Located on Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, Bahar Dar is an Ethiopian town with wide avenues of palms and flowers.
Bahar Dar’s main attraction is the selection of Ethiopian Christian monasteries which are found on some 20 of Lake Tana’s 37 islands. They can be reached by a convenient and fairly comfortable boat ride, which leaves regularly.
Most of the Bahar Dar monasteries date from the 16th and 17th centuries and have changed little since their founding. They are simple huts decorated with colorful scenes from the Bible and lives of the saints.
The Zege Peninsula is home to the Ura Kidane Mihret and Bet Maryam monasteries. The former is one of the most-visited of the monasteries. The round building consists of three concentric circles, the innermost of which is the Holy of Holies containing the monastery’s replica of the Ark. The walls are covered in bright paintings, many of which depict violent martyrdoms. Bet Maryam has an interesting museum/treasury.
Another island is home to Kibran Gebriel, which can only be visited by men (female visitors will be taken to a different island monastery nearby). It also has an interesting museum, filled with old manuscripts, crowns and crosses.
Bahar Dar’s other star attraction, the Blue Nile Falls, is about an hour’s ride out of town.