If you’re seeking for a one-of-a-kind and spectacular vacation experience, go no further than Lalibela, Ethiopia. This little town is home to some of the most amazing and well-preserved historic churches in the world, as well as stunning natural surroundings ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. This guide will cover two must-see locations, two outdoor activities, and one unconventional recommendation for making the most of your stay in Lalibela.
Hiking in the Lasta Mountains
Lalibela is located in the Lasta Mountains, which offer some of the most stunning hiking trails in Ethiopia. One popular hike is to the top of Mount Abuna Yoseph, which is the second-highest peak in the Lasta Mountains. The hike is challenging, but the views from the top are worth it. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Danakil Depression. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, as the hike can take several hours.
Exploring the Blue Nile Falls
Blue Nile Falls, about 30 kilometers outside of Lalibela, are a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The falls tower almost 40 meters over the surrounding foliage. You’ll need to take a short stroll across the countryside to get to the falls. You’ll travel through little communities and witness local farmers working in their fields along the road. It’s an excellent way to experience rural Ethiopian life.
The Rock-Hewn Churches
The rock-hewn churches are the main attraction in Lalibela, and for good reason. These 11 medieval churches were carved entirely out of solid rock and are considered a masterpiece of engineering and architecture. Each church has a unique design and is adorned with beautiful carvings and paintings. Some of the most impressive churches include Bete Giyorgis, which is shaped like a cross and carved into the ground, and Bete Medhane Alem, which is the largest monolithic church in the world. Visiting the rock-hewn churches is an experience unlike any other, and spending a full day exploring them all is easy. Be sure to hire a guide who can explain the history and significance of each church.
Yemrehanna Kristos Church
While the rock-hewn churches are the main attraction in Lalibela, the Yemrehanna Kristos Church is also worth a visit. This church is located about 42 kilometers outside of Lalibela and was built in the 11th century. Unlike the rock-hewn churches, which were carved into the ground, Yemrehanna Kristos was built inside a cave. The church is decorated with beautiful frescoes and has a unique blend of architectural styles, with both Axumite and Zagwe influences. It’s also home to the mummified remains of hundreds of pilgrims, which are said to have been there for over 800 years.
Attend a Coffee Ceremony
Coffee is an important part of Ethiopian culture, and attending a traditional coffee ceremony is a must-do when visiting Lalibela. The ceremony involves roasting the coffee beans over an open flame, grinding them by hand, and then brewing them in a traditional clay pot. The process takes about an hour and is often accompanied by traditional Ethiopian music and dancing. It’s a great way to experience Ethiopian hospitality and learn more about the country’s rich coffee culture.
Asheton Maryam Monastery
Located on a hilltop overlooking Lalibela, the Asheton Maryam Monastery is a beautiful and serene destination that offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. To reach the monastery, you’ll need to hike up a steep trail that takes about an hour to complete.
Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with views of the rock-hewn churches below and the Lasta Mountains in the distance. The monastery itself is small but beautiful, with colorful frescoes and intricate carvings. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Lalibela and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Bet Giorgis (Church of St. George)
While the rock-hewn churches are the main attraction in Lalibela, Bet Giorgis (Church of St. George) is particularly noteworthy. This church is shaped like a cross and is carved into the ground, making it one of the most impressive of the rock-hewn churches. What makes Bet Giorgis particularly interesting is that it’s the only one of the rock-hewn churches that is free-standing, meaning that it’s not attached to the surrounding rock. It’s also one of the best-preserved of the churches, with intricate carvings and beautiful frescoes.
Mezena Lodge, located just a few minutes from the heart of Lalibela, is a magnificent hotel with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. The hotel has elegantly appointed rooms, a swimming pool, a spa, and a restaurant serving delectable Ethiopian cuisine.
The Lal Hotel and Spa is an excellent choice for budget-conscious guests. The hotel is centrally located in Lalibela and has spacious rooms with contemporary conveniences. It also offers a restaurant serving both local and foreign cuisine, as well as a spa where guests may unwind after a day of touring.
The Blue Nile Guesthouse is an excellent option. This little guesthouse in the heart of Lalibela offers clean and basic accommodations at an inexpensive price. There is also a rooftop patio with views of the surrounding region and a restaurant offering local cuisine at the guesthouse.
Red Rock Lalibela Lodge is a terrific choice if you’re searching for an eco-friendly solution. This lodge provides basic but comfortable accommodations in a stunning natural environment on the outskirts of Lalibela. The resort is powered by solar energy and contains a restaurant serving cuisine obtained locally.
Lalibela is a truly special destination that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re exploring the rock-hewn churches, hiking in the mountains, or simply enjoying the local cuisine, there’s something for everyone in Lalibela. We hope this ultimate travel guide has inspired you to plan your own trip to this fascinating part of Ethiopia. Start planning your adventure today and experience the magic of Lalibela for yourself!