Bet Amanuel

Top choice in Lalibela

Men wearing traditional shawls carry religious paraphernalia into Bet Giyorgis rock-hewn church.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Free-standing and monolithic, Bet Amanuel is Lalibela’s most finely carved church. Some have suggested it was the royal family’s private chapel. It perfectly replicates the style of Aksumite buildings, with its projecting and recessed walls mimicking alternating layers of wood and stone seen at places such as Yemrehanna Kristos and Debre Damo. The most striking feature of the interior is the double Aksumite frieze atop the nave.

Although not accessible, there’s a staircase to an upper gallery. In the southwest corner, a hole in the floor leads to a (closed) subterranean tunnel that connects the church to Bet Merkorios. The chambers in the walls are the graves of pilgrims who requested to be buried here.