Ethiopia has just celebrated her ninth world heritage site listed by UNESCO that makes it the leading nation in Africa in the number of world heritage sites.

Konso,  situated at 700km south of Addis is the site that has recently joined the list and has made the total number of sites in the country to nine.

What are these nine great sites that have captured the world attention and this important organization? Let’s have a brief look at each of them.

Lalibela church1. Lalibela Rock Churches: These are 12th century rock churches some monolithic that are made of a single rock such as Bet Giorgis, and some semi-monolithic, and some  cave churches all are still active worship centers.

Legend says King Lalibela was divinely inspired and was assisted by angels to finish such a wonderful work. It took him 23 years to complete according to the legend.

Lalibela rock churches are indeed astonishing sites. They are witnessed to undoubtedly rank among the greatest historical sites in the entire christian world.

The churches can be divided in to two groups. The northern clusters also known as the earthly Jerusalem includes churches Bete Medhani Alem, Bete Mariam, Bete Meskel, Bete Denagil, and Bete Golgotha- Michael.

The eastern cluster also known as heavenly Jerusalem includes churches Bete Gebriel and Rufael, Bete Mercurious, Bete Amanuel and Bete Aba Libanos, and at last the famous Bete Giorgis.

2. Gonder Castles – Fasil Gibbie: nicknamed the “Camelot of Africa” features a Royal Castle Gonder number of castle palaces.

Gonder became the capital of Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Fasilades from 1632 to 1667.

He built the first of a number of castles which most of them survived the ravages of war in 1941.

The oldest and most impressive of Gonder’s imperial structure is a two storied palace of Emperor Fasilidas built of roughly hewn brown basalt stones held together with mortar.

These are 400 years old royal castles which were mainly built under the reign of King Fasiledas that can still give you a feel of royalty.

Axum ancient stele3. Axum Steles: Axum was an important political and economic center of Ethiopia 2000 years ago.

It was an influential empire that could be equated with the ancient Rome and Greek empires in many aspects.

There are more than 120 steles that witness the then civilization, a once powerful and  sophisticated empire.

4. Tiya Steles: not so far from the capital, Tiya Steles are situated 82 km south-west of Addis. There are more than 36 steles or obelisks thirty one of them are decorated with carvings and the highest is 3.7mt.

The history of these steles is not yet clear. But it is thought that they were carved sometime between 12th and 15th AD and they were meant for tombstones.

5. Simien Mountains: Nicknamed ‘The Roof of Africa’ for its impressive ranges of mountains, the Simien Mountains feature aView at Simiens unique landscape and rich biodiversity and an endemic wildlife.

It has57 tree species and variety of herbaceous plants, 22 large and 13 small mammals including the endemic Walia Ibex, Ethiopian wolf, Menelik’s bushbuck and the Gelada baboon. It also has 18- bird species.

6. Omo valley: Omo valley is situated at about 700 km south of the capital and is known for the 1.2 million years old fossils excavated by anthropologists. It is an important site as there are more than 40,000 fossils unearthed from.


Harer town market7. Harer: Harer is one of Ethiopia’s unique and oldest cities founded in the 7th century AD.

It is an ancient walled city situated high in Ahmar Mountains on the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley.

People lived where Harer now stands 20,000 years ago leaving behind a priceless legacy of cave paintings.

Harer is an important Muslim city and came to be considered as the fourth most sacred centre of the Islamic world.

8. Awash Lower Valley: it is a paleontological and prehistoric is a center of fossils dating 5.8 million to 100,000 years old. It is an important site and center for many of the findings from the oldest to the earliest hominid fossils.

Many important archeological findings have been made helping palate-anthropologists fill in many of the missing pieces of the puzzle of our past.

9. Konso landscape: Last but not least is Konso which joined the list in 2012. An ancient village and people known their intricate agricultural terracing techniques and for their wooden totems erected in honor of dead warriors as well.

You will be impressed by the landscape, terraces, and the very unusual natural phenomenon and naturally formed sand pinnacles.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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