Start from Addis Ababa and end at Addis Ababa
Landmarks visited on Best of Southern Ethiopia
Day 1: Addis Ababa
Fly to Addis Ababa, where you will be met at the airport. After a transfer to your hotel, enjoy a little down time by the pool, before taking your first steps into the city. The Italian-built Piazza sits next to famous markets and bustling streets. Nearby are the Grand Anwar Mosque and the Ragual Church. The Mosque and church are within a stone’s throw of each other, highlighting the peace between different religions in Ethiopia. Get lost in Mercato, the largest open air market in Africa. Its labyrinthine alleys are perfect for people watching or enjoying a coffee. Coffee ceremonies here are famous and a source of pride, be sure to try to experience this at least once on your trip!
Venture to the National Museum to see how it all started: meet Lucy, the 3.2 million year old fossilised skeleton here. Her discovery re-wrote the story of human evolution, as she was found to have walked on two legs. See the Holy Trinity Cathedral, famed for its copper dome and neo-baroque architecture. It houses the tombs of the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassi, and the British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. A short drive up Mount Entoto will take you to the Palace of Emperor Menelik II. From this vantage point, you have an excellent view of the city. On the way back to Addis, perhaps stop by Shiro Meda, the biggest garment market in the country, where hundreds of vendors line the busy Entoto Road and sell hand woven traditional cloths.
In the evening, enjoy a traditional dinner at one of the capital's fantastic cultural restaurants.
Overnight: Capital Hotel & Spa
Day 2: Addis Ababa to Jinka
The next stop is Jinka in the Omo Valley. Jinka is a small market town which houses the South Omo Research Centre Museum. From here there is an optional expedition to the Omo National Park, a lesser-visited national park in Ethiopia, and home to incredible vistas. The park has a rugged, off-the-beaten-track appeal.
Over the next few days, you'll be exploring the Omo Valley by road, and meeting many of the tribal communities that have lived here for millennia. Today, you will meet the Ari people.
Overnight: Eco Omo Lodge
Day 3: Jinka to Turmi
Visit Mago National Park and the Mursi people. Drive (2.5 hrs) from Jinka to Turmi, en route visit Key Afar market. Optional 'Evangadi' dance and/or bull jumping ceremony if it coincides with your stay in Turmi. Note that the ceremony cannot be planned in advance, you have to be lucky to see it.
The trip to Omo National Park will include a stop at one of Ethiopia’s most iconic communities: The Mursi people. The Mursi are famous for the lower lip-plates worn as decoration by the women, along with their traditional dress and ornate headdresses. The Mursi people are one of the few tribes who continue to wear traditional clothing and accessories.
Overnight: Buska Lodge
Day 4: Turmi
This morning we visit the Karo people in Kolcho, well known for their body painting. They live along the bank of the Omo River, about 60 km from Turmi and 2.5 hours away by road.
Visit the Nyangatom people near the small settlement of Kangatan, not too far from Kolcho, on the other side of the Omo River. To reach Kolcho and Kangatan we have to cross the Kizoo river. Usually a dry riverbed, but not passable after heavy rain.
Overnight: Buska Lodge.
Day 5: Turmi
Drive about 70 km to Omerate on the east bank of the Omo River. This is the area where the Dassanech people live. Cross the Omo River by local canoe to visit one of their villages. We return to Turmi and continue to Dimeka (Saturday is the weekly market day). Mainly Hamar, but also Bashada and Banna people travel from far to attend the market.
Overnight: Buska lodge.
Day 6: Turmi to Arba Minch
Take the road on the eastern side of the Buska Mountains and visit the Arbore people en route. This road follows a riverbed for some kilometres. If you're coming during the rainy season, this road might be impassable, so a longer route will be required.
After lunch in Karat-Konso village we meet the Konso people. They are well known for their Waga stelae, grave markers for the brave and important men of this people. The cultural landscape of Konso is the youngest World Heritage Site in Ethiopia. After lunch, proceed to Arba Minch.
Overnight: Paradise lodge.
Day 7: Arba Minch
In the morning, take a boat trip on Lake Chamo, part of Nechisar National Park. As you head out onto the expansive lake, you'll see crocodiles, hippos and flamingos bathing in the Ethiopian sun. Explore Nechisar National Park, or discover the incredible bee-hive huts of the Dorze tribe, who are famous for their structures, weaving and singing.
In the afternoon, visit the Dorze people and market.
Overnight: Paradise Lodge.
Day 8: Arba Minch to Yirgalem
We continue our journey through the Rift Valley as we head towards Yirgalem. En route visit the Senkele Game Sanctuary where we have a good chance to find the endemic Swaynes hartebeest. We stay at the Aregash Lodge in Yirgalem, situated at a coffee plantation.
The lodge is a fine example of an eco-lodge. The huts are built in the same style as the huts of the nearby Sidamo people. Delicious organic, home-grown food is served in the restaurant.
Overnight: Aregash Lodge.
Day 9: Yirgalem
Today a very relaxing day with a visit of the coffee plantation and a nearby Sidamo village. Around the lodge we’ll find many monkeys and beautiful birds. In the late afternoon, hyenas are usually around while we are enjoying a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Overnight: Aregash Lodge.
Day 10: Yirgalem to Hawassa
It is short drive today to Hawassa, where we visit the famous fish market. An optional boat trip is available to explore the lake, and the market serves some of the best fish soup you'll ever taste! There's also friendly colobus monkeys in the forests surrounding the lake.
The afternoon is spent at leisure at the resort, owned by Ethiopia’s most famous long distance runner Haile Gebreselassie.
Overnight: Haile Resort.
Day 11: Hawassa to Goba
Next, drive 5.5 hours from Hawassa to the Bale Mountains National Park via Dinsho, the headquarters of the park where you’ll meet your guide. Your guide will talk you through the itinerary for your hike over the next few days.
You’ll drive through the park towards the Harenna Forest. The Harenna Forest is one of the few remaining natural forests in Ethiopia. The forest sits below a 1200-metre escarpment, and is home to a huge number of species. You’ll have plenty of time to trek through this Mecca of Ethiopian biodiversity and soak up the stunning views.
The Harenna Forest itself is astonishing. Moss clings to the gnarly tree trunks, creating an almost alien landscape. The forest is home to many species of plants, amphibians, birds and mammals, some of which are endemic to the area, with some only found in this particular forest. Amazingly, scientists continue to discover new species of animals here, over the last few years they have discovered 22 new moths and butterflies, and a viper.
You’ll stay at the Bale Mountain Lodge, a stunning eco lodge staffed by enthusiastic experts who are always happy to give you more information about the surrounding area, and will go above and beyond to ensure you have a comfortable stay. The Bale Mountains Lodge is one of the best lodges in the whole country. Relax and enjoy the warm ambience of this remarkable lodge, and remember to look out for Bale Monkeys and Harenna Chameleons in the trees.
Overnight: Bale Mountain Lodge
Day 12: Goba
Today is a full day exploring of Bale Mountains National Park.
Awake to the sounds of the Harenna Forest and the smell of freshly brewed ‘wild’ coffee, which is harvested just south of the lodge. In the morning you’ll explore the forest some more, spotting much of the wildlife. Remember your binoculars, and a camera!
In the afternoon, you’ll head to the lunar landscape of the Sanetti Plateau, where you’ll try and spot the Ethiopian Wolf, Africa’s rarest carnivore. Although only a few hundred Ethiopian wolves exist in the world today, over half the global population reside in the Bale Mountains. You might also spot the giant mole-rat, another endemic species and the primary food source for the wolves.
Overnight: Bale Mountains Lodge
Day 13: Goba to Addis
As the adventure draws to a close, leave the Bale Mountains behind and return to Addis Ababa via domestic flight. A minibus is available for transport around Addis, and a room is available while you wait for your evening international flight home.
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
Prices are per person based on 2 people travelling together. Price is guideline only. Price will depend on your final itinerary, group size, accommodation choices, and time of year.
- Airport transfers and road transport around Addis Ababa by private minibus.
- Road transport by 4WD SUV, 4 pax per vehicle, including fuel, driver allowances and accommodation.
- Professional English-speaking guide, including allowances, accommodation and airfare.
- Accommodation based on double/ twin room sharing.
- Meal plan bed and breakfast.
- Fees for entrances, local guides, compulsory scouts and boats for activities mentioned in the itinerary.
- All government taxes for the services included in the tour price.
- International flights and visa fees.
- Domestic flights.
- 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.