There are 37 islands that are scattered about the surface of Lake Tana, out of which some 20 shelter churches and monasteries of immense historical and cultural interest. These churches are decorated with beautiful paintings and house innumerable treasures. Because of their isolation they were used to store art treasures and religious relics from all parts of the country.
Access for some of the churches is closed to women, although they are allowed to land on the banks of the island but not permitted to proceed further.
However women are permitted to visit churches on Zeghne Peninsula and nearby church of Ura Kidane Mehret, as well as Narga Sellassie.
Kebran Gabriel: is renowned for a magnificent manuscript to the Four Gospels which is believed to date back to at least the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century.
Ura Kidane Mehret: is more decorative with a huge, conical thatched roof is painted with scenes from Biblical lore.
Daga Istifanos: is considered one of the most sacred on Lake Tana, and said to have served as a temporary hiding place for the Ark of the Covenant. On this stands the church of Saint Stifanos which houses the Holly Madonna painted around 1434. The real historic interest lies in its treasury where there are glass-sided coffins containing the mummified remains of several of the former emperors of Ethiopia.
Tana Cherkos: this ancient monastery is found on the eastern shore of Lake Tana. Tradition tells us that St. Mary rested here under a wall during her flight to Egypt, and stayed for three months and ten days. The monks claim that they owned a necklace which she left when she departed.
It is also said that the monastery was a sacred place of the Jews. Menelik I and the Jewish nobles, after fleeing from King Solomon, brought the Ark of the covenant to this monastery and built a temple over it, which was decorated with precious stones. Six hundred years later, the Ark was brought to Axum.