Acting as the best way to get to the Lake Tana monasteries, the Bahir Dar is a city that is found in the south east of the Lake Tana making it one of the main cities in Ethiopia. Getting to Bahir Dar is quite easy as you can either use air transport or a bus since the roads are not all that bad and they are being worked on by the government. The city being next to Lake Tana, you will have access to a lot of things that will make your trip worthwhile and these are:
The Azwa Mariam monastery
The Azwa Mariam monastery is one of the most peaceful monasteries in Bahir Dar despite the fact that it has been around for many centuries. It is after your visit to the Azwa that you will get to know that their bible has 88 books as compared to the bible that is used around the world and these 88 bible books are illustrated across the walls of the inside the church telling the different bible stories in pictures. It is also the one place where deacons go to sit for their exams before being ordained as full priests.
Visiting the Blue Nile Falls
The Blue Nile falls are located in the south eastern part of Bahir Dar and they are some of the top tourist destinations in the city. Also known as the Tis Abay, the falls provide a good backdrop for all photographers and it is also the perfect relaxing place after hiking around the Bahir Dar. The Falls are just an hour away from the city Centre and some of the activities that you can carry out around the Tis Abay include picnics, bird watching due to the presence of the different bird species around the falls and not forgetting the trek around the falls.
It is hard to actually have access to the Blue Nile falls alone that is why you need to go with a tour guide to take you around the falls and to make sure that you do not get lost.
Visit the Bet Maryam
The Bet Maryam is the oldest monastery which is believed to have been constructed around the 13th century. The Bete Maryam is quite a sight to see when you get to Zege and you will find a monk who will take you around the Bet Maryam where you get to see the beautiful designs and art craft that are found within the church. Also known as the church as Saint Mary, it was constructed as a commemoration of the Virgin Mary and many pilgrims can be see going to church where many have attested to the miracles they have received for the Bet Maryam.
Explore the St Gabriel Monastery
The St Gabriel Monastery also known as the Kibran St Gabriel is also one of the monasteries that you can visit when you visit the Bahir Dar. It is a round church with twelve pillars and each of them represents the twelve disciples of Jesus. The church being one of the oldest churches in the area, you will find many things that came from centuries back especially the paintings that are found in the church and the only glitch about visiting the St George church is that women are not allowed to enter into church because during the earlier years of Christianity, women always prayed separated from the men.
Exploring the Lake Tana
Lake Tana is the largest water body in Ethiopia and it is also the source of the Blue Nile. Lake Tana is filled with many islands where the Tana monasteries were constructed and these can be seen while you travel to Bahir Dar. The Hike up the monasteries is one of the beautiful exercises that one can get and once you get there you will visit the many monasteries and find out more about Christianity and Ethiopia as a country.
There are also many activities that you can carry out while exploring on the Lake Tana and some of these are cruising on the Lake in the papyrus made boats that are made by the locals, learning more about fishing from the local people and how they preserve their fish using local means, visiting the villages that surround the lake to find out more about the culture that is practiced and relaxing on the banks of the lake with a picnic as you bird watch due to the presence of many bird species that habitate around the Lake.
Explore the Entos Eyesu Monastery
The Entos Eyesu monastery is one of the smallest churches around the region and it is ecologically surrounded with green vegetation making it the perfect place for one to rest especially those that want some peace and quiet. The inside of the Eyesu monastery is covered with religious paintings, words and the Bible and all these are painted around the church and in bright colors.
Visiting the market in the Bahir Dar
One of the best things that you can do when you visit the Bahir Dar is by visiting the market place. It is one of the best and busiest places in the city and once there you will get to buy many products ranging from farm products to industrial products. The market is filled with vegetables that are got straight from the gardens, spices, bags, clothes, livestock and so much more. You can also get yourself all the Ethiopian souvenirs from. It is the same place where you can easily observe the locals as they go about their daily life and do not forget your bargaining skills and a tour guide to help with the translation as you head down to the market in Bahir Dar.
Trek to the Debre Maryam monastery
The Debre Maryam monastery is located on an island which was founded around the 14th century. The original church got burnt in a heavy fire when the Zemene Mesafint took place but it was later reconstructed in the 19th century into a new one by the Emperor Tewodros. You have to hike through the Blue Falls and you will get to meet the different families that live around the monastery and the monks that it clean and safe. The monks, priests and families all live in the compound pf the Debre Maryam and they have a lot of stories to tell about the monastery.
Climb up the Bezawit hill
The Bezawit hill is located just nine kilometers away from the Bahir Dar Centre which is where the former emperor Haile Selassie lived and the shell of the palace is still present to this day. The hill is the perfect place to watch the whole city from a different point of view and the falls. It is highly guarded and public transportation is not allowed and neither are cameras but you can still admire the palace without taking any photos.
Visit the Martyrs Memorial monument
This is located near the Blue Nile and it was constructed in memory of all those that lost their lives during the Derg war. There is a fountain near the monument which flows into the Blue Nile and this is one sight that you have to see for yourself. It is a good place for all those that want to hold their weddings due to the beautiful back drop that it provides when it comes to photographs. And there is a museum next to it which is filled with hundreds of photos showing the battle while retelling the history of Bahir Dar.
Visit the locals
A visit to the locals who live in Bahir Dar is also part of the activities that you can carry out when you visit the city. These have interesting activities and one of them is their pretty papyrus trees which they use while fishing. When you meet them, you will get to know how they make the boats and also get a chance to go fishing with them. This is the chance that you will have to learn more about their ways.
Enjoy the fish Market
The fish market in Bahir Dar is located behind the St Gabriel church and it is where most of the fish that is caught from the Lake Tana. The fish is tabled in the morning meaning if you want to witness the bargaining and auctioning skills of fish and probably get yourself one, you need to be up in the morning and for all those that miss it, you can still go in the afternoon and do some bird watching as a flock of pelicans come to enjoy the remaining pieces.
Bahir Dar might not seem to be the best tourist destination in Ethiopia but once you get there, you will be surprised with all the beauty that it has to offer. The people there are welcoming and entertaining although you will need to go with a tour guide who will help you when it comes to translating from Amharic to English.