The area around Lalibela is rich in rock and above ground churches. But at the moment only a few are known and visited by tourists. We describe here only the most accessible to visit. Several years ago these churches could be reached only on foot. Now most of the churches are accessible using transportation.
ASHETAN MARYAM Saint Mary
An 8km steep climb of some 2000 feet from Lalibela leads up to the church of Ashetan Maryam. This rock-hewn church is found on a hilltop east of the town of Lalibela. One can reach Ashetan Maryam by foot or mule (1.5hour walk from Lalibela). A road for vehicles is under construction.
Abune Yousef 4300m 3rd Highest Peak in Ethiopia
The third highest peak in Ethiopia, Abune Yousef Massif offers visitors stunning views and wildlife viewing opportunities. During the treks and around Abune Yousef, visitors can see an impressive array of flora and fauna including giant Lobelia, troops of Gelada baboons, and the rare Ethiopian wolf. Located north of Lalibela, the Afromontane environment offers a perfect complement to the cultural and historical experience of the Lalibela rock-hewn churches. Treks in Abune Yousef bring visitors to over 4,300 meters and are not for the faint of heart. However, those that make the climb find the views and experience well worth it. Visit our itineray page to arrange how many days to spend at mount Abune Yousef.
Flora: While many of the high plains has been converted into farmland over the past 50 years the slopes of the mountain ranges are still covered by natural forest, changing composition with altitude, the unique Afromontane vegetation formations are the main attraction of the area. The Abune Yoseph area is made up of diverse vegetation types included bush land, woodlands, mountain dray forests, and afroalpine grassland.
Mammals:There are 43 known species of mammals on the Abune Youseph Massif. Of the 32 species of Abyssinian endemic mammals (endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea) seven can be found in Abune Yousef. The most spectacular of these are the Ethiopian wolf and the Gelada baboon. Other species to look out for include the Golden Jakel, Hayna, Caracal, Leopard, Rock Hyrax, Duiker, Klipspringer and Starck Hare.
Birds: Of the 860 species of birds found in Ethiopia, over 220 have been identified on the Abune Yosef Massif. The Abune Yousef area is one of the most important bird areas in the country. The Abune Yousef mountains also attract a few pairs of Golden Eagles.
For those visitors who are inexperience in walking up and down on hills and who have little time to experience the high mountains of Majestic High Lands and Ethiopian culture they can choose these short and easy hiking trips. We have compiled a list of opportunities for short easy hiking trip and walking tours around Lalibela. Here is not much difference between Hiking and Trekking in Ethiopia. Hiking is an initial part of trekking and relatively easier that still involve up and down on rural hilly areas below 2600 meters but offers glimpse of High Mountains views, while trekking takes you through the low land village to high Mountain pass up to almost 3300 meters. Contact us for some hiking trips that we have not described in this page, but all are suited for all age people especially for the family groups and novices. With this trip you will have experience of the local culture and living style.
The church of Yemerhana Krestos – or Yemerha in its abridged form – is located some 42kms by road North of Lalibela in the massif of Abune Yosef. According to the Ethiopian tradition it was built by the saintly Zagwe King Yemerhana Kirstos between 1087-1127 A.D. The kings Gadl (Hagiography) describes in a considerable detail the circumstance of its construction and decoration and can be used as a reliable source. The building is three-aisle basilica built of wood and stone imitated the Aksumite architecture, extensively decorated with wood and stucco carving, and wall painting which are the oldest murals so-far known Ethiopia. Today what is left on this capital is his palace and a church, which is still being used by the local population and the occasional pilgrim.
The church is located at the mouth of a natural cave with spectacular views eastward into the surrounding valleys. The palace is placed alongside it, at an angle, some 16 meters to the west. The site was chosen because the cave, despite its elevation at 2600 meters over sea level, had a remarkable feature-a natural lake. All that needed to be done was to shore up the edges of the lake with foundations to support the two buildings and to seal off the space between the buildings with a floor. The floor, which still exists, was made of heavy and durable olive wood beams, with access to the water below provided by a trap door just in front of the church.
ARBATU ENTZESSA The Four Animals, or the Four Beasts
Arbatu Entzessa can be reached from Yemrehanna Kristos by proceeding to the southwest. This tiny monolithic sanctuary is detached from the surrounding rock on two sides. It shows remains of old ornaments; pillars, capitals and doors are chiselled in Axumite style. The name suggests that the church is dedicated to the “four beasts”, symbols of the Four Evangelists following the vision of St. John. The Ethiopian synaxarium dedicates the 8th of Hedar (November) to these four beasts. (5 hour walk or 2 hour drive from Lalibela)
BILBALA GIORGIS ST. GEORGE IN THE BILBALA DISTRICT
Proceeding from Arbatu Entzessa to the west you find Bilbala Giorgis, of which only the facade is visible. A tunnel surrounds the other sides; the roof is not separated from the rock. A frieze with emblems of the vault of heaven decorates the facade. The church built by King Kaleb (5th-6th century A.D). Here you also have also the possibility of seeing the holy bees making holy honey used for abdominal healing . (7 hour walk or 1.5 hour drive from Lalibela).
BILBALA CHIRKOS CHIRKOS IN THE BILBALA DISTRICT
West of Bilbala Giorgis you find this semi-monolithic church located northwest of Lalibela. The church is properly orientated and has been worked from tuff from east to west. The careful stone masonry on the facade is reminiscent of the facade of Bet Gabriel-Rufa’el in Lalibela and the admirable murals depicting saints and the Evangelists in the interior are of particular interest to the visitor. (5 hour walk or 2 hour drive from Lalibela
After this long trek you will back to lalibela and stay relxs and enjoy your day at your hotel or looking round the city
And stay over night at your Hotel