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Tigray's Major Churches

Tigray is a region of great natural beauty and rugged landscapes, but undoubtedly the region’s main attraction is its rock churches. There are thought to be as many as 200 of these unique sites,
though only a handful are regularly visited. The Tigray churches differ greatly in design and structure, ranging from free-standing stone structures to hidden cave churches and striking monoliths carved directly from the earth.

Tigray is a region located in the northern part of Ethiopia, known for its unique landscape, rich history, and culture. The region is known for its rock-hewn churches, many of which date back to the 4th and 5th centuries. The churches were carved out of solid rock and are known for their impressive architecture and religious art.

In addition to the rock-hewn churches, Tigray is also home to several important historic sites, including the ruins of the ancient city of Yeha, which dates back to the 8th century BC. The region is also known for its vibrant culture and traditions, including its music, dance, and cuisine.

Visitors to Tigray can explore the region's many historic sites, hike through its stunning landscapes, and learn about the local culture and traditions. Some popular destinations in Tigray include the rock-hewn churches of Abuna Yemata Guh, Debre Damo, and Abreha we Atsbeha, as well as the Gheralta Mountains and the ancient city of Axum, which is located nearby.

Rock Churches in Tigray-
  1. Abuna Yemata Guh
  2. Debre Damo
  3. Abreha we Atsbeha
  4. Wukro Chirkos
  5. Teka Tesfai
  6. Michael Imba
  7. Daniel Korkor
  8. Maryam Korkor
  9. Petros and Paulos
  10. Yohannes Maequddi

Each of these churches is unique and has its own history and significance. Some are perched on top of steep cliffs and require a challenging hike to reach, while others are located in more accessible areas.


The best of Tigray

Taking in the very best of northern Ethiopia, this spectacular journey transports you back in time as you explore a land rich in history, archaeology, culture, wildlife and more.

Key information

  • - 4nights comfortable hotels
  • - Travel by mini or coaster bus
  • - Two internal flights
  • - Off the beaten path in the Tigrai region
  • - Places visited: Axum, Gherala, Tigray Rock Churches

What's included

  • - All accommodation/ Double or twin room basis
  • - Travel by coaster bus 
  • - All transport and listed activities
  • - Two internal flights
  • - All transfer in and out
  • - All entrance fees
  • - All breakfasts
  • - English speaking guide services
  • - All government taxes

What's not included

  • - Travel insurance
  • - Single accommodation (available on request)
  • - Visas or vaccinations 
  • - Tips


Tigray and Gheralta  5 days 

Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.

 Lalibela     Simien trek 11 days    Blue Nile Gorge


Day 1 - Fly to Axum visit the Stele, Axum zion Church and the museum
Axum – St. Mary of Zion Complex – Ancient Stele Field

In the morning we will start a visit of Axum, now a rustic frontier town in Ethiopia’s most northern region but once the country’s capital. According to legend, Axum was home to the Queen of Sheba, and today many believe it is the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. As we explore this ancient place, we discover that its fascinating historical past is wrapped in a deeper sense of mystery around the events that may have unfolded here.

Our first stop is the complex at the church of St. Mary of Zion, which features an unexpected blend of ancient and modern architecture. While the oldest existing church was completed in 1665 by King Fasiledes (who also built Gonder), its foundations are likely from a temple build by King Ezana in the 4th century AD, or perhaps by King Kaleb two centuries later – making this the oldest Christian site in Africa. It is said that in the church’s hidden and guarded chapel lies the Ark of the Covenant. In stark contrast, the new St. Mary of Zion church is a modern circular structure built by Emperor Haile Selassie in the 1960s. Beneath the cathedral is a museum housing many of Ethiopia’s priceless relics.

The other highlight of our visit to Axum is the mysterious Stele Park, with its small but impressive Archaeological Museum of Axum. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Park contains more than 120 inscribed stone stele dating from the 4th century AD — some standing upright, others broken or partially buried. The tallest, at 25 meters, is the Obelisk of Axum, which was shipped to Italy in 1937 on the orders of Benito Mussolini. It was subsequently returned by the Italian government and re-erected in 2008.

In the afternoon we visit the ruined palace of King Kaleb and King Gebre Meskel (6th century AD), and what some believe was the residence of the legendary Queen of Sheba (9th century BC). Beneath Kaleb’s palace, steep stone steps lead down to a series of underground galleries and chambers that some believe housed the imperial treasury. We can also explore the tombs of Kaleb and his son Gebre Meskel. Nearby is the Erana Stone — an important dedicatory stone from about 320 AD with an inscription in three languages: Sabaean, Greek and Ge’ez, the earliest written Ethiopian language.  Overnight Sabean hotel


Day 2 -Drive to Debre Damo Monastery and Yeha temple
Debre Damo Monastery and Yeha temple - Gheralta

76 Kilometers from Axum is the monastery of Debre Damo ( closed to Women), which is said to have the oldest existing intact church in Ethiopia. Local tradition says that Abune Aregawi, one of the nine Saints, built the church in the 16th Century. The Monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached by rope pulley. We will also visit the 5th Century BC temple of Yeha. Its massive walls house Judaic relics and historic artifact.  Overnight Gheralta Lodge 



Day 3 -Drive and walk to Debre Maryam Korkor and Abune Yemata
Exploring Gheralta region

Built high into the cliff face, some of these churches are only accessible through climbing the vertical cliff, and yet they’re still used by local Ethiopians of all ages. The views from inside the churches is extraordinary. The view as the sunsets behind the mountains and the sky illuminates in dark reds, yellows and oranges is the perfect end to your adventure.

Maryam Korkor is located on a high hill and involves a lengthy trek to reach its summit (approx, 1 and a half hours up, one hour down), but it’s worth it for the marvellous view. Built into the cliff-face, Abune Yemata is known as the most difficult church to reach in Ethiopia and possibly in the world, involving a steep rock climb.  Overnight Gheralta Lodge




Day 4- Drive to Mekele visit AbrehaAtsbeha Church and Debre Tsion Mariam
Tigray Rock Churches

Drive to Mekele and we will Visit the dramatic Church of Michael Imba, an early cruciform and semi-monolithic church that is typical of the churches found in the region .  Overnight Planet hotel



Day 5 - Fly to Addis and transfer to airport and end of trip
Addis Ababa-Departure

On arrival in Addis, check into your hotel. This will either be on day room basis or overnight depending on your international flight times.This evening, we will arrange for a farewell dinner in a restaurant with Ethiopian music and dance, or in a good city centre restaurant.


Dates, prices and booking


All holidays are subject to availability and prices are subject to change









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