DIRECT FLIGHT TO LALIBELA
If you are not interested in visiting Addis Ababa for instance, then you can look for flights landing directly at the Lalibela airport, located about 30 minutes of Lalibela town. Honestly, I would have skipped Addis Ababa if I could plan our Ethiopian trip again. For me there was nothing so interesting in the capital, compared to Lalibela, where you can enjoy not only the churches as the highlight of an Ethiopian trip, but the whole atmosphere of the place which makes you feel so relaxed and at home.
There are different routes for those heading to Lalibela from Addis Ababa:
from Addis to Dessie and from there to Lalibela;
from Addis to Bahir Dar and from there to Lalibela.
The cheapest tickets I could find from Sofia to Addis Ababa were with Qatar Airways. A return ticket costed us around 450 Euros per person. You can check the prices here
HOW WE DID IT
Addis Ababa – Dessie
We went to Mesqel square in Addis Ababa where the offices of the Selam bus and Sky bus companies are located. The Sky bus office was a bit difficult to find and in the end turned out to be closed so we decided to go with the Selam bus. Their office is much easier to find and from my experience their buses are better, although most of the comments you will find online about the two companies are in favor of the Sky buses. Anyways, we bought our tickets to Dessie for 250 Birr per person (USD 11) and on the next day arrived at Mesqel square around 5:15 a.m. to catch the bus, which was expected to leave at 6 a.m.. We had to wait around one hour in the cold, so my advice would be to take warm clothes, as Addis Ababa is located at an altitude of 2350 m which makes it the fifth highest capital in the world. This means very high temperatures during the day and very cold nights and mornings. So be prepared if you plan to travel by bus, as buses usually leave early in the morning.
About 6 hours and few stops later we arrived at Dessie where we went directly to the bus station, located centrally, 1 minute walking from the main road. There we bought our tickets for Lalibela for the next morning – 100 Birr per person (USD 4.5).
Dessie – Lalibela
Now this is a true adventure – the buses from Dessie to Lalibela are very small, there are much more people inside than seats and it is a mess. Also, after Weldiya there is only dirt road and construction works going on, as a new paved road is planned to be placed into service within the next few years. So expect a lot of dust and a very very bumpy travel for more than 2:30 hours. Overall, getting from Dessie to Lalibela through Weldiya took us around 7 hours with a very long stay at Weldiya.
Lalibela – Bahir Dar
For returning to Addis we arranged a car from Lalibela to Bahir Dar, as transportation with a bus would had been very complicated – you need to take a bus to Weldiya and to wait there and ask every bus arriving at the bus station if they are heading to Bahir Dar, which can take hours and there is still no guarantee you will make it the same day. I can’t recall how much exactly we paid for the car but it was something around USD 50, as there was another passenger travelling with us. In Ethiopia it is very expensive to arrange a private car rental so this was a pretty good deal.
If you want to check the options with a car, I highly recommend the travel agency, which has an office in the Olive garden restaurant in the center of Lalibela.
Bahir Dar – Addis Ababa
In Bahir Dar it was easy – we got to the bus station office and bought tickets to Addis for the next morning. This time we travelled with the Sky bus, which compared to the Selam bus we travelled with, was in poorer condition, but still much much better than the small one which took us to Lalibela. The price of the tickets was around USD 10.
Keep in mind that there is a local Ethiopian time and International time – they have 6h difference so be careful not to miss your bus and always ask if the time stated on the ticket is local or international. We almost missed one bus this way.