There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Ethiopia to visit and among the very best are Lalibela Rock Churches, The Yeha Temple and Axum. Other popular sites tend to include Harar Jugol, and the Harar Jugol Wall.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Ethiopian cultural landmarks, with our top places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Ethiopia, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Ethiopia?
Lalibela is famous for its amazing rock cut churches. Carved out of the rock rather than built with stone, each of these eleven churches has been excavated from the rock, cutting down up to 40 feet then cutting out the intricate interior with great care.
Access to the buildings is down a rocky staircase. Once down, the Lalibela churches are linked by a series of tunnels and walkways.
The Yeha Temple, also known as the Great Temple of Yeha, is possibly the oldest standing building in Ethiopia, dating back, it is thought, to around 700 BC.
It harks back to the earliest religions of the area and contains some Judaic artefacts, perhaps giving some credence to claim of the early dynasty of their descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Other places of interest at Yeha include a burial ground and ruined buildings containing, amongst other things, some interesting square columns. There have been some archaeological digs in the area, dating back to the early 1950’s
Axum is most famous for being one of the supposed sites of the Ark of the Covenant, in the care of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Supposed to have been brought to Ethiopia by the Queen of Sheba, it is currently in the care of the patriarch of the Ethiopian Church in a vault at the church of. St Mary of Zion.
Other important sites within the city are the Stelae Park. Much excavated, the stelae are thought to mark graves. The site is considered important enough for it to have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Other sites of interest include the Queen of Sheba’s bath and two Royal Palaces, on from the fourth century and one from the sixth century CE.
Harar Jugol, also known simply as Harar, was an important 16th century capital and remains an important fortified historic town in Ethiopia. It served as a vital trade route from the late 16th to 19th centuries and is also said to be the fourth holiest city of Islam.
Today, Harar Jugol is a UNESCO World Heritage site, best known for its distinctive and well preserved historic townhouses which reflect its cultural heritage, particularly those of African and Islamic traditions. The most intact elements of the historic town of Harar Jugol are said to lie in the eastern and south-eastern part of the walled town. It is home to three 10th century mosques and an impressive 82 mosques overall.
The Harar Jugol Wall in Harar Jugol is the historic fortification surrounding the Ethiopian city which acted as the capital of the Harari Kingdom from 1520 to 1568.
Today, Harar Jugol is considered to be the world’s ‘fourth holy city’ of Islam and is home to 82 mosques – three of 10th century origin – as well as historic buildings and shrines. The layout of Harar Jugol is also of historic significance, as it harks back to the 16th century design. The whole city of Harar Jugol is a UNESCO World Heritage site.