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A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

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A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

I’ve never posted on comment on this forum but was compelled to in order to discuss two things: the wonderful place that is Lalibela, and a special person we met along the way. We're two Aussie travelers who visited Ethiopia in December/January 2012/13. During our trip we fell in love with Lalibela. Sure, the rock-hewn churches are amazing (especially St George), and you can appreciate their beauty in pictures. But it's the people who make Lalibela special. It's a touristy place, but somehow they've managed to capitalise on the attractions without losing their identity. We did two half days visiting the 11 churches with a guide, which was enough time to appreciate them, but we also went back and checked out our favorites alone.

There are lots of capable guides who approach you on the street, but it's probably best to go with a recommendation if possible. We met with Zewdu Melak on arrival to Lalibela on a recommendation from a friend in Addis. He was professional from the outset, laying out all our options for us honestly and without being pushy. His knowledge of the region, the 11 churches in Lalibela, the customs of the people, the history etc was incredibly detailed. He works on the set price of an official guide set by the tourism management.

But he was worth a lot more than that. Above and beyond our visits to the churches, he invited us out to the local Asmari bet (traditional house). Our two nights our at the Torpedo tej house were among the highlights of our trip. And he also accompanied us on our visit to the Saturday spice markets, which I also recommend because you get a chance to meet lots of people from surrounding villages who come to town to sell grains, honey, sugar, spices etc.

If you can, plan your trip so you're there on a Sunday, so you can see the churches in service. We got to see the famous Lalibela Cross, which was quite special.

I am however aware that the church officials have recently raised the price of entry, which is something that a lot of guides are disappointed about because it's already started to affect tourist numbers and therefore many of them are struggling to find work.

If you'd like to get in contact with Zewdu Melak, his email address is zewdume_18@yahoo.com. And his phone number +251 913636414. Tell him that Meni and Erin from Australia recommended him and I guarantee he'll give you great service.

Geneva, Switzerland
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1. Re: A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

Based on the strength of this posting, I too hired Zewdu Melak as my tour guide for my three day visit to Lalibella two weeks ago. I could not agree with the review more strongly. Zewdu was very knowledgabe and enthusiastic, and made the trip very memorable in the best sense of the word. Everything worked as promised, and he was good company and very relaxed, allowing me to move at my own pace. Zewdu's father is a priest at one of the stone churches, and that was an added bonus, as I got to meet him and hear through his son the historical and religious significance of the churches. Zewdu also recommended a very good hotel, the Panoramic View Hotel, which was clean, good value for money, and with an amazing view from the balcony of the room, as the name of the hotel suggests. Finally, I want to point out to readers that, while the prices for Lalibella, including particularly the admission to the churches, has gone up significantly, this is not the fault of Zewdu or any other guides. Zewdu provided me before I booked with him a completely detailed explanation of the costs of everything to be provided, including his own guiding fee, which is set by the government, so he is not overcharging in any way. It was all very clear and transparent. While it ended up being a little more expensive that i would have anticipated, in my opinion it was a great experience, well worth the price, and Zewdu's charges were all well justified. I would give him an unqualified recommendation. His email address is -- zewdume_18@yahoo.com. His mobile number is +251 913 636 414. John Sandage

Astoria, New York
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2. Re: A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

Thanks to your post I used zewdu as our tour guide and was not disappointed. He is the best and I recommend everyone on their way to lalibela to use him.

Ljubljana, Slovenia
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3. Re: A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

SInce you all speak so fondly of him, I contacted him to be our tour guide in Lalibela.

I must say I was surprised by the price of his guiding fee. lordbyron59 wrote that the fee is set by the government - I could not find the price on the internet.

So, could you share the amount of money you paid to him? Because he worte to me that his guiding fee is 96$ for 2 days - to me, it sounds a lot. It is as much as the entrance fee for 2 people.

Geneva, Switzerland
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4. Re: A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

Dear Masklc -- I agree the fee is high, but it is in fact the government mandated fee. I remember seeing this in some of the promotional material when I was there, and also posted on a bulletin board at one of the local sites. The Bishop of the Churches and the Government are between them trying to be sure that tourists leave a lot of money behind. It's not the fault of the guides. And most of your charges go to other people. As I said, I thought Zewdu was a great guide and a very honest person. I think you will be very pleased with him. Good luck

Barcelos, Portugal
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5. Re: A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

Very good ,

My name is Ignacio Manero , I have 34 years and currently reside in Addis Ababa ( Ethiopia ) . I am Spanish and I have about a year working for various tour companies , one of which is ELMES Tour. I'm doing all kinds of organized trips from packages where everything is included to mere formalities car rental with driver and guide in case you want , with a guide. You can enter the www.elmestour.com website and see all that is offered and can even fit in some travel itineraries and events . Trips to the guide I've gone with tourists we've had great and have done everything I 've felt like and more , enjoying authentic moments with local people and tribes and not just what they offer other companies that do not engage for nothing.

Should you judge come to know the impressive Ethiopia, to contact me and I will organize a trip depending on how far you who are looking for , from the organized to the most daring.

Email Me if you come without compromise and I can go myself with you great guidance and enjoy ourselves knowing what you most want.

I hope you feel encouraged ...

Note : I leave my name on Facebook so you can see photos of Ethiopia and that you have references of who I am .

Facebook Private : Nach Mane and go out with a cowboy hat .

Facebook of Tours: Tour Ethio -Spain

Email: imiglesias@hotmail.com

Phone: +251933007404

6. Re: A great guide to get the best out of an amazing place

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