ASHENDA + Historical Routs

Tigray, Ethiopia - View on map
  • People


This journey passes through the scenic Ethiopian highlands, visiting the historical sites of northern Ethiopia. The trip covers Mekelle which was one of the oldest capital city of the country and now the political center of Tigay regional state and enjoy the traditional festival of Ashenda in Mekelle. Then the next day drive to wukro ,Tsaeda Imba, Gheralta and Tembien cluster of churches, the Yeha Temple, Gheralta range, home to a quarter of Ethiopia’s rock churches, some famous for their stone workmanship, ancient paintings and old manuscripts; Axum, the ancient city of Ethiopia known for the famous obelisks standing in the center of town and where the ark of the covenant is believed to be kept.


Check in one of the best hotel either in planet or Axum hotels in Mekelle. Morning session visit the famous round built church of Silassie Chelekot, which was built by Ras Weldesilasse in the 1800s and painted color fully and contains valuable artifacts. Back to the city and drive to the beautiful market where one can see cattle, camels, donkeys, sheep and goats in the same place. Then have lunch in one of the local restaurants.

In the late afternoon visit the palace of Yohannes IV. It is Mekelle’s oldest royal house and built during the emperor’s reign (1872-1889). The palace, situated behind a double rounded wall compound, is actually two buildings facing each other. The museum has among its collection the incredible throne of the emperor from 1874, the royal bed, ceremonial dress, rifles and many other valuable items of Ethiopian heritage and the modern Martyrs monument of Hawelti/where you will see the 17years of bloody struggle against Military regime. The open market particularly the salt places are very interesting to spend some time and share experience.

Overnight in Planet hotel or similar


Ashenda is a unique Tigraian traditional festival which takes place in August 22 in most places of Tigrai and on august 29/30 in Axum mark the ending of fasting called filseta. It also has a religious significance related to St. Marry in the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church which was established in Axum, the old capital of Ethiopia in the state of Tigrai.


The festival is one of the best cultural events in Northern part of Ethiopia particularly in Tigrai and some parts of Amhara around Sekota and Laibela. It took place during the mid and end of August and beginning of September every year. The historical background of the festival has very limited source of information and it remains to the legendary traditions of the Demotions of Saint Mary, which took place in August after two weeks of fasting days. This time everyone have the privilege to develop and to promote their cultures which once has been ignored because of the feudal centralized system. The specialty of the festival is mostly performed by ladies usually unmarried ones but now the age of the ladies doesn’t matter because   it is the time that the government is aimed at reviving the cultures of the people which once has been neglected during the past regimes. And at the same time our culture and identity are part and parcel of our heritages and it will assist the development of tourism both in the regional level and the country level too.

Overnight in Planet hotel or similar 


Morning visit the recent archaeological pre-Axumite Moon Temple, where there is complete altar with Sabean inscriptions on. Then drive to the famous7th C AD Mosque of Al-Negash. This site is believed to be the oldest Muslim settlement in the continent dated back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed, when his first followers come to Ethiopia in 615 AD. Church nearby is the Pitter and Paul church under a big cave with interesting paintings of 15th CAD. Special place with a very complicated architecture and beautiful paintings of the late 15th c.

And enroute visit the famous church of Abreha we Atsbeha which is said to be one of the most fascinating and an extraordinary architecture. The church is believed to be excavated by the twin kings of Axum called Abreha we Atsbeha /Ezana saizana/.



Hawzien has a 3,000 year history. It was originally an old trading centre but today the area is exclusively agricultural. Many ruins in the area still bear testimony to the day in 1988 when the dictator Mengistu wanted to punish rebel fighters and 2,500 people died under an air attack which dropped napalm bombs. Morning drive to Abune Yemata, one of the best known of the “Rock Churches“ in the Gheralta Range with colorful paintings of the new and old testament. Climbing up to the church takes 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. Ascending and descending is an adventure by itself.

After descending from Abune Yemata, we drive to Abune Gebre Michael. The church is situated south of Abune Yamata (Guh), about 15 km from Megab. Considered one of the best and finest churches in Gheralta, this church’s cruciform plan is hewn beautifully into a dome like rock. Its features good frescoes and carefully carved columns, pillars, cupolas and arches. The interior part of the church is abundantly decorated with marvelous paintings and murals are worth visiting.



In the morning visit Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor, two churches nearby. Maryam Korkor is said to be dated to the late 7th century. However, the paintings dated 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. 

Later visit Debre Tsion. It is 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 it, in 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. Its walls 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.



Today the drive is through the beautiful country side and the former military basement of the TPLF during the civil war period. Then after crossing the Werie River, where the traditional gold mining area after the rainy season you will proceed to Mariam Hibito (the Hiden Rock church of Mary).To get access to the church you will drive till you reach the village of MaiBeha and then you need to walk for 30minutes .This church is said to be excavated during the 14th CAD on deep to the red rock well decorated with geometrical figures and there is Holly water that comes out of the church all the year round. After your visit of the church you will come back to your car and drive to the next small village for tea or coffee. And continue to Gabriel Wukien Rock church just a minute drive and 10 minutes walking from the main road. This church is also has been excavated during the 15th C AD.

O/N Mai Lemon Botanical Garden Lodge


Today after early breakfast you will drive to Axum through the beautiful scenery of the werie gorge and passing the Maikinetal Rock formation. After arriving in Adwa you will also appreciate the historical battle file where our forefathers had beaten the Italians colonialist attempt in 1896.The town Adwa by itself is very historical place for coffee stop in the old town takes you back to the future of the significance of the tow.




Start your city tour of the old Empire of Axum beginning with the famous and the main Stele filed with the huge and impressive once. This stele filed was once a settlement till the 1960s when the local governor Ras Mengesha Siyoum has made a demarcation and had cleared the people out of the stele filed and made it as a park. You will discuss questions like when, why, and how these magnificent steles have been erected in there. And there is a nice archeological museum in the same compound which displays all the archeological excavated materials from different sites. After your visit of the museum you will precede to the traditional coffee place test it and relax for some time. Then walk to the northern stele filed which is believed to the earliest stele filed, and you can see the difference between the main stele filed, and continue to the so called the swimming pool of Queen of Sheba. This pool is now the center of Epiphany ceremony which took place during the 18 and 19 of January every year, to commemorate the Baptizing of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

The visit also will continue to the Ezana Rosetta stone, a trilingual inscription of Geez, Sabean and Greek languages. This inscription is one of the best document which gives clue to the power and territorial extent of the Great Axumite Empire. Back to one of the hotels for lunch.


Begin in the late afternoon with the Tombs of King Kaleb and Gebre Meskel. This site was known to the outside world since the arrival of DAE in 1906 and they have made extensive excavation and clearing of the area with some sort of restoration works has been done. And the analysis is that this building might have been a very big building with some two to three floors and one of the floors could have been used as ac church. Then back to the two churches of Saint May Tsion, where the old church is only allowed for men while the new cathedral is for both men and woman.

Imagine this afternoon you are going to see the place where the three world major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have been worshiped. And particularly Christianity was made as the official religion of the country in the mid 4th C AD, which makes Ethiopia to be the second oldest country after Armenia. The two twin kings of Ezana and Saizan, the last pagan and the first Christian kings in the history of the country were responsible for the big chapter of this historical phenomenon. Today the Ark of the Covenant the precious Treasure in the world is well kept in separate chapel in next to the old Cathedral of Saint Mary Zion.

The rest of the time relax and walk around the city.

O/N Yared Zema Hotel or similar.


In the Moring drive to the quarry site of the steles, where you are going to see the highlight on how the Axumites were able to get the steals out of the big granite rock of Gobodura and Golo wushate mountain. It is a big evidence to understand that the steles were brought from this quarry and transported to the present lace because you can see the marks chisels and the unfinished steles still today.

Then drive to the so called the ruined place of Queen of Sheba archeological site where you are going to visit the complicated rooms and the Axumite building styles. In front of the place there is a large stele filed called the western or Gudit stele filed.