Founded during the first decades of the 20th century at the southern tip of Lake Tana and along the banks of the Blue Nile, Bahir Dar has gone on to become the foremost tourist destination of north western Ethiopia. The city has an altitude of 1,830m above sea level and a tropical climate with an average temperature of 190c. At Bahir Dar you can spend days strolling along palm-lined avenues, lake side vistas exploring the Nile, and the Woito clan’s village, viewing spectacular sunset and riding a bicycle. St. George Church and the 16th century one-storied Portuguese building in the same compound are also worth visiting. Festivals like the New Year on Sept. 10 or 11, the Meskel or Finding of the True Cross on Sept. 26, Christmas on Jan. 7, Timkat or Epiphany on Jan. 19, are also colorfully celebrated at Bahir Dar.
The open-air Market
One of the largest markets in Northern Ethiopia is found in Bahir Dar. If you want to buy handicrafts like jewelries, woven and embroidered garments, ox-horn cups, grass baskets/ Agelgil/ at a very reasonable price, Bahir Dar open-air market has them all. The market also offers a unique opportunity to look at the hair, clothing and market exchange styles and other indigenous culture of the local community.
Lake Tana Monasteries
There are 37 islands that are scattered about the surface of Lake Tana, out of which some 20 shelter churches and monasteries of immense historical and cultural interest. These churches are decorated with beautiful paintings and house innumerable treasures. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country. Access for some of the churches is closed to women, although they are allowed to land on the banks of the island but not permitted to proceed further. However women are permitted to visit churches on Zeghne Peninsula and nearby church of UraKidaneMehret, as well as NargaSellassie.
Kebran Gabriel: is renowned for a magnificent manuscript to the Four Gospels which is believed to date back to at least the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century.
UraKidaneMehret: is more decorative with a huge, conical thatched roof is painted with scenes from Biblical lore.
DagaIstifanos: is considered one of the most sacred on Lake Tana, and said to have served as a temporary hiding place for the Ark of the Covenant. On this stands the church of Saint Stifanos which houses the Holly Madonna painted around 1434. The real historic interest lies in its treasury where there are glass-sided coffins containing the mummified remains of several of the former emperors of Ethiopia.
TanaCherkos: this ancient monastery is found on the eastern shore of Lake Tana.
Tradition tells us that St. Mary rested here under a wall during her flight to Egypt, and stayed for three months and ten days. The monks claim that they owned a necklace which she left when she departed. It is also said that the monastery was a sacred place of the Jews. Menelik I and the Jewish nobles, after fleeing from King Solomon, brought the Ark of the covenant to this monastery and built a temple over it, which was decorated with precious stones. Six hundred years later, the Ark was brought to Axum.