Hawzien (also spelt Hawzen) is a town in the Gheralta area of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. It is frequently used as a base for exploring the many rock-hewn churches of north-eastern Tigray.
Guides are mandatory for visits to Abuna Yemata Guh, Maryam Korkor and Daniel Korkor. These guides can be picked up from the Gheralta Guides Association in Megab.
As of May 2018 prices are: 460 birr if you already have transport organised; 800 birr if you plan on doing any additional walking other than up to the churches from the trailheads.
On top of the guide fee they will also expect a tip.
While scouts are not required they are available at both churches and work on a tip basis, if you do not need their help please make this clear at the beginning.
The easiest access is to turn off Highway 1 at Sinkata (as known as Freweyni), from where it is 23 km on a newly sealed road. Drive time from Mekele via Sinkata is 2 hours 15 min. An alternative when coming from Mekele, which will take 15 minutes longer, is to turn off Highway 1 at Wukro and drive via Degum and Megab. There are also rougher roads that come in from the west, turning off the road from Adwa south to Abi Addi.
To travel to Hawzien from Aksum. Get to the Aksum bus station just before 6.00am. The gates open at 6:00 sharp. Take a bus to Adigrat and change for a bus to Hawzien. The total trip will take 5-6hrs.
Plenty of buses ply the main road between Adigrat and Mekele. Getting to Hawzen may require a change at Freweyni (formerly Sinkata). There are direct buses from Mekele and vice versa costing 40 birr (2018). The buses from Mekele leave from the northern bus station which you can reach by a bajaj (50 ETB, July 2019).
Most people will opt to hire transport for the day to visit both Maryam Korkor and Abuna Yemata but you can also get to Megab via local minibuses (5 birr - 2018). There is no need to hire a 4WD; a bajaj can take you around and even to Wukro.
- Rock-hewn churches. There are over 100 of them in the Hawzien–Wukro–Sinkata area, some of them rarely visited by outsiders.
- 1 Abuna Yemata Guh. 09:00 - 17:00. A church atop hill, with a steep climb with or without harness (up to you). Only for adventurous and fit climbers. One of the oldest monolithic churches in the region, with pristine wall and dome paintings.
- 2 Maryam Korker and Daniel Korker (St Mary's Church) (about 90 minute walk from the road). These two churches are in the same grounds. Daniel Korker is really a prayer room, atop a precipice with views to the plains below. Maryam Korker is a functioning church, with priests living there, set on a small flat piece of land (a football field or so), with views in the other direction to Daniel Korker. These two churches are remarkable both in construction and landscape.
There are small local restaurants in Megab village, which serve shiro and other Ethiopian dishes. The other option is to ask your lodge to prepare a lunch box for the morning, to avoid a long lunch break between church visits.
- 1 Gheralta Restaurant (on the street heading west of the main roundabout). A good restaurant frequented by locals.
Try a local drink — tala/tella, Ethiopian homemade beer. It's best to ask local people where you could get it because it is not sold in regular bars (July 2019), but only in private homes, locally known as tala places. Since they do not look like official bars, it is almost impossible to find them by yourself.
Gheralta Lodge is a good spot to have a drink in the evening even if you are not staying or dining there. There are great views from the well kept (but not over-fussy) grounds. It's a 20-minute walk from Hawzien. Best to take a torch for the return.
- 1 Gheralta Lodge, Megab Rd (on the left, 1.3 km (0.81 mi) south of Hawzien), ☏ (Booking), (Lodge), fax: , email@example.com. Budget 675 birr, single 1,000 birr, double 2,000 birr.
- 2 Korkor Lodge, Megab village (on the road to Wukro), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Single US$150, double US$200.
- Vision hotel, near the main road/roundabout. Double room including breakfast 450-500 ETB (July 2019). Clean rooms and friendly and helpful staff.
- 3 Habesha Hotel. Reasonable rooms and helpful staff.