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Lalibella is a small town found in the northern Ethiopia highlands and is acclaimed as the holiest city in Ethiopia after Aksum. The area is mostly a rocky highland area where many pilgrims flock to some of the oldest churches in the world.

The town lifestyle resembles the life in Jerusalem although many of the people in Lalibela are orthodox Christians. The town hails from the 12th century reign of St Gebre Mesqul Lalibela from whom the town gets its name. At the tome the town was called Roha. Lalibela in Amharic means a swarm of bees which is a sign that surrounded the Gebre at birth giving a sign of his special status of a future king.

Rock Churches in Labelia

The monolithic churches were carved out of rocks during the reign of Emperor Lalibela Gebre during the 13th century in Lalibela. The churches were built in 4 different parts of Lalibela with the north being home to Beta Medhane Alam the largest church popularly known for the Lalibela cross. In the west is Beta Giyorgist which remains in use to the present day and from the east is Beta Ammanuel which is believed to be the former royal chapel among others.

There are 13 monolithic caves were carefully carved out of a red colored rock only attached to the original rock at the base and only 4 of these churches are free standing…Beta Medhane Alem (the house of the savior of the world), Beta Ghenetta mariam (house of Mary), Beta Giyorgist (Houts of St George) and Beta Ammauel  (house of Emmanuel). All these churches resemble normal buildings individual architectural designs with windows and large entrances.

Many legends are associated with the construction of these churches and King Lalibela but the one similarity among them all is that King Lalibela got a vision from the heavens to work on these rock hewn churches. Another school of though believes that the king was only inspired to put up such churches after his visit to Jerusalem and wanted to create a similar city in this home kingdom. Today, Lalibela is a UNESCO World heritage site thanks to its unique architecture and craftsmanship. Lalibela remains a place highly regarded among orthodox Christian’s pilgrims.

The churches are open to tourists every day 9am-1pm and for the afternoon 2pm to 5pm. There are always licensed tour guide to get you on tour for the churches for 150 birr. Other sights in Lalibela include the monastery of Ashetan and Yiimrehane Kristos, the village market and the people living in the small town.

Getting there

Lalibela is easily accessed by flight from Addis Ababa. There is an airport (coded LLI), 13 miles from the town that receives charter domestic Ethiopia flights. There 21 domestic flight schedules from Lalibela Airport to other Ethiopia towns.

There is a bus that takes the route from Addis Ababa although the journey is 2 days with a night stop at Dessie. Other buses are picked at Gondar and bahir

Lalibela Accommodation

This town from rural Ethiopia has a few hotels, guesthouses and bed & breakfast facilities. Some of the Ehtiopian Hotels in Lalibela include Tukul Village, Aman Lalibela Hotel, Mountain View Hotel Laibela and Severn Olives hotel. Budget overnight and dining is available from Jerusalem guesthouse, Alef paradise Hotel and Selam Lalibela Gusethouse among others

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