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Wonders of Eritrea

Mountains near Asmara, Eritrea
Mountains near Asmara / Reinhard Dietrich, / CC0 1.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Contrary to most African countries in Eritrea are not so many impressive natural landmarks but – a huge variety of excellent man-made landmarks. The most amazing wonders of Eritrea are:

  • Two cities with historical architecture – Asmara and Massawa. Both cities are a true surprise – Asmara is one of the world’s best examples of Art Deco urban planning and architecture and Massawa is an amazing monument of Ottoman urban planning and architecture.
  • Ancient and prehistoric cave art. The list of such caves here exceeds 70, some of them contain truly outstanding examples of art.
  • Ancient and prehistoric settlements. The economic and political importance of Eritrea was much higher in antiquity than now. Millenia ago here were located lively trade cities – not all of them have been rediscovered yet.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Eritrea

Geological wonders

Nabro volcano

Southern Red Sea

Impressive, 2,218 m tall (before the eruption) stratovolcano that was considered to be extinct until it erupted unexpectedly on 13 June 2011. There might be a lava lake in the northern caldera of the volcano.

Nabro Volcano erupts in June 2011
Nabro Volcano erupts in June 2011 . / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Biological wonders

Buia Fossils

Northern Red Sea

Rich find of early Pleistocene fauna and early hominins. Researchers have found here an almost complete, nearly 1 million years old skull of a man that could be a transition, link between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. Here have been found also remnants of Palaeoloxodon recki.

Archaeological wonders



Ruins of Aksumite town near Matara. Flourished sometimes around 500 BC, ruins rise up to 14 m in height. Contains stelae inscribed in Ge’ez script.

Sullum Ba’atti


Rock shelter with ancient paintings in red, black, and yellow colors. Drawings show a stylized symbol similar to Sun, and animals (bovines, antelopes, rhinoceros, hyens, felines, and others). One drawing shows a human riding a bovine.



Ruins of an ancient city that was located on the ancient route between Adulis and Aksum, the possible summer capital of the Aksumite empire. This area is inhabited since the 5th millennia BC at least, the city was abandoned around the 6th – 9th century AD.

Gama cave


Grotto with petroglyphs – paintings and etchings. Drawings show bovines, humans, and geometric symbols in a stylized form, there are also idiomatic symbols, and possible letters.



Site with diverse paintings, showing bovines and two giraffes. One panel with 35 bovines is 9 m wide. Another panel shows 45 figurines, mostly warriors. There is also an undeciphered inscription.


Northern Red Sea

Ruins of pre-Islamic settlement in Dahlak Kebir island. The site contains remnants of streets, standing stones of ancient structures, grinding stones, necropolis. The site is unexplored and may bring many interesting discoveries.

Mai Dubburo


Some 40 m deep cave with paintings in red and maroon colors. Paintings show horse riders, humans, and geometric signs. In the cave were found several vessels, possibly used for natural herb perfumes.

Emba Derho Megaliths


Group of prehistoric stone circles – including several double circles. The burial in one of the circles is dated to 260 AD but stone circles might be older. There are other megalithic monuments in Eritrea as well.

Hulum Bareto


Old paintings of geometric symbols, stylized humans and animals. It seems that part of the symbols has been repainted several times. It is possible that certain families were “owners” of such symbols and according to certain rituals repainted them.

Zeban Kebesa I


Cave in sandstone rock with a rich collection of rock art, painted in red, yellow, white, and violet colors. Here are depicted animals – domesticated bovines and wild felines, kudu, and antelopes. Humans – warriors and horse riders – are shown as well.

Zeban Abur I and Zeban Abur II


Rock shelters with rich collections of rock art. Drawings show animals, humans, and geometric signs.

Architecture wonders

Massawa Old Town

Northern Red Sea

Amazing monument of Ottoman architecture, mainly built in the 18th – 19th century on two islands. An especially impressive feature is the waterfront of the city. Includes the fifteenth-century Sheikh Hanafi Mosque, Imperial Palace, and other historical buildings.

Massawa Old City, Eritrea
Massawa Old City / Geri, / CC0 1.0
Debre Libanos Monastery (Eritrea)


Site of the oldest monastery in Eritrea. Originally built in the 6th century AD, none of its original buildings are preserved. Near the monastery is located a cave with a holy spring where the saint lived. Mummies of saints have been found here.

Asmara Modernist City


The center of this city was built in Art Deco and Functionalist style in the late 1930s by Italians and now represents one of the most complete urban landmarks in these architectural styles. Planning of the city represents a version of an ideal city, with many technological innovations of the period.

Debre Mariam


A prominent monastery, founded in the 1340s. Monastery has a rich collection of valuable Ge’ez manuscripts.

Shrine of Sahaba

Northern Red Sea

Small shrine in Massawa Old City, reportedly built by the followers of the prophet, who landed here in 615 AD.

Debre Bizen

Northern Red Sea

This Christian monastery was founded in the 1350s. The library contains a collection of important Ge’ez manuscripts.

Asmara St. Joseph’s Cathedral


Large, ornate cathedral in Neo-Romanesque style, built in 1922.

Asmara St. Joseph's Cathedral, Eritrea
Asmara St. Joseph’s Cathedral / David Stanley, / CC BY 2.0
Massawa Imperial Palace

Northern Red Sea

Ornate palace at the waterfront, built in 1872 – 1874.

Imperial Palace in Massawa, Eritrea
Imperial Palace / David Stanley, / CC BY 2.0
Asmara President’s Office


A large building in Neo-Classical style, built in 1897 for the Italian colonial government.

Cinema Impero


A beautiful building in the Art Deco style, constructed in 1937.

Dahlak Kebir necropolis

Northern Red Sea

Islamic necropolis from the 10th – 15th century with some 800 coral gravestones with ancient Arabic inscriptions.

Fiat Tagliero Building


An iconic car service station, built in 1938. The building resembles an airplane with 15 m long concrete wings not supported by pillars.

Fiat Tagliero Building in Asmara, Eritrea
Fiat Tagliero Building in Asmara / Optimist on the run, / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea

Robert D. Kaplan is one of our leading international journalists, someone who can explain the most complicated and volatile regions and show why they’re relevant to our world. In Surrender or Starve, Kaplan illuminates the fault lines in the Horn of Africa, which is emerging as a crucial region for America’s ongoing war on terrorism.

Eritrea, 4th (Bradt Travel Guide)

A new edition of the essential guide for independent travelers to this unusual and remarkable African country, which is emerging from its war-torn past to welcome tourists. In addition to the charms of the capital Asmara, with its broad avenues, markets, and Roman Catholic cathedral, the interior – rich in historical remains – is well worth visiting.

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5 years ago

Is it possible to get a high definition digital copy of the picture, “The Mountains near Asmara”?