Derek Schuurman
Derek Schuurman Senior travel and product specialist
"Ethiopia offers a radically different African experience - the historical sites, unusual wildlife and the people - notably of the South Omo - are utterly fascinating."

Lalibela Holidays

Lalibela is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ethiopia’s 'must-see' destination, a mixture of intriguing legends, awe-inspiring architecture and an absorbing history. Its famous rock-hewn churches have been places of pilgrimage for over 800 years and continue to draw both the faithful of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and visitors to marvel at these truly remarkable structures, many of which are still home to worshipping congregations. Beyond just photographing crumbling monuments of a bygone era, visitors can explore these ancient shrines amidst the echo of Eucharistic chants and white-robed priests contemplating the scriptures in the morning sun.

One of the first Europeans to visit the site concluded his account: "I weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed if I write more ... I swear by God, in Whose power I am, that all I have written is the truth."

Only its relatively remote location and international obscurity keep Lalibela from seeing the same levels of visitors as the pyramids. Access has become much easier in recent years, so it cannot be long before Lalibela becomes a mainstream destination. The next few years may represent a window of opportunity to visit this site with relative ease while still experiencing the warm spirituality of this truly unique place in relative peace.

The site is attributed to King Lalibela (1881 – 1221), who is said to have received a vision in which an angel led him to a city of rock-hewn churches and told him recreate this on earth. An estimated 40,000 workers, the world’s greatest artisans and, according to one account, a team of angels, set to work creating what can legitimately claim to be the 8th wonder of the world.

There are 11 churches in two clusters. Some are quarried out of enlarged caves, whilst others are painstakingly carved out of volcanic rock. One, Bet Medhane Alem, is the largest rock-hewn church on earth covering over 800m² and standing 11½ m tall. Two nights should be long enough to satisfy most people’s desires. For the real enthusiast, the area around Lalibela is punctuated with more churches and monasteries and can be explored by 4X4 or by mule.

A recent upgrade to the airport has made Lalibela accessible year round. Daily flights link it to Addis, Gondar and Axum, allowing it to be integrated into a natural circuit of northern Ethiopia’s historic sites. If you have more time and would prefer the long, scenic journey on gravel roads, it is possible to reach Lalibela by 4X4 from Bahir Dar or Gondar.

Filter Holiday Ideas:
Holiday Type
Total Holidays: 2      
Classic Ethiopia Historical Tour
  • Culture & History
From £2880 per person
11 day holiday
Flights included
See the full trip
Discover Ethiopia's most spectacular sites of historical and cultural significance on this private guided individual tour.
Discover Ethiopia 16-day Private Tour
  • Culture & History
  • Wildlife
From £4715 per person
16 day holiday
Flights included
See the full trip
This extensive private tour is perfect for nature enthusiasts who also want to be immersed in Ethiopia's culture and famous historical attractions.
Calling from one of the countries below?
If so use the toll-free number listed.
USA611 3001 4894
Australia184 4332 5169
New Zealand184 4332 5137