OMO VALLEY - 8 to 13 Days : Driving

Addis Ababa -> Arba Minch -> Hossahina -> Dorze Village -> Lake Chamo ->
Jinka -> Mago -> Turmi -> Kolcho -> Omorate -> Arba Minch -> Hawassa -> Addis Ababa

Omo Valley is the premier cultural experience in Africa. Home to over 200,000 tribal people, the Omo Valley experience promises interaction with several groups who practice traditions as they have since ancient times. Known as a crossroads inhabited for millennia by different ethnicities, this is one of the most culturally diverse areas on Earth. Here you can see body painting, tattooing and scarification, lip plates and other “permanent” jewelry, clay and butter hairpieces, as well as ceremonial rituals that are rapidly disappearing as part of our world.

The Lower Omo River basin was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1980 because of the archaeologically significant finds of hominid fossils and tools, however its real treasures are the ethnic groups living there today. Ancient anthropology in living form allows a peak into the past that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

1 Addis Ababa

Arrive in Addis at the Bole International Airport to be met by tour staff for transport to your hotel. Sightseeing in Addis Ababa (e.g., the National Museum, the Ethnological Museum of Ethiopian Studies, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral) is possible, depending on your arrival time.

Overnight in Addis.

2 Addis Ababa to Arba Minch

The nearly 300-mile (483 kms) trip to Arba Minch begins on the Butajira-Hossahina Road heading south. Our first stop is the Tiya stelae field fifty-three miles (85 kms) outside Addis. This is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site that contains thirty-six standing obelisks; the tallest is eleven feet (3.9 m). They appear to be markers of a prehistoric burial site of an ancient Ethiopian culture.

We continue to Hosanea for lunch and then drive to Arba Minch for the night.

Overnight in Arba Minch.

3 Arba Minch to Dorze village to Lake Chamo to Arba Minch

This will be a round-trip day, first to visit the village of the Dorze people. They are famous for their beehive-shaped houses and their incredible weavings. As farmers, they have developed a terracing system on the mountainous terrain to prevent soil erosion. In their own personal gardens they grow vegetables, spices, tobacco and enset (false-banana).

We lunch at the Dorze Lodge and continue the drive to Lake Chamo. In the national park there, wildlife includes the dik-dik, Grant’s gazelle, the greater kudu, and one of the last populations of the endemic Swayne’s hartebeest. We travel by boat to the “Crocodile Market” where we see the world’s greatest concentration of crocodiles, along with hippopotami, Anubis baboons, bushbucks, black-backed jackals, velvet monkeys, and Burchell’s zebras.

Overnight in Arba Minch.

4 Arba Minch to Jinka

Today’s trip of 68 miles (108 km) will take us through various villages to see first-hand how the ancient Konso, Ari, Benna, and Tsemai tribes have always lived. The Konso village introduces you to the highly specialized agricultural community and a truly unique culture. Photographs will be permitted. (If the day of travel is a Thursday, we will take in the Key Afer market, which is attended by the all the local tribes.)

Overnight in Jinka.

5 Jinka to Mago National Park to Jinka

This day trip to the Mago National Park is to visit the Mursi people. Unique to the females in this tribe are wooden and terracotta disks inserted into the lower lip and ear lobes. These are regarded as signs of beauty—the larger the disk, the more desirable the wearer.

Overnight in Jinka.


6 Jinka to Turmi

The 73-mile (117 km) trip to Turmi is to visit a settlement of the colorful Hammer people. They are especially known for their colorful hairstyles and certain traditions, such as bull-jumping at weddings. Women wear goat-skin skirts and adorn their necks with heavy iron jewelry. If this travel day falls on a Tuesday or a Saturday, we will visit the Dimeka market of the Hammer and Benna people—a colorful display worthy of photography.

Overnight in Turmi.

7 Turmi to Kolcho to Turmi

This day includes a visit to the Karo people living in a beautiful settlement overlooking the Omo River. This tribe is known for its elaborate body painting, using local vegetable pigments to decorate their faces, chests, arms, and legs. Spotted embellishment imitates the plumage of guinea fowl. Karo women also scarify their chests, using razor blades and ash to achieve a raised effect, in order to increase their desirability. Karo men beautify themselves by shaving and sculpting their head hair into extravagant shapes and enhancing the design with ochre and ostrich feathers.

Overnight in Turmi.

8 Turmi to Omorate to Turmi

This day trip of 45-miles (72 km) affords a visit to the homes of the Lower Omo people, who are made up of small, unique ethnic groups. To accomplish this, we drive to the Omo Valley and cross the Omo River to Omerate, a town nestled along the eastern river edge. The tribes in these areas have retained their unique lifestyles and traditions, despite their proximity to other groups.

Overnight in Turmi.

9 Turmi to Arba Minch

Day nine is a full-day drive to Arba Minch with stops along the way. The first stop is a visit to the Erbore people, who are of mixed ancestry linked to the Omo Valley and the Konso highlands. They wear copious beads and distinctive aluminum jewelry. We stop briefly at the village of Weyto.

Overnight in Arba Minch.

10 Arba Minch to Hawassa (168 mls / 270 kms)

The city of Hawassa is located on the shores of Lake Hawassa in the Great Rift Valley. Following a tour of the city, we will lunch at the fish market in the company of shrieking Colobus monkeys, swinging from tree branch to tree branch. You may be entertained by children who will dance for a nominal tip.

Overnight in Hawassa.

11 Hawassa to Addis Ababa

On the road to Addis Ababa, a journey of 168 miles (207 km), we stop at Lake Zeway to visit its islands: Debre Sina, Galla, Bird, and Tullu Gudo, which has the monastery that once housed the Ark of the Covenant. Living on the islands and lakeshore are the Zay people, who are the ancestors of the Christians who took refuge on the islands during the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Overnight in Addis.

12 Departure

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