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 Miller, 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 turns into a climb using footholds and handholds 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
• 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.
The paved Mekelle-Wukro road via the small town of Mai Mekden begins its course by climbing the mountain Mesebo up to a highland plain, reaching Wukro after 47km. This small, fast-developing town provides a convenient jump-off for many of Tigrai’s most famous tourist attractions, with connections to Atsbi, Tsaeda Imba, Hawzien, Adigrat, and Aksum.
Wukro Cherkos - The northern edge of Wukro town holds a rock-hewn church called Wukro Cherkos. It is a semi-monolithic church whose side walls, front wall, and roof are completely separated and projecting from the main rock. The Church of Abraha Atsbeha - About 15km drive west from Wukro; Abraha We Atsbeha is located in one of the most scenic sites of the region. Considered among the country’s earliest churches, it is known for its extraordinary interior decoration as well as its magnificent murals. Later we will drive to visit one of these rock churches. ATSBI – WONBERTA East of Wukro town lies the Atsbidera plateau with its striking churches – Mikael Barka, Mikael Imba, and Debreselam Mikael. These splendidly executed edifices are found perched on mountains with commanding the views of their surroundings. OverNight at Wukro Lodge.
Drive to Hawzien. The Gheralta cluster is the most extensive cluster with some of the most stunningly situated churches. The following are the most visited churches of this cluster.
If you’re in Hawzien on a Wednesday, take time for a stroll through the market. It’s one of Tigray’s most important and between mid-October and May, it sometimes receives camel caravans bringing salt from the Danakil. You may also want to look at the patch of ruined houses and bomb craters at the west end of town that remain from an attack by the Derg in 1988 that killed 2500 people. An obelisk-style monument to the victims sits in the middle of the roundabout in the center of town.
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 turns into a climb using footholds and handholds 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. OverNight Gerealta Lodge or a hotel.
Teka Tesfai cluster: This is the most accessible cluster of churches in Tigrai. Sited only 3km east of the main Hawzien –Adigrat – Axum road. There are two main churches in this cluster
Medhane Alem Adikesho: Clearly it is the Finest of the Teka Tesfai cluster. Some also argue it is one of the finest churches in Tigrai. It is most impressive for its size and complex architecture. The imposing exterior is cut free from the rock behind, with four columns in front and two large doors and it is covered in recent but very attractive paintings. The interior has a cathedral-like atmosphere, and the magnificent rook is dense with patterned etchings.
Mikael Melhayzenghi: is a church which lies within a domed rock outcrop between Medhane-Alem and another church called Petro’s and Palus. This church is very different in execution from any other rock-hewn churches in Ethiopia. Mikael Melhayzenghi is entered via a low doorway which gives way to a surprisingly large interior with a finely carved dome almost 3m in height.
Drive to Axum.
The tour includes the main stelae park. These famed granite obelisks are relics of this time and have gained UNESCO World Heritage site status. The tallest, the Great stelae, has fallen and broken into 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, a 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
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. Afterward, 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
Drive 12km to the west of Hawzien to see the famous church of Abune Yemata built by one of the nine saints, according to the clergymen 6thc A.D, truly adventure place with a panoramic view and best paintings .O/n Gherealta lodge
After breakfast, drive to see Mariam Korkor and Daniel Korkor takes more than an hour of walking but is enjoyable and has the best view.
O/n Wukro lodge
In the morning visit Abune Abraham 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.
Our trekking itineraries can be tailored to meet your preference with easy going trails or more challenging routes providing travellers with a good range of options as well as the chance to extend overnight stays in villages from two nights to a whole week. Tigray is best accessed via a domestic flight from Addis Ababa to Mekele or Axum which can also be linked to from Gondar and Lalibela.