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 The highlight of Lalibela is the extraordinary collection of rock-hewn churches built in the 12th century as an attempt, it is said, to establish a new Jerusalem. The churches are unique in that all 11 of them have been carved downwards, into the ground, and are connected by a labyrinthine network of channels and passages. As you wander between the churches you will come across monks in alcoves cut out of the stone solemnly reading the scriptures.

Lalibela is still very much a sacred pilgrimage site. On Sundays the devout come from miles around, shrouded in white, spilling down the hillsides to attend the services. The gloom inside the churches is embellished by wafts of frankincense and myrrh and the hypnotic chanting of the liturgy and the monotonous beating of the kettle drum.

Lalibela is arguably most interesting at the festivals of Meskal and Timkat but it is very crowded.

Useful info

ethiopia map

Best time to be there

There are two seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May; the wet season runs from June to September. Temperatures are determined by altitude, with highlands (including Addis Ababa) rarely exceeding 25º C. In the lowlands it can get considerably hotter exceeding 40ºC, while in the Danakil Depression it can approach 60ºC

Fly to

Addis Ababa

Flying time

9 hours

Time difference

GMT + 3 hours


Visa Required for UK passport holders, obtainable on arrival at a cost of 50 USD per person.

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