Exclusive Ethiopia - Southern

Ethiopia’s south is perhaps best known for the tribes who dwell here, particularly around the Omo Valley, who live according to their traditional customs. The region is also known for the Bale Mountains National Park, and for the chain of lakes that stud the Rift Valley.


Overview

Visiting the tribes of the Omo Valley can feel like stepping back in time. The villages appear to have changed little in centuries, and the way of life of the people is much as it has been throughout time. Possibly the most well-known tribe are the Mursi, who’s population is around 8,000. Famous for inserting plates into their lower lips, the Mursi women also adorn themselves with intricate headdresses and body paint. The Karo, with a population of around 1,500, are known for elaborate chalky body paint, and for binding their hair into buns; they also use feathers as a form of adornment, inserting them into piercings in their chins and lips, and using them as headdresses. The Hamar, whose population is around 70,000, adorn their hair and skin with ochre; their customs include bull jumping – when a young man proves he’s ready for marriage by running over the backs of bulls – and whipping the women – proving that the women are hardy and tough. The Konso, who live in hilltop villages hundreds of years old with mazes of stone walls and alleys, have terraced the surrounding hills in order to farm the land.

Bale Mountains National Park is Ethiopia’s second highest mountain range; the Bale Massif, a lava plateau, predates the formation of the Rift Valley. The mountains offer wonderful trekking and climbing, and are home to significant numbers of endemic wildlife, including the Ethiopian wolf, formerly known as the Abyssinian Fox, the mountain nyala, Menelik’s bushbuck and giant mole-rat. Of the 310 bird species recorded here, six are endemic and 11 shared only with Eritrea.

The Rift Valley, a wide gorge cutting through the south of Ethiopia formed by shifts in the subterranean plates, was thought to have been part of the Great Rift Valley that runs from Mozambique to Syria. A number of lakes lie in the valley, including Ziway, known for birds and ancient monasteries; Langano, a popular swimming and water sports centre; Abiyatta and Shalla are both found within the Abiyatta Shalla Lakes National Park formed to protect aquatic birds; Hawassa, popular for its bird life and thriving fish market; and Abaya and Chamo, separated by an isthmus known as God’s Bridge in the scenic Nechisar National Park.

While the region is not highly urbanised, it does have a few notable towns. Ziway, popular with residents of Addis for weekends away from the city, hosts a Dutch flower farm and the French-owned Castel Vineyard. Shashemene, an important junction connecting all parts of the south, is best known for its Rastafarian Quarter on land donated to Rastafarians by the Emperor Haile Selassie. Hawassa, capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, is a bustling hub on Lake Hawassa. Arba Minch, or ‘Forty Springs’, has views over Nechisar National Park and its two lakes, and is best known for the misnamed Crocodile Market, the lively lakeside fish market and the Dorze villages on the nearby hillsides. Jinka, Konso and Turmi are small centres with busy markets, best known for the traditional tribes that live in the surrounding villages.


Highlights In The Southern Region

There are several national parks in the south of Ethiopia, all of which were gazetted for a specific reason – whether it was to protect a certain species, or to conserve a habitat, or something else. Bale Mountain National Park is the best known and arguably the most interesting...

While the towns of the region are few and far between, each has its own distinctive character and feeling. Shashemene is the home of the Rastafarian movement in Ethiopia, and has a Rasta museum and several Rasta bars. This originated when, in 1948, Emperor Haile Selassie gave some of his land...

While the tribes who live here are too numerous and too individual to describe here in detail, it would be a serious omission to write about the south without mentioning them. The tribes of the Omo Valley appear to have changed little for eons; the people of each tribe...


Listings In The Southern Region

In the heart of the Omo Valley, just outside Jinka, Eco-Omo Lodge is an eco-friendly lodge made up of safari tents. The 20 en-suite safari tents are made up of twins and doubles. All rooms are raised on stilts and have thatched roofs. There are also 8 rooms with shared showers and ...

Haile Gebrselassie is arguably the best runner Ethiopia has ever produced – and that’s quite a feat! With two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship titles and too many marathon wins to count, Haile has broken national and international records time and time again. Now President of Ethiopian Athletics, the ...

Haile Gebrselassie is arguably the best runner Ethiopia has ever produced – and that’s quite a feat! With two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship titles and too many marathon wins to count, Haile has broken national and international records time and time again. Now President of Ethiopian Athletics, the ...

Hawassa, capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, is a bustling hub on Lake Hawassa. Centrally located, the South Star International Hotel offers rooms and services designed for both business and leisure travellers. The 114 en-suite rooms are made up of standard, twin, family, executive suites and delux suites. ...

Perched on a peak overlooking Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya, Paradise Lodge offers spectacular views across Ethiopia’s southern Rift Valley. The 129 en-suite rooms comprise single, twin, family, king size, VIP suite and presidential suite. All rooms are furnished with beds and tables crafted from local Cordia Africana trees. The ...

Aregash Lodge is built in the style of a traditional Sidama village. Set amongst the coffee fields of the Missailidis Family’s coffee plantation, the lodge overlooks lush green slopes. The Missailidis Family, originally from Greece, have been in Ethiopia for three generations and cultivate the tasty coffee for which ...

A friendly homestay owned and managed by the Dorze tribe, Dorze Lodge is high on a mountain above the town of Arba Minch, overlooking the lake and valley below. There are 10 en-suite traditional beehive rooms, and 4 traditional Dorze huts, entirely covered by organic materials, with communal bathrooms. All the furniture ...

This simple homestay is designed and managed by the Dorze tribe. High on the mountain, the homestay has lovely views on all sides. The 12 round tukuls have walls and roofs of woven bamboo. They can be furnished with 1 or 2 single beds, and a chair. The bathroom block, adjacent to the ...

Haile Gebrselassie is arguably the best runner Ethiopia has ever produced – and that’s quite a feat! With two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship titles and too many marathon wins to count, Haile has broken national and international records time and time again. Now President of Ethiopian Athletics, the ...

As its name suggests, Mora Heights Hotel is high on a hill, 1,285 meters above sea level. The 28 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles and twins. All have balconies, many of which have lovely views. The restaurant serves Ethiopian cuisine and has some international dishes. The bar is stocked ...

Haile Gebrselassie is arguably the best runner Ethiopia has ever produced – and that’s quite a feat! With two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship titles and too many marathon wins to count, Haile has broken national and international records time and time again. Now President of Ethiopian Athletics, the ...

Buska Lodge is in Turmi, home of the Hamar people. The lodge is owned and operated by Dinknesh Ethiopia Tours. The 25 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, doubles and twins. The lodge offers laundry and Wifi, and has a campsite, with thatched shade roof and adjoining bathrooms. The restaurant ...

Hawassa, on the shores of Lake Hawassa, is the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region. A bustling hub in the south of Ethiopia, the town is home to Hawassa University and several markets including the popular fish market. The 82 en-suite rooms are made up of singles, twins, ...

This attractive eco-lodge stands on a peak overlooking the terraced slopes of Konso and the lake below. The 56 en-suite rooms are made up of 29 traditional tukuls and 27 standard rooms. The tukuls are constructed using traditional materials, and are round with thatched roofs. Adorned with local cloth curtains, stone-based beds, and ...

Turmi Lodge named for the town in which it’s located: Turmi, home of the Hamar people. The lodge is owned and operated by Splendor Ethiopia Tours. Turmi Lodge has 34 en-suite rooms, in several blocks spread about the large compound. The spacious rooms all have cupboard, mosquito net, table, chairs, ...

Turmi is the home of the Hamar people, and the gateway to the villages of the Omo Valley. Emerald Resort and Lodge, also known as Evangadi Lodge, has 32 en-suite twin rooms, furnished with a cupboard, desk and chair. There’s also a campsite in the grounds. The restaurant serves Ethiopian ...

The rolling hills and craggy peaks of Bale Mountain National Park are filled with 87 mammal species including the rare Abyssinian Wolf and the Mountain Nyala. Bale Mountain is home to 320 species of birds including 170 migratory birds and 14 endemic species. Bale Mountain Lodge has breath-taking views of the park and its ...

Arba Minch, meaning ‘Forty Springs’ after the abundant natural springs in the area, is a town on the lush western side of the Rift Valley. Emerald Resort and Lodge sits high on an escarpment and has lovely views of the mountains and lakes. The 82 en-suite rooms are made up of ...

On the shores of Lake Langano, Sabana Beach Resort has a beach at the foot of its lovely sloping gardens. There are 25 en-suite bungalows in the gardens, comprising standard and family, and 4 family villas by the beach. All rooms have intercom telephone, minibar and veranda overlooking the lake. The resort ...

Hawassa, capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, is a bustling hub on Lake Hawassa. Situated near the lake, Hawassa Lake View Hotel has lovely views of the water and the lakeshore. The 22 en-suite rooms are made up of standard, double and delux. All rooms have TV, Wifi, ...

On the lakefront, the eco-lodge Hara Langano offers a relaxed atmosphere and a wide range of activities on the lake. The 32 en-suite rooms, known locally as gojo, are dotted around the attractive grounds, and most have views of the lake. The restaurant serves Ethiopian cuisine and has a selection of ...

Lewi Hotel and Resort is on the shores of Lake Hawassa. To suit the style of its location, the hotel is traditionally thatched. The 60 en-suite rooms are made up of garden view rooms, lake view rooms, bungalows, connective suites, family suites and a presidential suite. All rooms have TV, safe, ...

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