Expedition to Rock Churches of Tigray
The Tigray region is rich in ancient churches with spectacular paintings and special architecture. They are found in dramatic remote locations. Over 125 rock hewn churches are recorded in Tigray alone. These churches date from 4th-15th century. Most of them are visited around the Gheralta chain of mountains. Others are found in eastern and southern Tigray. Gheralta, northwest of Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, is the home of a quarter of the rock churches, some famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and old manuscripts. Others are known for their magnificent views and exciting ascents. The scenery of Gheralta is spectacular. The view of the graceful mount Gheralta and the far-reaching Hawzien plain is a rare combination of extraordinary beauty Some 2 hours drive from Axum- brings you to the ancient monastery of Debre Damo, and on route Yeha village is home to the 5thc Sabean Temple. Tours of the Tigray rock- churches can be given either in combination with the Historic Route or separately for tailor made travelers. It is also possible to combine the Danakil Depression, Erta Ale, the Tigray churches and to the rock hewn churches of Lalibela. As an adventure and off- the beaten track package.
STELAE AND ROCK CHURCHES (2-3 DAYS)
Day 1: Axum Begin your day with a visit to the Church of St. Mary of Zion, including a stop at the chapel where the Ark of the Covenant is supposedly kept. Then travel to the famous Stelae. These stones are larger than any individual part of the pyramids! After this we’ll journey to the Archeology Museum where you can learn more of the ancient history of the area and see many of the findings from Axum and other empires. We’ll also see the Ezana Stone, a trilingual monument, similar to the Rosetta Stone, that researchers have used to learn much about the Axumite Kingdom. Then we’ll finish the day with a visit to King Caleb’s tomb and the ruins of the palace of the Queen of Sheba.
Day 2: Excursion to the Yeha Temple and Surrounding Rock Churches From Axum we’ll travel to Yeha Temple, which will give you a glimpse of pre-Axumite sites from around 500 BC. Then we’ll see the famed Debre-Damo monastery, a rock-hewn church that requires some climbing – a little adventure and an incredible view!
Day 3: Gheralta Rock Churches Many guests enjoy spending the night at the wonderful Gheralta Lodge. After a restful night and delicious breakfast, get ready for a full day of some of the area’s most famous rock churches. Abune Yemata and Marium Korkor are both known for their challenging climb as well as their spectacular scenery. The day will end with travel back to Mekele, the capital of the Tigrai region.
This exciting itinerary includes spectacular scenery, visits to spectacular ancient ruins, and the opportunity to mingle with the many different people from across the country.