DEBRE LIBANOS: Taking the historic route north from from Addis Ababa the first stop is Debro Libanos, 110km north of the capital. Here you can find reminders of Saint Tekle Haymanot, the 14th century holy man, who stood on one leg for 7 years in a cave at Debre Libanos. A wonderful modern cathedral marks this spot, the centre of the etiopian orthodox church for hundreds of years. Nearby an old ‘portuguese bridge’ is visible from the main road.
DEBRE MARKOS: Following the historic route north from Addis Ababa next stop is Debre Markos, 305 km north of the capital and also accessible by air three times a week with Ethiopian airlines. Here you will find the nineteenth century church of Markos (Saint Mark) with its pale but beautiful paintings depicting scenes of biblical and religious history.
BAHAR DAR: Bahar Dar, the next stop, 560km from Addis Ababa, has daily Ethiopian Airlines flights, a number of good hotels, and is located on the southern shores of Lake Tana. This is the source of the Blue Nile, with its most spectacular feature, the Tis Isat waterfalls. Many of the lake Tana islands have historic churches, such as the highland of Dega. On the highland of Dega Estefanos you will find the monastery of Dek Stefanos which has a priceless collection of icons and manuscripts and houses the mummified remains of a number of Ethiopian emperors.
GONDAR: 748 kilometres along the route from the capital from the capital you will come to Gondar which is also served daily by Ethiopian Airlines and has some good hotels. The oldest and most impressive of Gondar’s many imperial structures is the palace of Emperor Fasilidas, said to have been built by an Indian architect. There are also numerous other fascinating historic buildings and relics to be seen in the area. One of the most spectacularly painted churches in Ethiopia, Debre Berhan Selassie can be seen here.
AXUM: Axum, with good hotels and daily flights by Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa, 1,005 kilometres to the north, is the northernmost stop along the route, and the site of Ethiopia’s most ancient city. It is renowned for its cathedral of St. Mary of Zion where, as legend has it, the origin ark of the covenant is housed. Axum is also famous for its seven mysterious monolithic stelae, all made of single pieces of granite, and three with identical decorations. The biggest of these measuring thirty three meters and weighing over 500 tones, was the largest monolithic in the world but fell at some remote period in the past. En route to Axum you will pass Ras Dashen which, at 4,620 metres, is Africa’s fourth highest mountain.
MAKALE: On the return journey to Addis Ababa the route takes you through Makale, 777km from the capital, with a number of new first class hotels, and with daily flights by Ethiopia Airlines. The town is famous for its rock-hewn- churches of which there are two hundred in the region – of which there are some two hundred in the region – which are beautifully decorated and of which a few house important religious artifacts. Makale is also a good place to watch the camel caravans arriving from the forbidden Danakil Depression with their tablets of salt.
LALIBELA: The last stop on the route is lalibella, 642 kilometres from the capital, with good hotels and with daily flights by Ethiopian Airlines. Though not much more than a village now, Lalibella is internationally-renowned for its rock – hewn churches which are sometimes called the ‘Eighth wonder of the world’. Physically pised from the rock in which they stand, these towering edifices seem to be of superhuman creation in scale, workmanship and concept.
HARAR: Off the oval-shaped, almost north – south historical route, is Harar, 523 kilometres due east of Addis Ababa. While the town has a reasonable hotel, most people prefer to stay in Dire Dawa, 54 kilometres away along the road to Addis Ababa. The most dominant feature of Harar are its strong encircling walls which tightly embrace the town, its rich and exciting market place- probably the most colorful in Ethiopia – and its 99 mosques. Harar is believed to be the 4th holiest city in Islam, after Makkah, Madinah and Jerusalem.