Lake Tana

Lake TanaJPG

Churches and Monasteries of Lake Tana

Most of the churches found on Lake Tana are not accessible to women, unfortunately. The few on the Zeghe peninsula however accessible to all. Of particular note is the Lira Kidane Mehret, a church that was built in the 14th century but still sees use from a local congregation. Its murals and frescoes are historical and biblical marvels.

The closest monastery to the main city of Bahir Dar, Kebran Gabriel, is one of the foremost attractions on the lake. It was built in the 14th century but refinished by Emperor Iyasu I. While not as fancy as some of the other more famous holy places in Ethiopia, it has an impressive cathedral-like appeal.

Slightly further away from the city, but worth the trip even just for the view, is the monastery of Dega Estefanos. It is an unassuming building that houses a virtual treasure trove of colorful robes and the mummified remains of some of Ethiopia’s Emperors, held in a clear coffin for viewing. They range from the most recent, Fasilidas, from the 17th century, to Yekuno Amlak from the 13th century, Dawit from the 14th century, and Zara Yaqob from the 15th century. The crowning historic jewel of this location, however, is that it was a temporary hiding spot for the most important relic in Christianity’s history in the 16th century: the Ark of the Covenant.


  • Amhara


  • October - May


  • Many interesting natural and historic locations on or around the lake

  • The source of the Blue Nile River


  • The 37 islands that are scattered about the surface of the lake that shelter churches and monasteries.

The 3000 square kilometer Lake Tana is one of Ethiopia’s more expansive bodies of water that combines natural and man-made beauty. It is the source of the Blue Nile River that flows over 5000 kilometers all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

There are 37 islands throughout the lake, many of them home to unique sites. The lake has two cities on its shores, Gorgora on the northern shore and Bahir Da on the southern shore. There are so many historic and interesting locations to visit here that it would take quite a while to see them all. Among them are ancient boats, unique birds found only in this region, churches with holy relics, murals, and stunning architecture.

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Nature ToursKyla Sims