Experience southern Ethiopia, famous for its diverse peoples and unique Rift Valley landscapes. Spend 11 days immersing in traditional culture and breathtaking nature, meet communities like the Hamar or Dorze.
Day 1 – Arrival in Addis Ababa - Capital of Ethiopia
Welcome to Ethiopia! You’ll be stepping off the plane into Africa’s fourth largest city and diplomatic capital, Addis Ababa. Your Yared Tour & Travel guide will be there to meet you at Bole International Airport and drive you to your hotel. The direct translation of Addis Ababa is ‘new’ ‘flower’ and you are likely to find this rapidly growing city a fascinating place full of contrasts between traditional and modern Ethiopia, making it a great starting point for your tour.
Day 2 - City tour Addis Abeba
Today begins with a drive to Entoto Mountain where we visit the historical site of Emperor Menelik’s Palace and Maryam church, the oldest in Addis Ababa. From here we drive through Shiro Meda which hosts the city’s largest market for traditional clothing, continuing to the campus of Addis Ababa University, home to one of Africa’s best Ethnological museums and the former palace of Emperor Haile Selassie. You visit the Ethnological or Ethiopia's National Museum with ‘Lucy’, the world-famous fossilized hominid. The museum also showcases ancient artefacts from Axum and Gondar, and an exhibition of Ethiopian art. Then visit the Holy Trinity Cathedral (built in 1933), the largest Orthodox church in Ethiopia and the final resting place of Haile Selassie. To conclude, you will visit the busy life of traders in Mercato - Africa’s biggest outdoor market.
Day 3 – Via Tiya & the Rift Valley to Arba Minch
Today you’re heading to the south! It’s a 6-7 hour drive to Arba Minch and we’ll be stopping off along the way to visit Tiya – one of Ethiopia’s most important, and least understood World Heritage stelae fields containing 41 obelisks engraved with interesting symbols thought to be around 600 years old. We arrive in Arba Minch region, meaning ‘forty’ ‘springs’, in the afternoon. The southern city, situated in the Gamo Gofa region is rich in natural resources including two Rift Valley lakes – Chamo and Abaya – home to large populations of hippos and crocodiles, innumerable little springs, Nech Sar (‘white’ ‘grass’) National Park and huge irrigated fruit farms which provide an important source of fruit farms.
Day 4 – Nech Sar & Dorze tribe
During today’s action-packed excursion, we visit the nearby scenic Nech Sar National Park. From the park’s edge, we take a motorboat on the lake to see hundreds of huge Nile crocodiles bathing in the sun and hippos bobbing in and out of the water. There are also many pelicans and other birds around the lake. In the afternoon, we drive into the Gamo highlands outside of Arba Minch, to visit an extraordinary mountain community called Dorze. The traditional way of life of the Dorze people is fascinating. The friendly local community invite you into their beautiful villages to view their huts artfully woven from bamboo and thatched with leaves, which look like huge beehives or upturned baskets, followed by visits to the weaving, pottery and tanning cooperatives. You will also enjoy the breath-taking views of the lakes in the valley.
Day 5 - To Turmi - Hamar Region
On our way to Turmi we pass through Key Afar, the main town of the Banna tribe. We’ll catch one of the biggest traditional tribal markets which takes place on Thursdays. Groups of Ari, Benna, Tsemay and Hamar people are the main attendees, walking long distances to buy and sell local commodities at the Key Afar market, like tabacco (‘tampo’), coffee husks (‘bunno’) and sorghum (‘asine’). At the catle market men trade cows and goats. As the day progresses, you will also see the popular drink ‘parsee’ – a beloved traditional beer made from fermented sorghum being passed around groups of people in large calabash gourds.
Day 5 (more) - Hamar Tribe
Ancient traditions still form the backbone of daily life in Hamar. Most live in rural settlements and practise traditional livelihoods through subsistence agro-pastoralism. Daily life revolves around taking care of livestock, domestic duties and farming of maize and sorghum. Hamar men are semi-nomadic and travel with large herds of goats and cattle between grazing areas, whereas Hamar women take care of the children, cooking, water and firewood collection. Ceremonies and rituals are an integral part of traditional Hamar life. The most well-known is a rite of passage for men into adulthood and marriage called ‘ukili bula’ or bull-jump. During the ceremony, a young Hamar man leaps naked over several of his family’s bulls. It’s a highlight to witness if there’s one taking place whilst you’re here.
Day 6 - Meet the Dassenech or...
To the south on the borders of Kenya lives a distinct tribe known as the Dassanech. The Dassanech people still live, predominantly, a traditional way of life revolving around cultural responsibilities, rituals, subsistence farming and livestock. They are living next to the mighty Omo River between Omorate and Lake Turkana. Therefore, the Dassanech people have adopted fishing, first with spears but today with nets, and fish is an important part of their diet and livelihood. The drive from Turmi to Dassanech, takes less than 2 hours and the elevation drops a further 500m so temperatures can easily climb above 40 degrees, making Omorate the hottest town in the Lower Omo Valley. You will visit a traditional Dassanech village, crossing the Omo river by boat and observe how the Dassanech people have adapted to survive the heat.
Day 6 – ...or meet the Karo tribe
The Kara tribe are one of the smallest ethnic groups in the Omo Valley, linguistically and culturally, they share characteristics with Hamar but they also have their own unique traditions. The Kara can be reached on a narrow dirt road which takes 2 hours to reach northwest from Turmi. You can visit them in the morning or stay overnight camping. The group are well-known for their beautiful body painting skills. They use a white-coloured clay to decorate patterns over their bodies for rituals and ceremonies. The Kara live on the banks of the Omo river further upstream than the Dassenech, they also fish and irrigate crops during the annual flood.
Day 7 - Jinka, Benna Tribe & Market
Our next stop is Jinka, a fast-developing market town set in a cradle of green hills above Mago National Park which gives the area a cooler climate compared to the rest of the Lower Omo Valley.
Dag 8 - Visit Ari or Mursi tribe
The Ari tribe represent the largest population among all groups of the Omo Valley, living around Jinka. Ari are the farmers and one of the most advanced tribes of the valley. They grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, coffee and herbs like cardamom. Visit some farmers houses and experience daily life, like injera cooking or the black smith’s work. From Jinka, we may alternatively visit the Mursi tribe, an ethnic group living around west of Jinka. The Mursi have a rich cultural heritage and they are most well-known by the outside world for their practice of ceremonial stick fighting and the large pottery discs (‘debhinya’) which are worn by Mursi women in their lower lips. It is not always advisable to visit the Mursi, because it is difficult to really get in touch with the people. We will help you planning which tribes to visit.
Day 9 - Drive to Unesco Konso
Visiting the Omo Valley, you always pass Konso twice. This is the first place in Ethiopia recognised as a ‘cultural landscape’ by UNESCO. The Konso are a resourceful, efficient, charming, careful, and hard-working people. They have always fiercely defended their territory. This is evident in the fact that each village is walled. They are famous for their wooden anthropomorph statuettes, erected in honor of important - deceased - people. In the Konso language these statuettes are called Waga. You’ll have a chance to walk around the fortress like villages (‘kantas’) with their uniquely designed stone-walled walkways, thatched huts and terraced farms. Konso is also known for its natural phenomenon "New York" - interesting pinnacles of red earth, reminiscent of city skyscrapers with a legendary tale.
Day 10 - Rift Valley & Yirgalem Coffee
Through the Rift Valley you drive to Hawassa via Yirgalem in the Sidama region, one of the important coffee regions in Ethiopia. During your drive up to Yirgalem you will notice the first few coffee plantations. When you arrive in Yirgalem you will visit one of those fairtrade coffee plantations, so that you can experience first-hand how the Yirgechefe and the Sidama coffee is being made. Furthermore, Ethiopia is well-known about its high quality arabica coffee beans. Here you can see how coffee is being made in a fair way.
Day 11 - Relax in Addis Abeba & back home
Today we head back to Addis Ababa. You could shop or make a single final visit in the capital in the afternoon. Or you take a rest in your dayroom in Addis Ababa. On the final day you will enjoy a farewell meal and celebration in one of the city’s cultural restaurants. Enjoy the authentic Ethiopian cuisine for the last time, whilst enjoying traditional dance and music.
You can make this trip as a minimum of 2 people. You'll travel through the country in a comfortable 4x4 vehicle with one of our experienced driver/guides. If you are traveling as a family or group of 5+ we will use a minibus or a second 4x4 vehicle. If you are a group of 4 people you can also opt for a minibus if you'd prefer. If you are planning to travel solo we can advise about where you can partly travel by public transport or organise a group trip with others.
4x4 car and fuel
Driver with lots of experience in tourism
All entrances to the mentioned attractions
Government tax and VAT
Guarantee according to Dutch Law
CO2-compensation for flight and land arrangement
Water every day
Meals not mentioned (lunch and dinner)
Tips for guides
Extra excursions not mentioned
Budget accommodation includes camping, homestays or local hotels with shared sanitary facilities. Camping is often set in stunning natural locations, Yared takes care of the materials.
Mid-range accommodation in Ethiopia is generally considrered 2-3 star hotels. You will stay in double rooms (double or twin) with their own shower and toilet. This is best value for money.
In Ethiopia, luxury accommodation has everything you’d expect from a high quality hotel in terms of comfort, service and facilities. This option is not available in all parts of Ethiopia.
2. Temperatures in the South can climb up to 40 degrees. Out of respect for the local culture, it is recommended to cover shoulders and knees.
3. Power outages are very common in Ethiopia especially in the countryside. A power bank, portable solar device and flashlight come in handy.
– Felicia (US)
Yared Tour & Travel truly gives you a unique experience of Ethiopia. I traveled to Ethiopia on business with my partner, looking to meet tribes of the Omo Valley and had the most life changing experience of my life. Thank you Yared Tour & Travel, we love you!
– Rita & Patrick and Philippe & Annemie (BE)
We made a tour through South Ethiopia. Communication about the planning went smoothly, the trip itself was very special, beautiful country, very good driver guide, impressive visits to several tribes. If you are looking for an authentic trip, Yared tours is a must.