Lalibela is often the highlight of any Ethiopia tour. This small hillside town has a labyrinthine collection of ancient rock-hewn churches.
Lalibela is the smallest of the three former capitals of Ethiopia. It is a charming highland town surrounded by mountainous country including Mount Abune Yoseph. The main attractions are the 13 awe-inspiring churches from the 12th-13th century, including the spectacular St Georges church. The 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.
As well as the 13 churches, the surrounding scenery 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 4000 metres. This can be either a full day hike from Lalibela. Or a scenic drive followed by a stunning 20-30 minute hike.
For now, Lalibela retains an air of highland rusticity and charm. But the allure of its churches will soon bring greater numbers of visitors. So we recommend an early visit.
Highlights of the Lalibela region, Ethiopia
- The rock-hewn churches especially St Georges Church (Bet Giyorgis).
- Plus 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.