Lake Tana church mural © David Fair
Bahir Dar is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ethiopia. Known for its palm-lined avenues, it sits at the southern edge of Lake Tana which is the source of the Blue Nile. The town is the main base for visiting Tissisat Falls and the lake's 37 islands with their ancient churches and monasteries. Unfortunately, many of these churches deny access to women but there are exceptions. The lake is enormous and it will probably take half a day just to visit two or three of the monasteries. But the scenery is beautiful and visitors may even spot some local fishermen in traditional papyrus canoes or groups of hippo. The most beautiful of the monasteries on Lake Tana are Debre Kebran Gabriel, which dates from the 14th century, and Ura Kidane Mehret which has exceptional frescoes. The monasteries each charge their own entrance fee. The Tisissat Falls, often known as the Blue Nile Falls, are still impressive but the dam has seriously reduced the amount of water coming over the falls, which is sad. Bahir Dar also has an enormous market where visitors can trawl for local crafts and fresh produce.