Lalibela

The smallest of the three former capitals of Ethiopia, Lalibela is a charming highland town surrounded by mountainous country - but it's the collection of 12th century churches which draws the crowds.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Travel not recommended during the rainy season

Overview

Lalibela is often the highlight of any Ethiopia tour. This small hillside town is known for its labyrinthine collection of ancient rock-hewn churches.
Lalibela is a charming highland town surrounded by mountainous country including Mount Abune Yoseph. It is the smallest of the three former capitals of Ethiopia. Here the main drawcard are the 13 awe-inspiring churches built during the 12th-13th centuries. This includes the spectacular St Georges church which is set away from the others.

These tiny pink-tinged sandstone churches are partially submerged underground and accessed via tunnels and narrow gorges. Unlike many World Heritage sites, these hand-crafted churches have remained in constant use ever since they were built. Church ceremonies for white-robed pilgrims are a constant feature. Tourism plays second fiddle - as it should.

For now, Lalibela retains an air of highland rusticity and charm. Its visitors are mainly Ethiopians. But the allure of its churches will soon bring greater numbers of visitors from further afield. So we recommend an early visit.

Monasteries near Lalibela

As well as the 13 churches, the surrounding countryside is also very attractive. You can walk to several mountainside monasteries in the nearby hills. We recommend the walk to mountain-top Asheton Maryam monastery at almost 4,000 metres. This can be either a full day hike from Lalibela. Or a scenic drive followed by a stunning 20-30 minute ridge walk.

staff image

Madelyn Nieuwoudt

Africa Travel Specialist
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Features

Why you may love it

  • The rock-hewn churches which are still used by pilgrims today.
  • The particularly impressive St Georges Church (Bet Giyorgis)
  • Enjoy one of the Traditional coffee ceremonies.
  • Dining at the star-ship inspired Ben Ababa restaurant with its stunning views.
  • Day hikes to Asheton Maryam Monastery
  • Overnight camping and trekking trips up Mount Abune Yoseph

Explore the Lalibela map

When to visit Lalibela

January to May

Dry and sunny

January is a popular time to visit Lalibela. The Timkat Festival celebrates the Ethiopian Epiphany over three days of festivities, starting in mid-January. Thus it attracts many pilgrims at this time who flock to Lalibela to visit. It becomes quieter from March onwards. It is dry and sunny in Lalibela but the high altitude mean that daytime temperatures remain around 22-24C. However day time temperatures start gradually increasing from February onwards.
AVG RAINFALL 13 mm
MAX TEMP 24.5 ℃ / 76 ℉
MIN TEMP 6 ℃ / 43 ℉

June to September

Rainy season

This is the start of the rainy season proper. The heaviest rain is in July and August and this brings down daytime temperatures. We don’t recommend this time as many roads become difficult to navigate and the rain is fairly continuous. Rain decreases in September but it remains overcast.
AVG RAINFALL 45 mm
MAX TEMP 26 ℃ / 79 ℉
MIN TEMP 9 ℃ / 48 ℉

October to mid-February

Best time to visit

Thus for many it is the best time to visit Lalibela. The rain suddenly departs in October and this is the start of the dry season which lasts through to somewhere in March. So it is green and lush but quieter than later in the dry season.
AVG RAINFALL 252 mm
MAX TEMP 23 ℃ / 73 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

AVG RAINFALL 62 mm
MAX TEMP 23 ℃ / 74 ℉
MIN TEMP 9 ℃ / 48 ℉

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Stunning Location

"Bale Mountain Lodge has a lovely location. Our room, whilst in a good location, needed a little bit of maintenance. The bathroom and the room was very cold in the evening until the fire was lit and again in the morning. So come with warm clothes!" Mr Tim Flesher, UK

We loved Ethiopia!

"We loved Ethiopia – great people, scenery, culture, food & wildlife. Immanuel, our guide, was excellent in every way – very friendly, informative, knowledgeable, helpful and went out of his way to try to get us “under the surface” in experiencing Ethiopia, visiting his family for a meal, buying us gifts and introducing us to many Ethiopians. Henok our driver was the best driver we have ever had – safe but quick, very friendly and helpful. The two of them created a great atmosphere over the 23 day trip. We can’t recommend Ethiopia enough, however, as we expected, travel was not always easy and the accommodation was not always of the same standard of other parts of Africa." Mr Tim Flesher, UK
 
Did you know
  • HistoryGebre Mesquel Lalibela reigned as emperor of Ethiopia in the 13th Century.
  • NameLalibela was once known as Roha.