The Omo Valley Tour & Itinerary
Southern Ethiopia – 12 days, 11 nights
Why choose this tour?
This is an extended overland tour which takes you to all the important cultural sites of southern Ethiopia PLUS it includes a full day trip to view the wildlife of the Bale Mountains National Park.
Ethiopia can be thought of as two separate countries – the South, where the emphasis is on visiting various tribes, who are still living as they did hundreds of years ago – and the North, where the emphasis is on cultural and historic landmarks.
Of course, both parts of Ethiopia can be combined into one ‘Grand Tour’ by making use of short, inexpensive domestic flights to cover a lot of territory.
The tour itinerary outlined below is for the South. But it can also be shortened somewhat and be combined with a Northern tour.
Highlights of this tour:
- Witness a ‘Evangadi’ dance and/or ‘Bull jump’ ceremony (if it coincides with your stay).
- Visit two different regional local open air markets
- Meet people from five different ethnic groups
- Take a boat trip Lake Chamo
This tour is primarily designed for people who want to spend a certain amount of time exploring and experiencing as much of the Omo Valley and its people as possible.
This part of Ethiopia is probably as close to “the back of beyond” that most people will ever get to visit.
You will be going through much of Ethiopia’s famed Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). The SNNPR is home to 45 ethnic groups.
Traveling in the SNNPR can only be done by 4WD car since it is Ethiopia’s most rural region. This means you will have to put up with traveling on some rough roads and accommodations that can be best described as less than luxurious.
However, like most people who travel to the South of Ethiopia, we felt that these minor discomforts are worth the rewards of the visit.
If you would like a more condensed tour of the South then we suggest our 8-day Essential tour. We will be happy to explain the differences.
Please note that some of the hotels or lodges listed below have limited space with no more than 12-14 rooms.
We will make every effort to book you into those hotels but this means booking far enough in advance to make this possible. If not, there is usually a good second choice of lodging.
Itinerary Highlights of the Omo Valley Tour
This tour starts and ends in Addis Ababa. Besides just one domestic flight you will travel overland using a well maintained 4WD car with a reliable driver/guide.
You will be able to view some extraordinary national parklands and interact with the fascinating people of Southern Ethiopia.
Day 1, Addis Ababa: Arrive in Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia, acclimate, relax and do some sightseeing (overnight in Addis Ababa)
Day 2, Arba Minch: Flight to Arba Minch. Visit Dorze people and local marketplace in Chencha.
Day 3, Turmi: Drive to Turmi, en route visit Konso and Arbore people.
Day 4, Turmi: Morning visit Karo people. Afternoon visit local market in Turmi and Hamar people.
Day 5, Jinka: Visit Dassanech people. Drive to Jinka. En route visit market in Dimeka & Alduba.
Day 6, Jinka: Morning visit Mago National Park and Mursi people. Afternoon visit Ari people.
Day 7, Arba Minch: Visit Jinka museum. Return to Arba Minch, en route visit Key Afar market.
Day 8, Hawassa: Drive to Hawassa. Boat trip on Lake Chamo, visit Nech Sar National Park.
Day 9, Bale Mtns: Drive to Bale Mountains Natl Park, en route visit fish market.
Day 10, Bale Mtns: Full day hiking and viewing wildlife at Bale Mountains Natl Park.
Day 11, Langano: Drive to Langano. Visit Abijatta-Shalla National Park.
Day 12, Road Trip: Return to Addis Ababa, en route visit Lake Ziway. Minibus available for transport around Addis Ababa. Transfer to Bole International Airport for flight home. End of tour.
All tour prices for the above itinerary are in US Dollars and based on 1/ 2/ 3/ 4 persons traveling together.
1 person $5795
2 people cost per person $3895
3 people cost per person $3695
4 people cost per person $3295
5 or more people – please call or write for our best prices.
Included in the tour price:
- Airport transfers by private vehicle.
- Road transport by 4WD with English speaking driver/guide, including fuel, driver allowances and accommodation
- Accommodation based on double/twin room sharing. One single room included for uneven number of travelers.
- Meal plan bed and breakfast unless otherwise noted.
- Fees for entrances and local guides for activities mentioned in the itinerary
- All government taxes for the services included in the tour price.
Not included in the tour price:
- International flights and visa fees.
- Domestic flights are not included. Lower rates are available if Ethiopian Airlines is used for international flight. Fares subject to change by airline.
- The current cost for all flights in this itinerary is $140 per person if at least 1 segment of your international flight is on Ethiopian Airlines. If not, the total cost is $300. These fares are subject to change.
- Lunches and dinners, unless stated as included above.
- Activities not mentioned or stated as optional in the itinerary.
- Fees for photos and video.
- Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc
Detailed Itinerary of the Omo Valley Tour
This tour begins and ends in Addis Ababa. However, you can easily customize this tour to suit your interests, but this tour is designed to take you to all the must-see stops in this remote but fascinating part of Ethiopia, the southern Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). To see the daily itinerary, scroll down:
Day 1, Addis Ababa:
You will be met at the airport by one of our drivers and taken to your hotel, the Capital Hotel and Spa, which is not far away.
You may be tired after a long international flight and just decide to rest up. If not, your guide will take you on a city tour of Addis Ababa.
In the evening you can enjoy a nice buffet dinner at the Habeisha Cultural Restaurant. The restaurant also features some very good live entertainment by local singers and dancers. Overnight at Capital Hotel and Spa.
Day 2, Arba Minch:
In the morning you will go back to Bole Airport for a 1-hour flight down to Arba Minch (40 Springs) in the South.
All domestic flights are on Ethiopian Airlines and generally work well. The airline has a fleet of Bombardier Q300 turboprops, which are used most of the time. Flights are often quite scenic.
Upon arrival in Arba Minch you will be driven to the beautiful Haile Resort.
The Haile chain of hotels was started by the famous Ethiopian long-distance runner, Haile Gebrselassie and there are now several of these hotels in various parts of Ethiopia.
The Haile Resort should now be considered the top hotel in Arba Minch, replacing the former top choice, the Paradise Lodge.
In the afternoon there will be a trip to the first of several tribal villages you will be visiting.
This is the Dorze tribe, who live in beehive-like houses and are known for their crafts, especially weaving.
If you are here on a Tuesday or Saturday there will be an opportunity to visit the colorful market in nearby Chencha.
If not, no need to be disappointed. There will be other chances to visit a market along the rest of the tour itinerary.
Day 3, Turmi:
Today will be taken up by some driving,(5.5 hrs) much of it over unpaved roads. Your vehicle is a Toyota land cruiser, is built to withstand rough roads and make the driving over them as comfortable as possible.
Upon arrival in Turmi, you will be making visits to two tribal groups, the Konso and the Arbore peoples.
The “Konso Cultural Landscape” was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, the most recent of the 9 sites within Ethiopia.
According to UNESCO, “It constitutes a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to its dry hostile environment.”
The village is also noted for its Waga ancestor carvings.
Next there will be a stop to visit a Arbore village.
Each of the villages and ethic cultures you will find in the South is a different experience. Unique beadwork necklances are one of the main distinguishing features of the Arbore people
You will be spending the next two nights at the Buska Lodge.
This is not a luxury safari lodge but is clean and the best available accommodation in the area.
Day 4, Turmi:
In the morning, you will take a trip to visit the Karo people. Later in the afternoon, you’ll visit the local market in Turmi and go on to visit the Hamar people.
The Karo People
As we mentioned, each tribal group in southern Ethiopia, while relatively geographically cloose has their own unique culture. The Karo people are known for painting their bodies.
By decorating the face and body, with ochre and white chalk the Karo people believe it boosts their sex appeal and scares off enemies.
The Hamar people
When visiting the Hamar people, we hope you can witness an Evangadi dance and bull-jumping ceremony.
The bull jumping is an all-day right-of-passage affair that includes dancing and other tribal rituals. It is extremely interesting to witness, if you are fortunate enough to be there at the right time.
Please note that seeing these rituals can not be guaranteed because these ceremonies are not put on just for tourists but are traditional rites done solely for their community.
Also be aware that the Hamar people practice a form of scarification. The more scars a woman has the more attractive, strong and loyal she is thought to be.
Overnight back at the Buska Lodge.
Day 5, Jinka:
The first activity of the day is to drive south, down near the border with Kenya, for a visit to the Dassenach people in Omerate.
The Dassanech women work incredibly hard on their attire. Most of their beads come from trading with other tribes from Kenya and they use found materials such as wire, brass, fur, plastic & shells to create their unique designs.
This will necessitate a short crossing of the Omo River in a dugout canoe.
Next you will drive around 2 1/2 hours to the town of Jinka.
On the way there may be stops for market day in Dimeka or Alduba, again depending on what day you happen to be there.
You will stay overnight at the Eco Omo Lodge.
Again, this is not a luxury lodge by any means, but it is the best place available and you will have individual accommodations and private bathroom.
Day 6, Jinka:
After breakfast, you will drive around 1 1/4 hours into the Mago National Park for a visit to the Mursi people.
It is possible that you have seen photos of Mursi women, the best known of all the local tribes,who start wearing clay lip plates when they are teenagers.
In the afternoon there will be time for a visit to the Ari people, who are known for their pottery, their brightily painted buildings and colorful style of dress.
Overnight again at the Eco Omo Lodge in Jinka.
Day 7, Arba Minch:
Before setting out on the drive back to Arba Minch there will be a visit to the small but interesting Jinka Museum, which houses several good exhibits of artifacts and crafts from the local tribal people.
On the way you can stop to see the large Key Afar market.
Upon arrival in Arba Minch check back into the Haile Resort.
Day 8, Hawassa:
In the morning, after breakfast, you will enjoy a refreshing boat trip on Lake Chamo, where you will have a chance to see hippos, crocodiles and a variety of water birds.
Then it will time to for the drive to the town of Hawassa, where you might visit the local fishermen’s market.
You will spend another night at the luxurious Haile Resort hotel.
Day 9, Bale Mtns:
A visit to the Bale Mountains National Park will be one of the highlights of this tour.
It is not visited by that many Western tourists and, as you will realize by driving there, it is out of the way, even by Ethiopian standards.
The reward for all this effort is an opportunity to visit a park located at 9,000 feet altitude, with fantastic scenery (unique in Ethiopia itself as well the rest of Africa) and abundant animal life.
Among the endemic animals to be seen here are the Mountain Nyala and the Ethiopian Wolf.
The park is also a birdwatchers mecca.
Rated by the African Bird Club as the number four birding site in Africa, the Bale Mountains National Park is home to 310 species of birds.
If your primary interest is birding then your itinerary within the park can be tailored for that specific purpose.
The park has a good all-weather road, the highest in Africa, that goes through it. This makes it easy to explore in a 4WD vehicle.
Of course, there are many opportunities for hikes, when bird-watching and animal sighting may be more readily available. How much hiking you do, versus driving, depends on your own preferences and physical condition.
The park can also be explored on horseback and you may want to choose this option. Since you are not on a group tour, your guide will make sure that your activities are tailored to your wants and needs. There also many interesting species of plants to be found there too.
You will be spending the next two nights at the Bale Mountains Lodge, far and away the best accommodations in the area.
Day 10, Bale Mtns:
The whole day will be devoted to seeing as much as you can of the Bale Mountains National Park.
As noted above, this can include traveling by road in your vehicle, hiking on park trails ar going on horseback, or a combination of these.
There are a huge number of things to see within the park – animal watching, bird watching and terrific scenery are chief among them.
You and your guide will discuss what your primary interests are, what you are capable of and how much ground you can cover in one very full day.
Overnight again at the Bale Mountains Lodge.
Day 11, Langano:
Today is the last full day of the tour and it’s time to start heading north towards Addis Ababa.
You will drive until you are about 125 miles south of the capital then you will stop for the night at the Hara Langano Lodge, on the shores of Lake Langano.
In and around the lake you will be able to see a huge variety of bird life and, perhaps, some hippos. It is also possible to spot other mammals in the lake area, but this is a matter of chance.
There are said to be over 400 bird species, including 144 water bird species in this area. The lake is within the confines of the Abijatta-Shalla National Park.
Overnight will be at the Hara Langano Lodge.
Day 12, Road Trip:
Drive (3.5 hrs) Langano to Addis Ababa. On the way back to Addis Ababa there will be a stop at Lake Ziway, another one of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley Lakes.
This will not only serve to break up the trip but also give you one more chance for first-class bird watching.
There is a tremendous variety of birds to be seen here and, even if you are not a serious birdwatcher, this should be an enjoyable experience.
Upon returning to Addis Ababa you will have the use of a hotel room until it is time for your flight to depart, either the same night or the next morning. You will be transported to Bole International Airport for your flight home. End of tour.
Come visit Ethiopia, the most fascinating country in Africa.
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