I just returned from a trip through the historic route of Ethiopia with a tour group totaling ten members. Our trip was planned to last 16 days and to cover most of the northern historic routes and eastern Ethiopia ‘Harar’.

Although my work as a tour operator keeps me engaged in Ethiopia’s tourism attractions, I always find myself wondering at the many and diverse attractions of the country, just as visitors do.

Bahirdar, Blue Nile falls, Lake Tana, and Island Monasteries

We started our tour heading directly to a city named Bahirdar. The city itself is beautiful but probably better well known for being a base to explore the two nearby great attractions.

The first one is 32 kms away, the ‘Blue Nile falls’ the legendary and longest river in the world. We crossed most of the Blue Nile gorge walking and climbing up the mountain escarpments.

Some of the group enjoyed climbing up the mountain slopes and hills when ever they could, whilst others were busy taking photos.

We also had a picnic lunch as we crossed over the gorge and enjoyed the lunch sitting under the shadows of beautiful trees in a green field. We ate Shiro, vegatables and Injera an Ethiopian like pan cake.

Some of the Group at the Blue Nile FallsThe falls are truly spectacular. At the time it was the rainy season, so we were lucky to see the river at its full might and could feel and here the river from far away.

As we got closer, we felt the water shower us like heavy rain. The roar of the water was tremendous so much so that we could not hear ourselves speak.

It was like being in another world standing close to the power and might of the river and made it difficult to describe using mere words. Some of the group members were terrified, others felt as if they were in a dream and some wanted to come back again the next day to experience the excitement all over again.

And yet, we were told that what we were seeing was just 25% of the water, the rest being diverted to the hydroelectric power station. I thought what it might be like had we experienced all the water thundering over the falls.

However, even the part of the water that we had seen, left us with lasting memories of an exciting experience. When we returned back to our Hotel at Bahirdar, we were very wet but above all still excited by what we had seen.

Siding Bahirdar lays Ethiopia’s largest lake ‘Tana’ covering 3,500sq.km

Island Monasteries on Lake TanaOn the lake there are beautiful islands and ancient monasteries, most of them built in the 17th century and which house many important medieval time treasures.

The next day we planned to have a boat trip to these islands that include the Zege Peninsula and where we would find the famous Ura-Kidanemihiret.

Unlike the falls and cities this is another world ‘quiet’, ‘jungle’, ‘ancient’, ‘spiritual’ and ‘atmospheric’.

Some of us felt deeply moved by the 17th century beautiful paintings of ‘Kibran Gabriel’ and the 16th -17th centuries beautiful church paintings and treasures of ‘Ura-Kidanemihiret.’

After finishing our trip to the islands, we took our boat to the place where the lake and the Blue Nile River meet. It’s an amazing site to see the two waters within the lake.

You see the river darker and faster running water against the contrast of the calmer still water of the lake. Here the river crosses the lake and if you turn off the engine of the boat, you still find yourself moving in the direction where the river is heading.

Gonder Royal Castles
Group at Gonder CastlesHaving completed our tour around Bahirdar, we headed to the 17th century Gonderian, a very impressive royal enclosure.

Here we visited the beautifully built ‘fairy tale’ like castles in which former kings once lived and where we found palaces, a chancery, library and even a play ground.

Athough some parts are just ruins most are still in a good shape and some were also quite functional even to this day.

I found myself wondering what it must have been like to live in those times. The castles have an indefinable atmosphere that seemed to take me back centuries into Ethiopia’s past.

After dining at a traditional restaurant our group spent the night at Gonder enjoying local traditional music at “Azmari Bets” where traditional amhara songs and dancing takes place and for which Gonder is well known.

In part 2 my journey continues through the Simien Mountains to the cradle of Ethiopia’s earliest civilization.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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