The main site in Lalibela has the concentration of some of Ethiopia’s most famous rock-hewn churches. Referred by many as one of the “living wonders of the world”, these churches have been here for at least 900 years and continue to be active Christian shrines and the spiritual centre of the country’s religious life. The picture of iconic rock-cut church of Beit Georgis, which is one of the most popular photos among the tourists of Lalibela, will probably be the highpoint of your visit. These 11 churches in Lalibela town are in 3 clusters, located in the northern, eastern and western sides of town, while there are several others too located outside the town (for more details see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lalibela).
- Beite Gorgis (The Church/House of Saint George), whose roof forms the shape of a Greek cross and is cut 40 feet down, was built after the death of King Lalibela in 1220 AD by his widow as a memorial to him.
- Beite Medhane Alem (Church/House of the Saviour of the World) home to the Lalibela Cross, possibly the largest monolithic church in the world, and thought to be a copy of St. Mary’s of Zion Church in Axum.
- Beite Maryam (Church/House of Mary), possibly the oldest of the churches, with an vertical array of carved windows with geometric patterns illuminating the sanctum sanctorum
- Beite Golgotha Mikael (Church/House of Golgotha Mikael) housing the tomb of King Lalibela
- Beite Meskel (Church/House of the Cross)
- Beite Denagel (Church/House of the Virgins)
- Beite Amanuel (Church/House of Immanuel), possibly the former royal chapel
- Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (Church/House of Saint Mercurius or Mark the Evangelist), possibly a former prison
- Biete Abba Libanos (Church/House of the Abbot Father Libanos)
- Biete Gabriel-Rufael (Church/House of the Angels Gabriel and Raphael), possibly a former royal palace linked to a bakery
- Biete Lehem (Bethlehem or the Church/House of Bread).
- Ashetan Maryam, a small monastery outside Lalibela, 3200m above sea level, holds many sacred artefacts. Its main attraction is perhaps the spectacular views of the countryside on the journey to this monastery
- The Cave Church of Yemrehanna Kristos, a fine example of late Axumite architecture, built with alternating layers of wood and granite and faced with white gypsum, was built almost 100 years before the churches of Lalibela.
Each church has its resident priest, who is usually present in the church wearing colourful robes and holding one of the silver processional crosses or a prayer staff, and is not averse to being photographed!