As the ancient capital of Ethiopia (1632-1855), Gondar retains an atmosphere of charm that’s mingled with an aura of mystery.
Hidden high in the verdant mountains, Gondar appears as a fairy-tale. Hiding behind tall stone fortifications are fantastic castles and flamboyant churches, so impressive that the historical city has earned the nickname ‘Camelot of Africa’.
Take Fasil Ghebbi, home to the country’s emperors during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site that proves the prowess of the old royal family with 20 palaces and many magnificent monasteries.
Then there’s Debre Berhan Selassie, from the outside a small, simple church but as you enter each of its walls has been painted with wide-eyed angels that have been exceptionally preserved, making it one of the finest, most colourful churches in Ethiopia.
A short stroll away is one of the city’s most peaceful spots, Fasiladas Bath. Shaded by trees, the rectangular building is moated by a pool and once a year, during the festival of Timkat, its waters comes alive with leaps and splashes of hundreds of people during the religious celebration.
The Simien Mountains National Park is a short drive from the ancient ramparts and offers vast landscapes and quiet adventure. A hike through the high plateaus will bring breathtaking views of the country’s peaks and show off its wildlife too. Keen eyes will get the chance to see the Ethiopian Fox, catch sight of the mighty Ibex and wonder at the ‘Bleeding Heart Baboon’, an old world monkey known for its striking red triangle on its chest.
Whether you seek out Gonder for its magnificent mountain setting or delight in the city’s vibrant, resplendent architecture, a trip to Ethiopia's ancient capital is sealed by royal approval.