Mikael Debre Selam

Top choice in Rock-hewn Churches of Tigray

This church or ‘church within a church’ has an exceptional brown-and-white, Aksumite-style facade fronting its inner rock-hewn section. The bright, modern paintings at the front and its beautiful carved arch add an odd but interesting contrast. The setting is lovely and it’s one of our favourites. The 45-minute, one-way climb is strenuous but otherwise not difficult.

The church is clearly visible in the distance, so you could walk there on your own, but finding a direct path would be tough, so hiring a guide is recommended. The walk usually begins 8km northwest of Atsbi. Stay left at the first junction and then turn west at the sign (6km north of Atsbi) until you hit the river; in the growing season you’ll have to stop at the school, 1km before the river. The four daily minibuses from Atsbi to Dera can drop you at the signed junction (Birr10, 10 minutes), but you’ll almost certainly have to walk back to town.

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