AXUM-The origins of this ancient city are lost in legend. About one thousand years before Christ it is known that some tribes originally from southern Arabia settled on this side of the Red Sea; one of these tribes was known as the Habasciat (the possible origin of the name Abyssinia).
This particular area is however linked to the legend of the enchanting queen of Sheba, who, after having met King Solomon in Jerusalem, on her return gave birth to Menelik I, who was the founding father of the family known as the Kings of Kings. Local legend recounts how in the first century A.D., Axum was founded by the brothers Abreha and Atseha; it is not until midway through the fourth century that we have records of the first historical king, Ezana. The latter converted to Christianity after the arrival of Ferremnatos (Frumezio), who was sent by the patriarch of Alexandria and who later became the national saint, Abba Salame, Father of Peace.
Axum was the capital city of the longstanding Axumite kingdom, one of the most ancient African kingdoms, and represented a vital crossroads between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years.
The ruins still visible in Axum stand as testimony to an exceptionally high level of civilization, notably the stone monoliths which are dotted throughout the city and are among the most mysterious monuments in the world. Axum is also the site of the church of Enda Mariam Zion, in front of which kings were crowned even as late as the last century. Inside, there are displays of golden crowns and crosses, the latter of which are still used during the major festivals of the Coptic church.
Legend has it that the original Ark of the Covenant is housed in a chapel near the church. The Ark is believed to have been brought back by the Queen of Sheba on her return from Jerusalem.
LALIBELLA- Located in the north-east of Ethiopia, Lalibela is another renowned historical destination. Placed third in historic sequence, its site hosts the “eighth wonder of the world”, the Lalibela rock-hewn churches. UNESCO has recorded this site as one of the world wonders. It is also holy land for Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians.
Today the town of Lalibela hosts eleven rock-hewn churches and all, apart from their historic significance, are renowned for their excellent and unique rock-carvings. The art displayed on the rocks dates from the twelfth century yet is still intact and in great shape. An active pilgrim site, the town is extensively visited and a source of admiration for architects and tourists alike.
Founded at the center of the Lasta mountain chain, Lalibela was originally called Roha and was a site of the Zagwe dynasty, of the Agew people. The decline of the Axumite dynasty gave rise to the Zagwe dynasty and, as a result, power shifted southward from Axum. After an interruption of the Solomonic line for almost 12 years, King Lalibela III, from the last of the Zagwe dynasty, managed to have these rock-hewn churches carved.
It took King Lalibela his entire reign and more than 60,000 men to finish the work. According to local accounts, the work was assisted by angels. Other erected and cave churches built during this period are found at a short distance from the town.
GONDAR- Gondar is the 17th-century capital of Ethiopia. Bordering Sudan and located on the northern shore of Lake Tana, it is one of the prominent historical areas in Ethiopia.
Officially founded by King Fasiladas in 1632, the Gondarine period is considered to be the third major dynasty after the Axumite and Zagwe dynasties. The dynasty is historically important for the renaissance king's mobile camp and the introduction of a permanent capital. The attempt by King Fasiladas to end the Zagwe dynasty was successful and set Gondar as Ethiopia's capital from 1632 to 1868.
Gondar's 17th century castles reflect the strong dynasty and the power of progressive rulers. The biggest and most magnificent castle of all, King Fasiladas' castle, which is still intact, was the first to be built. Seven of the dynasty's kings had their own castles built to show their power and independent, efficient ruling styles. What is special about the castles is that they demonstrate the progress in Ethiopian building styles and follow on from the rock-building traditions of the Axumite and Zagwe kings.
Additionally, Gondar was and is still noted as an active religious center. Among the churches in town, Debre Berhan Selassie is famous for its typically Gondarine style and its ceiling.
BAHIRDAR- is the pleasant city, its avenues lined with palm trees and plants. It sets on the south eastern shore of lake Tana (Ethiopia’s largest lake), where local fishermen still use papyrus boats, and just 30km from the spectacular Tiss Isat Falls. Here the blue Nile creates” Smoking Water” an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges in to the gorge below. From Bahirdar you must explore some of the ancient monasteries that were built around Lake Tana, or on the many islands. These i