abbay (Blue Nile) River is certainly the most famous river, its source Lake Tana, for long exercised the imagination of travelers and geographers, until the Scottish traveler James Bruce settled the issue in the second half of the 18thc. The Blue Nile supplies most of the water that flows into Egypt’s Nile Valley
  • About 30 kms after it exits Lake Tana, the river plunges over a 45m high rock face to form one of Africa’s most spectacular water falls known locally as Tis Abbay ( smoke of the Nile) or Tis Isat (smoke of fire).
  • Bahir Dar to Gondar by road
  • The drive from Bahir Dar to Gondar on paved road (189 kms) should not take more than 4 - 5 hours including stops and possible diversions for sight seeing. Some places of interest for tourists along this road include Wanzaye hot springs, Awramba Community and Guzara Castle.
  • Wanzaye hot springs is regarded as holy and is also of interest for its colorful birds and monkeys inhabiting the surrounding riparian vegetation. Awramba was founded in 1985 by a group of 20 people to demonstrate to its members to Ethiopians that the best escape route from poverty and hunger is not religion or prayer but education and plain hard work. Guzara Castle is regarded to have been built for emperor Sarsa Dengel in 1571-72. Easily visible from the main road this castle grand views across to Lake Tana.

Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar by road

  • The main 560kms road between Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar via Dejen and Debre Markos is sealed. It takes full day drive to get to Bahir Dar. The most significant geographical land mark enroute is the Scenic Blue Nile Gorge. Other main sites f interest along this road are the spectacular mugger River gorge and the famous medieval monastery of Debre Libanos