Bahir Dar is situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana, 565 km Northwest of Addis Ababa with an elevation of 1830m above sea level. It is one of the leading tourist destinations in Ethiopia with a variety of attractions in the nearby Lake Tana monasteries and Blue Nile Falls, “Tis Issat”.
Lake Tana: Heaven of Faith
Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia, with a surface area of 3,673 sq km, remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian Churches are kept in the isolated island monasteries besides its enormous historical attraction it is also an ideal place for bird watchers. The island monasteries that decorate Lake Tana like emeralds in pool of gold,
Tana was known to the ancient Greeks as Pseboe, and to the ancient Egyptians as Coloe; it was described by a 5th century Greek dramatist as the ‘copper-tinted lake… that is the jewel of Ethiopia’.
There are 37 islands that are scattered about the surface of Lake Tana out of which some 20 shelter churches and monasteries, the island monasteries that decorate Lake Tana like emeralds in pool of gold. These churches are decorated with beautiful paintings and house innumerable treasures. Their typical location may have saved them from looter. The most interesting islands such us Kibran Gabriel, Ura Kidane Mehiret, Azoa Mariam, Birgida Mariam, Dega Istifanos, Dek, Narga Selassie, Tana Cherkos /Qirqos/, Mitsele Fasilidas, and Debre Maryam.
The Blue Nile Falls
It is located 33 km from the town. The Blue Nile or “Abby” is considered holy by many in Ethiopia, and is believed to be the Ghion River mentioned as flowing out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2. About 30 km after it exits Lake Tana, the Blue Nile plunges over a 45m high rock face to form one of Africa’s most spectacular waterfalls, known locally as Tis Abay (“smoke of the Nile”) or Tis Issat (“water that smokes”)
Although there are several feeder streams that flow in to Lake Tana, the sacred source of the river is generally considered to be a small spring at Gish Abay at an altitude of approximately 2,744m.