Known as ‘the Camelot of Africa’, Gondar has an impressive and slightly surreal collection of stone castles and palaces.
Now the second city in Ethiopia, Gondar is best known for its striking collection of 17th century stone castles and palaces. These are a serene reminder of Gondar’s heyday as the Imperial Capital of Ethiopia. Nicknamed ‘the Camelot of Africa’, they would not look out of place in southern Europe, with their Portuguese and Moorish influences. Certainly they are unexpected in the heart of Africa.
Nearby the serenely beautiful Fasil’s Pool is heaven for photographers at any time of year. The vast sunken moat is only filled once a year at the hugely popular Timkat ceremony. This multi-day religious celebration is in mid-January when thousands of white-robed pilgrims descend on Gondar.
From Gondar it is only an easy 2+ hour drive to the attractive lakeside town of Bahir Dar. Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake and the source of the Blue Nile. It offers excellent birding, island monasteries and scenic attractions such as the Blue Nile Falls. The lake’s mountain backdrop is the craggy Abyssinian Highlands.
The Blue Nile Falls are best visited during, or just after, the rainy season. Then they are at their most impressive. But the charming circular walk to the Falls is enjoyable at any time of year.
The island monasteries mainly date from the 13th and 14th centuries with treasuries filled with ancient artefacts. Some are only accessible to men! But the 18th century Narga Selassie on the island of Dek – reminiscent of the Gondar palaces - is open to all.
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