They say that a trip to Ethiopia is incomplete without taking a trip to Lalibela to see the incredible rock-hewn churches. These date back as far as the 12th and 13th centuries and we were excited to finally get to see them. Our local friend advised us that two days in Lalibela was enough to explore the churches and soak in the beautiful landscapes here.
We booked a cheap flight with Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa to Lalibela. The flight time is less than an hour, a much better option that taking a bus (which can take up to 24 hours…um, no thanks). The distance from Lalibela airport to the town is around 25 km. The roads are quite rough, however, the green countryside is beautiful.
The countryside is gorgeous here.
We’d arranged a pick up from the airport through our accommodation in Lalibela – The Red Rock Hotel. This hotel is great value for the price. A twin room was $28 per night, including breakfast. The beds were comfortable, the room was clean and the wifi connection was good. The staff were very friendly and accommodating too.
Clean and comfortable room at Red Rock Hotel – Private bathroom included in the room rate
If you have a larger budget to stay in accommodation of a higher standard, we’d recommend the Top Twelve Hotel. This is a very popular hotel in a great location.
Where to buy tickets to enter the Churches of Lalibela
You need to purchase your entrance ticket to see all the churches in Lalibela at the small ticket office, this is located in town. It’s a 10-minute walk down the hill from the Red Rock hotel. The price for the ticket is USD $50 per person or 1390 birr.
You will need to show your passport at the time of purchase. This entrance price is very expensive and a lot of money in Ethiopia, however, this happens in tourist sites all over the world now, so it didn’t really surprise me. I just hope that all of this money goes directly back into the churches for restoration for future visitors.
The entrance price doesn’t include a guide, this is at an additional cost. Guides will approach you to offer their services to you and show you around the churches for about 600 birr. ($20-25)
The ticket is just a handwritten receipt and it’s an entry for up to 5 days, however, most visitors to Lalibela will visit all churches in half a day or use one full day.
Opening Hours of the Churches
It’s worth noting that the churches are open from 08:00 to noon and then from 14:00 to 17:00.
Start at the entrance gate and make your way to the churches from here. Most people will finish with the most popular church, St George. This is the one that you’ll see in all the photos of Lalibela. This is the church which has been carved in the shape of a large cross.
Marty and I at the church of St George
Lalibela is also known as the ‘Jerusalem of Africa’ and it’s worth getting up early in the morning, around 06:00 to go and watch the pilgrims gather for a church service. White-robed churchgoers gather to attend mass together in one of the many churches around town.
Where to Eat in Lalibela
These are the best options for some good food in Lalibela.
Olive Tree Hotel Restaurant– This restaurant was a recommendation from our local friend, Gino. We ordered the vegetable beyanet (vegetable stew combo served on injera) for 85 birr or about $3.00. This was one of the best meals we’ve eaten in our entire time spent in Ethiopia. Highly recommended.
One of the best meals we ate in Ethiopia. The Olive Tree Restaurant in Lalibela
Ben Abeba Restaurant– This place is special. A very unique shaped restaurant with incredible views of the countryside whilst you enjoy fantastic Ethiopian food. We ate the local food here and it was delicious and affordable too.
The local food at Ben Abeba restaurant
Where to Go Out in Lalibela
Once the sun goes down in Lalibela, there is very little light in town. It’s one of those destinations where most people stay close to their hotel once the sun has set.
If you’d like to go out for some entertainment, the best place to go to is ‘Torpedo”. It’s around a 10-minute walk from our hotel or you can take a tuk-tuk there and back for about 50 birrs each way.
There are always taxis and tuk-tuks around town if you need to get a ride somewhere, however always negotiate a price with the driver before you get in.
At Torpedo, you can enjoy nightly local entertainment with singers and dancers whilst eating dinner or simply drinking some beers and ‘tej’ (honey wine) whilst you enjoy the show.
Where to Find an ATM in Lalibela
There is an ATM at Dashen Bank (located in the centre of the town, across from Ethiopian Airlines Booking office) that dispenses local currency. The machine accepts International cards such as MasterCard, Visa and Maestro. The maximum withdrawal limit is around 4000 birr at once.
– The best debit travel card for Australian travellers
If you’re interested in booking a trip to Ethiopia or other African countries, I’d highly recommend this tour company – This Is African Tours. Our friend Gino is from Ethiopia and he’s also a tour guide with this reputable company. These guys offer some amazing tours in this part of the world.
Travelling around Ethiopia? Make sure you’re covered with comprehensive Travel Insurance for your trip – We choose World Nomads Travel Insurance for our travels in Africa.
If you’re hungry to taste more of Ethiopia, you may be interested in our post – Where to Find the Best Food in Addis Ababa.