The Na’akuto La‘ab Monastery in Lalibela
The Na'akuto La'ab Monastery, in the highlands outside of Lalibela, It is attributed to Na’akuto La’ab, the successor to King Lalibela. King Lalibela was responsible for the development of the rock-hewn churches in central Lalibela, and the famous Bete Giyorgis church at their epicentre - however those who head to the surrounding mountains can discover monasteries built in secluded crevasses, miles from anyone, and these churches pre-date those in the centre of town.
It is believed that he usurped the throne from the latter, having rallied rebel elements within the Aksumite society, but was subsequently overthrown by Lalibela’s son not long thereafter. It was, however, almost definitely built in the same place as a significantly older shrine, and the red-brick building in the monastery’s interior was built by Empress Zewditu.
Inside, there are various artefacts believed to have belonged to its Na’akuto La’ab, including crowns, gold-painted drums, crosses, a large painted canvas depicting ancient kings and an old, illuminated Bible. Intriguingly, the monastery has some ancient stone receptacles that gather water that drips from the cave’s roof, which regarding as being holy water.
The atmosphere of the monastery is also enhanced by the fact that there are Christian priests still living here. There is something quite amazing about seeing this a centuries-old religious tradition still happening today: what’s more, the priests are friendly and happy to show you around the place.
The Na'akuto La'ab Monastery is one of a collection of ancient churches and monasteries found in the highlands that encircle Lalibela - other notable churches in the area are Asheton Maryam and Yemrehane Krestos.
Na’akuto La‘ab Monastery FAQs
Lalibela has an international airport, meaning that you can fly here directly; however, this is generally a pretty pricey option. We would recommend spending a couple of nights in the capital, Addis Ababa, and then taking an inland flight out to Lalibela.
Although it is further out of town than many of the famous churches, Na’akuto La’ab can nonetheless be reached quite quickly by car; it is situated just off the main airport road.
Lalibela has become an increasingly popular tourist destination in recent years, and as a result, various good accommodation options have sprung up. There are many options for different budgets and tastes, many of which combine traditional architecture and modern facilities. Many places also offer fabulous vistas over the beautiful mountains surrounding Lalibela.
The dry season in Ethiopia runs from October to March, but you can certainly visit outside that time.
If you visit at Christmas, however, you will be treated to the incredible sight of thousands of pilgrims, immaculately dressed in white, descending upon the churches of Lalibela.
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Fusing history, culture, landscapes and wildlife along a perfectly paced circuit, this trip is a synthesis of the very best experiences on offer in Ethiopia’s northern highlands. Explorations of the ancient cities Axum, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Lalibela are broken…
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