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The opportunity to go back and view a land frozen in time in Ethiopia’s South Omo Valley region was unforgettable in many respects. The nine days I spent there weren’t always the easiest but the inside access we had into the tribes of Omo was like something straight out of Discovery Channel. A trip like this is raw, visceral, thought-provoking and simply astounding.

This Ethiopia itinerary across 9 days is meant to give you as much confidence as possible in planning your trip to Ethiopia, as well as a clear idea of how it works based on my personal experience.

BEST TIPS FOR VISITING OMO VALLEY

  • Where to Stay – The start and end of your trip is going to include Addis Ababa. The best property in the city has to be the Hilton Addis Ababa which is super safe, comfortable rooms, great service, and in a central location. After traveling through rural parts of Ethiopia you will appreciate the comfort on either side of the trip. We used Booking.com for all of our stays. Alternatively, you can always see if hotel corporate codes might work for you.
  • What to Pack – things we didn’t think of packing that we wish we would have were these travel size liquid clothes detergents to hand wash clothing when on the go. Don’t forget over-the-counter medicine, or even antibiotics if you have a sensitive gut like myself! Our Ethiopia packing guide has everything you need to know.
  • When to visit – June, July and August are rainy season so not the most accessible time to visit. Aim for September onwards. From January the landscape starts to be more arid.
  • Car rentals – If you are planning on travelling elsewhere on your own you will need to rent a car. Save the most money through car rental coupon codes and always start your search with Discover Cars and RentalCars so you know what the best deals are.
  • Flights – International flights are never cheap, but with the Skyscanner “Everywhere” feature you can find the best deals. Check how much it would be for you to get to Ethiopia!
  • Insurance – Make sure you’re covered for all of your adventure activities with the best travel insurance.
  • Hottest deals – Never be without our frequently updated travel deals page.

What we learned pretty quickly, is that for better or worse, there isn’t much information out there about Ethiopia. That’s good in that you’re going to a place that travelers rarely ever get to go but that also means that you have to take a leap of faith in a lot of ways.

The funny thing is, we didn’t even know what our Ethiopia itinerary was going to look like before we got there. The one thing you need to understand is that every trip has to be flexible because a nearby festival might be happening or you might even be lucky enough to find out that a Donga stick fighting tournament is happening the day of. Just keep in mind that the order of things isn’t as important as the experience itself.

9-Day Ethiopia Itinerary To The Omo Valley

hamar tribe omo valley camping with ethiopia itinerary in 9 dayshamar tribe omo valley camping with ethiopia itinerary in 9 days

If you’re looking for a starting foundation for your Ethiopia itinerary focused on the Omo Valley, look no further!

Full Ethiopia Itinerary Breakdown

Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of the 9-day Ethiopia itinerary for you to follow along.

Day 1 – Addis Ababa to Arba Minch

ethiopian airlines flight to addis ababa to start 9 days in ethiopia itineraryethiopian airlines flight to addis ababa to start 9 days in ethiopia itinerary

It took 2 days of travel to arrive in Addis Ababa but we figured it wouldn’t make sense to include that into the Ethiopia itinerary. The reason it took so long was because we couldn’t get a direct flight from Toronto to Addis Ababa. Instead, one day was spent flying into Washington Dulles, staying overnight, and then catching an Ethiopian Airlines flight.

We were pleasantly surprised with the service of the flight. We were fascinated by our first 787 Dreamliner flight and it definitely helped to have a full row to ourselves.

ethiopian airlines 787 landing in addis ababa in ethiopia itineraryethiopian airlines 787 landing in addis ababa in ethiopia itinerary

Once we landed in Addis Ababa we went through customs. We thought you needed to have passport photos ready for the visa on arrival but none of that was necessary. Now they have webcams there to take photos on the spot. We just handed in our form, paid our $50 USD, and were on our way.

inside addis ababa abole international airport arrivals carouselinside addis ababa abole international airport arrivals carousel
addis ababa domestic terminal in ethiopiaaddis ababa domestic terminal in ethiopia

The terminal can be a bit confusing. Our original plan was to stay at the airport for our 6-hour layover but we were foiled in several ways.

First, the domestic flights are in a totally separate terminal and it was too early to check-in.  There was also no wifi or lounge to speak of so we walked back to the international terminal to see if we could do anything there, but again we’d be stuck there doing nothing.

We decided to go into the city. Without knowing where we could go for internet and food, we felt that the easiest and safest option was to go to a hotel and hope they had Wi-Fi. My friend approached a random hotel shuttle van waiting around and explained to the driver that we needed a ride to the hotel. It took a while for him to understand that we had no reservation but after some price negotiation, we were on our way.

soramba hotel in addis ababa in 9 day ethiopia itinerary to omo valleysoramba hotel in addis ababa in 9 day ethiopia itinerary to omo valley

The hotel ended up being the Soramba, which was nowhere close to the airport. With close to 4 hours to kill, we had the buffet breakfast, watched some CNN, caught up on emails, and hung out in the restaurant. Addis Ababa is also the best place to find ATMs, they are seriously limited so try track them down in hotels. Credit cards are not accepted in most places so you will need to carry some cash.

We caught a cab back to the domestic terminal and landed into the southern gateway city of Arba Minch by 4 PM.  The flight was interesting because it made a stop at Jimma where a group of locals got off and a new batch came on.

walking to the arba minch airport terminal during ethiopia omo valley itinerarywalking to the arba minch airport terminal during ethiopia omo valley itinerary
ethiopian airlines flight landing in arba minchethiopian airlines flight landing in arba minch

Which guides did we use and how did we plan our trip?

For more details about how we came to a decision for everything we did on our trip, what we packed, things we learned along the way and just inside knowledge about how travel in Ethiopia works, make sure to read the full guide.

Read the Ethiopia planning guide

ethiopia itinerary meeting our tour guides in arba minchethiopia itinerary meeting our tour guides in arba minch
swaynes lodge room in arba minch ethiopiaswaynes lodge room in arba minch ethiopia
view of nechisar national park from swaynes lodge ethiopiaview of nechisar national park from swaynes lodge ethiopia
dining area and lounge at swaynes hotel arba minch ethiopiadining area and lounge at swaynes hotel arba minch ethiopia

After picking up our bags we met our two guides and were driven straight to our lodge, Emerald Resort (formerly Swaynes Hotel) which ended up being our only destination that day. The fresh papaya welcome drink that was offered to us, followed by that gorgeous view of Nechisar National Park, solid wifi in the dining hall and dinner itself made it quite the relaxing way to end the day.

If we arrived earlier there was a chance we could’ve visited the Dorze tribe but we were content with just taking it easy.

TIPS:

Ethiopian Airlines – I don’t understand why they still use two prong headphones but they do.  Bring your own adapter if you want to use your own headphones.

ethiopia customs entry card formethiopia customs entry card form

Customs – Make sure you have $50 USD in hand to pay for the visa on arrival.  The form itself is pretty self explanatory but it will ask you for an address.  We knew we were going onwards to Arba Minch but we didn’t know the specific hotel we were staying at.  Luckily, I asked our guides beforehand for a specific hotel name to write here and they gave us “Paradise Lodge”.

Day 2 – The Road to Jinka

ethiopia itinerary day 2 watching the morning sunrise from swaynes hotel ethiopia itinerary day 2 watching the morning sunrise from swaynes hotel
monkeys spotted at swaynes hotel in arba minch ethiopiamonkeys spotted at swaynes hotel in arba minch ethiopia

We were packing up and getting ready for breakfast when an unexpected family of monkeys passed through the “backyard” of our room. We couldn’t believe our eyes as young and old ones made their way across.

Breakfast at Swaynes LodgeBreakfast at Swaynes Lodge

The breakfast was a very no-nonsense kind of Western food which we definitely took for granted at the time. We loved all the comforts of the lodge, the view, and the food but we knew that it was going to be a different kind of experience for the rest of our Ethiopia itinerary.

Entry into the Nechisar National ParkEntry into the Nechisar National Park
We had to make quite a number of stops in the morning including the picking up of entry tickets to the national park and then also getting tickets for the boat ride at Paradise Lodge.
Lake Chamo AlligatorsLake Chamo Alligators
paddling dangerously close to the crocodiles in lake chamo ethiopia itinerarypaddling dangerously close to the crocodiles in lake chamo ethiopia itinerary
Paddling dangerously close to the crocs.
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Scouts are all around in Ethiopia but we learned that it’s really all part of the tourism industry as a way to get a piece of the pie.

Our first stop of the day was Lake Chamo, which is directly south of Arba Minch, and truly the real start to our 9-Day Omo Valley Ethiopia itinerary. We had a private boat that took us out onto the lake for a leisurely ride. There was a bit of hype around seeing hippos but with the sun beating down on us chances were low.

We unfortunately didn’t see any hippos but we did see huge crocodiles and a local boy paddling by them and we were scared for his life even if he didn’t appear to be! The lake was also a great opportunity to see a ton of large birds, including the majestic pelicans making acrobatic dives.

ethiopia itinerary 4x4 broken down in arba minch and locals trying to help ethiopia itinerary 4x4 broken down in arba minch and locals trying to help

Things got a little interesting in the afternoon. Needing to go back to town to cut our micro-SIM cards to nano-SIM size (more on data in Ethiopia in the detailed planning guide), we drove back into Arba Minch.

As we pulled onto the main street, our 4×4 broke down. Our guides recommended grabbing lunch in town while we waited for a replacement car. Lunch was my first time eating real Ethiopian food and it was an adjustment to eat with my hands in Hungry Hippo fashion, almost fighting for our food before it was inhaled by our guides who were much more adept at eating this way.

traditional ethiopian foodtraditional ethiopian food
how to eat ethiopian food - start of ethiopia omo valley itineraryhow to eat ethiopian food - start of ethiopia omo valley itinerary

Ethiopian food comes out on a large circular platter and includes a large pancake/crepe called injira. On top of the injira, there are evenly spaced scoops of various mixes of meat, vegetables, and spices. To eat you pull off a palm-sized piece of injira, roll it in a semi-circle and use it like tongs between your fingers to grab what you’d like.

ethiopia itinerary traditional ethiopian coffee ceremony in arba minchethiopia itinerary traditional ethiopian coffee ceremony in arba minch

This was also the first time during our Ethiopia itinerary we were able to be part of a proper Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Coffee is made by a special woman in a ceremonial tent and has a lot of rituals during the process. After brewing the coffee, they use burning incense to cleanse you and ward off evil spirits. In a small cup, she pours the coffee from the pot, adds a concerning amount of sugar, and then you mix it all together. They don’t use a filter during the brewing process so it has a grittier taste and thicker consistency, with quite strong and sweet flavors.

nissan 4x4 driving towards jinka in omo valley itinerarynissan 4x4 driving towards jinka in omo valley itinerary
landscapes of ethiopia driving towards jinkalandscapes of ethiopia driving towards jinka
chickens hanging off of van during drive towards omo valley in ethiopia itinerarychickens hanging off of van during drive towards omo valley in ethiopia itinerary
fruits purchased from the side of the road in ethiopia itineraryfruits purchased from the side of the road in ethiopia itinerary
Fruits purchased from the side of the road
traffic jams in ethiopiatraffic jams in ethiopia
What traffic jams look like in Ethiopia

The drive from Arba Minch to Jinka takes about 5 hours with vast landscapes and several villages to see along the way. We stopped a few times to see things that our guides would point out or to buy fruit from the kids on the side of the streets.

dinner at melak's mom house in jinka in ethiopia itinerarydinner at melak's mom house in jinka in ethiopia itinerary

We arrived in Jinka right before sundown at Orit Hotel where we had a bit of downtime to unpack before heading over to our guide’s Mom’s house. This was a special treat because we got an inside look into real modern homes of Ethiopia and a traditionally cooked meal outside of a restaurant. We were very gracious to them for allowing us to enter their home and intrude in their evening as guests.

TIP:

There’s going to be a ton of amazing scenery along the drive to Jinka.  Don’t be afraid to ask your driver or guide to stop over wherever.  There were a ton of shots that I thought I could get later but never did.

Day 3 – Start to Omo Valley itinerary/evening with the Mursi Tribe

two mursi tribe girls in omo valley 9 day itinerarytwo mursi tribe girls in omo valley 9 day itinerary

Starting on day 3 of our Ethiopia itinerary out in Jinka, we had the morning to grab breakfast in town and check out the South Omo Research Centre Museum. We also finally got to see the famed Mursi tribe in this part of the Omo Valley tribes itinerary.

things to do in jinka have breakfast in jinka with fresh fruit drinksthings to do in jinka have breakfast in jinka with fresh fruit drinks
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inside south omo research centre museum in jinkainside south omo research centre museum in jinka
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The museum was a good precursor to all the different tribes we’d later see through our Ethiopia itinerary.  A lot of research has been done on the tribes of the region and there’s a very thorough set of displays that break down each one.

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Popular local restaurant Behsha Gojo for takeout
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We grabbed some food in Jinka, loaded up supplies, and purchased a few more recharge cards for our phones. We also picked up Lala, who turned out to be our local guide into the Mursi tribes.

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Entrance to Mago National Park
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The drive into Mago National Park was long, with mostly unpaved terrain as we twisted through the mountains. There were plenty of opportunities to take photos along the way with outstanding views of the twists and turns in the roads. There were also a few scout stations along the way which we paid before continuing our journey.

photos with omo valley tribe kids near the road as part of 9 day omo valley itineraryphotos with omo valley tribe kids near the road as part of 9 day omo valley itinerary
9 days in ethiopia winding roads in mago national park9 days in ethiopia winding roads in mago national park
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After several hours, we finally made it into the Mursi Tribe region of the park and stopped at the first village.

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mursi tribe village groundsmursi tribe village grounds

Further into the tribe’s region, we finally made it into the village where we were being hosted for the evening.  Lala was quite familiar with the chief and so were our guides so there was definitely a sense of comfort that we were in safe hands.

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Once we got out of the car, Lala told me that if I wanted to take photos it had to be done then because there were other activities planned for us later. My camera gear was well packed but I quickly grabbed my Olympus EM-1 (now upgraded to the OM System OM-1) with 40-150mm lens and followed Lala’s lead.

hanging out with mursi tribe children in omo valleyhanging out with mursi tribe children in omo valley
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Chief Nogali and his Keen Sandals and trusty AK-47.

Once I was done, I found my friend hanging out with the chief of the village, Chief Nogali, and a few other men of the village. It was nice to just chat with them and try our hardest to learn their language, as they laughed at our attempts.  They genuinely were humored by our phrasing and took everything in great humor.

walking down with mursi tribe chief to watering hole in omo valley ethiopiawalking down with mursi tribe chief to watering hole in omo valley ethiopia
children bringing water back to the village in 9 day ethiopia itinerarychildren bringing water back to the village in 9 day ethiopia itinerary

With the sun starting to come down, our guides asked if we were interested in going down to the watering hole with the chief. This was perhaps one of the most authentic experiences in the village as we were essentially escorted by Chief Nogali down this trail.

omo valley mursi woman at watering holeomo valley mursi woman at watering hole

When we got there we saw a muddy hole with dirty brown water that was no wider than around 6 feet. This is the only water source and they make do with it.  A few of them also shower here as this is the only place to do so in the area.

Trekking back to the village was even more of an adventure as the sun was quickly setting. With nothing but Chief Nogali and the jingling of cowbells guiding our way, we eventually made it back after sunset.

mursi tribe sunset in ethiopiamursi tribe sunset in ethiopia

For the rest of the night, I had a chance to do a little photography, and we ate dinner that Lala cooked for us over the make-shift campfire. After dinner we hung out with Chief Nogali and his friends sitting on dried animal skin while watching the stars and sipping on Mursi moonshine called araki.

TIP:

So apparently most tour groups that come in will end up in one of the closer villages in the Mursi tribe region because they’re the most convenient but because we had our private guides, we got access to a village that don’t see too many visitors.  This is one of the reasons why you want to hire your own private guide instead of joining a large tour group.

Always be at the ready with your gear whether it be camera or water.  There may be times where you have to get up and go on a whim and you want to always know where you things are and be mindful of what not to forget.  Seems easy but staying organized is helpful.

Day 4 – Accidental donga

donga arena stick fighting in omo valley ethiopia 9 day itinerarydonga arena stick fighting in omo valley ethiopia 9 day itinerary

Make sure you head over to my post about our Donga Stick Fighting Tournament experience for more information on this experience.

Since Donga turned into a detour into our guides’ original plans and our Ethiopia itinerary, the remainder of the day was the drive back to Jinka and settling back into Orit Hotel.

Chief Nogali came with us and we offered to let him shower in our room. He quickly transformed from an impressive tribal leader to an everyday modern man! We said our goodbyes and he was off to do his business he needed to do in town.

ethiopia itinerary wifi internet cafe in jinkaethiopia itinerary wifi internet cafe in jinka

There was a small internet cafe just steps away from the hotel so we camped out there for a while. And if you are curious about the speed… let’s just say it was good enough for a FaceTime back home.

Dinner was with our guides and driver that night at a local restaurant on the main street of Jinka.

TIP:

Remember that almost all hotels and lodges in Omo Valley won’t have internet so either stock up on data on your SIM card or try to find an internet cafe in the larger cities like Jinka or Arba Minch.

Day 5 – Ari to Turmi

injira making with the ari tribe omo valleyinjira making with the ari tribe omo valley

On our 5th day of this Ethiopia itinerary, we spent the morning learning about perhaps the most modern of all tribes, the Ari. We thought this would require a bit of a commute but they were just around the corner, minutes away from Jinka.

As the most modern tribe and living just outside of the city, it almost felt like we were meeting local Ethiopians, rather than traditional tribespeople. The member of the tribe that showed us around even spoke English, which was quite unexpected! That morning, he took us around the village, stopping to look at their houses, the granaries, and fruit trees, visited the blacksmith, tried our hand at making injira, pottery, and ate sugar cane with a shot of locally distilled araki (tasted like vodka).

hanging out with ari tribe kids in omo valley ethiopiahanging out with ari tribe kids in omo valley ethiopia
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Street performers on the side of the road.

We hit the road right after and the remaining part of the day was mainly in transit, bumping along the red dirt roads into more desert-like terrain. It wasn’t until roughly around 3PM when we made it to the southern town of Turmi. This is where we met our local guides Kala and Ayke from a local Hamer tribe that Solomon is friends with.

We checked into Turmi Lodge that afternoon to put our things down and we were both happy to have some creature comforts back, namely running water, a bed, and even an electric fan.

walking through sandstorm to get to hamar tribe family in omo valley ethiopia itinerarywalking through sandstorm to get to hamar tribe family in omo valley ethiopia itinerary

At 5PM we met Kala and Ayke and started walking towards a Hamar tribe village. As we got closer, dark clouds rolled in and we had to battle a fierce rain and sandstorm.  With what little visibility we had, we eventually found the village and ducked into the village hut.

hamer tribe hut child omo valley ethiopiahamer tribe hut child omo valley ethiopia
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We’re still unsure whether this was the hut we were planning to visit but it was actually quite nice to end the day just sitting inside, being served coffee husk tea (buno) in a half calabash bowl. We were all pretty tired by this point so there wasn’t much conversation as we waited for the rain to die down.

We made it back to the lodge until 8PM and by then we were exhausted.  We skipped dinner and called it a day with a Cliff Bar.

Day 6 – Dimeka market and bull jumping ceremony

omo valley trip itinerary welcome to turmi signomo valley trip itinerary welcome to turmi sign

The first big thing on the docket for day 6 of our Ethiopia itinerary was the Saturday Dimeka market. For miles around Hamar tribe members were all converging by foot to this market, an hour away from Turmi.

dimeka market in ethiopia omo valleydimeka market in ethiopia omo valley
planning a trip to omo valley ethiopia - dimeka market souvenir for touristsplanning a trip to omo valley ethiopia - dimeka market souvenir for tourists
hamar selling goods at dimekahamar selling goods at dimeka

There were shacks selling goods, tarps laid out selling things like coffee bean shells, stations for bottling oil, and also an ad hoc hairdressing station with Hamar women getting their hair oiled and dyed in their distinct red. There was action in almost every corner of the market.

omo valley ethiopia itinerary grain grinding station in dimekaomo valley ethiopia itinerary grain grinding station in dimeka
livestock trading area of dimeka market omo valley ethiopialivestock trading area of dimeka market omo valley ethiopia

Outside of the market itself, Melak walked us around to other parts of Dimeka, which featured a sorghum grinding station so tribe members didn’t have to do it by hand. There was even a livestock trading area where people could buy goats and cattle.

hamar tribe members meeting in dimekahamar tribe members meeting in dimeka

Outside of all of the selling and buying of the market, this also seemed to be the kind of place where people would meet neighboring friends and have a chance to get updates on what’s happening in other villages – a real-time Facebook you could say.

We had lunch in Dimeka and during that time the guides got word that there was a Bull Jumping Ceremony that day.  While we knew there would be a lot of tourists there since it was located so close to Dimeka, this was the only time it could fit into our Ethiopia itinerary schedule, so we headed there next.

maza painting during bull jumping ceremony omo valley ethiopiamaza painting during bull jumping ceremony omo valley ethiopia
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photo with bull jumping ceremony boy in omo valley trip itineraryphoto with bull jumping ceremony boy in omo valley trip itinerary
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There are a lot of different phases of a bull jumping ceremony but if I were to focus on the highlights, these were the most memorable:

  • The hysterical desire for women to get whipped by the Maza men and their belief that the more whip scars they have, the more beautiful they’re considered to be
  • The jingling of the bells around women’s ankles and the passing around of lots of alcohol
  • How jubilant the whole event was
  • Couldn’t help but compare the ceremony to a Bar Mitzvah when a boy becomes a man – both a celebration for family members and involves some sort of challenge for the boy
  • Trying my best to decipher what’s going on
  • The first time I felt overwhelmed by the number of other tourists that were around and that feeling that I felt like we were intruding on their private event
  • Ultimately watching the lining of the bulls and the boy running over the tops of their backs successfully from one end to the other and back
  • Seeing the boy as stressed as he was to have that weight lifted off his shoulder when it was all done
  • We were there for a LONG time.  We got there at 2:30PM and didn’t leave until 6:30PM

Day 7 – Nyangatom and Karo Tribes

the face of nyangatom tribe in the omo valley ethiopia for 9 daysthe face of nyangatom tribe in the omo valley ethiopia for 9 days

For our 7th day of our Ethiopia itinerary, we packed our things and hit the road to see two new tribes. The first was Nyangatom, several hours drive from Turmi.

nyagatom yeshi hotel in omo valley ethiopianyagatom yeshi hotel in omo valley ethiopia

We stopped by the Nyagatom Yeshi Hotel for “breakfast” which seemed like more of the same food as every other meal. Ethiopian food can be really special but at this point, I was missing food from home.

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Elof asking our driver and guide for directions.

Here we bumped into Elof and Nana who were on their epic bike ride from Sweden all the way down South Africa. I think all of us were amazed that they had gotten to where they were on their journey. The most incredible story was how they took a road to an area inhabited by less than hospitable tribes where rocks and spears were thrown at them. Even our driver said the Western region of Omo Valley was not somewhere he’d ever want to go.

nyangatom tribe in omo valley ethiopia 9 day itinerarynyangatom tribe in omo valley ethiopia 9 day itinerary
unique nyangatom hut designunique nyangatom hut design
inside a nyangatom hutinside a nyangatom hut
learning to sew with nyangatom tribe in the omo valleylearning to sew with nyangatom tribe in the omo valley

We got to the particular Nyangatom village around noon and the sun was out in full blast.  It was so hot that all the remaining women, children and elders were all huddling around a tree. As a result, we were only able to see a little here.

Steve jumped into the fray and tried to help one of the elders with some sewing. I was given a tour around the village and a chance to see the unique layout and hut structures with their pointy tops.

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When we finished, we hopped back onto our 4×4 and we started our long drive to our next tribe. Along the way, there’s plenty to see including abandoned bird nests delicately hanging at the tip of a tree branch and the tallest termite towers you’ll ever see.

The second tribe of the day is the Karo tribe which is positioned in a resource rich area. As a result, we noticed a visible difference in prosperity from the previous tribes.

having a beer with karo tribe friends during ethiopia omo valley triphaving a beer with karo tribe friends during ethiopia omo valley trip
grinding sorghum in the karo tribe visitgrinding sorghum in the karo tribe visit
karo tribe elders in omo valley ethiopiakaro tribe elders in omo valley ethiopia

In this village, we were able to have a beer with locals, given a tour by a few kids, ground some sorghum and even helped pluck leaves off vegetables for cooking.

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9 day ethiopia itinerary children of karo tribe9 day ethiopia itinerary children of karo tribe

The setting for this particular Karo village was stunning. The Omo River bends around in a horseshoe manner and makes for stunning photos.  It is the same Karo tribe that a lot of famous photographers get to shoot and the village knows it.

After we finished our tour, I was immediately asked for “Hello photo!” by members that I am sure just got their bodies and faces painted for visitors like myself. Regardless, I couldn’t squander such a picture-perfect moment so I would say some of the cleanest and vivid photos all came from here.

turmi tourist hotel as part of 9 day itineraryturmi tourist hotel as part of 9 day itinerary
star trails with the hamar tribe in omo valley ethiopiastar trails with the hamar tribe in omo valley ethiopia

We made our way back to Turmi that evening and ate dinner at the Tourist Hotel. To close out the night, we drove into Kala and Ayke’s family’s village (of the Hamar tribe) to stay the night. We sat by the campfire with the children of the family and sang songs we didn’t know the words to and others we tried to teach to them. The light show put on by the stars that night was truly remarkable too. The Milky Way had never been clearer up until that point.

Day 8 – Last day in Omo Valley

planning a trip to ethtiopia sunrise from hamar tribe villageplanning a trip to ethtiopia sunrise from hamar tribe village

We didn’t know it at the time but our 8th day in Omo Valley was to be our last full day in our Ethiopia itinerary. I caught another brilliant sunrise just as the village was starting to come alive with the sounds of daily routine.

second hamar wife drinking coffee husk tea ethiopia omo valleysecond hamar wife drinking coffee husk tea ethiopia omo valley
ethiopi omo valley inside hamar tribe hutethiopi omo valley inside hamar tribe hut
Inside look into a Hamar Tribe hut

This particular morning was special because instead of being in a rush to pack up and go, we had the opportunity to spend a good hour inside Kala’s home sipping on coffee husk tea, which turned out to be the home of the second wife of the family.

Fascination with my GoPro Hero 4 Silver.
camping experience with omo valley hamar tribe in ethiopiacamping experience with omo valley hamar tribe in ethiopia
on the roof of 4x4 hanging out with omo valley kid from hamar tribeon the roof of 4x4 hanging out with omo valley kid from hamar tribe

Our one tribe for the day was the Dassenech and this one was much further out than the others we had explored so far through our Ethiopia itinerary. While the trip itself was quite long, the majority of that road to the Southeasterly town of Omarate was newly paved. Feeling particularly wild that day, we asked if we could sit on the roof of the 4×4 for part of the way there and so we did!

customs office in omarate omo valley ethiopiacustoms office in omarate omo valley ethiopia
Customs building at Omarate

Once we got to Omarate, we went through a customs process and had to present our passports in an office where our details were written in a big ledger book. Things are a bit more dicey in this area since it’s REALLY close to the border of Kenya and South Sudan.  There wasn’t any sense of danger at all but you definitely do feel a little more paranoid.

From there we pulled up near the Omo River which passes through the town and met our local guide.  We were originally planning on crossing the river to the Dassenech tribe village but apparently, they had become increasingly aggressive towards tourists so guides had been taking visitors to a different village. We drove a little further down to another river crossing where there were already a number of other empty 4x4s from another large tour company.

As soon as we got there, we were already being bugged for “Highland Highland!” This was something that had been happening throughout the trip. Tribes asked for “Highland” because that was the first water bottle brand they were introduced to so every time they shouted for it, they wanted our empty water bottles for them to use as containers.

dassenech tribe tour groups parking in 9 day omo valley itinerarydassenech tribe tour groups parking in 9 day omo valley itinerary
wooden canoe ride across the river to the dassenech tribe village omo valleywooden canoe ride across the river to the dassenech tribe village omo valley
riding wooden canoe to see dassenech triberiding wooden canoe to see dassenech tribe

The river crossing was quite interesting as we were transported in canoes locally made out of a single tree trunk. To cross the muddy waters of the Omo River, our navigator used a long wooden branch to dig into the riverbed to propel us forward.

Once on the other side, we were in Dassenech territory and we were quickly surrounded by a large horde of children that attached themselves to us as an entourage.

entering the dassenech tribe villageentering the dassenech tribe village
dassenech tribe hut in the omo valleydassenech tribe hut in the omo valley

Crossing a small forested area, we then opened into a flat and desolate plain where it felt like we were transported into what looked like a dystopian, post-apocalypse world with corrugated metal lining the dome-shaped huts of the Dassenech.

Nomadic like many of the other tribes in the Omo River region, there was still a semblance of community and hierarchy, but this may have been the most spartan out of all the tribes we visited.

chatting with the dassenech tribe in omo valley itinerarychatting with the dassenech tribe in omo valley itinerary

We didn’t last too long here and were asked if we wanted to continue further along a longer route. After walking around randomly filming with my GoPro and trying hard to avoid the “photo…photo!” yelling, it was just too hot to handle it there without any shade.

ethiopian spaghetti pasta dishethiopian spaghetti pasta dish

We arrived back to Turmi at around 3PM for a late lunch. At this point I could barely stomach anything and the “pasta” they served at the Tourist Hotel wasn’t doing me any favors. Rural foods were taking their toll on my digestion!

This was also the turning point of the trip. Steve, my travel partner, approached me around 4PM about this crazy idea to ditch the rest of our Ethiopia itinerary plans and go to Egypt. We discussed it long and hard and I was inclined to agree with the rationale behind the change.  Ultimately we felt that the romanticized view of what we had of Omo Valley tribes had been achieved and that if we were to continue onwards with more tribes, it would be more or less the same experience of going there, walking around, meeting a few tribe members and being bugged for photos. As lovely as it had been, we were fairly exhausted.

walking around local turmi market in omo valley ethiopiawalking around local turmi market in omo valley ethiopia

Before telling our guides we walked around the local Turmi market. Contrasted to the Dimeka market a few days earlier, this one was quite a bit smaller, although that may have been due to the fact that all of the Hamar were gone and the locals were getting ready to pack up shop.

We broke the news to our guides at 5:40PM. They of course were caught by surprise but with my quickly deteriorating stomach issues coupled with our last-minute change in itinerary, they were obliged to follow considering we were still going to pay the promised amount.

driving towards key afer in omo valley ethiopiadriving towards key afer in omo valley ethiopia

Our driver started flying down the dirt roads out of Turmi towards Arba Minch but we knew we weren’t going to make it because both headlights weren’t working. With the sun going down at this point we stopped at Key Afer at 7PM.

That evening was a bit of a nightmare because it was a scramble to try to get all of our gear in order (hand-washing clothes in a place with no running water), and get things charged, and I still couldn’t stomach anything and felt quite ill.

TIP:

None of my existing medication was working at this point which included Pepto Bismol and Gravol.  Luckily Steve had Cipro on hand and so I switched to this antibiotic over the over-the-counter medication I brought from Canada.  It’s hard to say if that’s what helped me heal in the long run but I was willing to do whatever it took to get better.  There certainly wasn’t any medicine to buy there so I’m glad Steve had packed the Cipro from the US.

Day 9 – Rushing back to Arba Minch

filling up 4x4 suv in omo valley ethiopiafilling up 4x4 suv in omo valley ethiopia

The next morning the race was on to get back to Arba Minch. The good news was that our flight was departing at 3PM, so it wasn’t a ridiculous rush, but our driver drove as aggressively as ever.

We stopped in Konso to pick up some breakfast and that’s where Melak helped me buy a kilo of raw coffee beans to bring home.

ethiopia omo valley 9 day itinerary group photo with our driver and guidesethiopia omo valley 9 day itinerary group photo with our driver and guides

We got back to Arba Minch and hung out with our guides at the same restaurant we ate at when we first started the journey until we needed to be at the airport.

We landed in Addis Ababa around 4PM and, just like that, our Omo Valley adventures were over. It was definitely an odd feeling to be yanked out in such an unexpected fashion, but part of me was glad that things would get more comfortable on the second leg of the trip and that I’d be able to heal up.

Since our flight out to Cairo wasn’t until 10PM that night, we ended up going to the Hilton Addis Ababa to get organized and use their free wifi. We meet up with Melak and Solomon at Yod Abbisinya, a cultural restaurant mainly for tourists, but a great place to watch traditional Ethiopian singing and dancing. It was great to see our guides one last time and officially say goodbye.

Suggested Activities To Add To Your Ethiopia itinerary

While we hired private guides, there are several other tours available over a range of different times/days. Below are a few we found that would be worth looking into if hiring private guides isn’t for you:

  • Addis Ababa: Guided City Tour – get picked up directly from the airport or your hotel and enjoy a day of sightseeing all the city’s top attractions, including the National Museum of Ethiopia, and seeing the 3.5 million year old skeleton Lucy, known as the grandmother of humanity. This tour is a great starting point to visit Ethiopia.
  • Taste of Ethiopia – a guided tour through local’s favorite places to eat and a great learning experience of the unique culinary culture here.
  • 3 days, Arba Minch and Dorze – a guided tour through Dorze, Arba Minch, Nechisar National Park, a boat tour on Lake Chamo and a coffee ceremony!
  • From Jinka: Omo Valley Tribe 3-Day Tour – 3 days meeting indigenous Omo Valley tribes of Ethiopia with a guided tour.
  • Omo Valley Tour: Discover unique 0 century tribes culture – camp out and experience living like the Mursi and other tribes from Mago National Park.
  • Four Days Omo Valley Tribal Tour From Jinka – visit 6 different tribes and explore tribal markets over 4 days, this can be done as the main focus of your Ethiopia itinerary.

More On Ethiopia

The Omo Valley is just a small part of Ethiopia, we just touched the start of what there is to explore. You could spend some time in Bahir Dar, and visit millennia old Axum and Gondar, visit Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls , climb the Ethiopian Highlands in the Simien Mountains National Park, and there are even monasteries and the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela to discover.

If you’re looking for a more traditional guide, make sure to pick up a Lonely Planet guide here:


So there you have our entire itinerary in Ethiopia from start to end.  I know there’s a lot to take in so if you have any questions for me about planning your own trip to the Omo Valley, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to travel to Omo Valley?

This is the safest region of Ethiopia to travel to. Be cautious of pickpocketing and always aware of your surroundings, but if you are traveling with a good guide, Omo valley is generally safe.

When is the best time to travel to Ethiopia?

Best time of year to travel to Ethiopia is between the months of October to May. This is when the weather is usually warm and dry.

What tribes should you visit in Omo Valley?

There are 8 different tribes in the Omo Valley. The Mursi tribe is the one most tours will focus on, but if you’d like to visit the tribes and villages lesser known it is recommended to hire private guides.

How many days is enough in Addis Ababa?

Spend a couple of days either at the start or the end of your itinerary to adjust to Ethiopian life. There are some great historical things to see, such as Lucy, the millennia old skeleton.

What is the rainy season in Ethiopia?

June, July and August is the rainy season. If you plan to travel during this time expect heavy rains and inaccessible roads.

What you should read next

Travel Resources For Your Next Trip

If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100%.

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Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs plus they have their Genius tier discounts. The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.

Vacation Rentals: Your first instinct will be to check Airbnb but we always recommend checking VRBO as well if you’re looking for a vacation rental.

Tours: When planning our trips, we always check both Viator and GetYourGuide to at least see what’s out there in the destination that we’re going to. They often have different offerings and prices so check both.

Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.

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If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.



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