Situated on the southern extremity shoreline of Lake Tana, Bahir Dar is a decidedly attractive town with palm-lined avenues and pretty lakeside vistas. Nearby Lake Tana, 1,800 meters above sea level, is one of the long hidden source of the Blue Nile. The Tiss Isat falls (meaning water that smokes) are 32 kms down from where the Blue Nile leaves the lake towards Khartoum. Approached by foot up a long winding path and crossing a 17th century bridge built by Emperor Fasiledes, the falls cascade down 45 meters over a 400mts area. Lake Tana’s 3600 sq.kms the third largest lake in Africa and the first from the country, surface is dotted with more than 30 islands, many of which are the sites of monasteries and churches, some dating from the 14th century in the reign of Emperor Amde Tsion. A motor boat takes you from the charming market town of Bahir Dar to Ura Kidanemihret, a monastery on the mainland peninsula at Zegie, where a treasury of ancient illuminated bibles is stored. Along the way, papyrus canoes are used by the local people since ages past for fishing and gathering firewood.
The thirty seven islands of Lake Tana Ethiopia’s Largest Lake, Shelter twenty Monasteries surviving remnants of an old, contemplative tradition. The power of Blue Nile may best be appreciated at the Blue Nile Falls, the most dramatic spectacle on either the White or Blue Niles, a vision of natural strength and grandeur. For the modern traveler, the starting point of any visit to the Blue Nile Falls, or to the islands of Lake Tana, is the bustling market town of Bahir Dar on the Lake’s south-eastern shore. The multihued markets and a variety of handicrafts and weaving axis make it a comfortable base for excursion either by land or water.
Bahir Dar port provides access by boat to a number of historic lakeside churches and monasteries, near and far. Most date from the seventeenth century and have beautifully painted walls. Many such places of worship now have fascinating museums, at which the visitor can see priceless illustrated manuscripts, historic crowns and fine royal and ecclesiastical robes. Some monastic land mass are forbidden to women, but others can be visited by both sexes.