Lying at the heart of the small town, Lalibela’s church complex comprises three principal sites: the northwest cluster of seven churches and chapels; a further five churches making up the southeast cluster; and the stand-alone Bet Giyorgis, to the west of them both. It’s a compact site, with none of the churches much more than 500m (as the crow flies) from any other, and all lying within 300m of the main road, though distances can seem longer on the winding, sloping footpaths that connect the clusters. Though it’s possible to see all thirteen churches and chapels in the course of one morning or afternoon, most visitors prefer to stretch their sightseeing over a full day or even two.
All visitors must first report to the ticket office at the main entrance, situated outside the northwest cluster on the main road. Official guides, available at the ticket office, can help you navigate the rather labyrinthine complex and get to grips with the history and legends associated with the churches, though individual travellers tend to find the cost off-putting and often make their own way around.