Lalibela is known as the “8th wonder of the world” due to its marvelous rock hewn churches, great food, and friendly locals. However, as it is the case with much of Africa, it is hard getting around if you don’t already know the way, and can also be a challenge without the Western amenities you’re used to back home. Our travel tips will help you know what to expect in advance so that you can enjoy you stay in Lalibela and Panoramic View Hotel.
- Visiting Lalibela, and its eleven remarkable rock-hewn churches, are easy if you choose the right location:
- The Panoramic View Hotel is located 23 short kilometers from the Lalibela Airport. The 25 minute drive will take you from the lowlands, around the Lasta Mountains, and up the escarpment to the village of Lalibela.
- The Panoramic View Hotel sits on the edge of town, overlooking a vast expanse valley, high on a mountain. In addition, out hotel is only 10 minute-walk to the center of town and the clusters of rock-hewn churches.
Lalibela´s rock-hewn churches are open for visitors from 6am to 12pm, and again after lunch from 2pm to 5pm.Guest visitors must pay $50 USD for a 4-day pass to visit the churches. While expensive, it is worth the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of seeing these unique and awe-inspiring structures.
Further outside of town, there are other churches and monasteries to visit. The Panoramic View Hotel staff can help your group organize visits to these sites. Sites include:
- Yemrehanne Kristos – a mysterious church built in the late Axumite style and layered with wood and granite, and built in to the mouth of a giant cave. There is also a subterranean lake underneath the church that is accessed by priests via an ancient trapdoor. The waters of the lake are claimed to have powerful healing powers.
- Ashetenmariam Monastery – located on the scenic Mt. Asheton towering above Lalibela, this rock-hewn monastery is accessible by foot or by mule. From the top, there are incredible views of Lalibela as well as the surrounding Ethiopian highlands. An excursion to this monastery takes half a day, and can be easily built in to your itinerary.
- Na’akute La’abis – located conveniently close to the road between Lalibela and the airport. The charming semi-cave church of Na’akute La’ab, built in the early 13th century, bears the name of its builder, King Na’akute La’ab.
For most of Ethiopia, the rainy season runs from the end of June to early September. The area around Lalibela is generally drier. However, during the rainy season, visitors can expect some rain on a daily basis. Due to the small amount of rain, Lalibela is a great place to visit year round.
Temperatures can be fairly hot during the day reaching 24 degrees Celsius and cold at night, dropping down to 15 degrees Celsius. The 2,600 meter altitude helps keep the temperatures reasonable – but you should bring a light jacket for evening strolls.
Even during the rainy season, humidity is never dense so being outside is enjoyable. November to February is the best time of year for tourism, both due to the dry, warm weather, as well as the number of religious celebrations taking place in the village. If you plan to visit around Christmas and throughout January, make sure you book your hotels and flights early because this is a popular time with locals.
Ethiopia is a conservative country. As such, it is appropriate to wear clothing that sufficiently covers most of your body. Shorts are acceptable for men, as long as they are not too short.= Women should have their knees and shoulders covered. For visiting the churches, wear shoes that are easy to put on and take off quickly – you will have to remove them upon entering every church. It is also recommended that women bring a headscarf or shawl while in the church compounds.
September 11th : Ethiopian New Year
September 17th : Meskel, The Celebration of the Finding of the True Cross
January 7th : Gena, Ethiopian Christmas
January 19th : Timket, Ethiopian Epiphany
April 26th : Fasika, Ethiopian Easter
Every Sunday, there are services held in the churches, and visitors are allowed to take part in the ceremonies. Saturday is market day in Lalibela, and is a great way to experience the Ethiopian culture. People from the surrounding areas come to Lalibela to buy, sell, and trade goods.
At the Panoramic View Hotel, we can help arrange tours for groups and individuals through our professional guides. Our guides are courteous, very knowledgeable, and competent in multiple languages. They can take you on tours of the churches within Lalibela, or some of the less-visited churches outside the town. They are happen to customize the tours to your needs.
During your hotel stay, you can make arrangements for a tour. We can include any of the previously mentioned churches outside of Lalibela, as well as the churches within the town. We can also provide transportation for individuals or large groups – our brand new bus can carry groups of up to 20 people.
We are happy to help you the moment you land at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, and organize your entire Ethiopian tourso that you can make the most of your stay.
It is easy, affordabl,e and safe to visit Lalibela. There are daily flights from Addis as well as other airport throughout the country, and the roads between Addis Ababa, Bahar Dar, Gonder, Axum and Lalibela are all in good condition. You can experience some of the Lalibela highlights in one or two days, but, if you have the chance to stay longer, you can easily spend three or four days (recommended) exploring the sights and sounds of beautiful Lalibela.
Prices will vary depending on the sites you want to visit and the number of people in your group. The prices for the tours we arrange include:
- All hotel accommodations
- All meals on a full-board basis
- An English speaking guide (other languages can also be accommodated upon advance request)
- Ground transportation
- Shuttle from and to the airport
Food: The national dish for most Ethiopians is injera, a flat, sour dough pancake made from a special grain called Teff, which is served with either meat or vegetable sauces. When eating the national food, Ethiopians eat together, off of one large circular plate. Visitors and guests will have choice morsels of meat placed in front of them—when eating doro wot (chicken stew), the pieces of meat are eaten last, after one has filled up on injera and sauce.
Vegetarians should try the delicious “fasting food” (a vegetarian platter with injera). Standard European style food is also available.
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar. This calendar has 12 months of 30 days, and a 13th month of five or six days. The Ethiopian New year starts on September 11th. The Ethiopian calendar is behind the Gregorian calendar by 7 years and 8 months.
Ethiopia is in the GMT+3 time zone. Days begin at sunrise.
12am = dawn, 6pm = noon, 12pm = dusk (in Ethiopian time).
The Panoramic View Hotel offers free Wi-Fi service for all guests. International calling cards can be bought to make calls home through phone booths, but it is better if you are called back on that line. Locally bought SIM cards are perfect for local incoming/calls. The Post Office is located in the center of town and guests can send postcards and letters six days a week.
Electric voltage: Ethiopia has an electric voltage of 220 Volts
Cigarettes and Alcohol: Because Lalibela is a very holy city, most people do not smoke, and open intoxication is usually frowned upon. However, many Orthodox Christians do drink alcohol in their homes and the tradition of homemade brew and honey wine is deep. The Panoramic View Hotel has a full bar, and our staff can help guests find a good party on the right night.
Language: The official language of Ethiopia is Amharic, which has a unique alphabet; however English, Italian, French and German are widely spoken in Lalibela these days.
Economy: About 85 percent of the population earns their living from the land, mainly as subsistence farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy.
Crime and Dangers: Crime is almost non-existent in Lalibela, but make sure you take sensible precautions when you’re walking about.
Money: There are now three national banks in Lalibela with ATMs that work (if there is money). Visitors can change cash in the banks as well.
Getting Around: There are fairly efficient mini-buses running along the main road from the airport to the town. Many buses leave early for visitors planning to travel overland to other regions of the country.
Health: In Lalibela, there is one hospital and one health center. There are also a few private clinics and pharmacies, though they are not well equipped.
What to take: If you are travelling independently with your own transport and plan on camping, you can bring a tent. Camping rates at The Panoramic View Hotel are always reasonable compared with fixed accommodation.
For reservations, contact The Panoramic View Hotel today.