Stroll through this small pleasant town of Gorgora on the northern shores of Lake Tana. It has a friendly and relaxed feel of life and you will be greeted with a smile… The town was founded in medieval times during the reign of Emperor Susenyos I and was the capital of Ethiopia before his son, Fasilidas, founded the town of Gondar. Emperor Susenyos was enamoured with European architectural style, as can be seen in the ruins of his former palace and the equally impressive ruins of the Portuguese Cathedral.
The Church of Debre Sina is one of the earliest and most beautiful round churches in Ethiopia. It was built in 1608 with a thatched roof. Come and wonder at its walls, decorated with ornate murals, better preserved and older than those found to the south of the lake. One of the frescoes, the “Egyptian Saint Mary”, is said to have been brought to the area from Egypt and is believed to have the power to heal.
The Portuguese Cathedral lies in ruins, but it is still stunning, with its beautiful architecture from the past. It was built in 1621 with the assistance of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries during the reign of Emperor Susenyos, after he converted to Catholicism and outlawed the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. When his son Fasilidas came to power, he expelled the Jesuits, reinstated the Orthodox Church and the cathedral was abandoned. It was never a stable structure as it was constructed using clay to hold the stones together. Since the walls gave way to the weight of the roof, the cathedral has lain in ruins. Tall walls, regal columns and archways engraved with flowers and crosses, an unusual sight in Ethiopia, still remind visitors of its former grandeur.
The ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Susenyos are a pleasure to visit. Located in Old Gorgora, 10km west of Gorgora, you can marvel at the beautiful architecture which was built in 1630 with the help of the Portuguese.
Visit the nearby impressive 20m high Mussolini Stele. This was erected after a hard fought battle against the occupying Italians.
The area around Gorgora is highly attractive for birdwatching. The Lake Tana Transport Authority compound, located on the lake shore, has a bird watching platform which visitors can use to spot a large range of birds including White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Yellow-breasted Barbet and Short-winged Cisticola. You may even be lucky enough to sight the beautiful Saker Falcon soaring overhead, weaving through the trees along the lake shore.