The exact origins of the churches and their construction are still disputed, which is part of their attraction. What is certain is that Lalibela is no dusty relic visited by school groups and academics. Those 13 churches form the living, beating heart of spiritual Ethiopia, hosting the most famous celebrations of the festivals of Genna, Timkat and Meskel.
Although much of your time will be spent in subterranean shadows exploring the underground churches, when you do look up to the skies, you will not be disappointed by the endless blue, the shafts of sunlight cutting through piled storm clouds or the star-bright night.
Market days here are among the most exciting anywhere in Ethiopia. Enormous crowds gather to exchange goods and commodities and the experience offers an insight into the inner workings of Lalibela’s economy.
Inch your way across smooth rook paths to churches cut from white cliffs. Stagger onto alpine plateaus where the view and altitude will combine to take your breath away.