Lake Tana forms the main reservoir for the Blue Nile river and is the largest lake in Ethiopia. Hiring a boat from Bahir Dar, on the southern side of the lake, visitors can take a scenic trip to see the dramatic Blue Nile falls and visit some of the thirty-seven islands scattered across the lake. Twenty of these are home to churches and monasteries dating back to the 14th century, many of which are decorated with beautiful paintings and house historically and culturally significant treasures.
Kebran Gabriel, for instance, is well known for its library of almost 200 old books, and Daga Istafanos is the resting place of the mummified remains of five former emperors of Ethiopia, Fasiledes, the founder of Gondar, being one of them.
Surrounded by a forest of coffee trees, Ura Kidane Mehret with its magnificent frescos is regarded as the most beautiful of the churches. It is located on Zegge Peninsula, a one-hour boat ride from Bahir Dar.
In some of these monasteries, women are not allowed to enter. To avoid disappointment, it is best to familiarize oneself with the traditions and rules of the monasteries before visiting.