Nestled in the mountains of northern Ethiopia, Lalibela is one of the marvelous wonders of the world. Built in the 12th Century, the 11 monolithic Lalibela structures are completely rock-hewn. They are not layered like bricks, but rather shaped from a single piece of stone. Made of completely natural materials that have stood the test of time, there is a lot to ponder while walking through the breathtaking buildings.
By visiting Lalibela, you are supporting the local Ethiopian economy, including local agriculture, transportation, tourism and hospitability sectors. There are plenty of green hotels to choose from and restaurants that serve authentic, farm-to-table, slow food and organic Ethiopian cuisine. One example is the Ben Abeba Restaurant.
My favorite part of the Lalibela tour was walking through a completely dark (100% pitch black) tunnel and cave before peering out to the open sky. The tour guide will take you by the hand and lead you along the way. The experience teaches one many things, including the importance of community and how we must rely on one another.
A few cultural tips for your visit:
. Be aware that part of the local population surrounding the marvels of Lalibela is living below the poverty line. Do not wear flashy jewelry or dress ostentatiously.
. Learn a few words in Amharic such as "Selam" for "Hello".
. Lalibela is a religious site for many pilgrims, so please be respectful by speaking in a low voice and dressing appropriately.
. Be sure to use one of the certified guides inside the premises. This encourages formal training and is the best way to ensure a great visit.
. Share your experience with others upon return to your home base: your impressions, what you've learned, and what you recommend.
. Submit any suggestion using the green "Submit" button on http://sustainablevisit.com/.
Enjoy your stay in the Horn of Africa.