Bahir Dar is one of the leading tourist destinations in Ethiopia with a variety of attractions in the nearby Lake Tana and Blue Nile River. The city is distinctly known for its wide avenues lined with palm trees and a variety of colorful flowers. It is also considered as one of the most beautiful, well planned, and safest cities by many standards, and in 2002 it was awarded UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize for managing to address the challenges of rapid urbanization
Bahir Dar is situated on the southern shore of Lake Tana, The city is located approximately 578 km northwest of Addis Ababa with an elevation of 1840m above sea level.
The city is equipped with an airport with paved runways, identified by the ICAO code HABD and IATA BJR; Ethiopian Airlines operates scheduled flights between Bahir Dar and the capital as well as with Gondar to the northwest. The city is also connected through roads (and bus lines) to these cities.
Lake Tana - It is the largest lake in Ethiopia. Located in the north-western Ethiopian highlands, the lake is approximately 84 kilometers long and 66 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 15 meters, and an elevation of 1,840 meters. Lake Tana is fed by the Lesser Abay, Reb and Gumara Rivers
The lake has almost 37 islands, of which he believed 19 have or had monasteries or churches on them.
Remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian Church are kept in the isolated island monasteries (including Kebran Gabriel, Ura Kidane Mehret, Narga Selassie, Daga Estifanos, Medhane Alem of Rema, Kota Maryam and Mertola Maryam). On the island of Tana Qirqos is a rock shown to Paul B. Henze, on which he was told the Virgin Mary had rested on her journey back from Egypt; he was also told that Frumentius, who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia, is "allegedly buried on Tana Cherqos." The body of Yekuno Amlak is interred in the monastery of St. Stephen on Daga Island; other Emperors whose tombs are on Daga include Dawit I, Zara Yaqob, Za Dengel and Fasilides. Other important islands in Lake Tana include Dek Island and Meshralia.
The monasteries are believed to rest on earlier religious sites and include the fourteenth century Debre Maryam, the eighteenth century Narga Selassie, Tana Qirqos (said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant before it was moved to Axum), and Ura Kidane Mecet, known for its regalia. A ferry service links Bahir Dar with Gorgora via Dek Island and various lake shore villages.
The Blue Nile or “Abbai” - The Abbai portion of the river is considered holy by many in Ethiopia, and is believed to be the Gihon River mentioned as flowing out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2. The Abay portion of the Blue Nile rises at Lake Tana and flows for some thirty kilometers before plunging over the Tis Issat
Although there are several feeder streams that flow into Lake Tana, the sacred source of the river is generally considered to be a small spring at Gish Abbai at an altitude of approximately 2,744 meters (9,003 ft). The Blue Nile much later joins the White Nile at Khartoum, Sudan and, as the Nile, flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria. The Blue Nile is so-called because during flood times the water current is so high, it changes color to an almost black; since in the local Sudanese language the word for black is also used for the color blue. The Blue Nile flows generally south from Lake Tana and then west across Ethiopia and northwest into Sudan. Within 30 km (18.6 mi) of its source at Lake Tana, the river enters a canyon about 400 km long. This gorge is a tremendous obstacle for travel and communication from the north half of Ethiopia to the southern half. The power of the Blue Nile may best be appreciated at Tis Issat Falls, which are 45 m (148 ft) high, located about 40 km (25 mi) downstream of Lake Tana. Despite the hazards and obstacles of the river, on January 29, 2005 Canadian Les Jickling and New Zealander Mark Tanner reached the Mediterranean Sea after 148 days becoming the first to have paddled the Blue Nile from source to sea.