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Perched at an altitude of 2630 m, among wild craggy mountains and vast rocky escarpments, Lalibela is a strikingly singular town famed for its 12 th century rock-hewn churches. No matter if you've visited other rock-hewn churches in the rest of the world; nothing will prepare you for these.

At the end of the 12 th and beginning of the 13 th centuries, King Lalibela of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches, carved into the rugged mountainsides. There are 11 churches in the town named after him, with others in the surrounding countryside.

The Lalibela churches are carved below ground level and they are ringed by trenches and courtyards and connected to each other by a tangled maze of tunnels and passages. In size and scope, the church complex feels like a subterranean village. These churches are, and what they have been for at least 800 years, an active Christian shrine, and the spiritual centre of a town's religious life.

Lalibela is, in a word, awesome. Were it virtually anywhere but in Ethiopia , Lalibela would rightly be celebrated as one of the wonders of the world, as readily identified with Ethiopia as are the Pyramids or Sphinx with Egypt .
If you wander between the churches in the thin light of morning, when white robbed hermits emerge bible-in-hand from their cells to back on the rocks, and the chill highland air is warmed by Eucharistic drumbeats and gentle swaying chants, you can't help but feel that you're witnessing a scene that is fundamentally little different to the one that has been enacted here every morning for century upon century.

The joy of Lalibela, the thing that makes this curiously medieval town so special, is that it is not just the rock hewn churches that have survived into the modern era, but also something more organic, the churches breath
The mountains around Lalibela are studded with medieval monasteries and churches. Many of them are very different from their Lalibela counterparts and can be visited as straightforward day trips from the town. The nearest of all the outlying churches are the monasteries of Asheton Mariam and Nakutala'ab that can be reached on foot or mule ride.

National Parks in Ethiopia
  • Semien Mountains National Park (North)
  • Bale Mountains National Park (Southeast)
  • Nech SAR National Park (South)
  • Mago National Park (South)
  • Omo National Park (South)
  • Awash National Park (East)
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