Situated in the heart of the historic Amhara Region, around 400km northwest of Addis Ababa as the crow flies, Lake Tana, its azure waters fringed by lush tropical vegetation, is – at 3673 square kilometres – Ethiopia’s largest body of water, and the principal source of the Blue Nile. Serviced by the attractive lakeshore port of Bahir Dar, which also doubles as the regional capital, the lake is also an important tourist hub, thanks to its rich birdlife, wealth of historic island monasteries, and proximity to the Blue Nile Falls, which rank among the most spectacular in Africa when in full flow.
Shaped like an inverted teardrop, shallow Tana is relatively low-lying by Ethiopian standards, with a surface elevation of 1800m, but the lake’s hinterland is enclosed by craggily scenic mountain landscapes typical of the Abyssinian Highlands. Straddling the hills to the north of Lake Tana is the historic city of Gondar, studded with relics of its heyday as imperial capital in the seventeenth century. Further north still, the wild, hiker-friendly Simien Mountains National Park protects the country’s highest and most spectacular mountain range, along with a range of endemic wildlife including gelada monkey and Walia ibex.