Lalibela 2,600m (8,500ft) is a rural town of 15,000 people on a stunning escarpment in the eastern highlands of northern Ethiopia. It is famous for rock-cut architecture churches hewn from living rock, most built more than 900 years ago. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.
King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela wanted to create a “new Jerusalem” in Africa. The layout and names of the major buildings are accepted by the local clergy to be a symbolic representation of Jerusalem. The town’s river is known as the River Jordan.
Of the 11 churches, St George’s is considered the masterpiece.
I was pleased to finally see the churches, yet wasn’t blown away.
In fact, my most memorable highlight of Lalibela is a weird restaurant.
Nobody likes the ultramodern protective roofs added a few years ago to most of the 11 churches.
Cost of entry is $50, high most agree. I hired a guide ($40 for 6 hours over 2 days). That’s not mandatory, but recommended. Guides at Lalibela are not all that great, I found.
They go through the motions without much passion. A priest in training at the attached museum was excellent, however.