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“The reason or visiting Ethiopia - get a guide!!!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Churches of Lalibela

Churches of Lalibela
Lalibela, Ethiopia
+251913066990
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Ranked #2 of 13 things to do in Lalibela
Certificate of Excellence 2014
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Attraction details
Owner description: A labyrinth of tunnels with grottoes and galleries connects 11 impressive churches built under King Lalibela out of red volcanic rock.
Beijing, China
Top Contributor
582 reviews 582 reviews
262 attraction reviews
Reviews in 110 cities Reviews in 110 cities
273 helpful votes 273 helpful votes
“The reason or visiting Ethiopia - get a guide!!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 15, 2013 via mobile

the top tourist attraction in all of Ethiopia, even with the recent price hike (from 350 birr to 910 per person entry) it is well worth it. This magnificent collection of 11 churches is worth the $50 fee and definitely opt for a guide. You can get for as low as 150birr/person depending on group size. We paid 250 birr for 1 full day (2 people out of a group of 4) that was worth every penny. Far more info than any book could provide and a pathway that I could never imagine without a guide (70m traverse in the pitch black underground tunnels of the eastern group was a great experience. The churches themselves are a great testament to the engineering genius of king lalibela who even worked on them himself with chisel in hand, improving design from first to the 11th during the 23 year construction period.
These churches were built 12th century by King Lalibela who saw in a dream the vision to create a "new Jerusalem" in the city of Roha. During a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, his jealous younger brother attempted to poison him. When the food taster vomited, dogs who are the vomit died causing the king to feel guilty and proceed to eat the food anyways to which he proceeded to sleep 3days with this vivid dream. Upon seeing king Lalibela awaken, his brother recognized a miracle and asked for forgiveness. It's said that 40,000 workers helped to build these 11 churches (their form of tax) though our guide questioned this given that 900yrs later the population is only 30,000 still

Visited April 2013
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Hamburg, Germany
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“When Greed Tarnishes Rock Hewn Magnificence”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed April 13, 2013

The Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches are indeed an attractive tourist site at otherwise non affluent Northern Ethiopia. Recently the authorities, whoever they in detail may be, have found fit to increase the access fees to those heritage churches fivefold compared with former admission fees of 200 BIR (about 10 US$) to an unbelievable 50 US$ (925 BIR) per person which is a real fortune in Ethiopia. And, of course, only for foreigners - locals go in for free.

Despite the magnificent attraction of those two interconnected compounds with those more or less worldwide unique rock hewn churches tourists should distinctly reconsider if they want to succumb to governmental and/or clerical greed. My personal advice: stay away from Lalibela and that compound until pressure has mounted high enough to bring back down the admission fee to a maximum of a more or less appropriate 10 US$ (200 BIR) per visitor - such as it was no long time ago.

Visited April 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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34 helpful votes 34 helpful votes
“Fascination at a price”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 12, 2013

Before I go into do's, donts and be carefuls, it's only right to start with a summary.
Entrance fee is 50 USD which is a totally extortionate price. Even the locals, hotel owners, shop owners are complaining as visitor numbers drop, yes people refuse at the entrance and walk off. For those who do pay they are now generally 1 day visitors which is affecting the hotel owners.
having said that the sites are pretty amazing and is a not to miss attraction to admire architecture and the brilliance of Ethiopian craftsmanship. It's not quite the spectacle of Petra but is worth seeing. The st George's church is perhaps the best and makes brilliant pictures.

DO's
1. Bring 2 bottles of water
2. Wear sensible shoes as the stones have been weathered and some parts are extremely slippery wet or dry
3. U can wear shorts
4. If your wearing socks make sure they're black
5. Check the temperature before going because it can get really hot in the day so u may need Sun screen
DONT's
1. Expect water and shops
2. Compare to Petra
3. Wear flip flops
4. Pay more than 25USD for a guide incl taxi
BE CAREFUL's
1. For smokers, asthmatics and those that are slightly larger take time and plan ahead as u are over 2000 ft above sea level so the air gets really thin so u may experience difficulty breathing as u get tiered
2. Most guides or taxis own souvenir shops so will tell u they can get u cheaper prices if u shop with them present! DON'T BELIEVE THEM AND BARGAIN LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT
3. Most guides take u for lunch at the same hill top restaurant. Check before as the food is pretty bad

Visited April 2013
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Accra, Ghana
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“Lalibela - beautiful but with problems”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 10, 2013

Lalibela is a charming village stocked with hotels and restaurants in all price ranges. The churches are amazing and a skilled guide can add a lot to the experience. What kept me from rating this attraction higher was the expensive fees charged visitors - a pass of 50 usd is required to visit the churches in town. Its a hefty fee, and one I might think reasonable if it covered the churches around the town but it doesn't. Still, I do understand that these sights are expensive to maintain and staff, and I might excuse the high fee if I hadn't encountered persistent rumors about where the the funds were actually going. The priests say they fund scholarships and other services for the poor with the fee. But local people contradict this and tell stories about priests and tourism workers building new houses with money skimmed from the fees. Hard to know what's true. Another issue with Lalibela are the guides. Unlicensed guides push hard to get your business. The licensed guides (there are 2 local associations) are easy to spot because they wear id cards, are trained in the history of the churches, and operate with a professional code of conduct.

Visited January 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Southampton, United Kingdom
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Disappointing experience although St George's Church was beautiful”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed April 9, 2013

On a positive note, the St George's Church did look amazing. However, we think the tourist board have got it wrong here. We were told we needed a guide. At 500 birr for around an hour of commentary we thought this a little costly by Ethiopian standards. We then found out that you don't actually have to employ a guide. The price is US$50 each person to enter and we weren't informed when we entered that the ticket lasts for more than one day. You even get hassled when you take your shoes off to enter the chruches with people expecting you to pay them money with no prior agreement for presumably 'minding' your shoes. Trust me the last thing on your mind after walking around in that heat is pinching someone else's sweaty shoes! We travelled a long way to view these churches (actually a major reason for visiting Ethiopia) and we spent most of the time walking around trying not to feel resentful about the cost and our honest assessment is that it was not worth it. We have no problem with paying a fair price for a fair service and have travelled to many developing countries before, but just being expecting to fork out cash constantly for a mediocre job was annoying. Who knows who benefits from the entrance fee but it doesn't seem to be the locals from what we saw. I think a re-think is needed here as the local area could clearly do with developing more tourism but it won't take off if the main focus is overcharging foreigners.

Visited March 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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