The 1,000-year-old cave churches are found in the Gheralta region, North-eastern Tigray, tucked into the Gheralta Mountains. The main town near the Gheralta Mountains is Hawzien where many of the moderate and budget hotels are found. The scenic region of Gheralta is home to around 30 rock-hewn churches. The beauty of the churches comes not from their architecture but from their interiors decorated in ancient art and their geographic setting.
The regions finest churches are situated high in the Gheralta Mountains. Visiting these churches is not for the faint hearted. The ascent involves steep climbs of nearly vertical rock with no rope at times. However the view from the top is to die for – pun intended. It is especially an exotic attraction to photographers and drone hobbyists. Watch this short video by Great Big Story for some great drone shots and the local people worshiping at the churches.
Here are some of the churches you might be interested in visiting if you dare the climb.
It is carved into the top of one of the tall rock pillars. The interior accessed through a crack in the rock, is beautifully decorated and preserved wall and roof murals thought to date from the 15th century. The church is entered from a narrow ledge looking over a sheer drop of nearly 200m.
Watch this 8 min video by Regina Hopkins to get a personal feel of what this trip might feel like.
Debre Mariam Korkor
This church is found northeast of Abuna Yemata Guh, on a small plateau found on a 2480m high mountain. The interior is large with art work on the walls and pillars said locally to date back to the 13th century. The foot ascent to the church takes about an hour. After passing the natural rock passage you can chose between a harder shorter route and an easier, 2-3 minute, longer route.
The church is found a 3.5km drive out of Megeb. The trek to this cave church is flat and relatively less demanding passing through patches of acacia woodland and fig trees. Inside are found cloth paintings depicting various Old and New Testament Stories from the Bible.
The surrounding people carry their newborns up to the churches on the mountain for baptism believing the lower valley and more accessible churches are not powerful enough.
Abuna Abraham Debre Tsion
The biggest of the rock-hewn churches and within a manageable 1 hour hike, it is an impressive structure with an ornate exterior. It has a domed roof and pillars decorated in 14th century paintings of Old Testament Figures.
The church was excavated by a monk, Abuna Abraham, and is said to be buried below the church. There several other things to look out for all connected to Abuna Abraham’s life and stay at the church and of course like all the others views at the top make everything all the more worthwhile.
The immense significance of these churches to the local people is shown in this BBC Stories Video
The climax of the trip to the Gheralta Mountains will have to be ballooning over the Mountains early in the morning as the sun rises to great the day. The breathtaking view of the mountains simmering in the color of sunrise will be one to remember for a life time.
Plan your trip with us to enjoy this exciting Ballooning adventure!