Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rock-hewn churces of Ethiopia's Tigray region


Dawn's light reveals the magnificent view from Gheralta Lodge

Churches are tucked away into the cliffs of the Gheralta
mountians
Most people familiar with Ethiopia think of Lalibela when they think of the country's rock-hewn churches. While the churches in Lalibela are most impressive and many are easily accessible in a day's tour on foot, the Tigray region actually offers the largest concentration of rock-hewn churches in the country, and in a setting with almost no tourists.

An incredibly scenic drive east from Axum takes travelers through the jagged Adwa Mountains (site of a famous battle between Ethiopia and Italy in 1896) and into the Tigray region, which looks more like Utah or Arizona than what visitors might expect from northern Ethiopia. Photographic opportunities are endless, from the gorgeous cliffs of the Gheralta mountains to the endlessly fascinating local scenes.

There's plenty of exploring to be done on
Gheralta Lodge's property
The ultimate goal for most visitors is to see the region's rock-hewn churches, most of which are carved into cliff sides, making this region a bit more adventurous than seeing the churches in Lalibela. It is likely that many of the churches have never been seen by foreigners, and those that can be seen require a short walk at a minimum, while some involve strenuous climbs. One is even tucked away so high that it can only be accessed by climbing a rope (and is only accessible to men, so no luck for this traveler).

Travel Ethiopia can work with you to ensure that a visit to Tigray and Gheralta is tailored to your client's interests. There is a cluster of churches easily seen in one day, and those interested in digging a bit deeper (or just relaxing and enjoying the incredible scenery) can stretch the visit into two or three days. Given the drive and how much the area has to offer, we recommend a minimum of two nights at the charming, full-board Gheralta Lodge (singles, doubles, triples and family accommodations available). More lodging will come online in the area soon (including a property from Kuriftu, known for its lovely property on the shores of Lake Tana), but we enjoyed the simple charm and beautiful grounds found at Gheralta Lodge.

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