When one talk of the historical monuments in Africa, the first country that always come to mind is the land of Pharos, Egypt. But Egypt is not the only African country with a rich history of magnificent architecture and marvelous arts, and you will surely confirm this if you pay a visit to the gasp inspiring monolithic churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia. Built in the 12th century these majestic structures are some of the largest of their kind and gives an idea of how artistic and hard working were the people of ancient Ethiopia. One thing that makes Lalibela and in fact the whole of ancient monuments in Ethiopia so great is that they are living history, as Lalibela is still considered as one of the most sacred and holy city in the country and its beautiful churches receives thousands of pilgrims each year.
The old town of Lilibela has made a name for itself because of these churches which were cut out of the living stone and has become the symbol of the cut stone art in the world. The town has a small airport close by but if you are travelling from outside the country then best option will be to take a cheap flight to Addis Ababa and then a connecting flight to Lalibela. There is also a regular bus service that runs between the capital and the town and will be a better option if you are looking to save some money or want to avoid the hassle on the airport, as the local flights in Addis Ababa often get canceled. There are quite a few reasonable hotels in the area which offer decent services at a pretty cheap price.
The churches are divided in to three groups; the largest monolithic structure of the world is in the Northern group of the churches called the Bete Medhane Alem and is the most famous site with the tourists. Just imagining the amount of effort put into carving this huge church out of the stone is enough to mesmerize the visitor. But the most sacred church of them all is the Bete Maryam which is believed to be oldest church of Lalibela and is the place where most of the pilgrims head to. The best way to explore the area properly is to take a guided tour in company of the guides registered with the Ethiopian tourism department. Another way to observe these glorious structures is to spend a night in the camp sites around the churches and try to explore them in the early morning hours when the place looks a lot more spiritual with the ringing church bells.
The old town of the Lalibela is also worth a visit, especially its Sunday market which is believed to being held at the same spot for the last one thousand years. Although most visitors spend one night in Lalibela and then move on to Aksum, but to do justice with the magnificent architecture of the area we recommend you stay here for a couple of days.