Lalibela is a must-see on any first visit to Ethiopia, and that’s where we headed on the second day of our tour. About an hour’s flight from Addis Ababa (if you book the direct flight and twice that with stops), it’s a town of approximately 25,000 people who live perched on gorges, bluffs and steep hills in a mountainous and arid region northeast of the capital city.
The main reason to visit are the impressive rock-hewn churches, carved out of stone below ground level in the 12th century. For me, these churches (especially Bet Giyorgis) are spectacular, especially when one considers how and why they were built; the answers to which are clouded in legend as are so many things in Ethiopia. The churches are connected by a series of tunnels, bridges and bumpy paths, which can pose issues for those who are less mobile. The churches are hosted and guarded by priests who dutifully pose for pictures holding their impressive ceremonial crosses -replicas of which are available in a variety of materials and prices in the town’s numerous curio shops.
Other fun excursions include seeing a traditional coffee ceremony and navigating the bustling Saturday market. The market appeared to draw every single resident, young and old, from a 30-mile radius. My favorite expedition was a trek up Asheton Maryam, a stunning 3,600-meter peak above Lalibela. The trek can be done on foot, but using mules speeds up the trip and adds a lot of flavor, especially when novice riders are involved. Note – mule riders still have to walk up and down the steep parts! There are some very steep and slippery segments, so it’s not for everyone.
Lalibela is a poor town in an isolated region, so infrastructure is basic but improving. The best hotels are the Mountain View and Tukul, followed by LAL, Jerusalem and the rather tired Roha. All are simple but clean with good service and decent food.
Next stop; Bahar Dar, Lake Tana and the Blue Nile.
Our passion for Africa began with a dream of living on the continent – a dream realized. We explored parks, rivers, mountains and villages, learned about the flora and fauna, fell in love with everything, and came away wanting to share our passion for a remarkable continent. Africa Adventure Consultants was born of the desire to give more people the chance to experience Africa’s wonders. Let us guide you into the wilderness.
Africa is enormous. There are endless things to see and do, and it can’t all be done in one trip. That said, we realize that many people believe that a trip to Africa is ‘once in a lifetime’ (though many more end up realizing once is not enough!). What do you most want to see? What experiences have you been dreaming of? Visit our destination pages to narrow your choices down, browse our safari types to get a sense of the activities and styles available, or talk with a Journey Specialist to hone in on the areas that will deliver the journey of your imagination.
We know it can be hard to narrow down what to do on vacation, especially with the wealth of choices that are available on the African continent. That’s why we have created an array of sample itineraries to inspire your travel. Browse through them – you’ll find everything from family safaris to honeymoons to Kilimanjaro climbs – and find the places and activities that excite you. From there, you can contact a Journey Specialist to start the process of crafting a customized safari just for you!