Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches
The isolated churches of Lalibela are set high in the mountain of lasta, and is world renowned for its rock-hewn churches sometimes considered one of the eight wonders of the world. It is arguably the one place in Ethiopia that no tourist should miss! Lalibela was the capital of the zegwe Dynasty, which ruled over Ethiopia from the 10th century to the mid 13th century. Rumor has it that the Lalibela Empire was formed because the arc of the covenant in Axum was lost to Lalibela. Lalibela set about gathering the world's greatest craftsman and artisans in order to crave the churches. Even before you visit the churches, Lalibela is a strikingly singular town. The setting alone is glorious. Perched at an altitude of 2,630m, among wild craggy mountains and vast rocky escarpments, there is a stark cathedral-like grandeur to Lalibela that recalls the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa and Lesotho. The houses of Lalibela are of a design unlike anywhere else in Ethiopia. Two-storey circular stone constructs that huddle in an enormous mass over the steep slopes on which the town is built. Bet Maryam is thought to have been the first church built in Lalibela. Because of its association with the virgin, it remains the most popular church in the complex among Ethiopians. Smaller and less imposing than Medhane Alem , but also a monolith, Bet Maryam has a more intimate and elaborately carved interior, with carvings of the original Lalibela cross and of the star of David with dense paintings on parts of the roof. The Church is 13m high and its upper floor has seven rooms used to shore church treasures.