Founded by Emperor Fasilidas in the 17th century in the shadow of the Simien Mountains 260 mi/420 km northwest of Addis Ababa, Gonder certainly merits a visit. Once the Ethiopian capital, the town has distinctive castles and cathedrals, incorporating medieval European and southern-Arabian influences. Be sure to see the abbeys, the Castle of the King Fasilidas, the Monastery of Kusquam, the House of Kusquam (Queen Mintiwab's palace) and other ruins.

Gonder has dozens of churches, the most important being Debre Birhan Selassie (Trinity of the Mountain of Light), which has an impressive hilltop location. The priest there will explain the story of the many paintings and carvings inside the church. Nearby is a former Falasha (Ethiopian Jew) community. Although all of the Falasha were airlifted to Israel years ago, you can still tour the synagogue and buy some traditional Falasha pottery (made by current residents).

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