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The next stop on the historic route, with its strategic hilltop location at an altitude of 2200 m in the Southern foothills of the Simien Mountains , is the graceful city of Gondar , site of numerous castle-like palaces, dating back from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The city was founded by Emperor Fasilidas in the 17 th century and remained the capital of Ethiopia for the next two centuries. It's known for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches. Among the dozen edifices found on the precinct of the royal compound the earliest of the castles was created by Fasilidas himself and is still in such an excellent state of repair that it is still possible climb its stairs all the way to the roof which commands a breathtaking view over much of the city.

Besides the famous palaces the town is studded with several other points of interest, most notably; the fantastically decorated Church of Debre Berhan Selassie, with its remarkable ceiling decorated with winged angels; Bathing Palace of Emperor Fasilidas, which is used for the annual Timkat or Epiphany celebrations; the abbey of the redoubtable 18 th century Empress Mentewab at Qwesquam, in the mountains just outside Gondar; and the Felasha ( black Jews) village, though vacated by almost all of its Felasha occupants; it continues to make pottery in the Felasha tradition.

Gondar is also the obvious base from which to stage day trips or longer treks into the awe-inspiring Simyen Mountains, many of its peaks rising above 4000 m. The Simyen Mountains National Park, containing some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa as well as quite diversified fauna and flora, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ethiopia’s popular hiking destination.

National Parks in Ethiopia
  • Semien Mountains National Park (North)
  • Bale Mountains National Park (Southeast)
  • Nech SAR National Park (South)
  • Mago National Park (South)
  • Omo National Park (South)
  • Awash National Park (East)
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