Exploring the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela

In a country of spectacular sites, Lalibela is the undisputed jewel in the crown. Sat within a spectacular mountain-top setting, Lalibela plays host to the most incredible period in Ethiopian history, the reign of King Lalibela and his attempt to build a new Jerusalem in Ethiopia.

Within the confines of the town itself, there are 11 magnificent rock-hewn churches carved out of the ground in an incredible feat of engineering in the 12th Century. Kind Lalibela’s intention was to build a new Jerusalem, so his followers wouldn’t have to take the pilgrimage to the real thing, and he made a good attempt at doing so. Whilst 11 churches is a lot for anyone to take in, the real beauty of Lalibela is in wandering round the rock carved passageways and running your hand over the ancient walls taking in a sense of the intense spirituality that flows through this place. 

Outside Lalibela itself, a visit to Asheton Maryam (a precursor to the churches in town) offers a lovely steep 2 hour walk (or mule ride) to a spectacular mountain-top setting. 

Lalibela stands out in Ethiopia for its more modern attitudes to tourism, the people are friendly, there is less hassle, and there is a growing portfolio of good hotels, restaurants and low key community tourism activities. It is worth spending a couple of nights to take it all in.

Bete Giyorgis Church, Central Cluster, LalibelaRock Hewn Church in Lalibela

Entrance to Asheton Maryam Church through the rock wall

View of Lalibela from Asheton Maryam ChurchLalibela from above


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