Mountains & Monasteries in Tigray
Explore the hills and rugged red sandstone mountains of the Gheralta chain in Tigray. Once part of the ancient Kingdom of Axum, the dramatic cliffs, peaks and gorges of this chain of mountains shelter some of the most astounding rock-hewn churches and monasteries imaginable.
From your base at the Gheralta Lodge you explore the exquisite landscape of Tigray’s Gheralta Mountains. Beneath the striking sandstone peaks that rise sharply skyward, an irregular patchwork of semi-desert stretches towards the horizon – the Hawzen Plain. This is an area of dramatic scenery and ancient history.
You choose to hike into the mountains to visit some of Ethiopia’s more remote rock churches. You pass through small villages, crossing open fields before climbing up to the mountain ridges to visit some of the 200 churches and monasteries that were built in natural caves or carved into the cliffs between the 4th and the 15th century.
They almost all come with spectacular views, a result of locations that were chosen to allow religious communities to protect themselves from attack and to be physically closer to God. Some churches are tiny, while others are vast and richly decorated. To access some churches, free-climbing is a necessity, while for others you must rely on ropes.
Depending on your interests, your fitness, and your head for heights, we can put together a list of recommended monasteries and churches for you to visit.
Mountains and Monasteries (Tour of Gheralta, lalibela and Lake Tana)
This is a sample tour that includes this experience. It gives you an idea of cost and what you could expect to see and do in 10 days. It could work in either direction, and we can tailor it in any number of ways.
- 3 days at the Gheralta Lodge visiting a few of the world’s most inaccessible mountain monasteries, including
- 3 days wandering through Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches and visiting Yemrehanne Kristos and the Asheton Maryam Monastery in the surrounding hills
- 2 day at Kuriftu Lodge, driving a magnificent stretch of the Ethiopian Highlands between Lalibela and Bahir Dar, Exploring the Island Monasteries of Lake Tana
- 2 days exploring Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s historic capital
Starting from $1,495 per person* on double occupancy basis (excluding all flights)
Single supplement: $300
*Minimum group size 4
- All accommodation on B&B basis
- All airport transfers
- All airport and road transfers
- Entry fees and a local tour guides at all the historic sites and national parks
A few suggestions for tailoring your tour
You may wish to include a mountain trek, community walk, a few days cycling, or perhaps bird watching. Or we can arrange for you to spend an extra night or two at a particular place. Some additions or alternatives worth considering are:
Spend at least 2 to 3 nights in Tigray if you can. There’s plenty to see, with many opportunities for day excursions and hikes to suit all levels of fitness.
When to go to
You can visit Tigray at any time from mid-September to early July.
Our top tip for Tigray
“Give yourself enough time to explore the churches here. The routes to them are all different and it can easily take half a day to a day to visit the more remote ones. The surrounding landscape is stunning! And you can never have too much of Gheralta Lodge!””
Hidden Treasure of Ethiopia: A Guide to the Remote Churches of an Ancient Land by Marie-Jose Friedlander
Flights to Ethiopia
What happens in an emergency?
Communicating in Ethiopia
Ethiopian time and dates
The weather and what to pack
Mobile phone coverage and Internet access in Ethiopia
Advice from locals