Underground Churches of Lalibela

Travel to Lalibela – Eighth Wonder of the World

A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the major places of interest on Ethiopia’s Historic Route, the medieval settlement of Lalibela is located in the Lasta area of Wallo and is the site of eleven remarkable rock-hewn monolithic churches, now considered as the eighth wonder of the world.

Thanks to these splendid edifices, each beautifully carved and decorated with fascinating paintings, and the magic atmosphere created by the colourful crowd of priests, hermits, pilgrims, and prayers, Lalibela is a city that entertains travellers seeking discovery and exploration.

Founded in the late 12th century by Lalibela, the last king of the Zagwe dynasty, Lalibela lies in the centre of an extensive complex of rock churches.

Four churches are monolithic in the strict sense and the remainder are excavated churches in different degrees of separation from the rock. The walls of the trenches and courtyards contain cavities and chambers sometimes filled with the mummies of pious monks and pilgrims.

Travellers to Lalibela can visit its splendid monolithic churches: Bete Medhane Alem (House of the Redeemer of the World), the largest of all the Lalibela churches with a Greek Temples form; Bete Maryam (House of Mary) with its deep square pool in the courtyard that is said to have miraculous properties; Bete Meskel (House of the Cross), a broad gallery with a row of four pillars dividing the space into two aisles spanned by arcades; Bete Denaghel (House of the Virgins) constructed in honour of maidens martyred under Julian the Apostate who ruled Rome in the mid-fourth century; Bete Golgotha (House of Golgotha) that houses some of the most remarkable pieces of early Christian Ethiopian art: figurative relief; Bete Debre Sina (House of Mt. Sinai) considered a twin church of the more northern Bete Golgotha; Bete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel) said to be the finest of the group; Bete Merkorios (House of St. Mercurios) thought to have originally served a secular purpose; Bete Abba Libanos; Bete Gabriel (House of Saints Gabriel & Rufael); and Bete Giorgis (House of St. George), the most elegant of all the Lalibela structures.

The main Lalibela churches can be accessed on foot. More remote churches can be reached by a one hour drive by 4×4 vehicle or a three hour ride on mule-back.

  • Take a mule ride up into the hills above Lalibela and discover remote monasteries.
  • Experience a fervent religious ceremony during an Ethiopian festival.
  • See rock-hewn churches on a guided tour of one of the world’s greatest sites.


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