Unique place in Ethiopia with 11 churches carved in rocks

Lalibela in Ethiopia for 11 churches carved in rocks. They were made at the beginning of the 13th century by order of the then King Lalibela. Wandering around here is a spiritual experience.

The city Lalibela is a wonderful place in Ethiopia and in Africa as a continent or even the world for that matter. On an excursion you'll find countless churches carved into the rocks. These churches are still widely used today by believers. These are the best tips for visiting Lalibela.

The interior of one of the churches in Lalibela. ©Corno van den Berg

Bete Medhane Alem

One of them, the famous Bete Medhane Alem, is the largest monolithic building in the world. Which you can walk through but between the believers. This is an experience in itself. Firstly, because of the beautiful sun rays that give the church light. Secondly, because of the religious atmosphere and all the sounds around you made by people talking, praying or singing praises.

Experience the holy day

Each church has its own holy day every month. This is when hundreds of believers come to the church in question. You are allowed to experience one of the many ceremonies.

Believers can be seen everywhere kissing the walls and the pillars. Upon departure, they kiss a golden cross that the priest holds. All in all this is a moving experience.

Discover the famous frescoes

A large part of the frescoes in the churches eroded with time. Especially on the higher parts in the churches the murals of, for example, the apostles can still be seen. They are very impressive.

Walking around in Lalibela. ©Corno van den Berg

Tour with a guide

Those who visit the churches with a local guide will learn about the rich past. The guide will explain the interesting history. As well as why there are still so many believers.

Take the famous photo

The churches in Lalibela are wonderfully carved in the rocks. ©Corno van den Berg

It is difficult to photograph these special structures. UNESCO have placed protective iron roofs above the numerous churches. As a result, this helps to decrease erosion caused by rain. But this makes it difficult to take a nice photo. It is best to take a photograph of St. George Church in the early morning light or the soft afternoon light. Only then can you make a postcard. This will also give people back home a better understanding of why Lalibela was worth the trip.

The various crosses

The creators of Lalibela were in contact with countless other people. Partly because of this you will come across various crosses in the churches. Like the Greek cross, Latin cross, the Maltese cross and more.

A guide opens one of the churches in Lalibela. ©Corno van den Berg


Churches have also been carved out of rocks in nearby Tigray. These are not as old as the churches in Lalibela and also less intricate. But there are also many to be found, including frescoes from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Explore the area by 4×4 and stop at some churches to take a look. Tigray is located more than 300 kilometers north of Lalibela on the road to Axum.

Stroll through the village of Lalibela

The village is still very small. It's hard to imagine this was once the country's capital. People often greet you and want to polish your shoes or otherwise help out for some change. There is a market every day, but on Saturdays people from the area also come to Lalibela.

In addition to vegetables, fruits and spices, all kinds of animals such as sheep, chickens and the like are sold. Stroll around in a deserted hour and see how daily life in Lalibela plays out.

Restaurants and bars are different in this part of the world. But in various places you can sit down and get served a cold soft drink or beer. While in the meantime daily life in Lalibela continues as usual. It is also a very good way to process the impressions of the day at your leisure.

A group of men in Lalibela. ©Corno van den Berg

Best time for Lalibela

The best time is especially the morning, then there are fewer tourists and more clergy. Also walk around the churches in the village around it. Take the time for your visit anyway, it's more than worth it.

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