Highland Adventure through the Holy lands Combining a visit to the historic Lalibela rock-hewn churches. Lalibela is usually billed as Ethiopia’s number one tourist attraction not to mention holy shrine to which thousands of Orthodox pilgrims flock every year on January 7th. We believe the contrast of visiting the churches that attract people from all around the world with visiting a mountain that very few people visit gives the adventurer the best of both worlds.
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.
Nakutelab is another interesting tourist site in the area of Asheton Mariam that is 6km south east of Lalibela. It is a monastery found inside a natural cave. A stairway made of stone leads the way to the well-built entrance of carved stone. (1hour walking or 30-minute drive from Lalibela).
Gennete Maryam is 22 km from Lalibela. It is a true monolithic rock church on a high plinth. Unlike the Lalibela churches which are hidden in their pits this church is not surrounded by the walls of a trench; you may see it from far away – a block of pink tuff in the midst of green euphorbias and opuntias. Like Medhane Alem it has a colonnade of rectangular pillars. Note the fine reliefs of Latin crosses in blind arcades on the top of the ‘pitched’ roof. In the interior the rich painting displays a style that might be described as “archaic”. Authorities claim that they originate from the 13th century, the probable period of creation for that church. The range of colors is limited: brown, ochre, green and a shining light blue. Motifs include saints from the Coptic synaxarion as well as angels, the sun and the moon and crosses of various shapes that we find so often in this area. (4 hour walk or 1-hour drive from Lalibela)
Makina Medhane Alem
Like YemrehannaKristos, Makina Medhane Alem is a built cave church in Axumite style. It is east of Lalibela, set in a huge gaping cavern on the eastern slopes of Makina, a spur of Abune Yosef. Although an example of Axumite wood and stone construction, the church exhibits a unique modification: polished wall sections of leveled rubble between layers of dressed blocks of reddish tuff. The interior has rich painted decoration displaying geometric motifs as well as figurative ones. You may, admire the portrayals of saints as well as the sun and the moon symbols above the main entrance. A lovely little picture of fighting cocks next to the sun gives a glimpse into the interest of the painter for details. (7 hour walk from Lalibela or 3 hours walk from Gennete Maryam)
This remarkable church is located 42km northeast of Lalibela, on a mountain ridge the peak of which is Abune Yosef. It is a built cave church with marble and special woods used in church construction. The church has become famous for the decoration of its interior. The flat-span roof displays paneling richly adorned with geometric designs. Note the beautiful coffer ceiling with inlaid hexagons and medallions with either figurative or geometric motifs. The ceiling over the sanctuary is domed and displays carvings and paintings. The design of the church reflects a superior architectural art. The founder of the church is said to have been King YemrehannaKristos, a predecessor of King Lalibela. (5 hour walk or 2-hour drive)
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