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Introducing Lalibela

I am weary of writing more about these buildings, because it seems to me that I shall not be believed if I write more…but swear I by God in Whose power I am, that all that is written is the truth, and there is much more than what I have written, and I have left it that they may not tax me with its being falsehood.

Francisco Alvares (early 16th-century Portuguese writer) from Ho Preste Joam das Indias: Verdadera informa-cam das terras do Preste Joam (1540)

Lalibela is history and mystery frozen in stone, its soul alive with the rites and awe of Christianity at its most ancient and unbending. No matter what you’ve heard about Lalibela, no matter how many pictures you’ve seen of its breathtaking rock-hewn churches, nothing can prepare you for the reality of seeing it for yourself. It’s not only a World Heritage Site, but truly a world wonder. Spending a night vigil here during one of the big religious festivals, when white-robed pilgrims in their hundreds crowd the courtyards of the churches, is to witness Christianity in its most raw and powerful form. Unfortunately, for both independent travellers and the locals who benefit from tourism, the new Birr1000 (tripled from the previous Birr350) entry fee means that some people now choose not to come here.

With its cobblestone streets, distant views, good food and lack of cars, the town itself is a pleasant surprise.