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Lalibela is a cultural highlight of Ethiopia and mainly known for its 11 medieval monolithic cave churches dating back to the 13th-century. They are located in a spectactular mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia and Lalibela is extremely important regarding Ethiopian Christianity and keeps on being an important place for pilgrims. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Located in the Semien Wollo Zone of the Amhara ethnic division at 2,500 metres above sea level, Lalibela is the main town in Lasta woreda, which was formerly part of Bugna woreda.
Lalibela is known around the world for its churches carved from the living rock, which play an important part in the history of rock-cut architecture. Though the dating of the churches is not well established, most are thought to have been built during the reign of Lalibela, namely during the 12th and 13th centuries. There are 11 churches, assembled in 3 groups and the churches are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They cost 350 Birr to visit. and are open from 9:00am to 1:00pm, and then from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.
The road to Lalibela is fine until you get to the village of Gashena, the last 1-2 hours consists of a small and unreliable road which is partly made of tarmac and partly sand. From Bahir Dar the drive takes about 7-8 hours and from Gondar about 10-11 hours. It is possible to get private drivers in both Bahir Dar and Gondar, but of course it does come at a price.
There is a daily bus from Addis Ababa. It is a two-day journey with an overnight stop at Dessie. The bus passes through Woldia mid-morning and will pick up passengers from the bus station if it has room. Another bus runs daily from Woldia, leaving at dawn. Both the Woldia and Addis Ababa buses depart Lalibela at 6:00am. It is usually possible to get to/from Bahir Dar by bus in one day by changing buses at the village of Gashena, approximately 1-2 hours from Lalibela depending on traffic and weather. If you are travelling to or from Gondar by bus, you will usually have to spend the night somewhere. Coming from Aksum the best possible way would take about two nights with stopovers in Mekele and Woldia. However, if you are lucky you might be able to catch a shared taxi in Mekele which brings you along Highway 1 to Woldia where you the next day can catch a bus heading towards Bahir Dar with a stop at the Gashena Junction to Lalibela where you have to wait for another bus/car bringing you to Lalibela. This might take a few hours.
Internet is slow and is better early in the morning or middle of the night. There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Awasa and other cities; however their speeds are often dial-up at best, and some operate illegally. In Addis Ababa, connection speeds are more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking e-mail most of the time.
See also International Telephone Calls
Ethiopa's international telephone code is 251.
For all travellers, having a mobile phone is a must. It is cheap and easily available. There are only a few stores renting SIM cards including ArifMobile. However, purchasing a SIM is inexpensive, and can be done anywhere that sells phones. The best spot is to buy it at a Ethio Telecom shop to not get ripped of. A SIM card costs 15 birr and the system requires the seller to take a photo of you and your passport information to activate your SIM. You'll have to sign an agreement that you will not commit any crimes with your phone. All local stores will have calling cards you can purchase to call internationally. For domestic calls, phones are topped up with a prepaid card, available in denominations of 2000, 500, 100, 50 and 25 birr and smaller.
The Ethiopian postal service is one of the most efficient postal services in Africa.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Lalibela searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Lalibela and areas nearby.
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I was born on the mountain near Lalibela and has grown up in Lalibela.
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