Trip Summary and Itinerary Map
- Explore Addis Ababa, the capital city steeped in history.
- Marvel at a flamboyance of flamingos (and their collective noun) in Abijatta-Shalla National Park. Soak up the views in the famous hot springs.
- Take a boat trip on Lake Ziway to see throngs of birds including great white pelicans, marabou stork and black egrets. Keep your eyes peeled for hippos, too!
- Visit Bale Mountains National Park and track the Ethiopian wolf, local antelope and see a number of species of rare birds.
- Discover the fascinating and varied cultural communities of the Omo Valley.
Landmarks visited on Cultural and Natural South
Day 1 - Let the adventure begin!
Fly in to Addis Ababa. You’ll be met at the airport by your friendly guide, then transferred to your hotel. With nothing in your itinerary until that evening we recommend you get an early flight so you can spend the afternoon discovering Addis. Visit the various museums, including the National Museum where you’ll discover ‘Lucy’, the fossilised skeleton of an ancient human ancestor dating back 3.2 million years who changed our understanding of our development. Discover the Mercato market, the largest open-air market in Africa, and experience a traditional coffee ceremony. Discover what Haile Selassi and Sylvia Pankhurst have in common at the copper-domed Holy Trinity Cathedral. See why the European Council on Tourism and Trade named Ethiopia it’s number one place to visit in 2015.
In the evening, get to know your group and tour leader over a delicious dinner in a local restaurant. Your tour leader will give you a briefing on the following days, and be able to answer any questions you might have.
Day 2 - Jinka
The next stop is Jinka, 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 somewhat untrodden gem. Visit the Ari people.
Day 3 - Turmi
Visit Mago National Park and Mursi people. Drive (2.5 hrs) Jinka to Turmi, en route visit Key Afar market. Optional 'Evangadi' dance and/ or 'Bull jump' ceremony if it coincides with your stay in Turmi.
The trip to Omo National Park will include a stop at one of Ethiopia’s most iconic cultural communities. The Mursi people 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, in fact, one of the few tribes who continue to wear traditional clothing and accessories, one reason for doing so is to attract tourism for their community.
Day 4 - Turmi
Visit Karo people in Kolcho and Nyangatom people in Kangatan.
Day 5 - Turmi
Morning visit Dasanech people in Omerate. Afternoon visit Dimeka market and Hamar people. The Hamar people are agro-pastoralists covered in traditional body decoration and stunning, colourful beads. The women use ochre and resin to deftly style their hair, which is known as ‘goscha’. When the men come of age they have to partake in a bull-jumping ceremony. These friendly people will welcome you into their community, offer you wild coffee and barbecued goat, and introduce you to their customs and traditions.
Day 6 - Arba Minch
Drive (5.5 hrs) Turmi to Arba Minch, en route visit Arbore and Konso people. Today you’ll be exploring Konso, the Unesco World Heritage site. Named after the Konso people, this isolated village is located in hilly terrain at the edge of the Rift Valley. Konso settlement is over 400 years old with fortified stone walls surrounding the terraced village. Beekeeping, cotton weaving and agriculture are the main local industries. It is most famous for its Waga Sculptures. These anthropomorphic wooden carvings memorialise and commemorate people from the community.
Spend the day with these incredible people and experience their rich culture. Your guide will be there at all times to ensure you are well informed about the Konso community.
Day 7 - Arba Minch
Morning boat trip on Lake Chamo, part of Nechisar National Park. Take a trip to Lake Chamo and 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.
Afternoon visit Dorze people and market.
Day 8 - Hawassa
Drive (5 hrs) Arba Minch to Hawassa, en route visit Senkele Game Sanctuary.
Day 9 - Bale Mountains National Park
Visit the fish market in Hawassa. Drive 5.5 hours from Hawassa to Bale Mountains via Dinsho, the headquarters of the Bale Mountains National Park where you’ll meet your guide and they will talk you through the itinerary for your hike over the next few days. You’ll drive through park towards Harenna Forest. Harenna Forest is one of few remaining natural forests in Ethiopia and, based below a 1200m escarpment it plays home to so many extraordinary creatures. You’ll have plenty of time to trek through this mecca of Ethiopian biodiversity and take in its mesmerising and ever-changing views.
Harenna Forest itself is astonishing. Moss clings to the gnarly tree trunks making for a spectacular, otherworldly sight. The unique structure of the forest means that it overflows with species of plants, amphibians, birds and mammals, some of which are endemic to the area, some only to this one 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 established by Guy and Yvonne Levene which is staffed by enthusiastic experts who will be on hand to give you information about the surrounding area. Relax and enjoy the warm ambience of this remarkable lodge. Remember to look out for Bale Monkeys and Harenna Chameleons in the trees.
Day 10 - Bale Mountains
Full day visit Bale Mountains National Park.
Awake to the sounds of 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, hopefully spotting some of the distinct animals and birds. 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 a firm favourite for the wolves.
Day 11 - Langano
Drive (5.5 hrs) Bale Mountians to Langano.
Day 12 - Langano
Full day exploring Lake Langano and surrounding area including Abijatta-Shalla National Park. Today you’ll head to Abijatta-Shalla National Park, approximately a 40 minute drive and home to Lakes Abijatta and Shalla. These lakes host an impressive number of flamingos, and also famous hot springs. The steam rising from the pools casts an ethereal haze over the surrounding area. After this, a 4×4 will take you around the park in search for warthogs, antelopes and ostriches.
In the afternoon, go for a dip in lake Langano. Set up camp at a lodge surrounding the lake and spend the evening relaxing. Enjoy a meal surrounded by the expansive views and the tranquil atmosphere of this remote region.
Day 13 - Home
Morning at leisure, then head to Ziway. Situated between four lakes in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, this town is the perfect base from which to explore the lakes over the next few days.
You’ll see the thriving animals and birdlife that Ethiopia is famous for. A boat trip on Lake Ziway means you can get a bit closer to Great White Pelicans, Marabous, Hammerkop, Sacred Ibis, Yellow Billed Storks, and flamingos. Of course, hippos are a famous resident of Lake Ziway, and you’ll be able to see them bathing and soaking up the sun from the safety of your boat.
Of Lake Ziway’s five islands, Tulu Godo has a particularly rich history. After a 90 minute boat ride and a short walk through one of the three settlements on the island, you’ll arrive at the hilltop monestary Maryam Tsion. Reportedly set up by christian refugees, it is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant during the reign of Queen Yodit. Your guide will explain in more detail the fascinating stories surrounding this historic place.
Transfer to Bole International Airport for international flight home.
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
Prices are per person for 4 pax.
The current total fare for the domestic flight(s) in the itinerary is USD $70 per person when Ethiopian Airlines is used for international flight. Otherwise the fare for the domestic flight(s) in the itinerary is $160 per person. Fares subject to change by airline.
- Airport transfers and road transport around Addis by private minibus.
- Road transport from day 2 until day 13 by standard 4WD with English speaking driver/ guide, including fuel, driver allowances and accommodation.
- Accommodation based on double/ twin room sharing.
- Meal plan bed and breakfast. Full board at Bale Mountain Lodge.
- Fees for entrances, local guides, compulsory scouts/ security personnel 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.