The road to the 13th century orthodox church of Ura Kidane Mihret on Zege Peninsula is muddy, rocky and long, twisting inside the forest. The special aroma of coffee trees is very refreshing. Near the church, lovely local handcrafts such as small bags, paintings, and many other products are displayed on the paths.
The city of Bahar Dar, meaning ‘sea shore,’ is the capital of the Amhara Region, one of the leading tourism destinations in Ethiopia. It lies besides Lake Tana and the Blue Nile and with its tropical savannah weather, colourful flowers and palm-tree-lined streets it is a joyful place just to wander around and go for long walks. There are night- and music clubs, a cinema, and a market filled with traditional products.
The Zege Peninsula sits in Lake Tana and is just a 20-minute trip by boat from the shores of Bahar Dar. The islands of the lake are also a must-see for every visitor to the region as they are the home to centuries-old orthodox monasteries and churches. Not to mention the beauty of nature and the clean, organic lifestyle enjoyed by the locals.
The ancient church has a simple exterior. It was rebuilt in 1858, according to the tourist guide-book. The colourful paintings inside are believed to date back to the 1930s. A small museum next to the church contains treasures, old paintings, and possessions that various emperors gifted to the church over the centuries.
A boat trip across Lake Tana which stops at the five main islands/monasteries can take the whole day. The walks through the volcanic-formed islands can be tough if you are not wearing the right clothes.
It is worth treating yourself to some Ethiopian lunch after seeing the churches and enjoying the delights of nature. Grilled fish freshly caught from the lake is a safe option for those who do not wish to try the Ethiopian spices and the well-known injera bread.
After that, taking another boat tour across the lake to see fishermen on their traditional canoes and observe the hippos swimming will be a priceless memory.
The Blue Nile Falls are just 30 km south of Bahar Dar, but they need at least a whole day to visit. Hiring a guide is crucial to save time and effort and the best way to travel is to rent a 4X4 car from and to Bahar Dar. There are two ways to get to the waterfalls after you reach the nearby village. The long way, for adventure lovers, involves hiking and walking over an old hanging bridge. The short way involves a 20-minute walk, then a boat to ferry you across to the other side of the river, and another 10-minute walk before reaching “Tis Abay,” the Ethiopian name for the falls meaning “the great smoke”. For those who wish to stay overnight to enjoy the sound of roaring water and some of the best Ethiopian food, there is a small lodge a few meters away from the Falls themselves.
Gondar is another historical city in Ethiopia’s Amhara region and it is only a 3-4 hour bus ride north from Bahar Dar. It is home to the ruins of several royal castles, among them Fasil Ghebbi, the buildings of which extend over three different sites. For a panoramic view of the city, the nearby lake and the hills beyond, the Goha hotel is the place to visit.