The route covers the beautiful country side with the life of the farmers in their villages. We will see the birth place of emperor Yohanes IV and Ras Alula Aba Nega, and we will drive to important Monasteries as Chick Silassie. After trekking to Mariam Hibito (the Hidden Rock church of Mary) we will turn in direction Hawzien and then we will cross the Werie River – where there are traditional gold mining areas. The route goes on to Abune Gebremichael, and then to Abune Yemata(Guh). We explore the beauty of the Gheralta Rock churches on our way to Wukro and finally we drive to Mekelle for our flight back to Addis.
DAY 1- FLY MEKELLE- DRIVE TO TEMBIEN
The 180 km newly paved asphalt road goes from Mekelle to Tembien via Hagereselam – en route you will experience places like the birth places of Emperor Yohanes IV as well as Ras Alula Abanega. Then we go to the village of Agebe where there are two churches, the Kidane Mihret and the Chick Sillassie, one is a rock church and the other is a built one. The rock church is special for visitors because it is situated in a forest with running water around all year around. The rock church is designed with geometrical figures and the circular built church is fully decorated with 18 and 19th century paintings exceptional to the area. The churches are said to be places where you will find precious treasures.
Overnight at Mailemon Lodge or similar
DAY 2- TREK TO ABBA YOHANNI
Abba Yohanni is a monastery about 8 km off the main road. A local road goes to within a few meters of the foot of Debre Assa, the mountain on which the church is built. Because of its whitewashed façade, the church is visible from a distance. Incised from the sheer cliff, the church is accessible only through a tunnel-like passage on its west side.
The interior of the church is as spacious as it is beautiful. Divided into several bays and aisles by its arched columns, the church is 14 meters deep and 12 meters wide. Seven free-standing columns and many non-free-standing columns support the ceiling, which is nine meters high. The ceiling is adorned by domes which themselves are decorated by finely carved crosses. Classic in its decoration and supreme in its workmanship, Abba Yohanni is a wonderful gift of art contributed from the distant past to the present.
Overnight at camping at the foot of the mountain
DAY3- TREK TO MARIAM HIBIETO Church
Built in the 15th century, Mariam Hibiito (The Hidden Mary) is really hidden in a foot hill and surrounded by old green trees. Unlike in many other rock-hewn churches of Tigrai, the carvers of this structure had much time to spend in beautifying its exterior. They have cut out four free-standing columns reminiscent of those at Medhane Alem Addi Kesho.
Inside the church there are four free standing and six non-free-standing columns. An unfinished dome-making effort is also evident on the ceiling. The church itself is 13m deep and 9m wide. It can be reached after 34km from the town of Abbi-Addi.
Overnight in the village of Maibeha
DAY 4- TREK TO GELEBEDA
After crossing a river called Werie there are some villages like Gelebeda, Koraro, and others mainly known for their contribution to the military struggle of the TPLF. Now this places are part of the Millennium Development Villages and benefit a lot from new technologies such as milling house, computerized school, health center, common vehicle for the whole village in order to facilitate their daily life. Spending a night in this small village will be a different experience for you.
Overnight at the village
DAY 5- TREK TO ABBUNE GEBREMICHAEL
The church is situated west of Abune Yemata. It is considered one of the finest churches in Gheralta., The church’s cruciform plan is hewn beautifully into a dome like rock. It features vibrant frescoes and carefully carved columns, pillars, cupolas and arches. The escarpment that overlays the settlement in the east is marked by pyramid–shaped stony hills which safeguards Abune Gebre Michael. The church is reached after 40 minutes demanding climb up a chimney in the mountain.
Overnight at the top of the mountain
DAY 6-TREK TO ABUNE YEMATA
In the morning we drive to Abune Yemata, one of the best known of the “Rock Churches“ in the Gheralta cluster areas decorated with colorful paintings of the new and old testament. Climbing up to the church takes us 40 minutes and the view is breathtaking.. The church is dated to the late Axumite period around 7th – 8th century AD and the ceiling is decorated with painted domes of saints. However, you must know that climbing to the top of the church is the most challenging situation unless you are physically fit enough hence, ascending and descending is an adventure by itself.
Overnight at the nearby villages
DAY 7– MARIAM KORKOR AND DANIEL KORKOR
In the morning we visit Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor, two churches nearby. Maryam Korkor is said to be dated to the late 7th century. However, the paintings date back to the 13th century. The architecture in Maryam Korkor is impressive. Eleven pillars support a domed ceiling. Each pillar features a very earnest saint or an angel. Daniel Korkor is situated on a small ledge a short walk to the opposite side of the hill. The church consists of two small rooms with whitewashed walls, adorned with simple but powerful paintings. The dome of the one room is dominated by a painting of four evangelists; other drawings show St. Mary, St. George, and the 9 most important Ethiopian saints. Walking up and down is fascinating.
Overnight at the bottom of the mountain
DAY 8- TREK TO DEBRE TSION
Today we visit Debre Tsion about 40 minutes’ walk from the escarpment. It is a monastic cliff church carved in to a rusty sandstone face. It has an impressive and unusually symbolic exterior. The interior of the church is lovely decorated. The back walls of the holy of holies, the domes and wall panels are abundantly decorated with fine painting of saints and apostles. Especially the dome is beautifully adorned with patterns. Because of the simplicity of the lines and colors, the paintings are estimated to be of the 15th century although the church officials prefer to date to the 14th century. A 15th century unique circular ceremonial fan (one meter in diameter) with wooden framework makes the visit to this church special. Each of its 34 panels is finely painted with figures of apostles. The walls of the church are decorated with many geometrical designs and carvings in relief depicting angels and saints. It is indeed a manifestation of the great stone workmanship that was common in the whole of Tigrai both at that time and before.
Overnight in the village of Debrestion
DAY 9- TREK TO YOHANESS MAEQUDI
We visit Yohannes Maequddi. This rectangular chapel has six free standing pillars that support a ceiling carved with geometrical designs. The church contains one of the most primitive paintings which are very different in style to any other church paintings found in Gheralta. The walls of the building are covered with murals of saints and apostles. It is the intense atmosphere that most visitors remember from this church. From the village of Matari it is around a 40 minutes’ walk (about 1km south of Dugem) via a steep footpath.
Overnight at the village
DAY 10- TREK TO ABREHA WE ATSBEHA
Our trekking will pass through very interesting villages with traditional Hidmo houses till we reach Abreha we Atsbeha. This church was built in the 4th century by two royal brothers, Abreha we Atsbeha (known in the west as the kings Ezana and Saizana), who were responsible for converting Ethiopia to Christianity. The church is large and cruciform in shape, with interesting architectural features such as cruciform pillars and stepped capitals. There are also well preserved 17th and 19th century paintings depicting saints and biblical scenes. The church contains many valuable masterpieces including a beautifully decorated prayer cross, said to have belonged to Frumentius, the first Bishop of Ethiopia, whose ecclesiastical name was Abba Selama, meaning the father of peace. This village is known all over the world because it was chosen as one of the best model villages of Tigrai because of its successful job of environmental rehabilitation and it got recognition and a reward in 2012.
Overnight at the village
DAY 11- TREK TO WUKRO
The 15 km rough road might take about 3 to 4 hours walking and on our way we will notice how the area is rehabilitated. After our arrival in Wukro we will relax and then we will visit the nearby Wukro Chirkos church and the newly established archeological museum, one of the best museums in the country. The museum is filled with archeological artifacts from Makaber Gaewa, Mariam Anza and Wokarida sites. The church is regarded by locals to date from the 4th century A.D. In many aspects, the edifice shows a considerable resemblance with Abreha we Atsbeha. The main room is containing beautifully decorated 15th century pillars with painting depicting angles and saints’ while line drawings cover the ceiling.
Overnight at Lewam Hotel or similar
DAY 12- DRIVE BACK TO MEKELLE FOR YOUR FLIGHT TO ADDIS ABABA
Days : 11 | Nights : 10