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Sightseeing in Lalibela - what to see. Complete travel guide

In Ethiopia, in North Wollo Zone, tourists can visit the miraculous city of Lalibela. Many consider this settlement an analog to Petra in Jordan. High mountains surround this settlement on all sides, safely protecting the territory from strong winds and hurricanes. Having visited this city, tourists often feel like they are in some beautiful, fairytale kingdom of the past. Every year, numerous guests visit this city to see the main sacred treasures of Lalibela, many of which date back to the 13th century. Besides curious tourists, there are always many pilgrims in this city that arrive here in order to visit local monasteries.
There was a settlement on the site of modern Lalibela already during the reign of the Zagwe king Gebre Mesqel Lalibela at the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century. The settlement had another name at that time – Roha. When the saint king visited Jerusalem, he became incredibly enthusiastic about founding a new settlement that would be a rival in beauty to the old Judaic region. This is the reason why many buildings in Lalibela are similar to the ones in Jerusalem. Moreover, many objects have Biblical names. Starting from the end of the 12th century and during the 13th century, Lalibela remained the capital of Ethiopia.
During the reign of Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, ten new churches were built in the city. They stood proudly along the coast of the “Ethiopian Jordan”. Skillful builders from Jerusalem together with local maters worked hard to make true masterpieces of architectural art. Perhaps, angels were coming down from heaven every evening to help the builders because the result was truly stunning. When the king died in 1212, his widow made an order to build the eleventh church that would immortalize her husband. Copyright
Nowadays, tourists from all over the world come to Lalibela to see the church complex carved in the rock. There are thirteen churches in total in the city at the moment. All of them are situated in the historic part of Lalibela. Scientists are still not sure when each of the shrines was built. That is why all the churches are believed to be built during the reign of the king who gave the name to the modern Ethiopian city.
All churches are divided into four parts – eastern, western, northern, and southern. The first group has the following churches: Biete Gabriel-Rufael, Biete Abba Libanos, Biete Queddus Mercoreus, and Biete Amanuel. In the western group, tourists can see the elegant Church of Saint George that has a cross shape. The cross is twenty meters long, wide, and tall. Go to the northern group to see Biete Medhane Alem that neighbors to Biete Golgotha, Biete Maryam, as well as the Tomb of Adam and the Selassie Chapel. In the southern group, visitors can see two famous churches, namely, Yemrahana Kristos Church and the monastery of Ashetan Maryam.
Do you want to see the most unusual building of the past centuries? In Lalibela, travelers can visit the Church of Saint George, which unusual look has been impressing generations of visitors. Since ancient times, this saint has been the patron of the city. That is why it was particularly important to make the church dedicated to Saint George unique and original. No mistakes were possible here. The result is truly mesmerizing – the Church of Saint George is not only an unusual and one-of-a-kind shrine but also the most beautiful building in the whole of Ethiopia. The church is located at some distance from the central part of Lalibela. It has the shape of a giant cross that is dug in the ground.
According to a local legend, King Lalibela once saw God in his dream. God gave an important message to the king. He told him to carve churches in the rocks and make a new Jerusalem on the African continent. When the king woke up, he immediately made an order to start building a church. It took local people twenty-five years to finish the building. The unique shrine is still in great condition and remains open for visitors.
Some people believe that the legendary Ark of the Covenant might be stored in the St. Mary of Zion Church. All Christians in Ethiopia visit this church to bow to the relic. Numerous pilgrims also visit the shrine. The church is a complex of two shrines and a chapel with the famous ark. It was built in the 30s of the 17th century. Only foundation stones have left from the original building. The church has an attractive look and castellation walls that are reminiscent of a fortress. Numerous icons and frescos decorate the inside of the holy building.
Tourists can fly to Lalibela from nearby Aksum, Bahir Dar, and Gondar. The airport is located twenty-seven kilometers from the central part of the city. Upon arrival, tourists can get on the buses that take them to the “Ethiopian Jerusalem” in just thirty minutes. It is possible to travel by car from the neighboring Ethiopian cities but travelers need to keep in mind that the state of local roads is very poor.

City tours, excursions and tickets in Lalibela and surroundings

Reference information
Map of all parks
National and city parks around Lalibela
♥   World Heritage Site 'Simien National Park' , 165.3 km from the center. On the map   Photo

Sights around Lalibela from our guide 'Extreme places on Earth'


From the series “Unbelievable Underground Mini-Cities”
Notwithstanding that fact that these underground buildings couldn’t be called a city in a direct meaning, this place was full of life. Workers were sculpted domes and walls for future churches just about twenty-four hours. During the researching works there were found a lot of outstanding artefacts. One of them were various ritual tools that were used during the church service. Every church has its own peculiarities. During the walk tourists will hear a lot of wonderful stories. … Read further

Sightseeing in Ethiopia: things to see

Beautiful nature reserves are mostly located in the northern part of the country. One of them is located around Lake Tana. The Blue Nile Falls, which are surrounded with picturesque tropic coppices, are a famous tourist attraction. Finally, there are several national park zones in the south of Ethiopia. Lake Abaya remains the biggest landmark of that part of the country. … Open
Car rental on Rentals in Lalibela

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Sightseeing in regions nearby Lalibela

All about Lalibela, Ethiopia - sightseeings, attractions, touristic spots, architecture, history, culture and cuisine. Prepare your trip together with - find out the 'must see' things in Lalibela, which places to visit, which excursions to take, where the breathtaking views are waiting for you. Planning your trip with this travel guide will help your to get the most out of Lalibela in few days. - online travel reservation expert providing reliable car rental and hotel booking services. We feature more than 25.000 destinations with 12.000 rental offices and 200.000 hotels worldwide.
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