The landscapes of northern Tigray are almost fairytale-like. The luminous light bathes scattered sharp peaks that rise high into the sky out of a sandy, rolling semidesert. The stratified plateaus, particularly between Dugem and Megab in the Gheralta region lead to inevitable comparisons with the USA’s desert southwest.
And the 120-odd churches are as intriguing as the landscape is beautiful. Very different from the more famous monolithic (carved out of the ground and only left attached to the earth at the base) churches of Lalibela the Tigrayan churches are generally semi monolithic (only partially separated from the host rock) or built into pre-existing caves. Most sit high atop cliffs and the improbable perches add to their attraction. To approach these hidden galleries after a long sweaty and sometimes slightly scary slog makes for a very rewarding excursion. And beyond a few famous churches, you’ll likely get to explore on your own, even in the high season.