The History of Lalibela

Ethiopia’s prime tourist destination is undoubtedly Lalibela, an extraordinary World Heritage Site located in the country’s spectacular central highlands.

Today Lalibela is just a small town of some 20,000 people, but nearly 1000 years ago, in the C12th AD, this was Christian Ethiopia’s capital, ruled by the great King Lalibela, after whom the town is now named.  A very pious king, he devoted virtually his entire reign of 40 years to his dream of building one of the world’s great religious cities here.

King Lalibela constructed numerous magnificent churches in Lalibela, all of which are still in active worship, but what sets these churches apart from the world’s other great churches is that these were not built from the ground up, but were carved out of solid rock.

Until a few decades ago, visiting the remote town of Lalibela was difficult and time-consuming, with overland access across bumpy and often very muddy dirt roads, but the recent construction of new asphalt roads has now made driving here much easier.  There are also daily flights from Addis Ababa to Lalibela on the country’s excellent national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines.