Lalibela is a rural town of 15,000 people in a stunning setting at an elevation of 2,600 m (8,500 ft) in the midst of the Lasta mountains in the eastern highlands of Northern Ethiopia. Its unique and remarkable monolithic churches hewn from living rock, most built more than 900 years ago, are one of Ethiopia's leading attractions and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.
Lalibela is a great little town to visit. Its complex of churches chiselled from pink volcanic rock have been called the "eighth wonder of the world". In addition, the wonderful year-round climate and exhilarating mountain views, combined with some of the finest lodgings outside of the capital, are reason to spend a few days soaking up the fine vistas. Lalibela's relative isolation and small size means you will get to understand more intimately and thoroughly the innate piety and hard lives of the rural poor.
To the north of Lalibela, Dewosach, where much of the decorating and illumination of holy books was done in the time of King Lalibela, rises more than another 1,000 m (3,280 ft) above Lalibela to 3,670 m (12,040 ft) while the much nearer and slightly lower Asheten with its distinctive flat top lies to the east. Asheten means smell in Amharic and this mesa was named during the reign of King Lalibela's nephew, King Neakutoleab, who burned frankincense while building Saint Mary's church on its summit – visiting monks said they found it by following the smell.