Temple of the Moon
Ethiopia's historic route begins with a glance at the tantalizing remains of Yeha - the country's earliest high civilization. In a remote part of Tigray region, Yeha lays several hours drive from the more accessible city of Axum; the journey takes you on rough tracks through dramatic highland scenery and eventually ends in a beautiful and serene agricultural hamlet. It is there, close to a much more recent Christian church, that you may see the towering ruins of Yeha's Temple of the Moon built more than 2,500 years ago, in Sabaean times.
The temple is an imposing rectangular edifice. Though it has long since lost its roof and upper storey the ruins stand some twelve meters in height. As evening falls, the temple's finely dressed and polished limestone reflects the glow of the setting sun with a warmth and brilliance that cannot be accidental. The huge, precisely fitted blocks from which the inward- inclining walls are formed seem to bear out ancient opinion that Sabaean buildings could be filled with water without a single drop being lost.
Apart from the temple, however which speaks eloquently of the works of a high civilization, little or nothing is known about the people who built this great edifice. Indeed, their origins are wrapped in mystery of which, perhaps, the greatest is this: if a culture had evolved to the level of sophistication required to build monuments of such quality in the highlands of Tigray by the sixth century BC, then what were its antecedents? What came before it? And how far back does Ethiopian civilization really go? So far the archaeologists have uncovered no convincing answers to these questions.
The Monastery of Debre Damo
Is located 86km to the north-east of Axum on the peak of Debre Damo at a height of 2,800 m above sea level and it is only accessible by a rope, which is made of "plaited leather", lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is one of the most important holy places of Ethiopia. Legend say that the monastery was founded by Abuna Aregawi, one of the nine saints, with the aid of a serpent that helped him climb up onto the 15 m high rock plateau.. There are still some 80 monks living in Debre Damo (only men are permitted to enter) The feast of Saint (Abuna) Aregawi is celebrated on October 14 Ethiopian calendar (October 24 Gregorian calendar) which culminates in a pilgrimage to Debre Damo from all over the country.
Sof Omar Cave
Sof Omar Cave
One of the most spectacular and extensive underground caverns in the world , the Sof Omar Cave is found about 557km from Addis. It is a most spectacular and unique sight formed by the Web river, which made a course through the limestone hills and forms relatively long underground water courses with halls and columns of lime stone inside the cave.
The caves currently constitute an important Islamic shrine named after the saintly Sheikh Sof Omar, who is said to have taken refuge here many centuries ago. The large central hall of Sof Omar, the "Chamber of Columns" (so named after the colossal limestone pillars that are its dominant feature) is one of the highlights of the cave system. However, the site has a religious history of thousands of years, which predates the arrival of the Muslims in Bale. Within the caves nature has worked wonders of architecture, where one can see soaring pillars of stone twenty meters (66 feet) high, flying buttresses, fluted archways, and tall airy vaults. Finally, the river itself can be reached, a sunless sea flowing through a deep gorge.
The cave is an enchanting place for adventure tourists, geomorphologies and cave scientist.
Semien Mountain National park
The national Park has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site 1978. It is found in the northern parts of the country about 120 km from Gondar. Semien means ‘North’ in Amharic. Six hundred million years ago, the mountains were an enormous volcanic massif, then rain and ice have carved deep fissures into it and rivers have continued the work of erosion, creating an incredible landscape: high peaks and deep gorges. The Semien Mountain massif is a broad plateau, cut off to the north and west by an enormous single crag over 60 kilometers long. To the south, the tableland slopes gently down to 2,200 meters divided by gorges 1,000 meters deep which can take more than two days to cross.
The Semien Mountains host a unique flora and fauna. On the steep slopes the Walia-Ibex, Gelada baboons, Ethiopian Wolf, Hamadryas baboon, Klipspringer, Bushbuck and other endemic mountain animals may be seen. The National Park extends over the entire mountain massif of the Semien. The Semien Mountains are a good place to do a short trekking excursion or a trekking tour of several days. It can easily be reached in 3-4 hours from Gondar. The fascinating panoramic views, the very special environment and the clear sky are worth a visit and a stay.The Semien Mountains are known for their dramatic and spectacular scenery; jagged mountain peaks flank deep valleys and high altitude plains where only grasses, junipers and giant lobelias grow. This is one of the major mountain regions of Africa, home to mountain Ras Dejen (4543m), the fourth highest peak in the continent. Standing on top of a sharp precipice and gazing out over the magnificent landscape here will take your breath away, so it's definitely worth taking a bit of time to explore.
- The Walia ibex was held sacred by the pre-Aksumite cultures of northern Ethiopia and is depicted on several 2,500 plus year old artefacts unearthed at Yeha and other sites of similar vintage.
- The gelada is something of a living fossil: the only surviving member of a once wide-ranging African genus of grazing money ancestral both a baboons and to the drills of the western rainforests.