Ethiopia cultural tour; omo river; ethiopian tribes

Omo River Tribal Dance

In the savanna of the Omo River Valley in southern Ethiopia live a fascinating mix of nomadic tribes, from the Bume and Karo to the Bena and Hamar. We visit the Omo tribes as well as the Orthodox Christian monuments of Ethiopia’s mountain highlands.

Photo by John Warburton Lee / Danita Delimont Agency

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Lost Worlds of Ethiopia

Tribes of the Omo Valley and Spectacular Festivals

Lost Worlds of Ethiopia route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7495  
Length: 17 days
Arrive: Addis Ababa
Depart: Addis Ababa
Lodging: 4 nights first-class hotels, 9 nights best-available hotels, 3 nights basic riverside lodge
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner
Activity: Walking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Rugged road travel by 4WD vehicle, easy walks


  • Enjoy the colorful pageantry of Timkat, Ethiopia’s biggest celebration
  • Visit the wondrous rock churches of Lalibela and the holy city of Axum
  • Encounter the fascinating tribal people of southern Ethiopia

This was my third trip with WT and it certainly won’t be my last. The itinerary was fascinating, our Trip Leader delightful, and the WT office wonderfully responsive.Sandra C.—New York, NY

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Ethiopia is like no other place in Africa, from its Orthodox Christian heritage to its kaleidoscopic array of animist tribes. Our journey uncovers its mystique at such fascinating places as the holy city of Axum, the mystical rock churches of Lalibela, and mountain-ringed Gondar, seat of Ethiopia’s emperors. Heading south, we encounter an amazing tribal heritage including the Mursi, with their enormous clay lip plates, and the nomadic Karo, known for their elaborate body painting. Our grand finale? Witnessing Timkat (Epiphany), a joyous festival with dances, baptisms, and huge outdoor processions of priests and pilgrims.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Addis Ababa / Axum

After exploring Addis, we visit Axum, with its Church of St. Mary of Zion and the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s palace.

Days 4-7
Lalibela / Gondar / Lake Tana

We explore Lalibela’s 12th century rock-hewn churches, Gondar’s medieval castles, an island-monastery on Lake Tana, and the vibrant markets of Harar.

Days 8-14
Omo River Valley

In the south, fascinating semi-nomadic tribes coexist in a harsh land all but forgotten by the rest of the world. We meet the Dorze, famous for their weavings, the Karo, who excel in body painting, and the Mursi, whose men practice scarification and shave their heads in geometric patterns.

Days 15-17
Addis / Timkat Festival

We witness lively processions of Orthodox priests in vividly hued gowns and throngs of parishioners in dazzling traditional Ethiopian dress. Depart on Day 17.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

The trip is Level 2+, moderate, according to our trip grading system. This is a rugged trip in a very remote region. Participants should be fit, healthy, and have no mobility restrictions. Medical facilities on the trip will be far away and often non-existent. Some mornings, we have departures as early as 5:30 a.m!  Trip members must be prepared for some walking and some long days of rugged vehicle travel.

Accommodations at the Sheraton in Addis are excellent, as is the food at that international-standard hotel. Outside of Addis, we stay in “best available” hotels. Although there are private bathrooms in the rooms, you must expect only cold-water showers! Outside of Addis, our meals will be simple and lack variety because there are limited resources in the countryside. At the Murelle Omo Explorer’s Lodge, we are very far from anywhere and, unlike the safari lodges in places like Botswana and Kenya, which are regularly supplied with fine foods and goods from the capital, the simple Murelle Omo Explorer’s Lodge makes do with locally available supplies, and thus the meals have little flair or variety.  Ethiopia has some good beers, but the local wines are not distinguished. You may want to bring your favorite alcoholic beverage from a duty-free shop. Electricity in hotels in rural areas can be intermittent and sometimes generators are operated only during certain hours of the day.

Road travel in rural Ethiopia is very challenging. Our vehicles may break down or get flat tires on occasion, and that can delay the trip. We use vans for the trip, but they may not compare favorably with the vehicles you may be familiar with from safari countries such as Botswana and Kenya. While we are on our rural road journeys, there are no organized toilet facilities available. We will make “pit stops” from time to time so trip members can get out of the vehicle and find a private spot behind a bush.

In Ethiopia, air schedules can often be altered and new government regulations are implemented suddenly. We ask that you bring flexibility and a spirit of adventure to this unique journey, and take pleasure in the knowledge that you will be visiting a fascinating country.

Our trip is designed so that anyone in good physical condition can participate. We encourage you to make an effort to get in good physical condition with exercise beyond your normal routine.

Explanation of Trip Levels



Sep 11-27, 2014  Meskal Festival

Jan 4-20, 2015  Timkat Festival
Jan 11-27, 2015  Timkat Festival
Jan 17-Feb 2, 2015  Timkat Festival
Sep 12-28, 2015  Meskal Festival

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$7495 (7-8 members)
$7795 (2-6 members)
Single supplement: $1490
Forced single supplement: $1190
Internal airfare: $1390-$1890
more on pricing

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations (5-star Sheraton in Addis, simple lodging outside Addis)
  • All meals included except 1 dinner
  • Land transportation and airport transfers for passengers on recommended flights, and baggage handling
  • Visits to tribal villages and weekly markets
  • Witness the colorful Timkat or Meskal festival

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, international airport departure taxes, charter flights, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, any additional hotel nights made necessary by airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses such as medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20%
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Minimum fee: None per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Client Comments

This was my third trip with WT and it certainly won’t be my last. The itinerary was fascinating, our Trip Leader delightful, and the WT office wonderfully responsive. Sandra C., New York, NY This trip was fantastic! It is in my top tier of trips I have taken, and I have loved them all. Diane M., Elm Grove, WI
The highlight of the trip by far was being in Lalibala over Christmas—thousands of pilgrims in a magnificent setting, singing, ululating, oozing spirituality. A photography paradise. William N., Long Beach, CA