Example Itinerary which can start from Axum or Mekele
Visiting the Rock Hewn Churches of Northern Tigray will be definitely one of the highlights of your trip. The churches in Tigray are a real marvel and are certainly not to be missed. If you can go to see them, go.
ETT 501 – TWO DAYS TIGRAY CHURCHES
Day 1: Drive from Axum to Hawzien also from Mekele to Hawzien
Axum – Hawzien (190 kms., 6-7 hours)
Drive from Axum to Hawzein via Adwa and Adigrat. For the Ethiopians, the town of Adwa holds huge significance. It was in the hills surrounding Adwa that the Emperor Menelik II inflicted the biggest defeat ever on a colonial army in Africa and saved Ethiopia from colonization. About 11km east of Adwa is the monastery of Abba Garima, said to have been founded by one of the nine saints in the 6th century. The monastery is known for its collection of religious artifacts including three illuminated gospels from the 10th century. Use the town as the base from which to visit Yeha or Debra Damo. Yeha is famous for its huge and remarkable temple. According to the 19th-century German scholar Heinrich Miiller, the temple is thought to date back to about seven or eight hundred years before the birth of Christ. The temple is believed to be the oldest standing building in the country. Beside the remarkable temple stands a church dedicated to Abba Aftse. Abba Aftse was one of the famous nine saints who came to Ethiopia in the 6th century from the eastern Roman Empire to teach the Gospel. The church, sharing the same compound with the temple is rectangular in shape. Proceed to Debre Damo monastery accessible only by rope and not allowed for women. Then continue driving to Adigrat for lunch at a local restaurant. Adigrat is the largest town in Tigray after Mekelle and is an important junction linking Ethiopia with Eritrea. Finally drive to Hawzen for overnight via Sinkata, situated 36km south of Adigrat. Adigrat is a quietly attractive village of stone houses with sandstone cliffs to the east offering stunning views of the Gheralta plains. You can use the town as the base from which to visit the rock hewn churches at Gheralta. Overnight at Adulis hotel Hawzien.
In one day you will visit three churches; Abuna Yemata Guh; Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor. All of which are very different in style but stunningly beautiful in their own way.
To visit Abuna Yemata Guh, walking for about an hour to commence a steep ascent up the side of the Gheralta massif. This steep ascent soon turn into a climb using foot holds and hand holds chipped into the sandstone rock by the passage of many hands and feet. The climb and the walk along very narrow ledges with sheer drops to the side is not one for the faint hearted. The church itself can be reached by walking out on a ledge one meter wide and with a 200m drop to the left hand side. At the entrance there is a small cave and a wooden door built into the rock.
Of the three, Maryam Korkor is the most impressive architecturally. A huge, high ceiling is supported by 12 free standing pillars. Looking at it you could not help but wonder how the architect managed to carve so high from the ground.
Drive to Mekele.Over Night at Atse Yohanes or Debre amo Hotel
$300 per person. Price includes:-
• All Entrance fees and licenses as per the program.
• Includes Vehicle
• Fuel, driver allowance
• Hotel with Bed & Breakfast
• Local guide service as per the program
• comprehensive insurance, free mileage
• accommodation in Hawzien tourist class hotel.
With no less than 120 Rock-Hewn Churches in Tigray, organized in different clusters, you could spend weeks in this area and still not discover everything. Many are stunning, and you can only cover a few of those in the Wukro Cluster and the Gheralta Cluster on these two days.
ETT 502 Tigray Churches Tour (5D and 4N)
Day1. Aksum City tour
The tour includes the main stelea park. These famed granite obelisks are relics of this time and have gained UNESCO World Heritage site status. The tallest , the Great stelea, has fallen and broken in to six massive pieces , but when standing was 33 meters (108 feet) tall and weighed about five hundred twenty tones and other remarkable pre –Christian monuments .
We continue the city tour , visiting the swimming pool of Queen of Sheba , Ezana Inscription , tomb of King Kaleb and his son King Gebremeskel ,Queen of Sheba’s palace ; the legendary ruler of the south. As well as St. Mary Zion church and the Ark of the Covenant.
O/n Aksum Sabean Hotel
Day2. Aksum –Ghereata
After breakfast, drive via the dramatic mountain of Adwa to visit the temple of Yeha, dating from the 8th to 7th centuries BC, and thought to be the capital of pre-Axumite civilization and the museum. Afterwards, drive another hour to see the famous and oldest monastery of Debre Damo and stop on the way in Adigrat for a lunch then drive to Hawzien .O/n Gherealta Lodge
Day3. Visit Gherealta churches
Drive 12km to west of Hawzien to see the famous church of Abune Yemata built by one of the nine saints, according to the clergy men 6thc A.D, truly adventure place with a panoramic view and best paintings .O/n Gherealta lodge
Day4. Gherealta Churches
After breakfast, drive to see Mariam Korkor and Daniel Korkor takes more than an hour walking but enjoyable and best view.
O/n Wukro lodge
Day5. Wukro – Mekelle
In the morning visit Abune Abrham church , an hour walking from the main road ,great view ,ancient church and beautiful paintings .On the way back ,visit the oldest, unique church of Abreha we Atsibeha the final rest place of King Ezana and Sizana . Stop in Wukro for lunch, in the afternoon ,visit Yohannes IV museum in Mekelle . O/n Mekelle Planet Hotel