Bet Giorgis church, Lalibela © Judith Duk
Lalibela is one of the world's most remarkable spiritual sites and Ethiopia's greatest tourist attraction. It is home to the country's astounding rock-hewn churches and an important pilgrimage site for Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians. There are 13 functioning churches in total, all carved from a single piece of granite. The churches were carved from the top down and some lie nearly hidden in deep trenches, while others stand in open caves. Each is unique. The churches are connected by a labyrinth of tunnels and dark narrow passageways with crypts, grottos, caverns, and galleries hewn from the red rock. They were carved between the 10th and 12th centuries in a bid to create a New Jerusalem for those unable to pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The small town of Lalibela is fairly rudimental, but there is an airport, some tourist accommodation, and good restaurants. Lalibela is a quiet, mystical place with a cool and moist climate, never failing to astound its growing number of visitors. It should be noted that Lalibela and its churches are not tourist attractions, but places for worship and contemplation: visitors should be respectful when visiting and taking photographs.