The ancient churches of Lalibela are stunning to behold. No photo can do justice to the intricate interior details, the enormity of scale from which the churches are hewn, and the ancient history embedded in these amazing man-made structures.
The best way to enjoy the churches is with a professional, seasoned guide. (Not to mention the harassment without a guide would be almost unbearable). Between the 11 churches in the two primary groups in the center of Lalibela (there are other churches outside of town), there are various passageways, steps, corridors and entrances and without a guide, the wonderful beauty and history would be lost as you tramps around unsure of where you are or what you are seeing.
I cannot recommend Abebe Kassie highly enough for this endeavor. He is patient, sweet, and extremely knowledgeable about the history of Lalibela, the Ethiopian Orthodox religion, and the churches themselves. His many years of experience being an Official Guide is obvious in his excellent English as he describes the details of the carvings, and spins the tales of history and intrigue of the many different legends of the rulers and churches of Lalibela.
He is one of the best local guides, having been chosen as one of the Official Guides for Bill & Chelsea Clinton's visit to Lalibela in 2008.
As a solo female traveler, I felt completely safe with Abebe and enjoyed his company and protection from harassment as we walked around town, and around the church compounds. He came to meet me upon my arrival at the airport, and had excellent suggestions for food and libations around town. Although I only visited the churches in town over the course of two days, Abebe can arrange tours of all the churches in and around Lalibela, and can organize a car or a mule for trips out of town.
Abebe's rates are very fair, and he is very honest, which encouraged me to offer him a very nice tip. He is an independent guide, but also works for the lovely hotel, Tukul Village. I encourage you to contact Abebe directly to make arrangements for your visit to Lalibela: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please give him a fond hello from Joen, and tell him i sent you.