Mekele, or the small town of Wukro just to the north, can be used as a base to explore the many rock-hewn churches of Tigray that are scattered across the stunning high-desert landscape of northern Tigray. The churches are as rewarding to visit as they are (often) difficult to reach. Abuna Yemata Guh is a particular highlight, although not recommended for those with a fear of heights. The tourist office in Wukro can help to arrange guides and transport.
By bus: Coming from Aksum there are three types of buses: public buses, minibuses and shared taxi. The buses depart from Aksum in the early morning. If you want to go to Mekele in the afternoon you have to go by either minibus with a stopover in Adwa or by shared taxi. Ask at the bus station for certain taxi companies. The public bus should be about 65 birr, the minibuss 90 birr and the shared taxi around 100 birr.
There are quite a few 'ferenji' restaurants in Mekele, serving pizza, meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and salads. There's also lots of national food restaurants and many cake/pastry/coffee shops. Ferenji means onlookers may call you ferenji if you are a white foreigner. None of this is threatening - in fact its generally very friendly.
There is a problem with finding good western hotels in the city. The closest you get is the newly built rooms at the Axum Hotel, make sure that you get one of the new rooms as the old ones are poorly maintained.
Wukro and Negash: As a day tour it is perfect to either rent a 4WD with driver or take a minibus (2011: 30 birr) from the Bus Station to the small city of Wukro. It is a considerably older outpost than Mekelle with some of the oldest Christian churches in the country. Ask local drivers when getting there to bring you to the Abuna Yemata Guh, about 5 kilometeres outside of Wukro (in 2011 around 50-100 birr for a daytrip). In this church you can find some original wood carvings and well preserved paintings speaking to the religious influences and clashes during early Christian times. For someone who is interested it is well worth a visit and probably more fascinating than most of the religious places in Ethiopia. There is an unoffical entrance fee of 50 birr, but they might ask for 100. Negash is a small Muslim village about 8 kilometres north of Wukro where you will see what is stated to be the oldest spot for a mosque in the country. However, the mosque is today fairly new and nothing very exciting but the view from the spot is nice and worth a visit, located on the top of a high cliff. They will ask for a donation of about 50-100 birr depending on the number of people visiting. The minibus to Negash departs all the time from Wukro and should be 10 birr, they might ask for 20 from a foreigner. As you can see all the prices are very flexible and depend on who you are asking.