history

Our founder Silvio Rizotti was born in Addis Ababa in 1940 and returned many years later to Ethiopia with his wife Enrica.

It was in September of 2004, after having traveled through the country, Silvio found himself camping in northern Ethiopia and woke up to the enchanting views of the Gheralta mountains. It was at this moment one late evening that he looked around his camp tent outside of the farmer house (one of our current triple rooms) that he decided he wanted to stay and build a pioneering lodge in this region of Ethiopia that had no touristic presence at the time.

This resulted in the opening of our Gheralta Lodge in 2007. The Lodge continues to push forward the original instilled ethos and is committed to continuously increase its sustainability efforts while remaining the escape of your choice from the increasingly hectic Addis Ababa.

Eco-friendly tourism and sustainability are at the top of our list and have diligently been integrated from the conceptualization to implementation of Gheralta Lodge.

The majority of materials for the construction were sourced locally and up to this point all additional works to maintain the structures are executed locally.

We buy from local suppliers, building a strong value-chain within the Tigray region, grow all vegetables / herbs in our 0-KM-Garden for you and our staff is home to the community around the Lodge.

The discreet layout of the lodge, with a sound attention to the unique landscape and continuous improvement of endemic vegetation, is designed to protect one of Ethiopia’s rarest and enchanting landscapes.

sustainability

architecture

The lodge was built with meticulous and diligent attention to the landscape and follows the Italian concept of ‘albergo diffuso’, which literally means ‘widespread hotel’.

By pursuing a strategy of durability and achieving a synthesis between modernity and tradition, everything relies on local materials, the same ones used for centuries by Tigrinya farmers: dry-stone walls, wooden ceilings, and green roofs.

STEP BACK IN TIME

Exclusively located to seek the origins of early Christianity, this region of Ethiopia offers trails, adrenaline hikes and history for all levels of ability and interest. Historical records indicate Ethiopia to be one of the first nations to adopt Christianity.

By visiting the Gheralta Mountains you will have the wondrous privilege to choose from over 100 churches to visit, ranging from monolithic ones ​(located in the rock)​ to rock-hewn churches ​(carved out completely from the rock)​ – some of them dating back to the 5th century and almost all accessible from our lodge.

We are happy to assist you in any needed arrangements or answer questions prior to your stay with us.

excursion guide

excursion guide

ancient churches of tigray

We have put together this guide for you in order to give you important information plan excursions properly for all levels of ability. The listed times here describe a one-way drive/ walk from the lodge. Either prior to or at your arrival at the lodge, our staff is available & happy to assist you in facilitating visits to churches.

In any case, we recommend visiting these churches with a guide.

EASY ACCESS

  • 10 min walk from Lodge
    ABUNA TECLE HYMANOT, Hawzen The only church in walking distance, Abuna Tecle Haymanot Church offers itself as first stop for all ability levels.

    20 min drive from Lodge
    MARYAM BERAKIT, Gheralta This church is only a five minute walk, and one of the representatives of the axumite style built churches.

    20-40 min drive from Lodge
    MARYAM PAPASEITY, Gheralta This church holds a semi-monolithic structure and is a 50 min hike from the end of the road.

    20-40 min drive from Lodge
    DEGUM SELASSIE, Degum With a five minute walk easy to access, the beauty of its layout in the rock and the ancient paintings adorning its walls are reason to not miss this church.

  • 20-40 min drive from Lodge
    DEBRE TSION ABUNA ABRAHAM, Degum Enjoy a sensational view from the top of the cliff of Debre Tsion Abuna Abraham. Note though, it’s a 60 min hike up a steep path.

    20-40 min drive from Lodge
    MARYAM AIROFEDA, Degum A 40 minute steep path up leads you to this completely out of rock carved church.

    40-60 min drive from Lodge
    ABRAHA ATSBAHA, Woukro/Degum Dedicated to the twin kings of Axum, this church dates back to the 10th century and is a comfortable five minutes walk.

    40-60 min drive from Lodge
    WOUKRO CHERCOS, Woukro/Degum Built by the two kings Abreha and Atsbeha, this church dates back to the 4th century and is an uncomplicated five minutes walk from the end of the road.

    40-60 min drive from Lodge
    MARYAM WOUKRO, Nebelet A 30 min hike –– please ask prior to your visit about the level of the river as you need to be able to cross it to reach this destination.

  • MODERATE ACCESS

    20-40 min drive from Lodge
    YOHANNES MAEQUDDI, DegumA 60 min steep path leads to the plateau of this rock-hewn church. Yohannes Maequddi is best known for its ancient and well-preserved paintings. They are in good condition because of the non-porous nature of the rock upon which they are painted.40-60 min drive from Lodge

    40-60 min drive from Lodge
    MEDHANE ALEM ADI KESHO, Teka/Tesfay From the highway about an hour walk, accessing this church from the end of the 4WD track, it’s a steep but easy 10 min climb to this church.

    40-60 min drive from Lodge
    PETROS PAWLOS,Teka/Tesfay Little white church in the white mountains (Tsaeda Imba),you can reach this destination within 30 min of hiking.

    40-60 min drive from Lodge
    MIKAEL MILAHIZENGY, Teka/Tesfay All surfaces inside of this church, except the floor, are curved. There is no straight line. A 30 min hike.

    60-90 min drive from Lodge
    BETA YESUS GWAHEGOT, North Hawzen A around an hour hike North of Hawzen.

  • 60-90 min drive from Lodge
    GABRIEL WUKIEN, Tembien A 20 min hike but please note: Women are not admitted to this church!

    60-90 min drive from Lodge
    ABBA YOHANNI, Tembien Located in the same area as Gabriel Wukien,this requires a 45 min hike but please note: Women are not admitted to this church!

    DIFFICULT & VERY DIFFICULT ACCESS

    20 min drive from Lodge
    KORKOR (MARYAM AND DANIEL) Gheralta About a 2 h climb from the Korkor valley, this one is not an easy hike but once you arrive at the top, the 360 degree view of the surroundings will make it all worthwhile.

    20 min drive from Lodge
    ABUNA YEMATA GUH (very difficult), Gheralta Probably one of the most famous churches in this cluster, the climb to this church is not one for the faint-hearted. The route includes a 7 m climb up a wall. The reward of this thrilling hike is the unbelievable heritage of a rock-hewn church dating back to the 6th century and historical gems like a bible that is dated back to the 13th century.

    20-40 min drive from Lodge
    ABUNA GEBRE MIKAEL(very difficult),Koraro This church is carved into a small cliff at the top of a hill and also requires more than two hours to get to. Often a favorite due to its architecture and the paintings covered ceilings.

The most popular access point to Hamed Ela and Dallol of the Danakil Depression is Agula –– only a comfortable one hour drive away from us. We’re here to assist you on any logistical arrangements that have to be made prior to your trip.

famous sites

enjoy a traditional coffee ceremony in hawzen

At the core of Ethiopia’s well-known culture of hospitality is the ritual of the traditional coffee ceremony, with no difference in the closeby community of Hawzen. You are invited to explore the market of the small village and join the locals for coffee.