The rock hewed churches of Lalibela are a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has been likened to Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat. The 11 churches were carved out of massive rocks at the request of Gebre Mesqual Lalibela, the mediaeval King of Ethiopia at the end of the 12th century when Muslim conquests of Saladin in the Levant prevented pilgrimages to Jerusalem at that time in history. The construction of these massive churches took just 23 years, and it is reputed that the angels themselves lent a hand.
Ethiopia has a long association with Christianity dating back to the 7th century, and the churches are still continually active as a site of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and indeed pilgrims from around the World. The churches are situated in the north of the country and are not part of the beaten track, so tourists are few and are normally outnumbered by the thousands of pilgrims and worshipers who come to the churches.
The 11 churches are built in three groups and are linked by a network of tunnels. Perhaps the most famous is the Church of Saint George at Lalibela which is built in the shape of an orthodox cross.
Access: How to get to Lalibela
Most travellers will book a full itinerary which includes Lalibela and drive between Addis Ababa and Lalibela, a journey which takes about 13 hours. There are domestic flights between Addis Ababa and Lalibela which take about 1 hour. The airport is situated about 23 kilometres/14 miles outside of Lalibela.
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