Tigray Rock Churches
Key information: Tigray Rock Churches
- Thrilling walking on steep paths to visit these remote hill-top or cliff-face churches.
- Walkopedia rating94
- Natural interest13
- Human interest16
- Negative points0
- Total rating94
- Length: Your choice
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.
Tough, rocky Tigray in Ethiopia's far north-east has clusters of some the country's finest rock-hewn churches, and that is really saying something. What makes them thrilling from a walker's perspective is that they are often perched on hill/cliff-tops, with stunning views, or dug into the middle of cliff-faces with crazy approach scrambles. Either way, their beauty and atmosphere, their locations and the walks in make for absurdly exciting and inspiring walking. Petra comes into mind.
The landscape is extraordinary, too – think cliffs, table-top mountains, gorges and wild, rough hills.
Most of the finest church-walks are in the Gheralta Cluster of churches. Try:
Abuja Yemeta Guh: superbly site up a cliff face at the top of a staggering rock tower, with an at times queasy (horrifying to everyone remotely vertigo-suffering) approach up steep scrambles then along a narrow ledge. (How do they get down??) The best-known walk/adventure of the lot, 1.45hrs return. Or full day hike with Maryam/Daniel Korkar (or in reverse).
Maryam/Daniel Korkar: these fine churches sit on a hilltop with huge views and vast cliffs. 2 hrs return on a steep path.
Abuna Gebre Mikael: a superb church in a remote position. A longer walk (3.5 hrs or so return), but very rewarding. Steep and in places awkward climb.
Abuna Abraham: this massive C14 hilltop church is approached by a steep path. 2 hrs return.
Yohannes Maequdi: a fine church in a classic mountaintop position. 2 hrs return on a steep path.
Then there is Mikael Debre Selam in the Atsbi cluster. A fine church in a gorgeous position. 'One of our favourites' per Lonely Planet authors. 1hr20 return. Steep path and slightly hard to find.
Further afield (but not to be missed), in the far north, and north-east of Aksum, is amazing Debre Damo Monastery. Not only is it one of Ethiopia’s most revered Christian sites, with the C10 or 11 Abuna Aregawi church claimed to be the oldest extant church in Ethiopia, but it is also in a stunning (impregnable) position (at 2,216m) on a flat-topped mesa above beetling cliffs; the 1 hour (one way) walk is a thrilling experience, culminating in a climb up a 15m cliff, aided by a rope (and safety rope) admittedly. Men only, sorry to say.
You can make fine multi-day walks between churches, too. You will need a guide and to work out your route and all practicalities.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
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